The Great City of Man (Revelation 18)

The Roman Empire in the West began in 27 BC when Octavian became Caesar Augustus and ended 422 years later with the death of Emperor Theodosius 395 AD. The Holy Roman Empire which began under Charlemagne last just over a thousand years. The Ottoman empire last 469 years. The Mughals in India for 235 years. The British Empire which covered most of the globe last roughly 300 years. The Bolshevik empire in Russia clocked in a mere 70 years. The colonial empire in Japan which began in 1895 barely made it over 50 years. Hitler’s Third Reich of Germany which dominated Europe with its military prowess technically only lasted for 12 years before it ended.

            All the great empires of the world have one thing in common: they ended. The greatest empires in world history are barely a memory. At one time, the Persia king had roughly 44% of the world under his authority and today Persia is long forgotten as a place of power. National dynasties may last longer than sports dynasties, but everyone knows that they will eventually end. During the NFL playoffs, it seems every commentator were making predictions on when would be the end of the Brady/Belichick Patriots sports dynasty. It seems that everyone knows of the inevitability that whatever rises must also fall. The great empires of the world will one day end.

            Although deep down everyone knows that empires will not last forever, it just takes some longer to realize their fate. The King of kings and the Lord of lords triumphantly rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey as people laid down branches and cloaks before him shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” The Lord Jesus Christ had come to begin the end of the city of man and the reign of the prince of the power of the air. Jesus’ victory would not come in military power, but a sacrificial death in the stead of his people. Jesus was dead and buried. All hope was lost for three days until God raised him from the dead. Resurrection gave the evil one notice that his time was short. The Devil’s reign would end, and the reign of Christ would begin. And as Revelation 11:15 says, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” The unshakeable kingdom of Christ will reign forever and ever. It will have no end.

            And since the triumphant entry into the holy city, and the passion of the Christ that followed, the saints of God have longed and prayed for, have anticipated and waited, have hoped for the end of the city of man and the beginning of the city of God. 

The Great End of the City of Man

            Revelation 18 is poetic picture of the end of the city of man. Christians who were being persecuted by Rome, the embodiment of the earthly city, were going to one day be liberated. Its end was sure. God gave John this word, so we would not despair or lose hope, but would fix our eyes on the coming kingdom. So we, like those in the streets during Christ’s triumphal procession could shout, “Hosanna, blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Revelation 18:1-8,

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice,

            “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!

                        She has become a dwelling place for demons,

            a haunt for every unclean spirit,

                        a haunt for every unclean bird,

                        a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.

            For all nations have drunk

                        the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,

            and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,

                        and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”

            Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,

            “Come out of her, my people,

                        lest you take part in her sins,

            lest you share in her plagues;

            for her sins are heaped high as heaven,

                        and God has remembered her iniquities.

            Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,

                        and repay her double for her deeds;

                        mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.

            As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,

                        so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,

            since in her heart she says,

                        ‘I sit as a queen,

            I am no widow,

                        and mourning I shall never see.’

            For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,

                        death and mourning and famine,

            and she will be burned up with fire;

                        for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”

The angel speaks with God’s authority. The earth is made bright with his glory and he pronounced the end of Babylon.

            The secular city of man that stands against the purpose of the Lord will meet a quick and sudden end. Even though we know of the inevitability of the fall of the city, Babylon did not believe it. Revelation 18:7, “As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a measure of torment and mourning since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.” The kingdom that was sure to never end will meet its end in a single day. She will be burned up for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her. Revelation 18 repeatedly mentioned the suddenness and the speed of the city’s destruction. Verse 10, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.” Verse 17, “For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” Verse 19, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste.”

            There is no security in the city of man. It may look safe and secure, but it could end at any moment. This world is perishing. We cannot avoid it. We try to ignore it, but our life experience should drive home that this world is perishing. My wife and I have learned to handle things breaking by simply looking at each other and saying, “Perishing.” When the car breaks down and we must pay for repairs, “Perishing.” When rip yet another pair of paints, “perishing.” This world is not meant to last. The travesty of the city of man is an attitude of immortality. Friends, this world is perishing. Are you ready when the end comes?

            The city of man, the worldly city, have lead the nations to drink the “wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her.” This immorality is referring to spiritual apostasy. Instead of being devoted to the Lord, we follow our desires into spiritual adultery. The city is alluring, tempting, wealthy, but will meet a sudden end. Do not be deceived, this world is perishing. Do not fall into her trap. Do not resist the Lord. Her end is sure. The reign of King of kings is coming. 

The Great Emotions of the City of Man

            What will become of those who remain in the city of man? There are three groups that are reference in this prophecy: kings, land merchants and sea merchants. And feeling one gets as they read this chapter is the emotion that comes with loss. There is a feeling of great loss from those in the city. Revelation 18:9–20,

And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,

            “Alas! Alas! You great city,

                        you mighty city, Babylon!

            For in a single hour your judgment has come.”

            And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.

             “The fruit for which your soul longed

                        has gone from you,

            and all your delicacies and your splendors

                        are lost to you,

                        never to be found again!”

