Revelation 058 – The Two Lasting Things

Revelation 058 – The Two Lasting Things
Revelation 18:9-19 • Dr. Andy Woods • November 3, 2019 • Revelation


Andy Woods

Two Lasting Things

Revelation 18:9-19 Lesson 58

Good morning everybody.  Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 18 and verse 9, moving into this morning verses 9-20.  The title of our message this morning is Two Lasting Things.  What are the two things that we can invest in right now that are actually going to  last and stand the test of time.  Everybody today is looking for safe investments; I’m going to give you two of those today from the Word of God.

We continue our study through the Book of Revelation and we were in at one point chapter 16, the very end of that chapter where we had the manifestation of the final judgment of God, the seventh bowl judgment.  And in the process of that seventh bowl judgment we had the destruction of Babylon.  Chapter 16 and verse 19 says concerning Babylon, it says, “Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.”   You might be asking yourself the question, well what is this Babylon that we’re talking about here?  And anticipating that question you have these words at the beginning of chapter 17, John says: “Then one of the seventh angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.”’

What we have now in the Book of Revelation is something that happens five times in the book, as we have studied.  This is the fifth and final time where the chronology stops to fill in information about something that just happened in the chronology, in this case the subject of Babylon.  And so that leads into chapter 17 and 18 which is your most in depth treatment of the subject of the city of Babylon in the last days that you find really anywhere in the whole Bible.  It’s fascinating how it takes scattered verses and puts them together into a cohesive whole that we can understand.  We saw chapter 17, the destruction of Babylon featuring her religious side.  We saw that God is actually going to put His plan or His purpose to destroy Babylon in the heart of the beast.  God actually uses the beast to destroy Babylon and in the process we have a tremendous description of the religious influence that city will wield in the last days.

And that moves into chapter 18 where now we get a description of the political and the commercial side of the exact same city and the exact same destruction.  This chapter that we moved into last week that we’re going to continue moving into this week and we’ll continue to move, no doubt, into it further next week, can be divided into four parts.  Number one, we had the prediction concerning Babylon’s destruction, verses 1-3.  We saw that last time.  We know that Babylon is going to fall and then what you have in those verses is the reasons why God is going to judge Babylon.  It’s the same reason God is going to judge any civilization  or any nation or any country.  And then we have part 2  which we saw last time where the people that are living on the earth at the time, God’s people in particular, to separate themselves from Babylon.  And we saw that in verses 4-8.  And we have the appeal for separation and the reasons for the separation, the exact same reasons God people should separate themselves from any sinful situation.

And now what we move into today is verse 9-20, we may not get through all of them today, but what we have is part 3, the reaction to Babylon’s fall.  I think the old saying goes something like this:  The dog that barks loudest is the one that got hit by the rock.  And what causes people to bark the loudest or become emotional of become upset is some sort of fault or attack on their god (little “g”.  What gets you the most upset?  Are you like David, for example, who upon hearing about the [can’t understand word] of Goliath against the living God became upset, become upset, become outraged.  Are you one of these people that stands up for the zeal of God and the holiness of God or is it something else in your life that gets you upset when it’s attacked, an account, debit or credit balance statement, income, the price of taxes going up.

See, what it is that we react to first when it’s assaulted sort of is a window into what our hearts value the most.  And may we be the type of people of God, men and women of God, that are most  upset when God Himself and His character and His nature is attacked, may we not be the kind of people that become most upset when personal or self-centered to us is attacked.

So we need more David’s out there, don’t we?  People that are upset at the assault on the living God.  And so what you see at this reaction from people, and because Babylon has become sort of a god, little “g” to these people, they are all emoting, they’re all getting upset.  First the kings bet upset, verses 9 and 10.  Then the merchants get upset, verses 11-16.  And then a special category of merchants gets upset when Babylon falls, the sea merchants, verses 17-19, and as all of these human kings and merchants are becoming upset with the destruction of Babylon in the final bowl judgment what does heaven do?  Verse 20, heaven rejoices.

I find that to be very interesting that heaven is rejoicing in the very things that the earth is mourning.  And the opposite is true, heaven is mourning, as we see in the Book of Revelation, over many of the things that the earth is celebrating.  We have studied the two witnesses in Revelation 11 who will be killed in the city streets of Jerusalem and yet the world that sees that event is so enthralled by it they begin to have (chapter 11) sort of a miniature Christmas and they begin to send gifts to one another.  So while heaven is weeping the earth is rejoicing.  And here the opposite is happening, Babylon has fallen, the earth is weeping and heaven itself is rejoicing.

