It’s very important to CHOOSE THE RIGHT TEAM.
This week the Blacktown Sun carried the story of an up-and-coming Blacktown soccer player. A young socceroo. Mark Milligan. Who’s become involved in A TUG-A-WAR between his FIRST club – the Blacktown City Demons, playing in the NSW Premier League. And Sydney FC, the brand-new team in the new NATIONAL competition – the A-League. Which kicks off in June.
For the last of months, he’s been in pre-season training for the FIRST half of the week with Sydney FC. And then on Thursday, he comes back to Blacktown to train with THEM, and prepare for the week-end’s game.
He’s torn between loyalty to his FIRST club – the one he has a solid contract with. And the prospect of building his career in a NATIONAL competition, and maybe beyond.
Each club reckons they’ve got a legal right to him. And there’s a tug-o-war. It’s culminated this week, in Milligan threatening Blacktown with legal action if they DON’T release him. And the club promising that they WON’T release him until they’re LEGALLY obliged to/ on June 30. Which will be too late to sign with his new team. All very .
And for Mark Milligan, there’s a lot riding on the outcome. It’s very important to CHOOSE THE RIGHT TEAM.
But if it’s important to choose the right SOCCER team, it’s WAY MORE important to choose the right team HERE IN REVELATION.
And there’s only TWO TEAMS TO CHOOSE FROM. There’s no sitting on the fence. There’s black/ and white. There’s the side of the DRAGON. Satan. Those who bear HIS NAME. Let’s call THAT team THE DEMONS.
And then there’s the army of the Lamb. Those whose names have been written in the book of life since before the creation of the world. THE SAINTS.
AND THESE CHAPTERS TODAY. PROCLAIM THE MESSAGE THAT WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING THE RIGHT TEAM. IT’S THE SAINTS YOU WANT TO BE WITH. AND THE DEMONS YOU WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH.
It’s a message that’s summarised in Ch 18 v4. Look at it with me.:
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “COME OUT of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. NIV
Mark Milligan wants to come out from the City Demons. And we need to AS WELL.
Cut your ties. Drop THAT team like a hot potato. And make sure you’re part of THE OTHER TEAM instead. Sign the contract. Because there are LY CONSEQUENCES if you don’t.
And to help argue the case, God use SATIRICAL CARTOONS.
You may not know it, but you’re actually very familiar with the imagery and purpose of the pictures in these chapters. Because they’re just the sort of thing you see in the newspapers.
A satirical cartoon uses an image to represent a reality. Here’s an old one. Uncle Sam represents the United States. And the bear represents Russia or communism. And by highlighting certain characteristics you MOCK. Satirise, Ridicule.
So as far as John Howard goes. He’s short. He’s got the square glasses, and the bushy eyebrows. Or Peter Beattie. He’s got the blond hair. And that manic grin.
And the ultimate aim of satirical cartoons is to DISEMPOWER. To MOCK or MAKE FUN OF. To show the REALITY, the FRAILITY.
The person or organisation ISN’T all-powerful. OR always RIGHT.
1. A Satirical Cartoon (17)
And it’s the same purpose here in Revelation. Look at it with me. Ch 17. A satirical cartoon. A snap-shot. Of the team you DON’T want to be part of.
And, just like a cartoon, the REALITY/ is REPRESENTED by something else. In this case. A woman. Picture it with me.
She’s a great . The kings of the earth committed ery with her. A high class call . And she’s so gorgeous the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with her attractions and behaviour.
And she’s described sitting on a awful, filthy, scarlet beast. With seven heads and ten horns. And the woman’s dressed for partying. Designer gown of purple and scarlet. Dripping in jewels.
And she’s holding a goblet. But rather than filled with fine champagne, it’s filled with filthy, rotten disgusting things. Like maggots or sewerage. The fruit of her eries.
And as you look closer. there’s a label on her forehead, just like a cartoonist might add. Just in case you can’t work out who she represents. “Mystery. Babylon the Great. The Mother of s.”
And the woman’s holding her party goblet. Full of FILTH, rather than champagne. But she’s still DRUNK. Look at v7. She’s drunk with the of the saints, those who witnessed about Jesus.
She’s no harmless party . She’s a y-thirsty, ous ENEMY OF GOD’S PEOPLE.
But look at the title. According to her title. This enemy isn’t a single individual. But a CITY. Babylon. But Babylon as a city, and a nation was ANCIENT HISTORY. for 500 years. It’s not much relevance to John’s hearers. And even LESS to US.
No wonder the sign says MYSTERY.
But wait. There’s more. The mystery is she’s not JUST Babylon. ONE city. But MANY.
Have a look at what I mean. The angel goes on to explain the mystery. And down in v9. He says;
9 “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. NIV
And that’s OBVIOUSLY talking about ROME. Rome was WIDELY known as the city on seven hills. And so, the woman represents ROME, AS WELL AS Babylon.
We’ve seen that principle all the way through Revelation. Symbols don’t just represent ONE THING. But many. Even right there in v9 and 10. Not only do the heads on the crimson dragon represent seven HILLS, but they ALSO represent seven KINGS.
