************ Sermon on Revelation 18:20 - 19:10 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on August 30, 2009

Revelation 18:20 - 19:10
"Rejoice Over Her?"

I Rejoice Over Her
A "Fallen! Fallen is Senator Kennedy!" "Get away from him, my people." Democrats and liberals weep and mourn as they cry out, "Woe! Woe, O Kennedy!" "Rejoice over his death, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets. God has judged him."

"Fallen! Fallen is Michael Jackson!" "Get away from him, my people." Groupies and musicians weep and mourn as they cry out, "Woe! Woe, O Jackson!" "Rejoice over his death, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets. God has judged him."

Do you hear how jarring the language of the Revelation is? How politically incorrect? Doesn't this seem wrong, gloating, unbiblical, unloving? Most funerals today are celebrations of life. By way of contrast, what we have in front of us this morning is a celebration of death. We are called to celebrate Babylon's death:
(Rev 18:20) Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.

B Remember where we are at in the Revelation? We are at the funeral of Babylon, the great prostitute. The first part of the funeral is dominated by a glorious angel who announces Babylon's death. The second part of the funeral is dominated by a voice from heaven calling God's people to "Come out of her." Then, we hear the voices of kings, merchants, and sea captains crying about Babylon's doom but at a distance. In today's passage we see and hear a mighty angel as he throws a boulder and cries out in a loud voice. And, we hear a multitude rejoicing that Babylon has been destroyed.

Do you know what all of this sounds like? It sounds like the open microphone we have at some funerals when anyone who wants to is invited to come up and say things about the dead. You never quite know what will be said or done.

"Rejoice over her, O heaven!" Really?

C Something important is at stake here. At stake is this: do we recognize evil when we see it, do we know evil is rebellion against God and deserves punishment? Unless that is your starting point, you will not appreciate Babylon's funeral as it further unfolds for us this morning. Do you remember the joy when Saddam Hussein was caught and, later, when he was executed? Can you imagine the joy if Osama bin Laden is caught and executed? Well, multiply this joy many times over. That's what we have in front of us.

D Let me be clear about this: Babylon deserves to die, to be destroyed. Why? Three reasons are given. The first reason: "Your merchants were the world's great men" (Rev 18:23). Huh? What is this? What kind of reason is this? Babylon is destroyed because her merchants are great? When we first looked at Revelation 18, I told you that much of what we find here comes from the Old Testament. This sentence comes from Isaiah 23. Isaiah refers to the destruction of Tyre. When you look at Isaiah 23 you discover that Tyre was not destroyed because of her wealth and greatness but because she gloried in her wealth and greatness. She practiced idolatry, self-idolatry, self-glorification. She turned herself into a god. And the one true God, as you know, tolerates no rivals: "You shall have no other gods before me" (Ex 20:3).

The second reason: "By your magic spell all the nations were led astray" (Rev 18:23). Remember how Babylon was depicted in Revelation 17? A great prostitute dressed in purple and scarlet; glittering with gold, precious stones, and pearls; with a golden cup in her hand. She allured and bewitched the people of the earth so that they believed security lies in wealth and riches rather than in God and the Gospel.

The third reason: "In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth" (Rev 18:24). "God has judged her for the way she treated you" (Rev 18:20). Did you hear that? Babylon has been judged and destroyed because she killed God's people. Think of John's fellow believers in Smyrna and Pergamum who were persecuted and even killed for their faith. Think of John's vision in Revelation 11 of the two witnesses representing the church as they are attacked, overpowered, and killed. Babylon herself has received what she has given to others. She shed blood and now her blood has been shed. Remember what God says? "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" (Deut 32;35; Rom 12:19). For this reason we can turn the other cheek. For this reason we don't need to seek revenge. For this reason we can suffer.

Do you hear the three reasons for Babylon's destruction? Self-glorification, deception, persecution.
(Rev 18:20) Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.

