If you are not familiar with the name Zalman King, I am not surprised. Earlier in February of this year (2012), at age 69, he surrendered his life to the cancer that he battled for some time. He was an actor, director and a writer. For a time in his life, he was something of a mogul when it came to pornographic dramas, and I am told that his writing reflects some fascination with the world of prostitution. He explored the subject in a series paid for by Playboy called “The Red Shoe Diaries”. I mention him, not because I was a fan – I wasn’t. Nor have I ever read, to the best of my knowledge, a single line written by the man. I mention him because of a short story I read about his life after his death.
It seems that for nearly twenty years, Mr. King’s fascination with prostitution led him to attempt a number of forays into story building based on that world – including trying to find a way to get people that were engaged in the illicit trade to open up to him about their dark and veiled domain. He concocted an idea that a columnist in the nearby city newspaper could ask people in the trade to write in their experiences under the cloak of secrecy. He took from that idea the basis of a series he wrote for a cable producer under the name of the secrecy column, “The Red Shoe Diaries”. I have called this lesson by that name today. However, if you were following from the last lesson, we are not speaking about sexual prostitution – but spiritual prostitution. We are using this crass terminology because God did. It was the way He revealed the fall of the false religious world that mimicked a relationship with Him that He longed to have restored.
In our scenario, God is the one writing in. He is the One telling secrets about the life – and death – of a harlot. He made clear the day and hour of her death, and even the reason behind His plot to take her down. In Revelation 17, we saw God cut down the harlot of false religion. In Revelation 18, He will open up the secrets that brought on such devastation.
Wait a minute! What’s so bad about religion? I mean, hasn’t religion helped in so much of mankind’s ethical development? Why would God hate religion so badly that He would call it names like WHORE, and destroy it with such fury that He would show real DELIGHT in its crushing? That doesn’t sound like the God I know. After all, that sounds angry, vindictive and downright MEAN, doesn’t it? Arguing that false religion has helped humanity in ethics is like arguing that weeds have helped our lawns be greener. God’s argument in His Word comes down to this: He is the only God. The rest of the characters vying for worship are imposters. Since He created all things for Himself, the rest was an elaborate rouse of rebellion against His purposes.
Key Principle: God will unmercifully CRUSH false religion because it has taken some of the best of humanity and deceived them with trickery, making them enemies of God and His messengers.
Before we get into Revelation 18, it is probably important to note that in the second half of the book of Revelation, God used many illusions from the Hebrew Scriptures that He expected you to recognize before you would get His real point. . Motifs of earlier passages were routinely borrowed and placed into the narrative, as God did a second time things He did earlier with others long before.
- For instance, in Revelation 10, John got sick to his stomach eating a scroll as he was re-commissioned to deliver sickening truths that were sweet to the taste, because they were Gods truth, but sickening when he attempted to “digest” them. This bears a striking resemblance to the commissioning of Ezekiel, where he was told to eat a scroll in Ezekiel 3.
- In Revelation 11, two witnesses of God in the Tribulation Period Jerusalem were called upon by God and supplied with the Spirit’s energizing and empowering- just as God said long before of a priest of the return from captivity named Joshua. The description as olive trees and lamp stands in Revelation 11:4 is very similar to the description of Joshua and Zerubbabel in Zechariah 4.
- In Revelation 12:1-2, Israel is described as clothed in sun, moon and stars – the same reference as in Genesis 37:9, the description of Jacob’s family from the dream of Joseph.
As we look into Revelation 18, we must keep in mind the motifs of the past in Scripture, they will help inform our understanding.
The Doom Announced (18:1-2a)
Our text opens with another announcement given by another Heavenly messenger: Revelation 18:1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory. 2 And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!”
The opening verses of the chapter reveal two things that set the whole scene:
- The Speaker is introduced: Another angel…having great authority: Perhaps this is a reference to one like Gabriel (whose very name means “Strength of God”) or Michael (Israel’s special guardian). All we know for sure is that the angel is Highly ranked in strength and authority.
- His Message is delivered: Finally, God is fed up with the competing voices of religious faith. They are drawn to a sudden close.
Why was He fed up? God is finally finished, because the enemy has deceived much of the world with false gods, while he has further deceived the west in the modern era with the notion that the various religions really aren’t all that different.