And if you flip back to Ch 11 v7. You’ll see a GREAT CITY described there. The same city as HERE. It’s where the bodies of the two faithful witnesses lie. And look what it says about the city in v8.
Rev 11:8-9: 8 Their bodies will lie in the street of THE GREAT CITY, which is FIGURATIVELY called SODOM and EGYPT, WHERE ALSO THEIR LORD WAS CRUCIFIED. NIV
So, we’ve got a great city. That’s called BABYLON. But represents ROME. But is ALSO Sodom. Or Egypt. Or EVEN JERUSALEM – where Jesus was crucified.
And what do all those cities have in common? What are the characteristics of them which CAUSE them to be likened to a great ?
They all encourage people to worship OTHER Gods. Or DISCOURAGE them from worshipping the REAL God. They’re enemies of God’s people. them. Oppressing them. Enslaving them.
Sodom. The archetypal WICKED city. Destroyed because of its immorality and ity. God rained down burning sulfur on it, and destroyed it.
Or Egypt. Slave-driver and Captor of God’s people. Pharaoh refused to let them go. So God rescued them. Brought them out with miracles. And punished the Egyptians. First-born sons killed.
And then there’s Babylon. Where the Jews were exiled. For 70 years slaves to Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah calls it the city who lives by many waters, and who is rich in treasures.
And finally Jerusalem. Perhaps the shock inclusion. The surprise selection. The place of God’s temple – his dwelling place. But their greatest sin is the one highlighted there in Ch 11. They crucified the Lord. The Messiah and Saviour. And they KILLED him.
And if you look over into Ch 18, it’s full of OT parallels involving OTHER wicked cities. In particular, we can see echoes of TYRE, who Ezekiel prophesied against. A PROSPEROUS TRADING city, she trusted her wealth and connections. And rejected God.
And John’s hearers would EASILY be able to put ROME onto this list too. Rome who ordered citizens to bow down before a statue of the emperor. Rome who punished with those who refused to name Caesar as their Lord, and to bend the knee. Rome, who’s hands were covered with the of Christians.
Rome, who people looked to for prosperity and peace. For trade and travel. For riches and protection.
And we can ADD to the list. The seven cities John’s hearers were living in. Each had their own weaknesses. Idolatries. Temptations. Encouragements to turn away from God, and follow them instead.
Or in our OWN time. Sydney. With all it’s temptations and deceptions. All it’s lies and scandal. So much GOOD about living here. But also a place which can EASILY lead God’s people astray.
That’s the cartoon. The freeze-frame. The repulsiveness and -thirsty nature of the city which sets itself up against God. Serving Satan’s purposes. The seductiveness and power and beauty that are only a charade. The reality is seen in the cartoon.
The result (17:12-18)
From v12, the cartoon begins to move. We see some action. The end result for this harlot.
She’s sitting on the beast. And the horns of the beast represent ten kings. And, though the kings are MANY AND DIVERSE, they have ONE PURPOSE. To give their power and authority to the beast. To throw their weight behind a campaign. A campaign to make war against the Lamb.
Diversity yet united. Enemies of Christians make some strange bed-fellows. The case against those two Christian pastors in Victoria, teaching about Islam, and charged with inciting religious intolerance. The complaints came from Muslims. But then the secular and humanistic civil libertarians ran with it. Two groups with nothing else in common than a hatred of the exclusive claims of Christianity.
But what’s God saying here about that sort of agenda? It can’t succeed. V13
Rev 17:13-14: 13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war against the Lamb, BUT THE LAMB WILL OVERCOME THEM because HE is Lord of lords and King of kings-and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers. NIV
Jesus WILL be victorious. In the end, EVERY human or Satanic enemy of Jesus will be destroyed. Look from v15. The unholy alliance, united in its war against the Lamb, will DISINTEGRATE.
The beast and the horns will turn on the . The people she rules will her. They’ll bring her to ruin. Leave her , eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
And God is behind it all. V17
Rev 17:17-18: 17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish HIS PURPOSE by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled. NIV
The God of JUSTICE and WISDOM brings about his true and right purposes through the actions of wicked men. And the woman will BE DESTROYED.
2. A Funeral Lament (18)
And that’s the song that gets taken up into Ch 18. Another angel who shouts.
“Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. 3 For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her eries. The kings of the earth committed ery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” NIV
From the cartoon of the drunken party , the image changes to a destroyed city. A ghost-town. Tumbleweed blowing down the main street. Laid waste because of her erous sin. Down to v5.
5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. 6 Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. 7 Give her as much and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’ 8 Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: , mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
The appearance of beauty, fun and fulfilment are seen for what they are. Ugly, repulsive self-centred, God-forsaken wickedness. The appearance of power and control and permanence are seen for what they are. Passing, fragile, defeat.
And the rest of Ch 18 is a funeral lament. By those who’ll miss the woman the MOST.
From v9. The kings of the earth who SHARED HER LUXURY. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off, and cry, “Woe, O great city. Babylon, city of power. In one hour, your doom has come”
Happy to enjoy her in the good times, the parties. Her wealth and comfort. But quick to DISTANCE themselves when things go wrong.