Why is that?  Why does heaven exalt in the very things that the world weeps over?  It has to do with who exactly is the authority over this present world.  Satan is!  It’s has value system that governs this planet; he is the prince and the power of the air in the story that we’re reading about in the Book of Revelation is how he is deposed from that position when Jesus Christ comes back and establishes His kingdom.  See, the earth today with all of its confusion, with all of its mixed up morality is just sort of a temporary occupier because the day is coming in human history when the kingdom of God will be planted on this earth and things that are upside down, things that are topsy-turvy, things that are anti-biblical will be made right.  And that’s why when the Lord taught us to pray in Matthew 6 He taught us to pray this way: “Thy kingdom” what? “Thy kingdom come.”  That’s to be our prayer, that’s to be our hope, that’s to be our anticipation.

But you’ll notice here first of all these kings, notice what they begin to do at the prospect of Babylon’s destruction.  Notice, if you will Revelation 18:9, it says,” And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning.”   You’ll notice here that these kings are said to be committing immorality.  Their enticement with Babylon, their following along with Babylon is described by God as a sign or immorality.  And this is what happens to us when we follow the value system of this world, particularly as God’s people, particularly as His bride; God looks at it the same way a person would look at their spouse who just cheated on them.

James 4:4, James says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  It’s interesting that these kings, as they’re weeping over the destruction of Babylon are upset because Babylon allowed them, while she was in place, to live sensuously.  What does it mean to live sensuously?   It basically means to live for the desires of the sin nature.  This is how many, many people live; what motivates them is the desires of the sin nature.  What they think about are the gratifications of the desires of the sin nature.  Gosh, when is the weekend going to come, then I can get myself into inebriated condition and really have a great time with friends.  That becomes the focus; that’s a sensuous lifestyle.

1 Timothy 5:6 describes that lifestyle as death.  1 Timothy 5:6 says of the sensuous woman, “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.”   Yeah, there’s always some temporary pleasure associated with sin but it pushes out of a person’s life true life, the true life of God, true relationship with God.  The sensuous person is out on all of that and consequently they’re living in wanton pleasure but are dead even while they live.  And consequently these kings are mourning, in fact, the text says weeping and lamenting, verse 9, at the prospect of Babylon’s destruction.  Why would they weep and mourn?  Because as we’re going to see later on in this chapter, particularly down in verse 16, that Babylon made them rich.  The gravy train is gone and they begin to weep and lament.

One of the things we’ve brought up as we’ve been looking at these chapters is most commentators including some of the very best, like Charles Ryrie and John Walvoord, they basically believe that there are two Babylon’s here.  Chapter 17 is just a religious system destroyed midway through the tribulation  period.  Chapter 18 is a literal city destroyed at the end of the tribulation period.  And I’ve done everything within my power to talk you out of that perspective; both chapters are talking about the same destruction and the same city, the literal city of Babylon which will one day rise to prominence on the Euphrates River.  And I’ve given you different arguments that people use to drive a wedge between these chapters and one of the arguments that they use here is number five.

They say it’s a different set of kings, after all, in chapter 17 and verse 16 the kings hate Babylon but in chapter 18 the kings are mourning over Babylon, they look like they’re a friend of Babylon and so therefore we’ve got two Babylon’s here; chapter 17, the kings hate Babylon, chapter 18 the kings mourn over Babylon.  It must be two different events.  And I’m here to tell you that I don’t think that is true at all when you understand that you’ve got two different sets of kings in view here.

You see, some of these kings are connected to the woman, not so much the woman but the beast that she is on.  Remember we talked about the woman rides the beast?  And on that beast, as we saw, are ten horns or ten kings; this is the sort of confederation of the antichrist turning on Babylon in the last days.  That’s one set of kings, ten kings allied with the beast.  But then you have a different set of kings, the merchants primarily, some kings but primarily merchants aligned with the commercial city of Babylon.  And so when you understand that the kings in chapter 18 are different than the kings in chapter 17 you understand why there’s two different reactions.  In other words, there’s no need to drive a wedge in these chapters just because the kings reacted differently.  The first set of kings is allied with the beast; the second set of kings is allied with the commercial city of Babylon.  God has put His purpose into the heart of the beast to destroy Babylon. That’s why the kings in chapter 17 hate Babylon,  But in chapter 18 you’ve got a different set of kings that have become wealthy because of Babylon, that’s why they’re mourning.  And I’ll have more to say about this as we continue on to our study.

