Summary: We can either choose to long for Jesus and end up rejoicing or long for “stuff” and end up weeping and mourning.
This morning, as we continue our journey through Revelation, we’ll be covering all of chapter 18. Since it is a relatively long chapter, I’ve asked some of our elders and deacons to come and read the passage out loud for us.
[Reading of chapter 18]
Once again, this is a passage where we need to step back and take a look at the big picture rather than get lost in the details. But before we do that, let me take a moment to review the larger context.
Chapters 17 and 18 contain figurative and symbolic language which revolves around Babylon. While Babylon may possibly refer to a physical place, Babylon In these two chapters is primarily a picture of something much more than just a location – much in the same way as we refer to “Wall Street” as a picture of our financial and banking system or “Hollywood” as a picture of the film industry.
Last week, in chapter 17, we saw Babylon as a picture of a false religious system which will be used by the Antichrist and other political leaders in order to consolidate their political power. But once they no longer need that system, they will turn on it and destroy it.
This week, in chapter 18, Babylon represents a commercial and financial system that will be in place just prior to the return of Jesus. It too, will be destroyed, but by God Himself rather than by Satan and the Antichrist.
What is really remarkable to me is how well chapter 18 describes many of the characteristics of our current economic and commerce system, both here in the United States and around the world. And our recent economic woes certainly demonstrate just how easily our whole economic system could very easily collapse literally overnight. And all of us participate in that system to some degree. We work and get a paycheck. We buy and sell goods. We have bank accounts and use currency. So how do we make sure that we don’t come crashing down as well when this system collapses?
The value of chapter 18 for us is that it helps us to answer that question. And the principles that we will find here are just as relevant to us regardless of whether the final destruction of this system occurs in our lifetimes or whether we only experience some of the lesser economic meltdowns that are merely a harbinger of what is to come one day at the return of Jesus.
Dana will be really proud of me this morning because I’m going to kind of “reverse engineer” this passage. I’m going to begin by looking at the two reactions to this financial collapse and then see if we can’t work our way backwards and determine what steps that we can take to make sure that we’re part of the right group when that time comes.
Two responses to economic collapse –
When the collapse of the economic system occurs, there are going to be two contrasting responses to the collapse:
• The world – weeping and mourning
That is going to be the response of most of the world. In particular, there are going to be three groups which are singled out in this passage who will weep and mourn:
o The political leaders (vv. 9-10)
It is clear from this passage that the “kings of the earth” are going to weep and wail because they have benefited all along from this economic system. They have participated in the system and engaged in immorality in order to benefit from that system and live in luxury.
We see evidence of this right here in the United States. In the midst of one of the greatest recessions in our country’s history, the average wealth of members of Congress increased 16% from 2008 to 2009. And nearly half the members of Congress are now millionaires. So it’s not hard to see why the political elite who benefit personally are going to weep and mourn at the collapse of the system.
o The small businessmen (vv. 11, 15-17)
The next group mentioned is the merchants. These would be comparable to the small businessmen of our time. These are the people who made a living by buying and selling their goods. As verse 15 points out, when times are good, these people accumulate a lot of wealth. But when economic times get hard, people can no longer afford to buy their goods, especially the luxury items like gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, etc. that are mentioned in verses 12 and 13.
Again, we can see this at work on a smaller scale right here in our country. Business bankruptcies increased 79% from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2009 and most of those were small businesses. Because unemployment is so high, there are less people who can afford to buy products from these businesses, especially luxury items.