June 10, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Jisup Hong, Gracepoint Berkeley
Revelation 18
Come out of her, my people […] Even in its OT setting, this was no mere warning to leave the actual city of Babylon, much less here in Revelation […] Wherever there are idolatry, prostitution, self-glorification, self-sufficiency, pride, complacency, reliance on luxury and wealth, avoidance of suffering, violence against life (v.24), there is Babylon. Christians are to separate themselves ideologically and physically from all the forms of Babylon (chs. 2-3).[…]Babylon’s threefold web of sin is described as satiety (‘luxury’), pride (‘boasts, I sit as a queen’), and avoidance of suffering (‘I will never mourn’). These three may be interrelated. Luxury leads to boastful self-sufficiency (Eze 28:5), while the desire to avoid suffering leads to the dishonest pursuit of luxury (Eze 28:18).
How is Babylon’s sin described?  What aspects of Babylon appeal to me, and how can I guard my life against being lured by Babylon?

She is described as rich, luxurious, glorious, powerful, making others rich, self-sufficient, and proud.  Her sin is described as adultery, pride, self-sufficiency, indulgence in luxury, but also murder of the prophets and saints, and all who have been killed on the the earth–the imagery that is used is predominantly one of merchant trade.  She is described as making many rich, as seducing men to have loved her–such that when she is judged, they mourn.

What aspects of Babylon appeal to me?  The attention of the great men that she gets–apparent greatness in the eyes of men.  That appeals to me.  The self-sufficiency appeals to me.  The comfort and luxury appeals to me.

How can I guard my life?  I need to stay committed to ministry and to the vision that God gave us.  Apart from that, I can easily see myself just accumulating possessions and comfort.  Even while engaging in ministry, I need to be deliberate about what possessions I obtain, about upgrading, about what I trends follow–what I give my attention to.  I must live in the world, but Jesus says that I must not be of the world.  Money, technology, education are all major idols of today.  I must use all of these to win people to Christ, but I must not bow down to them, or let them become anything more than a means.

Revelation 18:9-19
What are the three groups that mourned over the fall of Babylon, and what is the common denominator behind their reasons for mourning?

Merchants, sea captains, and sailors.  The common denominator was that they became rich through her.  They mourned that such great wealth came to ruin in so short a time.  Wealth, power, luxury–these were the things that they valued–and although it doesn’t describe they themselves coming to ruin–yet they mourned, because that’s what was in their heart, that’s what their hearts were tied up with–wealth, power, luxury.

What lessons does this passage teach regarding the ultimate destiny of those who place their hope in wealth?  In what ways can I apply this lesson in my life?

Their ultimate destiny is disappointment, regret, and mourning.  They may perish with wealth when it perishes, or even if they do not, the day of God will be a day of mourning for them, and their salvation will be a shameful one, perhaps not unlike the salvation of Lot from Sodom, where his heart seems to have been attached to the city, even as it was being destroyed.  In contrast, the text describes that day as a day of joy for the saints and God’s people, who did not pollute themselves by her adulteries.  They did not play games or flirt with Babylon.  They did not benefit by her, and their hope was not in her–their hope was in God.  It is a great warning for me.  The Bible describes heaven as the wedding banquet in honor of Christ and the church, a glorious and joyful celebration–which is antithetical to mourning.

Revelation 18:1-13
Here is yet another text that sets a description of moral and spiritual sin side by side with a description of riches and luxuries.  Note how the list of precious cargo in vss. 12-13 ends.  Again, what does this suggest about the true nature of earthly riches?

… and bodies and souls of men.  The true nature of pursuing earthly wealth is that it at the cost of the bodies and souls of men.  Yes, I tend not to see it this way, but they were trading away men and their souls.  They were trading in these fine goods, all kinds of fine goods, and getting rich by it.  And meanwhile people are perishing, and their souls with them.

If I pursue worldly wealth instead of the mission and vision that God has given us, if I slow down the mission God has given to pursue wealth or luxury, the cost is souls that will not be saved, and people will perish as prisoners to sin.  The cost is men.  This may not be apparent to me all the time, but it is the truth and it is constantly plain to God.