But we continue on and it talks about here verse 9, the smoke of her burning.  Revelation 18:9, “And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning,” and the backdrop for this whole section of Scripture is Jeremiah 50 and 51.  In fact, if you were to go home today and read those two chapters you’d be astonished,  you’d be somewhat shocked at how much information that we’re studying here in Revelation 17 and 18 has already been predicted by the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 51:30 puts it this way: “Their dwelling places” concerning Babylon that is, “are set on fire.”  Jeremiah predicted this day would come for Babylon.  The Book of Revelation is recording the fulfillment to a large extent of Jeremiah’s prophecy.  You’ll notice that in both chapters the city is destroyed by fire, chapter 17:16 and chapter 18:9 and many other passages.  [Jeremiah 51:30, “The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting, … Their dwelling places are set on fire, the bars of her gates are broken.”  Jeremiah 17:16, “But as for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd after You, Nor have I longed for the woeful day; You Yourself know that the utterance of my lips.”  Jeremiah 18:9, “Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it;”]

There is no need to look at chapter 18 as being some kind of different city and different event.  The forces uniting these chapters are greater than anything that may divide them.  But you come to verse 10 and you continue to see these kings weeping and notice what it says there, “standing at a distance because of the fear or her torment saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city Babylon, the strong city, for in one hour her judgment has come.”  [Revelation 18:10]

Why are they standing off at a distance?   Well, when you look at a map and I’ve got an arrow there to Dubai there in the Persian Gulf; the Persian Gulf is somewhat removed from Babylon on the Euphrates, and perhaps that’s why these merchants are described as standing off at a distance in the Persian Gulf area.  People say Babylon today doesn’t have a harbor so this can’t be literal Babylon. But if you look at the language very carefully you’ll see that these kings are off at a distance, perhaps in the Persian Gulf area mourning the destruction of Babylon.  Now a little later, if we have time I’ll try to make a case that Babylon herself is thinking very strongly (since the days of Saddam Hussein) of having a harbor which would solve that problem.

But they’re standing off at a distance and they’re mourning and they’re calling Babylon a great city and you should be thinking about Daniel 4:30 because that’s what Nebuchadnezzar of Neo Babylon, back in the sixth century called that particular city.  And it’s interesting that this city is destroyed in an hour!  Verse 8 said a day,  verse 10 says an hour.  [Revelation 18:8, “For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.”  Revelation 18:10, “standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’”]

And it’s interesting to me that the zenith and the height of the antichrist’s system, the city of Babylon, is going to be destroyed that fast, this worldwide city.  In fact, we’re going to eventually get down to verse 21 where the destruction of Babylon is going to be analogized and this is also in the writings of Jeremiah, to a millstone sinking into the Euphrates River.  I’ll be giving you the dimensions of those millstones in the ancient world, they were very large.  This is why Jesus made it very, very clear that if you offend a child it’d be better for you if a millstone was tied around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.   [Mark 9:42, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”]

A millstone is massive and think of something of that size sinking into the Euphrates.  That’s how fast Babylon will fall.  And this reveals to us the foolishness of living for the things of this world as if they’re permanent.  We’re told over and over again in the Bible to take our eyes off of the things of the earth and to set our minds and eyes, Colossians 3:1, on the things above.  [Colossians 3:1, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”]

We ought to be living for things that are going to last; we ought to be living for things that are going to matter, not for a system and a city that looks spectacular on the surface but it’s going to be destroyed very, very rapidly.  And a little bit later I’ll talk to you about two things that will last and the two things that matter, two safe investments so to speak.

It’s interesting there in verse 10 it talks about she’s going to be destroyed in a day; you ought to be thinking about Daniel 5:30, because that’s what happened to Belteshazzar who took the vessels of God from the temple and he began to use those vessels in the days of the Babylonian captivity for purposes of debauchery and the hand started to write on the wall mysteriously and the message was divided, numbered, numbered and divided.   [Daniel 5:25] “’MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN’” in Aramaic, numbered, numbered and divided.  [26]  This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE ‘– God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.

