Revelation 18:16

Sunday, 20 June 2021

and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! Revelation 18:16

In verse 18:10, the kings of the earth were “standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon…” Now almost the same words are again said by the merchants of the earth. Beginning in the previous verse, it says that the merchants of the earth “will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, 16 and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city…’”

Like the kings of the earth, these merchants will mourn over Babylon the great. However, the kings called out an exclamation that was fitting of the office of a king, meaning judgment. They exclaimed, “For in one hour your judgment has come.” On the other hand, the merchants call out an exclamation that is fitting of their trade, noting its finery. They begin this by saying, “that great city that was clothed in fine linen.”

This was one of their cargoes as noted in 18:12. They mourn over the city as if she were a woman dressed in the linen which they had adorned her with through their sales. As noted, fine linen is used elsewhere in the Bible to indicate righteousness. For Babylon the great, it is only self-righteousness.

Along with that, they note, “purple.” As seen in 18:12, purple signifies power and/or wealth, even royal status. Proverbs 31:22 links this color with godliness in a woman. For Babylon the great, these were only earthly in nature, but they failed to reflect the true inner self.

The merchants next call out, “and scarlet.” As seen in 18:12, the color is used elsewhere to signify substitutionary atonement. However, Babylon the great failed to receive this, and the scarlet (red) will speak of the judgment of her own sins.

It next says, “and adorned with gold.” Verse 18:12 explained that gold is the royal metal. It is a symbol of wealth and purchasing power. But for Babylon the great, she will find that she cannot buy her way out of her sentence of judgment. Her royal states will be stripped from her, and she will be left abandoned.

The verse next says, “and precious stones.” The Greek is singular, “stone.” The jewel-encrusted items found in Babylon the great will have no value when her judgment comes. Men in her will reach out for them as if they can save, and they will die with these clasped in their hands.

Finally, the verse ends with, “and pearls!” As seen in 18:12, Jesus equates the precious teachings of the gospel to the pearl. For Babylon the great, there is only a false gospel, which is no gospel at all. The pearls of Babylon the great will perish with her. Like what happened to the fine things of Jerusalem when it was destroyed by Babylon, so will happen to the fine things of Babylon the great. This will come when it is judged by the Lord –

‘How the gold has become dim!
How changed the fine gold!
The stones of the sanctuary are scattered
At the head of every street.” Lamentations 4:1

Life application: The things of this world are all destined to pass away, but the beauty of the soul who loves and follows God is everlasting. Here is what Peter admonishes the women of God in order for them to have an everlasting remembrance –

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3, 4

God looks for the “hidden person of the heart” and the “incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,” not a woman as shallow as a saucer who is only externally beautiful. Again, Paul addresses the same concept in his first letter to Timothy –

“I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:8-10

Some of the very things these apostles warned about are the things for which those in Babylon the great are noted for having been adorned with. If we look to Hollywood actresses or the wives of politicians, we generally see people that are beautiful, shallow, and have low morals. They are fawned over because of their physical beauty, but that will fade quickly as the years pass.

Babylon the great has all the outward appeal of false religion and spiritual enlightenment, but it has no substance. Only when faith is built upon the truth of God in Christ, is there anything of lasting value. Come to the firm Foundation, come to the Rock, come to JESUS!

Here we are Lord, Your creatures. But we reject You, and we go after every false spiritual teaching we can find. It is so much easier to listen to easy messages of false enlightenment than it is to pick up our Bible. How pleasing it is to listen to a sermon-lite by a fancy prosperity preacher than it is to read the Bible and be made aware of our sinful state and our need for Your redemption. Help us to just get it right. Help us to follow Jesus. Amen.