Saying that all religions are alike is like saying that any answer to a given mathematics problem is correct. The reason people aren’t able to see that in the modern western culture is that we have been educated and indoctrinated into a tolerance that suggests there is no absolute truth.
Can the explanations of the Baha’i, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Wicca, Neopaganism, Zoroastrianism, and Druidism all really be blended into one? What explanation would there be for the origin of man, the purpose of man, and the destiny of man. Where did they get it from. Even more important, if the Bible is correct and there really is only ONE GOD and He has made Himself known in the world in both natural and special revelation, culminating in His Holy Word – where did all the other ideas of “truth” come from? How can two opposing ideas like “There is no god but Allah” be paired off with pantheistic “god is in all and with all” philosophies. My point is this: Does it really make sense to believe they are all leading on one path to the Creator if they don’t all even agree that there is a Creator, and that we should be attempting to please Him? In the end God votes – and He said that His vote will be to crush falsehood and uphold truth.
The Destruction Explained (18:2b-3):
God carefully outlines the case against religions that have pulled men from a restored relationship with Him through Christ:
Revelation 18:2b“…She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. 3 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality .”
Babylon is named as having been two things:
1) Habitation of demons: the term habitation is a combined word in Greek from “katoikeó” (katá, “down, according to,” and oikéō, “dwell, reside”) – properly, settle down as a permanent resident, or “to be exactly at home” in a place. God argument is that the enemy and his evil forces have taken up residence in false religion. He created, they lied. He saved, they obscured. The doctrine of demons is nothing more or less than false religion.
2) Prison for unclean spirits…birds: The term prison is used twice. It is the Greek term “phulaké” (foo-lak-ay’: as in a watching, guard room, or a prison). The term should probably NOT be considered a PRISON as in the place where THEY are incarcerated, but rather a place they stand guard on behalf of unclean spirits. The term for UNCLEAN is actually a term for the opposite of “clean or purged”. These are spirits with a DEADLY MIXTURE of truth and falsehood. The term “prison for unclean and hateful birds” is very similarly a GUARDIAN PLACE for MIXED BIRDS.
What is this all about? God’s description of religion and its demonic cohorts sound like the prophecies of Isaiah 13-14 of long before. In Isaiah 13, Isaiah was shown the fall of Babylon (in what appears to be to the Medes, Isaiah 13:17) but has deeper spiritual roots as we can easily see. Chapter 14 goes on to show God’s watch care for Israel, and then a poem interpreted to be the fall of Satan from Heaven.
Isaiah 13:1 The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw. 2 Lift up a standard on the bare hill, Raise your voice to them, …4 … The LORD of hosts is mustering the army for battle. 5 They are coming from a far country, From the farthest horizons, The LORD and His instruments of indignation, To destroy the whole land. 6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. … 8 They will be terrified, …They will look at one another in astonishment, Their faces aflame. 9 Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, To make the land a desolation; … 10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises And the moon will not shed its light. 11 Thus I will punish the world for its evil And the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud And abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. …”.
Don’t miss this truth! God has repeatedly said that false religion will be dismantled and each time He has used Babylon as the place He would judge:
Near the end of the book of Jeremiah in chapters 50-51, God says Babylon’s pervasiveness has reached the corridors of power and commerce around the world. For time and space sake, we can only offer a nibble sized sample:
Jeremiah 50:1 The word which the LORD spoke concerning Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, through Jeremiah the prophet: 2 “Declare and proclaim among the nations. Proclaim it and lift up a standard. Do not conceal it but say, ‘Babylon has been captured, Bel has been put to shame, Marduk has been shattered; Her images have been put to shame, her idols have been shattered.’
After so many words, we may miss the point: God announced 700 years before Christ that Babylon was a deep problem, and that she would be decimated by His mighty hoards from Heaven. He promised it again 120 years later at the time of Jeremiah – as Israel was led into captivity. John was treated to reciting an OLD THEME. God has been aiming his sights at false world religions for a long time, and soon He will pull the trigger.
Enough of the “all roads leading to Heaven” nonsense. Enough of the sloppy liberal theology of Heaven without Hell, or the “easy believe-ism” of grace without obedience, or the labor-filled works without undeserved grace salvation – all of it will end up on the trash heap of Satanic and demonic ideology.