Belteshazzar you have come so far in your rebellion against God that your days are numbered and your kingdom is about to be divided.  And according to Daniel 5:30 the political power changed in one night; that’s all it took!  The Babylonians felt that they were invincible as many people today feel they’re invincible.  After all, they had all of the treasures of Babylon, they had walls built around the Neo Babylonian Empire, around the city and Belteshazzar and his friends partied all night  taking the vessels of God which were designed for holy purposes and used them for a profane sinful purpose and they just laughed the night away in a drunken state until the handwriting appeared on the wall.  And we know for Herodotus and other extra biblical writers exactly how the Persians conquered Babylon; they just diverted the Euphrates River and they tunneled under the wall.  And the Persians conquered Babylon without even firing a shot, so to speak, without even a battle.

And all of these things are given to us in the Bible for those who think they’re so mighty, think that they’re so secure, think that they’re so invulnerable, think that they are so invincible, because none of us are.  When you look at the problems that were caused by the nine-eleven hijackers and how that changed the course and the direction of our own country back in 2001.  A bunch of guys hijacking a plane or planes with box cutters were capable of bringing the Americans financial system to its knees.  It happened that easy; it happened that fast.  That’s how Babylon fell, in a single day, a single night.  One hour, and that’s how future Babylon is going to fall as well.  And these warnings are not just there to fill our minds with historical data, these things ought to change the way we prioritize our lives and the foolishness of living for the shifting sands of this world.  We ought to align our purposes with God.  We don’t even understand how vulnerable we are half the time. Brother Ron [can’t understand last name] having his memorial service this Thursday, you go back a week, two, three, four weeks, I’m not sure Brother Ron understood that his number was up and would be  up that fast.

And it’s not just him, someone else’s number may be up tomorrow or the next day or the next week or the next month, we just don’t think that way.  And yet the Bible wants us to live every single moment as if you can enter the threshold of eternity and how we ought to be prepared for that and be living for the right things.  And how easy it is to get our minds off those things onto the things we can see that are so temporary.

So the kings are lamenting and then another group laments and it’s the merchants.  And take a look if you could at verse 11 of Revelation 18, “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her,” why? “because no one buys” isn’t that interesting, “no one buys their cargoes anymore!”  When you look down at verse 15 you learn that these merchants had become extremely wealthy through the city of Babylon.  It says, “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her,” and these are the ones who “will stand at a distance because of the fear or her torments weeping and mourning.”  And these merchants are weeping because their god, money, has been cut off.  And no one is buying their cargoes anymore.  And what kind of cargoes exactly are we talking about?  I’m so glad you asked.

Look at verse 12, it describes it in great detail.  “cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble,” it is interesting to me that the first cargo mentioned on that list is gold.

That personally reminds me of the Babylon of the ancient who was called a head of gold in the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had in Daniel 2.  In fact, it was there that the prophet Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar following that dream, “you are the head of gold.”  [Daniel 2:38, “and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold.”]

As you drop down this list you’ll run into purple, purple and gold.  [Daniel 5:29, “Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.”] That’s how Babylon is described in chapter 17, verse 4.   [Revelation 17:4, “The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality.”]

And it’s interesting to me that when Daniel gave the interpretation of the handwriting on the wall, according to Daniel 5:7, 16 and 29, he was arrayed or clothed with purple and he was given a necklace of gold.

[Daniel 5:7, “The king called aloud to bring in the conjurers, the [ a ] Chaldeans and the diviners. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, “Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me shall be clothed with purple and have a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as [ b ] third ruler in the kingdom.”

[Daniel 5:16, “But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and wear a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as the [ a ] third ruler in the kingdom.”

Daniel 5:29, “Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.” ]

It mentions here silk and scarlet, wood, ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron, marble.  You move into verse 13 and the rest of Babylon’s wealth continues.  It says, verse 13, “and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots,” oh my goodness, look at this at the end of verse 13, “and slaves and human lives.”  Of course frankincense reminds us of what the wise men coming from that same part of the world did with the Christ child, the gift that they brought to Him.  They recognized who He was; they recognized the unique time in history that they were living in and they brought gold and frankincense  and myrrh to the Christ child.  Matthew 2:11.  [Matthew 2:11, “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”]

It’s not so much the gold and the frankincense that’s the problem, it’s how those things are being held onto by people.  Sadly with the story of Babylon those things had become an idol; those things had become a god (little g).   And how different we should be as Christians with the resources God has entrusted to us.  You know, we shouldn’t be hoarders and people that hold onto those things so tightly; we should see those things as a gift from God, like the three wise men did, and be willing to submit those things unto God for purposes of worship when God calls us to do that, understanding that the resources that we have really are not ours to begin with.  That’s the deception.  We think these things are ours, this is mine, I’m going to hold tightly onto this.  The reality of the situation is according to Daniel 5 you wouldn’t even have your very next breath if God wouldn’t allow it.

