Revelation – the end…or the beginning… Rev 17-18 – World’s End
Have you ever uttered the phrase-this isn’t getting any better? Maybe you’re watching a movie or tv series that started out with such great promise-it was so exciting and gripping-but midway through you realize it’s not going anywhere, it’s a disaster and you’re still watching it just to say you finished it. That was The X-Files for me. Loved it-and then was like what is happening to this show-the plot got so complicated and silly! Or the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series just went on and on! It’s a sad realization when what you’re watching is terrible-so do you pick up the remote and shut it off or stop watching the series knowing it isn’t getting any better? Who does that-shuts off the terrible movie or stops watching the tv series? Who has to finish it and get to the end once you’ve started it no matter how bad it is? Or what about a dish you’re cooking that started off great and smelled delicious-but at some point it really went wrong and no amount of seasonings or spice was going to make it recover and taste any better? At our previous church we had a homemade ice cream contest for a few years-and a lot of people tried to make really creative flavors. So one year Monica and I attempted to make avocado ice cream. Who doesn’t love avocados or guacamole? That was sort of the idea-a southwest themed ice cream. And it started off great-we threw some avocados into the milk and cream, along with some lime juice and lime zest-it was smelling great. But at some point something took a turn for the worst and it just tasted like vegetable ice cream and wasn’t getting any better. No matter how much sugar we added this recipe couldn’t be salvaged. We just had a bowl of green ice cream that oddly tasted like green beans not guacamole! In case you’re wondering, we did not win-our avocado ice cream wasn’t getting any better! If anyone is inspired to try it-let me know-I’d love to taste a batch that did come out good! But we’ve all experienced movies, tv shows or recipes that just kept getting worse and worse-where the only thing you can do is turn it off and start watching a new movie-or throw out the food and start the recipe all over.
And that is where we’ve come in our study of Revelation. Things aren’t getting any better in our world-in fact things just keep getting worse and worse-and we’re going to see that from all aspects-environmentally to politically to spiritually. Planet earth is headed for disaster and can’t be salvaged. I wish I could say that God’s Word tells us the world will be healed and get better if we all work together and do our part-but it doesn’t say that. The trajectory of our world is not going in the right direction-and we’re going to see where it leads. Now we’re not saying to give up on the world-we need to keep faithfully serving God. But in these chapters we’ve literally come to the end of the world as we know it-and despite the 80’s pop song from REM it doesn’t feel fine! So the main point this morning is that God isn’t going to spare the world-it is headed for destruction-but He will spare you and me and all who turn to Him despite the world. Big difference! Our hope is not here and creating the right reforms to make everything better, our hope is in God who’s reforming and recreating our hearts to worship Him!
So open up your Bibles to the end of Rev 16 or we’ll have it up on the screen-Rev 16:10-11. Last time we looked at Revelation we finished up with Bowl #5 which plunged the world into darkness and we saw how humanity refused to repent one last time. They were covered from head to toe in sores, scorched by the hot sun, struggling to find food and water, and now stumbling around in the darkness. If there was ever a time to get on your knees and repent this would be it-but the world doesn’t do that. Now I believe individuals will still repent in the end times-the Lord doesn’t turn away from anyone who calls to Him. But as a whole the world does not change course, the world doesn’t humble itself or assess their state of brokenness and realize Christ is the answer. Instead they collectively raise their fists in defiance towards God, cursing and blaming Him. And that brings us now to the 6th bowl which initially doesn’t sound too bad-a dried up river bed-Rev 16:12. The Euphrates river flows about 1800 miles from its source on Mt. Ararat down to the Persian Gulf-and the drying up of this river provides access for the armies of the East to advance towards Israel. And that’s just the beginning-Rev 16:13. Now that sounds really weird-and gross! Burping up frogs! Maybe you’ve never eaten frog legs before-but having frogs come out of your mouth is disgusting! And frogs have always been identified as unclean creatures used in plagues-there were all those frogs in Egypt during Pharaoh’s day. And in this case-these 3 frogs come out of the mouths of the unholy Trinity-manuscript pic. This is a 10th century illustration from a Latin manuscript of Revelation-and it shows the 3-Satan is the dragon, the Antichrist is the Beast, and the false prophet is the spokesmen, sort of the press secretary for the Beast-and they’re all burping up frogs! You might be thinking what in the world am I looking at-can this be anymore strange! And Revelation is quick to answer-Rev 16:14.