II A Mighty Angel
A The next part of the funeral is dominated by a "mighty angel." How mighty is he? He picks up a boulder the size of a large millstone. How big is that? A millstone is about five feet across and at least one foot thick; it is heavy enough that oxen are required to turn it in order to mill grain. The mighty angel picks up a millstone-sized boulder like it is a pebble and throws it into the sea. Notice, the boulder is not dropped into the sea. Nor does it fall into the sea. It is hurled into the sea. So, it is no accident. It is intentional, it is sudden, it is done with great violence.

B Now listen to the angel's interpretation of what has just happened:
(Rev 18:21) With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.
The Greek uses a double negative here: never not. Babylon never not will rise again. Bad English but good Greek in order to emphasize the point. Babylon never not will be found again. Babylon never not will be seen again. She will fall, she will sink, she will disappear, never not to appear again. Babylon, like a boulder stuck in the bottom of the sea, will remain submerged never not to rise again.

What happens when you drop/throw a stone into water? There are ripples. What happens when your drop/throw a big stone into water? There are bigger ripples. But eventually the ripples stop, the stone is at the bottom, and it is as if nothing has happened. That is the picture the mighty angel wants to give us. Babylon is gone as if she has never existed. Never not found again.

Then follows five more double negatives. Never not will be heard music. Never not will be found tradesmen. Never not the sound of a millstone. Never not will a lamp shine. Never not will be the voice of bridegroom and bride. Six double negatives said by the angel all in response to the double negative of Babylon herself back in verse 7:
(Rev 18:7) In her heart she boasts, 'I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never not mourn.'
Seven double negatives in total. One by Babylon, six added by the angel. Seven. Suggesting what? Suggesting that Babylon's destruction is final, complete, total. The rock has sunk to the bottom of the sea and the ripples have stopped.

I want you to notice something. Every other time in the Revelation, judgment is always unbelievably loud: thunder, lightning, earthquake, rumblings, hailstorm. But this time there is absolute silence. No music. No sound of workmen or millstone. No voice of bride or bridegroom. Just absolute silence as we find in a barren wasteland. Telling us what? That Babylon, in spite of her great economic allure, is gone, vanished, disappeared beneath the waves. Babylon ends not with a bang but with a whimper.
(Rev 18:20) Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.

III The Hallelujah Chorus!
A This brings us to the final part of Babylon's funeral what I call "The Hallelujah Chorus."

This last part of the funeral involves many different voices: a great multitude, the twenty-four elders and four living creatures, and a great multitude again. Who are all of these? The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures are the highest of angels and of all creatures in heaven and earth they stand the closest to the throne of God (cf Rev 4). As for the great multitude, they are the redeemed in heaven (cf Rev 7). All of these are shouting, crying in a loud voice. Think of the million or so people who roared approval when President Obama took the oath of office. This is the roar we hear at Babylon's funeral. The roar of those in heaven.

What are they shouting? "Hallelujah!" We hear the word "Hallelujah" four times in this passage. What does it mean? "Hallelujah" is a phrase that means "Praise the Lord." It is not a request. It is not a statement. It is not a declaration. It is not an empty-headed emotional expression. It is a command!

Babylon has died and a great multitude sings a command at her funeral, "Hallelujah! Praise the Lord." Again, how awful this sounds to the modern ear, how politically incorrect. But there is a reason they are singing.

B The first reason: doom becomes praise because Babylon's judgment reveals God's glory. Listen to all of the hallelujah chorus:
(Rev 19:1-3) After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, (2) for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants." (3) And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."

There is a connection between this passage and a prior passage in the Revelation. Did you hear the word "avenge"? God has avenged the blood of His servants (Rev 19:2). The only other time we hear the word "avenge" in the Revelation is in chapter 6 where we see the souls of the Gospel martyrs under heaven's altar.
(Rev 6:10) They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"
How long? Revelation 19 is God's answer. How long? Until Babylon is destroyed.