Everything’s God’s, right down to my respiratory system, and the blood coursing through my body, not to mention my wealth, whatever it is I have; it’s ALL of the Lord.  The only reason you have it is because God allows you to have it.  Well, wait a minute now, I worked hard for those things, I mean, I have a lot of business sense and a lot of acumen and I came up with the right business plan and the right marketing plan and I did this and I did that.  Question—who gave you the mind to come up with the right business plan?  Who gives your body health so that you can work on your business plan?  And labor under your business plan?  Everything is the Lord’s; nothing is ours.  He mentions wheat, cattle, sheep, horses, chariots; I mean, it’s astonishing how wealthy Babylon is going to become and how wealthy she makes these kings and these merchants which is explaining why they are crying, they are mourning, they are lamenting at her destruction.

And that too fits the prophecies of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah 51:13 of Babylon and her destruction says, “O you who dwell by many waters, abundant in treasures, [your end has come, the measure of your end has come.”]   And boy, we’re seeing a list here of tremendous treasures.  You take, for example, the place where Babylon is located.  To me it doesn’t require an awful lot of imagination to see that part of the world and that particular city abound in wealth.  You can see where most of the world’s oil is in the Middle East, in that part of the world.  You can see how a city arising in that part of the world could sort of annex a few surrounding nations and in a nanosecond control the oil and the economies of the earth.  This is what your Bible predicts what will happen in the last days and yet it’s an artificial list because it’s not going to last.  Only the things of God will last forever.

It’s interesting to me that when  you become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Lord sort of begins to convict you of holding on too tightly to these things and reminding us that these things really belong to him to begin with, it’s so interesting to me that when we submit to his authority we don’t give up anything.  You actually (in the end) end up getting far more than what you’re holding onto.  Gold, everybody is interested in gold apparently; this is what makes Babylon successful, treating gold as if it’s some kind of god and yet if you are a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ at some point in time you will enter the eternal state, Revelation 21:21, where gold will be so common it will be beneath your feet because you’ll be walking on Revelation 21:21, streets of “pure gold.”  [Revelation 21:21, “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.”]

Don’t let the devil convince you that you’re just giving up way too much here.  What you’re going to end up getting back in the long run outweighs anything that our very small hands are clinging onto today.  It is interesting to me that when you look at the end of verse 13, after mentioning all of this wealth that Babylon will accumulate it talks about slaves and human lives.  You sort of get the impression that this wealth was acquired, it was accumulated through slavery, through ripping people off, through cheap labor, and we know from the Bible that that is not how God wants people to be treated.

You know, these corporations they just move people around like they’re people on a chess board, understanding that their tearing people away from their churches, tearing people away from their community, acting as if men and women are just sort of pieces on a chess board, move this person over here, move that person over there because it’s all about the bottom line.  And we’re subjected to that so frequently we think that’s how God is; that God has such a low view of humanity and the only thing He cares about is the bottom line and using people to get rich.  That’s how the world works.  That’s not how God works!

What we learn in the Book of Genesis is that human beings are made in God’s image, male and female.  Genesis 1:27.  [Genesis 1:27, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  Verse 26, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”]  And man was originally given authority over the earth, to subdue the earth and rule over it, to rule over the fish of the sea and of the birds of the sky.   And it’s so easy to lose sight of the dignity that God has given to every single human being and consequently the abuse of people for the purposes of acquiring wealth is an abomination to God.  And yet that’s how Babylon has become rich; she’s become rich through human lives and actually it goes on and it says enslavement.

You might be saying to yourself come on Andy, isn’t slavery a thing of the past?  Is it?  If I’m right on this and it will be in this part of the world in Iraq where the city of Babylon will reemerge slavery is alive and well is it not?  It’s practiced in the religion of Islam.  You know, it’s so interesting to me to look at the critics of the United States and to go on and on complaining about the United States.  Don’t you know that the United States was started with slavery?  Don’t you know that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, etc. etc. etc. etc. Yeah, I’m aware of that and you know what?  We did something about it.  To my understanding the United States of America is probably the only, or one of the few civilizations I can think of that did something to correct the institution of slavery and the wrongs that were done at that point.  I’m still waiting on Islam to correct their wrong.