Now it’s not just the kings from the East advancing across the Euphrates-but all the kings-meaning all the rulers across the planet coming together and assembling for battle. The exact reason isn’t stated-but with the spiritual warfare taking place-the nations of the world assembling because of these demonic spirits-it’s clear that the main underlying goal is to battle against God Almighty-it’s humanity’s last stand. And yet from the political perspective of the nations, this is going to be a battle against each other as we’ll see in the next chapter. This fragile alliance of kings and nations isn’t going to last or usher in world peace or create utopia-but quickly crumble and turn into an all-out massacre, every man for himself. And we all know where this battle is going to take place-Rev 16:16. This isn’t a reference to the classic film from 1998 with Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck-Armageddon. Rather Armageddon is the Hebrew name for the plains around Mt Meggido. This is about 60 miles north of Jerusalem and as it spreads out you can see how it will serve as that final battlefield on planet earth where all the kings gather. It reminds me of the battle scenes from LOTR. Now the battle doesn’t conclude until chapter 19 which we’ll see in a few weeks. But this is the gathering and coming together of all the kings of the world-WW3. Everyone is tense and uncertain, war is in the air, swords and guns are drawn, you can hear a pin drop. And all of a sudden the skies open up and the earth gives way-Rev 16:17-19.
This is complete and total destruction! The big earthquake finally comes-no more tremors-this is it. The great city is split apart-and look at how this is described-Babylon the great is draining the cup of God’s wrath. We made the point a few weeks ago that somebody will drink the cup of God’s wrath that our sins deserve. No sin, no wrongdoing will go unpunished. The wages of sin is death-someone has to drink the cup. But the message of the gospel says that Jesus already drank the cup for all who trust in Him-and of course that was the cross where just before Jesus died He said It is finished. Meaning He drained the cup of God’s wrath down to the last drop for all who would trust Him-there’s nothing left. But for all who refuse Jesus, who refuse to repent and think they’ll be fine on their own-that cup of wrath has to be drained-and that’s what the world is doing. Back to our point from earlier-God isn’t going to spare the world-but He will spare you and me and all who turn to Him despite the world. And did you notice how much of the world is left at this point? The cities of the nations fell-London, Paris, Rome gone, NYC is gone-the Eiffel Tower is collapsed, the Golden Gate Bridge is collapsed, the Statue of Liberty has fallen into the sea. It’s all wiped out and destroyed-including the great city-Babylon.
Now lots of Bible scholars and commentators don’t think that ancient Babylon is an actual city that will be reconstructed in the end times. Instead, Babylon represents all the cities of the world rolled into one, it’s the culmination of the world’s achievements, all the politics and power of the world described as one word-which in the end will collectively be handed over to the Antichrist who’s controlled by Satan. And notice how Satan has always been in charge of Babylon-Luke 4:5-7. The devil was offering Jesus Babylon. Do you want Babylon-have it-all you need to do is bow the knee and worship me-and then you’ll be king of Babylon, king of the world. But Jesus doesn’t do that, that’s not what He’s after. He kingdom isn’t the kingdom of Babylon-Luke 4:8. And what’s so interesting is that from the very beginning Babylon was never about worshipping the Lord but always about worshipping man, worshipping ourselves. We’ve made connections from Genesis to Revelation throughout this series-and we’ll see it again. Look at the beginning of Babylon-the first kingdom on the planet-Gen 11:1-4. And what did God say to people-be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, spread out across this great world I’ve made. That was the command-not come together and build a tower. So this was done in disobedience to God-no one leave or spread out, we will be one, look at what we can do together, forget God-we’ll make a name for ourselves! So Pt1:Babylonianism: Let’s worship ourselves and our achievements. This is the birthplace of idolatry in the world. So Gen 11:5. Don’t miss the humor of God coming down. Let’s see your little Lego building-how about this? Gen 11:7-9. God had the last word in Genesis-the city of Babel was left incomplete and people did spread out. But what are we now witnessing in the end times-what is the trajectory where our world is headed-Let’s come together as one-one people, one government, one ruler. And that ruler isn’t the Lord-the world isn’t coming together for the purpose of worshipping Him. The world is once again coming together for the purpose of worshipping ourselves. We’re back to Babylon! It’s come full circle!