The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,

             “Alas, alas, for the great city

                        that was clothed in fine linen,

                                    in purple and scarlet,

                        adorned with gold,

                                    with jewels, and with pearls!

            For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”

            And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,

            “What city was like the great city?”

And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out,

            “Alas, alas, for the great city

                        where all who had ships at sea

                        grew rich by her wealth!

            For in a single hour she has been laid waste.

                        Rejoice over her, O heaven,

                        and you saints and apostles and prophets,

                        for God has given judgment for you against her!”

It is hard not to hear the bitterness and woe in which the kings, the land and sea merchants feel as you read this chapter.

            I believe the take away for us is not to fall in the trap of the world. Why would you knowingly choose to feel the emotion of great loss? I have cried with many widows and parents and children with loss of loved ones. It is exhausting. No one wants to feel loss and yet most people labor and give themselves to things they will not last. The Lord Jesus said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37). The great missionary Jim Elliot was thought to be a fool to give up a career to serve in Ecuador. His words still ring true today. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Why store up for yourself treasures on earth that will not last? Instead, is it not wiser to store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy and no man can steal?

            After the kings and the merchants weep and mourn over the city, the mighty angel comes and brings the city to “no more.” Revelation 18:21-24,

Then a mighty 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 be found no more;

            and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters,

                        will be heard in you no more,

            and a craftsman of any craft

                        will be found in you no more,

            and the sound of the mill

                        will be heard in you no more,

            and the light of a lamp

                        will shine in you no more,

            and the voice of bridegroom and bride

                        will be heard in you no more,

            for your merchants were the great ones of the earth,

                        and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.

            And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints,

                        and of all who have been slain on earth.”

The great city will be no more. It will be finally and fully judged for her sins and her persecution of the people of God.

The Great Escape of the City of Man

            Revelation 18 is full of loss and mourning and weeping. For the saints, this chapter is a warning and reminder. Revelation 18:4, “Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” First, this is a warning. God is calling you out of Babylon. Come out of her. Escape from her deception. Run from your future loss. God remembers her iniquity and will punish her. God says come out of her, so you do not take part in her sins and share in her plagues. Two warnings: avoid the sins of the world and avoid her judgment. Sin is destructive. It is appealing to eye and sweet to our taste, but it leaves a bitter after taste. We all know the bitter pill of sin. We have all felt the effects of our worldly choices. I wish was spared a life of sin before I came to Christ. I wish I did not hold the scars of sin in my mind. Sin leaves scars and destruction. Flee from the world. The affects of sin are not only felt in this world, but in the one to come. Those who do not flee the city of man will also experience her judgment. There will be a great reversal in the end of days. Those who are rich will become poor. Those who are powerful will become weak. Those who are secure will become vulnerable. But those who are poor will be rich. Those who are weak will inherit the earth. Those who are vulnerable will stand on the rock.

            Friend, if you are living for the city of the world, “Come out of her!” The Lord Jesus Christ has given you an escape route. Jesus Christ came as the Lamb of God as perfect sacrifice for his people. It is not coincidence that Revelation mirrors many of the plagues in Exodus. God protected Israel from the plagues and God protects the church from the plagues. God gave an escape from the wrath of God against Egypt through the blood of the lamb. God gave an escape from the wrath of God against Babylon (the embodiment of the city of man) through the blood of the Lamb. God warns here that if you stay in the city of man you will face her plagues because he remembers her sins. But if you turn to Christ and hear his voice, your sins will be remembered no more. The promise of the New Covenant poured out in Christ blood, Jeremiah 31-34,

 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Two choices, stay in Babylon and God will remember your sins or come out of the city to Christ and he will remember your sins no more. Hear his voice.

            Beloved, what a glorious reminder God gives us in this passage. We belong to Christ. Our victory is sure. The world that rages against the Lord will meet a swift and sudden end. The love of money will end. The murder of children will end. The exploitation of women will end. The abuse of authority will end. The persecution of the saints will end. The fight against sin will end. For in Christ Jesus, your sins will be remembered no more. Leave your sins in Babylon. Flee the city of man. Run to Christ.

            There are some of you who know intellectually about the gospel. You know that Christ has died for sinners and justified them with this blood. You know there is hope in the resurrection. Even though you know it in your head, there is a part of you that does not believe it to be true.  How could God forgive me? Do you know what I have done? Friend, hear me, Christ knows your sin. He knows the grossness of sin. He knows the worst of what you have done. And yet he says for all who escape to him, “I will remember your sin no more.” The only way your sin will be remembered is if stay in the city of man. It is only there where your sins will be remembered. It is in Christ and in Christ alone we find forgiveness. We have been given a great escape from sin and death through the blood of the lamb who was slain.

            God calls us out of the city of man to place at his table. Leave the city and come to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Leave the city of loss and gain the kingdom that will last forever. Will you experience the “no more” of the city of man? Or will you experience the “no more” of the city of God? Do you want to remember joy no more or do you want God to remember your sin no more? God has given us an escape. Run to Christ and let him lead you. He is the way, the truth and the life. Only in him will your sins be no more.