So what do we see? We see God answering the prayers and cries of the saints. We see God being faithful to His promises to avenge (Deut 32;35; Rom 12:19). God keeps His Word. We see God showing that "salvation and glory and power" (Rev 19:1) are His. We see God showing "true and just are his judgments" (Rev 19:2).

This is not the only time God shows this about Himself. Remember the days of wicked King Abab and even more wicked Queen Jezebel? At that time, too, God's true and faithful people were crying "How long? How long until you avenge the blood of the prophets and saints?" God raised up Jehu and commanded him,
(2Ki 9:7) You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord's servants shed by Jezebel.
Hear that word "avenge" again? And now in Revelation we hear the exact same language. Which leads to glory and praise to God:
(Rev 19:1) "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God ..."

(Rev 18:20) Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.
Rejoice! Bring your Hallelujahs. Why? Because judgment Babylon's judgment shows the glory of God. Doom becomes praise!

C The second reason the great multitude is singing at Babylon's funeral: the judgment of God's enemies leads to the ultimate salvation of God's people. Judgment leads to salvation. Of course, this is nothing new to anyone who knows the cross of Christ. For there judgment leads to salvation. Listen to how the great multitude puts it:
(Rev 19:6-7) 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.

To understand this, we need to understand Jewish marriage customs at the time of John. It starts with a betrothal something like our engagement, but much more binding. At that time, the groom pays the bridal price. Then there is a waiting period while the groom prepares a place for his bride. Then comes a procession the groom and friends go to get the bride with singing and dancing and torches. Meanwhile, the bride makes herself ready braids her hair, prepares the bridal gown, arranges her jewelry. Finally, the groom escorts the bride to his house for a marriage supper that can last for seven or more days.

Jesus is the bridegroom. The church is the bride He has chosen from eternity. The price has already been paid the blood of Jesus on the cross. And now, now is the time of waiting when Jesus prepares a place for us and the bride gets herself ready.

Now, there are many things that threaten the marriage of the Lamb and His bride: the great red dragon, the beast, the false prophet, Babylon the prostitute, sin, evil, wickedness. Jesus, the bridegroom, cannot come for the church, His bride, until all these enemies have been destroyed. Which is why I can say judgment leads to salvation. When every enemy has been destroyed, the bridegroom can come for His bride and they will celebrate the marriage feast forever.

And, now, a long conclusion. A double conclusion.

The first conclusion. Are you embarrassed about the call to rejoice in judgment? Or, do you so love righteousness that you rejoice in sin's final destruction? I want to tell you, if your first response is to blush at this, then the glory of God is not your first love. Beware, congregation, of a compassion that thinks it is greater than God's compassion. If you blush and apologize and stammer about judgment, it is because you are wicked and love wickedness.

Now, try to imagine an unbelieving coworker, an unbelieving neighbor, an unbelieving family member sitting next to you in the pew this morning as we looked at this passage. Doesn't it seem unloving, uncompassionate, unfriendly to tell them that someday unless they repent you will rejoice in their judgment? If you truly value what Jesus did on the cross where judgment leads to salvation then on the great and final day all that you will want to do as a glorified believer is praise and worship God for His judgment on people who refuse the cross.

The second conclusion. Did you know that two suppers, two feasts, are mentioned in Revelation 19. The first we already mentioned: "the wedding supper of the Lamb." The second we see in verse 17: "the great supper of God." Listen to what is said about this supper:
(Rev 19:17-18) And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, (18) so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."

Every single person is at one of these two feasts. Which one will you be at? Either you will feast with Jesus or you will be feasted upon. Either you are at the wedding supper of the Lamb or the great supper of God.

How do you know which feast you will be at? If you are getting ready for Christ, the bridegroom, you are clothing yourself in righteous acts. If you are getting ready for the great and terrible supper of God, you are clothing yourself in wickedness. The way you live tells you which feast you will be at.
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