And by the way, if you want to start complaining about slavery why are you talking about something that happened two hundred  years ago?  Why don’t  you talk about what’s happening right now in specific cultures and countries on the earth?  It’s amazing how good Satan is in changing the subject.   Everybody today wants to talk about the history of the United States and not the slavery right now as it’s being practiced.  And we even had a presentation not long ago at this church in the men’s meeting of sex trafficking and sex slavery that’s alive and well, illegally, not just the United States of America but right here in Houston.  This idea that these prophecies can’t be literal because we all know that slavery has been done away with.  Are you kidding me?  Slavery illegally in the United States and legally elsewhere it’s alive and well.

And I find it very interesting that the Holy Spirit surfaces that at the end of verse 13 to describe exactly how Babylon has become wealthy.  They have violated… the city has violated the dignity that God assigned to each individual.  In no way, shape or form does God ever condone the acquisition of wealth or gain through the abuse of somebody else.  And yet that’s how Babylon has become wealthy in the last days.

We come to verse 14 where these merchants begin to continue  to lament their loss.  It says in verse 14, “The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them.”  The luxuries, the wealth, disappears in a day, disappears in an hour.  Is that not how the Bible describes this present world system?

1 Corinthians 7:31 says, “…for the form of this world is passing away.”   Wow!  I don’t even have to wait for it to pass away, the Bible says it’s passing away as you speak.  1 John 2:17 says, “John 2:17 says “ The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”  Which takes me to my sermon title, The Two Lasting Things.  I mean, where can we invest our time, talent and treasure into something that will last?  The reality of the situation is  your Bible only gives you two safe investments.  The first safe investment you have is the souls of men and women because God, when He fashioned man in His own image and woman in His own image together they were male and female, part of that involves the fact that He has designed people to live forever, it’s called the soul or the immaterial part of a person.

The Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3 and verse 11 says, “He has also set eternity in their heart,”

[Ecclesiastes 3:11, He has made everything appropriate in its time.  He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.”]  The fact of the matter is people, whether they’re Christians or not, are going to be alive somewhere a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now, a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, a million years from now, and we can just keep on going because that is what God has done with people.  This is the reason that the Holy Spirit is trying out, in verse 13, against the abuse of human beings via slavery or some other source to acquire wealth.  You can’t treat people that way because God has made people in His image.

I guarantee you folks, your kids, your grandkids aren’t getting this message from a lot of sources because they’re taught in the school system from K to 12 and beyond, the evolutionary model that they are nothing more than a naked ape.  They went from the good to you via the zoo over billions of years.  I get worked up over that because it robs humanity of the dignity that God gave them.  It strips them of who they are, as image bearers of God.  And so when you invest in a person through evangelism, someone you’re mentoring, someone you’re discipling, your own children.

You know, you look at some of the statistics in your typical evangelical home is too busy to have a family prayer time, a family quiet time, a family Scripture meditation time.  That’s  [can’t understand word] priorities and yet when you’re with those little ones sharing with them the things of God and the Word of God, entertaining their questions, (and they can ask some very difficult questions), I think little children, little kids ask the best questions.  Through my own best research is they find questions that my daughter has asked of me that I really didn’t have an answer for, and yet every single moment you spend in a situation like that into a heart you’re making a faith investment because that little child, their soul that they have as an image bearer will go on throughout eternity.

You invest in a person and an investment always requires time and effort and energy doesn’t it?  That’s a safe investment!  And there’s only one other safe investment that I know of, everything according to 2 Peter 3:10 is going to burn except two things—the only thing that’s going to last is the soul of a person and the second thing that’s going to last is the Word of God.  Jesus said in Matthew 14:35, “Heaven and earth will” He didn’t say might, “will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”  Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Every moment you spend reading this book, trying to understand this book, building your life upon this book, seeking to live out the principles in this book, is an investment that’s safe and it’s eternal.  It’s one of the only two things that’s going to make it from this world into the next.  And certainly the instantaneous destruction of Babylon communicates that to us, does it not?