This is true of my life right now.  I get caught up with things–like when I need to buy something, trying to choose well from all the myriad of brands and options, and then to get a decent deal, like issues with my research, work, or worries about details about my future–then, people who need my attention, real people in my life who need the gospel, or who need my help in order to grow in their faith, as well as everyone that those people may touch and lead to true life–I am trading that away.

What can be gleaned about the lifestyle and value system of the culture of Babylon from the list of commodities that the merchants once sold to Babylon?

One thing about this list is that it isn’t at the level of food, clothes, furniture, etc.  It is at a much high level of detail– kinds of fabrics, kinds of spices and delicate fragrances and tastes, kinds of materials, etc.  They didn’t have clothes–they had all these very fine clothes with a whole layer of detailed names; they didn’t eat food–they had all these fine foods with detailed names, etc.  That is their level of attentiveness to aspects of material pleasures.  It was a luxurious, comfortable life-style geared toward enjoying and appreciating the finer things of materialistic life.  That is what they valued–experiencing the fleshly life to the full.  And if they couldn’t do that, they would considered it to be missing out on life, if they miss out on those experiences.  This would be equivalent to me feeling like I am missing out on life because I don’t have the best job that I can get, or the best grades or CV that I could have, because if I don’t have those, then I won’t be able to enjoy having a 3 car garage instead of a 2 car garage, or I may have rent for the rest of my life rather than own, or I may have to settle for cheapo furniture instead of nicer stuff, or send my kid to public school instead of private school, etc.  It would be me feeling like I am missing out on life, because I don’t own a time-share in Tahoe, and I can’t afford to go snow-boarding every other weekend of the winter, and because I don’t have the newest iphone, or because I have to wait 5 seconds longer than my friends when I turn on my 5 year old laptop.

In contrast, as from yesterday’s DT, missing out on life is a totally different thing in God’s eyes.  God says life is about loving people in the name of Jesus, and that if I am not doing that, then I am missing out on life.

What is the relationship between that kind of value system and the selling of “bodies and souls of men”?  What are some parallels that can be drawn between Babylon’s culture and our modern-day culture?

In that kind of value system, the bodies and souls of men figures very low–souls are what you trade away to get and enjoy the fine things of life.  In our culture there is indeed a trading in of the bodies of men–not only through modern day slavery, but also through the way that people choose marriage partners by appearance, through advertisement and marketing through sex appeal.  Certainly bodies are involved in that whole economic, profiteering trade affair.  But also the souls of men–souls waste away.  Who has time in today’s system to pause and think about your soul, let alone someone else’s soul?  Souls have nil value in today’s modern culture.  For a lot of “smart,” “educated” people, they say that souls don’t even exist–that’s a pretty low value.  It is unclear that it would be possible for souls to have any less value.  People are experts when it comes to all kinds of things–their line of work, sports statistics, gadgets and technology, types of wine, physical health issues, all kinds of things–but when it comes to souls, they are abysmally ignorant and unconcerned.  That is the world in which we live today.  You can subscribe to a magazine, or I guess these days subscribe to blogs or rss feeds, about the finer details of material life about just about any aspect of material life–today’s world has information overload in almost any subject.


Please write out a prayer of commitment or confession either based on today’s text, or upon reflection over recent events in your life.

Dear heavenly Father, please forgive me for getting caught up in Babylonian values through the ways that I waste time, money, emotional energy through attending to and worrying about the finer points of material life.  The fact is is that even now there are a lot of people who for the sake of their souls need my time and attention, and if I get caught up in distractions or self-pity over being a loser in the Babylonian system, it will be at the cost of souls.  Thank you Lord for leading me to life that is truly life, and for reminding me daily to take hold of that life–the life of love, with riches that we will take with us to heaven. Especially as I am going to be finishing school sometime this year, I want to recommit to the vision of planting churches and that when I go out on the job market, my chief concern will be the souls of men, rather than details of career advancement, title, pay, convenience, kids’ education, or whatever else.


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