Or from v11. The merchants. Sellers of fine produce. Luxury items. They’re weeping and mourning TOO. But it’s not because the woman is lost. But because they’re BUSINESS is lost. Their tears are selfish ones. They mourn because NO-ONE BUYS THEIR CARGO anymore.
There’s an incredible self-centredness to a materialistic society. A self-destructive weakness in the whole system. People are happy to work together as long as there’s a buck in it. But that’s all they share in common. A love of money.
See how quickly a business cooperative will disintegrate when one group thinks they’re missing out. Profit will always come first over loyalty or unity.
And down in v15, the merchants too, stand FAR OFF and weep and mourn, “Woe, Woe O great city. Such great wealth destroyed in ONE HOUR.”
And then in v17, it’s the turn of THE SEA CAPTAINS. They mourn too. Was there ever a city like this great city?
But, once again, their distress is entirely self-centred.:
“‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin! : NIV
Crying for their lost profits.
Their lament is taken up by ANOTHER angel in v21. The great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. Gone, without a trace.
No more music or celebration. No more construction. No more manufacturing. No lights or activity. No weddings or parties. All gone.
It’s a vivid picture. The satirical cartoon. And the future judgment. The result.
And the purpose is for God’s people TO AVOID HER TRAPS. The warning is there. Back in v4. We heard it before.
Rev 18:4: “COME OUT OF HER, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; NIV
But what does it MEAN for us to COME OUT of Babylon? It’s obviously not GEOGRAPHICAL. Not about where YOU LIVE. Because there’s Babylon EVERYWHERE.
It’s about not being DECEIVED by the LIES and DECEPTION of Babylon. It APPEARS to be complete and full and eternal and satisfying. But the REALITY is different.
And the sorts of things we should AVOID are the very things the mourners MISS.
The kings of the earth miss THE LUXURY. The self-indulgent self-satisfaction of sensual pleasure. Come out from that. It WON’T satisfy. And it won’t last.
The merchants miss THE GOODS. THE THINGS. POSSESSIONS. Trinkets. Not the everyday necessities. But the things which make life BETTER. More comfortable. The new gadgets, equipment. Things to SPOIL ourselves.
Come out from that. See the REALITY of these things. They won’t satisfy. They won’t last.
Or the sea-captains. They miss the wealth. The money. The financial independence. They think it brings security. And permanence. And confidence.
Come out from that. Because money brings NONE of those things. It only takes a moment – a freak , a stock market crash – and you’ve lost it all. It Won’t satisfy. It WON’T last.
It’s all these attitudes which makes Babylon the seductive, destructive force that it is. Whether it’s BLATANT, or SECRETIVE. When we put our trust and desire and confidence and hope and future in things other than God HIMSELF, then judgment is SURE.
So COME OUT FROM HER.
3. A Wedding Celebration
But it’s not just a NEGATIVE picture that’s being painted. In Ch 19, we see a wedding celebration.
A great multitude in heaven singing
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, : 2 for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great who corrupted the earth by her eries. He has avenged on her the of his servants.” NIV
Now, there’s something mildly unsettling about CHEERING at the destruction of the great . To celebrate the JUSTICE and JUDGMENT of God is not really an acceptable thing to do these days. God’s LOVE seems to be MUCH more popular.
Yet, such an attitude really misunderstands justice. It fails to see SIN the way God sees it. It fails to recognise the insult to God when sin is committed. It fails to recognise the great HARM that the ’s caused by shedding the of God’s servants.
When you’ve been offended and wronged. To see justice DONE is a wonderful thing. Think about the looks of relief on the faces of the victim’s family when the guilty criminal is sentenced to life imprisonment. Never to be released. YES! That’s justice. That’s the way it SHOULD BE.
Back in Ch 6, the souls of the martyrs pleading with God to BRING JUSTICE. To AVENGE their pain. “How long, Sovereign Lord, Holy and True until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our ?”
And here in Ch 19, we celebrate the ANSWER to that plea. Hallelujah, the smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.
And while we see the FUNERAL for ONE woman. We also see the MARRIAGE of ANOTHER. A woman who’s the COMPLETE OPPOSITE.
The multitude have SOMETHING ELSE to cheer about. V6.
: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For THE WEDDING OF THE LAMB HAS COME, AND HIS BRIDE HAS MADE HERSELF READY. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'” NIV
One woman who’s an eress, drunk on the of the saints. Dress in rich and gawdy clothes. And another who’s dressed in a wedding gown of fine linen. Righteous acts. Pure clean goodness versus y, rotten impurities.
And while the plays the field. Sleeping with every king around. THIS bride has Kept Herself Pure. Reserved for one husband alone. The Lamb himself. Jesus.
Do you love Jesus like that? Are you looking forward to that day?
Do you Serve him like that? Are you preparing yourself for that wedding banquet with a life of obedience – righteous acts – that will be seen by Jesus as fine, white linen?
Which woman will you choose? Which team will you follow? Whose side are you on?