18:9-20 A LAMENT FOR BABYLON
“And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, shall mourn her, and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour has your judgment come” (Revelation 19:9,10). The false religious system deceived “the kings of the earth” so that they participated in and prospered from their illicit relationship with Babylon. However, they show their true heart in that even when the deception is revealed, they mourn (“alas, alas”), showing that they have not truly repented and the judgment they will receive is justified. If they could, they would continue in the sinful system, and if granted eternal life they would rebuild it again.
“And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no one buys their merchandise any more: merchandise of gold, and silver, precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner of vessels of ivory, and all manner of vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and incense, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and animals, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and bodies and souls of men. And the fruits that your soul lusted after are departed from you, and all the things which were dainty and goodly are departed from you, and you shall find them no more at all” (Revelation 18:11-14).
God, in His lavish creation, flooded the world with rich resources that were designed to be a blessing for everyone. But the selfish desire to hoard and exploit has turned these blessings into a curse. The most grievous form of exploitation is that of making the “bodies and souls of men,” created in the image of God, into a commodity to be bought and sold.
We should notice that Babylon trades in both "bodies [slaves, KJV] and souls." Slaves are personal property of their masters and have no choice in their behavior. Souls make their own decisions, but in the face of exploitation, poverty and despair many "souls" choose to take up a life of robbery, extortion, prostitution or violence. These lifestyles will disqualify them from eternal life, but the preponderance of guilt lies with those who have created the conditions that have led to a desperate choice of crime. The rich and powerful have used their power and inflence to maintain, increase, and pass on their privileged status, and God will hold them responsible for the results.
The slavery of "bodies and souls" is not just physical slavery, human trafficking, or a life of desperate crime. It also includes the spiritual slavery that results from doctrines of fear, greed and lust that keep multitudes in chains. Religion has been one of the most potent forces keeping people in slavery to the rich and powerful. But the fall of Babylon is the opening of prison doors to “release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:15).
“The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches have come to nothing” (Revelation 18: 15-17). The acquisition of wealth and pleasure has been marketed internationally, and the whole world has bought into the deception that happiness is found in what you have. However, the fall of Babylon will reveal that it is simply an illusion with no real foundation—“for in one hour so great riches have come to nothing.”
“And every shipmaster, and all the multitudes on ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like this great city?’ And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, where all that had ships in the sea were made rich because of her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate” (Revelation 18: 17-19).
This is the attitude of those who have bought into the Babylon philosophy of self-seving, who still “don’t get it,” even after everything they have seen during the time of trouble. And it confirms what we have seen in other sections: that they could never be happy in the holy atmosphere of heaven where there will be no more exploitation of their fellow creatures for their own benefit. This is why God in His great wisdom and love does not grant them eternal life.
But is there a heavenly mandate for the saints to gloat over their fate? “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her” (Revelation 18:20). If we read this verse carefully we see that this is not God gloating because He defeated Satan and his Babylon kingdom. Gloating is a self-centered focus on ones own glory and achievements, and because He is love God actually grieves for those who are lost in the ruin of Babylon. But He also knows that as long as Babylon continues to exist, the suffering and death of His children will continue. In chapter 6:9,10 the martyrs “under the alter” cried out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” At that time they were told that they should “rest a little while longer.” Now the time has come, and God invites them to "rejoice!"