Revelation 18:17

Monday, 21 June 2021

For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance Revelation 18:17

The words now continue the cry of woe called out by the merchants. That continued cry says, “For in one hour.”

This phrase, like verses 17:12 and 18:10, is an idiom meaning, “In a very short time.” It does not necessarily signify the sixty minutes on a clock. We might say, “I’ll be there in ten seconds,” meaning “in a jiffy.” These are expressions signifying shortness of time.  This is certain because the term “in one day” is spoken of concerning the same event in verse 18:8. For Babylon the great, in this very short amount of time, “such great riches came to nothing.”

One can see the utter destruction of the city. It gives the hint of being completely overrun by the enemy, a great natural disaster, or even a nuclear blast. Whatever will come upon her, it will be sudden and cataclysmic. This will be so much the case that it next refers to, “Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea.”

The “kings of the earth” were mentioned in verse 18:9. The “merchants of the earth” were mentioned in verse 18:11. Now it is those who are on the sea, where each class is named. The “shipmaster” is a designation found only in Acts 27:11 and here. It signifies a steersman or a pilot. Those “who travel by ship” are passengers. The “sailors” are those who work as seamen on ships. The word is found twice in Acts and then again here. And finally, “as many as trade on the sea” refers to those who get their livelihood by the sea, such as dockworkers and so on.

The terminology here is a broad brushstroke of the state of the world at the destruction of Babylon, and – like the two other categories, meaning the kings and the merchants – it seems to presuppose television. The words here do not mean that Babylon the great is a port city. Rather, just as the “kings of the earth” reflect any king in any given kingdom – even one on the other side of the world – so those who trade or travel by sea could be anywhere in the world and watch the complete destruction of the city.

The event will be seen globally. Hence the final words of the verse, these people “stood at a distance.” It is the same basic words used in verses 18:10 and 18:15. It signifies that they have seen the event but have no power to intervene in what occurs. Again, if the words are to be taken as a true depiction of what occurs, television and/or the internet is presupposed.

Life application: This great city was functioning normally when sudden and cataclysmic upheaval ended it and brought it to nothing. Such is the futility of having one’s hopes in any physical commodity.

People who store up gold in hopes of being secure during an economic collapse are also setting themselves up for an added dose of sadness when the gold doesn’t help. This isn’t to say that saving for the future is unwise, but when one’s trust is in such savings, it is sure to disappoint at the time it is expected to provide the intended security.

This is the lesson that we fail to learn in generation after generation, and it will again be noted by those who watch the fall of Babylon the great. The world’s hope of complete security and stability will be dashed. Those who stand at a distance will realize this.

With the end of this wicked city will also be the end of their means of prosperity. There is only one place where hope meets up with surety. That is found in God. And as God has revealed Himself in and through His Son, we can have the absolute surety of His word will come true. What can man do to us? What can separate us from the love of God in Christ? In Him, we are safe, and in Him, we are secure. He is our Keeper. He is JESUS.

Lord Jesus, only in You will we ever have true riches. Help us to realize this and to never put our trust or hopes in anything which is a part of the creation. Instead, help us to keep our thoughts, hopes, and desires in You alone. Because you are the Source of all things, then in You is found true and complete satisfaction – even throughout all eternity! Amen.