Verse 15, it continues on and it says, “The merchants of these things who became rich from here will stand at a distance,” why are they standing off at a distance? Maybe it has something to do with their standing off at a distance in the Persian Gulf area, I don’t know that for sure but it’s an interesting conjecture.  “The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning.”

Verse 16 continues, and it says this; what are they saying, “saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls;” you’ll notice again the reference to “the great city,” Babylon the great!  Daniel 4:30 should be in the back of your mind.  [Daniel 4:30, “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?]    You’ll notice her colorful attire, purple and gold, chapter 18 verse 16.  [Revelation 18:16, “saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls;”]  That’s what Daniel was arrayed in when he interpreted the handwriting on the wall.

And then you might also remember that purple and gold is how Babylon was described in chapter 17.  [Revelation 17:4, “The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls….”]  That was the harlot’s desire, purple and gold.   Notice what we’re seeing here, “purple and gold,” chapter 18 verse 16, the forces that unite these chapters are greater than anything that may divide them.

And who else is lamenting here?  “The merchants of the sea” are lamenting. Notice Revelation 18:17, “for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’ And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance.”  You say well pastor, Babylon doesn’t even have a harbor.  Not yet!  You’ll notice the destruction in a day, that should bring to your mind Daniel 5:30-31.  [Daniel 5:30-31, “That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain.  [31] So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.”]

I’ve shared this article with you before, Babylon Needs a Harbor.  It was unacceptable to Saddam Hussein that a country as great as Iraq did not have a long coastline.  Over and over again he talked about the necessity of building a navy and becoming a sea fearing power.  Iraq’s isolation from the sea was a cruel accident of history he believes, and no one, or one that had to be rectified, a theme he continued to dwell on after his invasion of Kuwait.  The reason I’m bringing this up is people have long dismissed the literal interpretation of Babylon on the ground, that these are sea merchants and Babylon doesn’t even have a harbor.  My response is not yet she doesn’t.

Do you realize the prophecies related to the return of the Jews to their land, which began to be fulfilled in 1948?  You understand that for 2,000 years of church history people look at those prophecies as allegorical.  I mean, there’s no way that could be literal, that’s obviously taking about… and they start to symbolize it as something else.  And isn’t it interesting how in 1948 with the rebirth of the nation of Israel and then in 1967 with the nation of Israel recapturing Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, it’s sort of interesting to me how all of a sudden all of this stuff that everybody thought was allegorical looks pretty literal to me.  Why can’t the same thing happen with Babylon?  Is that too big of a stretch?

Dan Haven in his book on Babylon says this:  “Actually, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers converge in southern Iraq and enter the Persian Gulf in Iraqi territory. The problem has been that Iran and Kuwait squeeze Iraq into a bottleneck at the mouth of the rivers and Iraq’s attempts to forge a harbor there have been thwarted by the hostile refusals of those two countries. But suppose international pressures were brought to bear upon Iran to allow Iraq access to the Shatt al-Arab waterway all the way to Basra and cooperation could be coerced from Kuwait to open up the area around its little island of Bubiyan and Warba.”  “A commercial port and harbor for ships could become a reality for Babylon in a relatively short period of time. With modern dredging equipment, a deep channel waterway could be opened from the Persian Gulf all the way to Babylon. With its location on the Euphrates River, ships and sailors” the kind we’re reading about herein the Book of Revelation, “could indeed have access to this future queen of modern cities. The Antichrist ruler, with his political and economic power and global influence, could easily make that happen. So, as you can see, a harbor in Babylon is not at all out of the question.”  [Dan Hayden, Iraq: In the Crosshairs of Destiny: What the Bible Says About the Future of Iraq (Altamonte Springs, FL: Advantage Books, 2008), 115.]

You’ll notice verse18, these sea merchants, like the other merchants we read about earlier, are crying.  Look at verse 18,  “and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’”  The smoke or her burning,” that’s Jeremiah 50:30.  The burning is in both chapters.  You’ll notice the reference to “the great city” again, that’s Daniel 4:30, and then verse 19 with which we’ll conclude.  [Daniel 4:30, “ The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’”]

“And they” that’s the sea merchants who now don’t have the wealth that they once had because of the destruction of Babylon, “threw dust on their heads and were crying and weeping and mourning saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’”  [Revelation 18:19]  They threw dust on their head, you find a reference to that in Job 2:12.  [Job 2:12, “When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.”]