So Pt2:Babylonianism: Let’s come together as one. This is the essence of the one-world government, one religion that we’ve seen in previous weeks where people had to worship the Antichrist and bear his mark-the mark of the Beast-or else you couldn’t buy or sell anything and were killed if you didn’t worship his image. And then we just saw how all the kings of the world will eventually come together as one on the plains of Mt Meggido for the battle of Armageddon. But look at how this concept of coming together unfolds. As we move into Revelation 17 we get a bit of a flashback on Babylon and the buildup to Armageddon-Rev 17:1-2. So here’s this image of a prostitute who’s led the rulers and kings of the earth astray. So John is scratching his head, wondering what this is supposed to mean-Rev 17:3, 5. So this image of a prostitute represents all the kingdoms and religion and values of the world throughout history that has led people away from God and into sin. And of course she’s riding upon the beast-meaning the Antichrist of which the heads and horns are the extent of his political empires and alliances. Follow this thread-Rev 17:8. Unlike God who was and is and is to come, the Beast has that false death and resurrection, that false healing from his wound that amazes the world. So notice that connection between unbelievers and the beast. Those who’s names are written in the book of life are saved and follow Jesus-but those who’s names aren’t written aren’t saved and follow the Beast-and actually marvel at him-they’re amazed by him, they’re worshipping him. Rev 17:9-10. That was a super quick snapshot of world history-the five kings who have fallen are the historic empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The current one was Rome when Revelation was written-and the one to come is the future Antichrist’s kingdom that’s only going to last a little while. Its fleeting nature is clearly stated. But as this prostitute, this deceiver of the world, sits atop the beast she represents the culmination of all the world’s kingdoms past and present.
Remember, that’s what the devil showed Jesus in an instant-all these kingdoms, all this authority could be yours and handed over to you if you worship me. Jesus turned it down-but who is all that authority and all those kingdoms handed to? Not Christ-but the Antichrist. Look at this-Rev 17:12-13. At some point in our world, at some point in the future-10 countries, 10 rulers, the 10 most powerful kings that have control over the planet will come together with one mind-as one-just like at the tower of Babel way back in the beginning-history repeats itself! But this time they will willingly relinquish all of their power and authority to the Antichrist! They will give over all the kingdoms of the world to the Beast who’s controlled by the devil. We think you should be in charge-the 10 of us have talked and our governments are your government, our power is your power. That’s where this is all going! Who knows how close we are today-but the events in our world, the politics of our world, are funneling towards this. The Lord’s shown us the ending. This is the trajectory our world is on-and it’s all because of the principle of Babylon-back to Pt2. I like the connection from Swindoll, 249. What the world has longed for since the dawn of man will be achieved-we are in charge of ourselves-but only for a brief time-one hour! Look at how quickly it crumbles-Rev 17:16. These 10 kings, along with the Antichrist, in the end will hate world’s system of government, they will despise the philosophies and ideas of the world and will turn against it-that’s the prostitute-and destroy her. But that’s really themselves. This is so ironic-after using the false religious and political systems to unify the world and gain control over everybody, they will then turn against the system to destroy it and seize power for the Antichrist-Rev 17:17. Where they were once so focused on bringing glory to humanity-look what we will achieve if we all come together as one-in the end they devour each other one by one and turn the world into a war zone. That’s why the whole world is gathered at Armageddon to destroy each other-world peace was never achieved without God-it’s chaos, hatred and warfare! But think about this-in the beginning God made the world and put Adam and Eve in charge as humanity’s representatives to tend and cultivate and care for the world and fill it according to His plan-and in the end the rulers of the world literally hand it over to the Beast who’s controlled by the devil-here you take it. What once was given to mankind to wisely care for is in the end foolishly given to the devil to destroy. God blessed humanity with the privilege of caring for the earth under His authority. And by rejecting His authority and trying to rule the earth ourselves we’ve completely ruined it. And yet this is all a part of God’s plan-that’s what this verse says. The kings of the world who think they’re so wise and don’t need God and turn to the Antichrist-are really in the end bringing God’s will to pass when the kingdoms of this world collapse.