There is only one truth. God has sent His Son, and in Him is life. Apart from Him nothing was made that exists. Apart from Him nothing holds together, Apart from Him there is no eternal life.
That may sound harsh, but the truth often does to those who have learned to tolerate and stomach lies. Enough! God created. God spoke. God pronounces truth. His Word is reliable – and no other source of spiritual truth was authored by Him. We can try to sidestep that reality to win a larger following, but we will only have succeeded in watering down the truth –and truth MIXED is the cocktail of demons.
The Departure Invited (18:4-5)
In the middle of the angel’s announcement of Babylon’s long promised destruction, another voice chimes in to the declaration business. This voice calls to the people of God to leave the false faiths. Because we have taken the position that God’s focus in the Tribulation Period is upon the Jewish people, we want to compare this announcement to other words of Scripture.
Revelation 18:4 I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; 5 for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
Look closely at the words of Jesus concerning this terrible time of wrath in Matthew 24:3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.
Jesus’ first concern was the deception of the Jewish people in the Tribulation Period. It seems this oracle in Heaven had the same concern, and called for the people of God to get out of the way before God sent His judgment on false religions of the world.
The Devastation Encouraged (18:6-8)
The voices abound in the text! This one calls for Babylon to get what she deserves!
Revelation 18:6 “Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her. 7 To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously , to the same degree give her torment and mourning ; for she says in her heart , ‘ I SIT as A QUEEN AND I AM NOT A WIDOW , and will never see mourning .’ 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.
The language might seem confusing here. There is a widow that thinks she is a queen. Think for a moment about the spiritual use of the terminology. God intended to have a marriage relationship of intimacy with men and women by faith. Religion posed as a harlot and offered what SEEMED like a relationship – but wasn’t. She thought of herself, not those who pined for relationship and ended up in her arms. She was in it for HER RICHES and HER EXALTATION. She thought of herself as pretty sophisticated, and even, on occasion believed some of her own delusions. She thought she was protected, hidden, and secretive. She will be exposed. False faith will be unmasked. Man made religion will be de-frocked. Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Babylon in 47:8-11 fits here beautifully. Listen to the words of the prophet:
Isaiah 47:1 “Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; Sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans! For you shall no longer be called tender and delicate. 2 “Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, Uncover the leg, cross the rivers. 3 “Your nakedness will be uncovered, Your shame also will be exposed; I will take vengeance and will not spare a man.” 4 Our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name, The Holy One of Israel. 5 “Sit silently, and go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans, For you will no longer be called The queen of kingdoms. 6 “I was angry with My people, I profaned My heritage And gave them into your hand. You did not show mercy to them, On the aged you made your yoke very heavy. 7 “Yet you said, ‘I will be a queen forever.’ These things you did not consider Nor remember the outcome of them. 8 “Now, then, hear this, you sensual one, Who dwells securely, Who says in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me. I will not sit as a widow, Nor know loss of children.’ 9 “But these two things will come on you suddenly in one day: Loss of children and widowhood. They will come on you in full measure In spite of your many sorceries, In spite of the great power of your spells. 10 “You felt secure in your wickedness and said, ‘No one sees me,’ Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’ 11 “But evil will come on you Which you will not know how to charm away; And disaster will fall on you For which you cannot atone; And destruction about which you do not know Will come on you suddenly…”
The Queen is about to made into a maid servant. She will be stripped of her power, and her secrets will all come out. The carefully held diaries of her indiscretions will become a source of public shaming. God will see to it.
The Demolition Regarded (18:9-10)
The world will watch what happens and be both broken and exposed in the process. Who knew that the diary of the prostitute would one day ;publicly be displayed. Politicians will grimace, and bankers will cry. It will all be exposed!
People will see the Political Impact (18:9-10)
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 , 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.’
People will see the Economic Impact (18:11-17)
Revelation 18:11 “And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more — 12 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 , 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 and slaves and human lives . 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. 15 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 , 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 ; 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 , 18 and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning , saying , ‘ What city is like the great city ?’ 19 And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, 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 !’