You remember the struggles of Job and when Job’s friends saw that what had happened to Job they didn’t know what to do.  They were just beside themselves and they began to wail and weep as Job is suffering, to the point where they threw dust on their heads towards the sky.  That’s what these merchants are going to do with the destruction of Babylon, they’re crying, they’re mourning, they’re weeping over the great city, again Daniel 4:30, the ships at sea, her wealth ends, and what does it say here, “within one hour.”  Daniel 5:30, destroyed in a day, later in the chapter destroyed in one hour.   [Daniel 4:30, “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’”  Daniel 5:30.” That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain.”]

And then as the kings and the merchants and the sea merchants are mourning what is heaven doing?  We’ll see it next week.  They’re celebrating.  Heaven has the exact opposite reaction as the world does.  And so a lot of the question is well whose applause are we living for exactly?  If you want to live for the applause of the world you’re not going to get the applause of God.  If you want to live for the applause of God you’re not going to get the applause of the world.  Make up your mind, Christian!  Which side of the ledger are  you on?  And since all of these things are going to be destroyed in this way what sort of people ought you to be?

Let me give you this closing illustration.  I’ve used this before but when I was younger my parents would take me to a particular restaurant and it was a fairly nice restaurant and there was a giant block of ice and we would sometimes get a table right next to this sculpture, and the was sculpted out of this block of ice.  And given the fact that we were sitting so close I, as a young child, could see the perspiration dripping off his face.   And this guy had talent, let me tell you.  He could take a giant block of ice and turn it into anything; he could turn it into as it was Christmas time a Santa Claus or a Christmas tree, at Easter time an Easter basket, or at Thanksgiving whatever you want it to be he could make it into.  And I remember watching him work and work and work and work and work and work on it.  And I remember being very young the frustration I felt watching him labor because I knew that eventually everything that he had created in such beauty with such energy, was going to melt.  What would it last form a few days?   And if  you can sort of put that image in  your mind that’s what your average Christian’s life in the  United States of America is like.  They’ve allowed the American culture to influence where they spend their time, and their energy, and their priorities. And they’re working and investing, not because of a lack of energy, it’s just not a safe investment.

And imagine what your spiritual portfolio is going to be like if all of that time, effort and energy that you spent was just redirected into a person or to a human being or into the Scripture.  And so that image has always been so astounding to me and I share that with you and I hope it challenges you.

Babylon falls!  The real issue is are you going to fall along with Babylon?  You don’t have to!  If you’re an unbeliever you’re going right over the cliff but if you’re a Christian you’re on the winning side of history, not because there’s something inside of you that makes you a winner.  It’s because  you’re connected to the One by faith, Jesus Christ, who overcame.  His overcoming makes you an overcomer because you’re connected to Him.  You see that?

And you become a Christian, the Bible says, over 150 times, by trusting in the One that He has sent.  John 6:28-29, “What must we do to do the works of God?” they asked Christ.  He said this is the work, [29]  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”  Believe means to trust.  You trust in Him for your salvation,  you trust in Him for the safe keeping of your soul, you trust in Him for your eternity and that makes you an overcomer because you are connected to the One who overcame.

That’s how easy it is to become a Christian.  And no doubt the Spirit of God is convicting people of this, maybe in the room, maybe as our teaching goes out on the internet and social media, who knows?  Who knows whose computer file or desk this sermon will come across?  Part of it is just fun to figure out what God’s going to do with us based on some of the e-mails we get.  We’re just astonished at what God does with so little.

And so we always want to complete our service with a presentation of the gospel, albeit it brief, reminding people that they can get right with God; they need not be on the sinking sand as the Babylonian city and system, they can be a citizen of a city that’s come whose builder and maker is God, whose foundation can never be shaken, simply by trusting in what Christ has done.  Now how easy is that!  And we encourage you to do that; you don’t have to walk an aisle to do it, join a church to do it, raise a hand to do it, fill out a card to do it, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you trust in Him and He saves you at that point.  If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.  But as we grow in Christ we ought not to let the world’s temporal values drive the way we live as Christians.  We ought to invest our time, talent and energy into safe investments, and the things that will last.

Shall we pray.  Father, we’re grateful for this time of the year and the many things that we should be thankful for.  We’re thankful for You and what You did for us and how we are not on the losing side of history; we’re on the winning side of history, we’re overcomers because of You.  We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.