So Pt3:Babylonianism: We thought it would last longer. That is the response of the world, that’s the cry of the world as they watch everything they know collapse and fall apart. Look at Rev 18:9-10. There’s that fleeting description again-one hour! The kings of the earth are floored-It was here one moment and gone the next. All our riches and luxury evaporated! Next look at Rev 18:11,16-17a. There is is again! In one hour all we worked for is gone, all our products vanished, our profits burned up, never to return. Then Rev 18:17b-19. I picture these sailors on rafts and rowboats keeping their distance as they’re floating on the water helplessly watching all their ships and livelihood sink. And that becomes the final picture-Rev 18:21-22. No more music, no more happiness, no more life-gone. Sunk like a stone in the sea. Next time you’re at the beach throw a rock into the water and remind yourself that is where our world is one day headed. You don’t throw a rock into the ocean and then go get it out-it’s gone. And that’s the visual-the kerplunk is the sound of the world’s destiny and all who’ve made it their focus! Rev 18:14. It’s all lost-that’s where the world is headed. Pt4:Babylonianism: Is this all there is? I think that’s the question that’s asked in the end. And unfortunately, for all who put their hopes and trust in the world-there isn’t anything they have in the end-it just crumbles away. This isn’t just fancy poetry we’ve been reading this morning or some doomsday song lyrics-it’s reality. One day the world will be gone never to be found again! Reminding us the world will never deliver what your soul longs for. The world will never give you the permeance you’re seeking or the lasting joy you’ve been created for. As we’ve said-God isn’t going to spare the world-it is headed for destruction by it’s own doing-but He will spare you and me and all who turn to Him despite the world.
That’s His call to us-take a look at one last verse in Rev 18:4-5. God knows the sins of the world are heaped up as high as the heavens. He hasn’t forgotten them or brushed them under the rug or said they’re no big deal. Every sin is an affront, it’s a rebellion against the God who made us and they must be punished and atoned for. That’s what happening at the world’s end. This giant stack of sins is receiving the justice it deserves. Babylon is reaping what it’s sown all these years. And yet God is still calling out to you and me to leave the Babylon behind, to remove ourselves from making Babylon our home and putting all our eggs in the basket of this world. To not live or speak Babylonian-because as His followers that’s not who we are. Now I’ll be the first to admit that my own stack of sins reaches that high. I think we’d all shudder if we had to stack up our sins and look at how high it reaches. When it comes to the size and amount of our sins we are no different from the world, no different from Babylon. We’re all equally guilty, equally sinful! What’s different is the One we’re trusting in-and that’s Jesus. Our hope isn’t in whether the world can be salvaged or saved, our hope is in the One who saves us. Jesus offered up His life on the cross, to be nailed there and die for us-so that each of our giant stacks of sin reaching to the heavens could be forgiven and remembered no more. Is your hope in Him or is your hope still in this world? Huge difference-Phil 3:18-21. The kings and world leaders will one day willingly subject themselves to the Antichrist and it’s a disaster, the world’s end-but as heavenly citizens we bow the knee and subject ourselves to Christ our real king. He has given us a new identity, a new home, a new heart and one day a new body when we trust in Him. This world has complete inability to provide us with what we need, it’s all going to collapse. Babylon can only deliver disappointment! But in Christ we have everything-and it’s permanent! So Pt5:Heavenly Citizens: All my hope is in Jesus! We’re going to sing that song momentarily-but is that true for you? Is your hope in Jesus? Are you eagerly awaiting His return? Are you living like a citizen of heaven-or are you still trying to pull off a dual citizenship with the world? I think that’s often where a lot of us are. As Paul said-we make ourselves our god, we glory in the shame of sin and we let our minds focus on earthly things. If that’s been you, leave those things behind and look to Christ. Let your heart be transformed by Him and the joy He brings! Here today we’ve read the sobering reminder of where earthly things are headed, of how it’s all going to burn and sink in the ocean one day. Let’s not be Babylonians weeping over our fallen world-is this all there is? Let’s be citizens of heaven rejoicing in the hope of Jesus saying-what more could I need! What more could I long for than being in His presence as a citizen of His kingdom that will never end!