Just as Isaiah revealed in Isaiah 13:19-22, Babylon, the very jewel of kingdoms and the glory of Chaldean pride, will suffer the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherd will rest his flocks there. But desert creatures will lie there, jackals will fill her houses; there the owls will dwell, and there the wild goats will leap about. Hyenas will howl in her strongholds, jackals in her luxurious palaces. Her time is at hand, and her days will not be prolonged.
Can you imagine? Great temples and shrines, ransacked of all wealth and openly scorned by all. Animals running through vast cathedrals and beautiful mosques. Churches filled with dust and soot, emptied of beauty and majesty. Nothing left of spiritual, emotional or financial value. Nobody is interested in what they used to do there… God stripped it like a carcass in the road. It’s death and rottenness became evident. Its stench, so well masked for generations since the tower at Babel now fills the nostrils.
The Determination Exposed (18:20-24)
More voices from Heaven cry out at the sense of justice. Directions are given to those above and below:
Direction to Heaven – Rejoice! (20)
In Heaven, those who have suffered at the hands of persecutors, those who have fought against inquisitions of angry men who served the enemy’s ends – they are called to begin praise. These are missionaries, apostles, Christians who have suffered bitter cruelties dealt by those in religious garb and smug expression. Their day has ended. The rejoicing is NOT simply an expression of revenge – it is a pent up pain of the many that were lost to the sorceries of the false faiths that beckoned to those blinded to their sorcery.
Revelation 18:20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.”
Every parent that has lost a child to some sect or cult knows the pain. Every child that has lost a father or mother on a field of service where they were butchered for their faith in Jesus will understand. All believers will be able to rejoice that the false doors, the false wooing of fallen and vicious men will be stopped.
Direction to Earth – Let It Be Done! (21-24)
The great stone will fall to the earth like the mountainous rock of Daniel 2, crushing down the mocking of Christ’s sacrifice played out in one false faith after another. Other roads will be closed. All other gates will be locked. Men will know there is only one truth – and that is found in the Creator and His Son’s sacrifice.
Revelation 18:21 Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer. 22 And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer; 23 and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer;
The violence destroys her. Her music stops playing. The organ falls silent. The violin is no more. The flute is hushed. Mills stop, workers cease, shops close. The hope of the future is cut off. There is no more wedding songs sung in her cathedrals. It seems like God is saying it over and over. Why?
The Decision Repeated (18:23b-24)
The unparalleled patience of the Creator in the face of mankind’s religious replacement and rebellion is finally brought to its end. Everyone knows the whole mockery was a farce. They see the lie – and they see the liars. Do not miss the end of the chapter, because in it is the great four secrets from the prostitute’s diary:
“…for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.”
Did you see the four secrets?
- Spread by the greatest among men: Religion overcame the mightiest in her sorcery. Some good and gracious, many deeply moral and wonderfully happy men and women have been tricked by her.
- Nations followed in deception: Whole nations have been held captive by demonic lies. They have served painfully and sacrificially a god who does not exist. They have sacrificed peace with others and denied themselves both the pleasures of this life and the promises of the next – all before the altar of a liar. Wars were fought over lies. Good men and women were destroyed over lies. The future of whole peoples were struck down by sorceries of paganism.
- Sorcery was used: The term “pharmakeía” (from pharmakeuō, “administer drugs”) or “drug-related sorcery” is referred to “as the practice of magical-arts, etc.” (A. T. Robertson). People were DRUGGED into the fellowships of the damned. They were sometimes metaphorically, and sometimes literally “drunk” with religious faith. Like any addict, they surrendered their future as they made simple steps ahead. They had no idea how hooked they would get.
Don’t forget, twice man knew God in totality. Once in the Garden, and again on the Ark. People knew God, but someone in one generation strayed, and billions paid. How did it happen? I am almost certain false religion was the biggest culprit. People opened themselves to another explanation that was not the truth. When they did – the deception grew like an addiction.
- Persecution came from her deceptions: Just as she spat upon God’s redemptive plan and God’s redeemer – so she abused God’s children. That only raised His hand all the harder. God heard every cry of every martyr. He listened as a broken hearted parent when any of His beloved children were persecuted, tortured or harmed. Now He answered, once and for all. This immoral woman hurt His children, and she was never going to do it again!
God will unmercifully CRUSH false religion because it has taken some of the best of humanity and deceived them with trickery, making them enemies of God and His messengers.