Come Out of Her, My People (part 2)

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Let’s turn to Revelation 18. If you need an outline raise your hand. If you didn’t bring a Bible, you can find one in a seat back near you. If you don’t own a Bible, feel free to take it. We’d love for you to have one. It’s page 1038 if you’re using one of those seat Bibles, 1038. Last week we began the final section in Revelation (We’re titling this section “All Things New.”) by focusing in on the first part of that bigger section, which is 17:1-19:5, describing the fall of Babylon. And as God makes all things new, he has to undo/judge, what is wrong, what is broken. And we noticed last week the emotional language that is throughout these chapters. Chapter 17 uses a word, “amazed,” thaumazo. Three of the four times in the entire book of Revelation are right in that one chapter.

John is stunned. (Two of the times refer to John.) He’s amazed. He’s astonished, specifically, by the beauty of this woman. The woman comes across stunningly attractive and successful, very wealthy. But at closer look, when you look in her cup, it is full of abomination and impurity. John is stunned by this woman who is clearly a contradiction of terrible and beautiful. She is Babylon, the city of lust and lies and self-gratification. She is a satanically-driven system of idolatry and immorality, but she is doomed. And the main command within all this emotional language — chapter 17 (amazed/wonder), chapter 18 (weeping and wailing), chapter 19:1-5 (crying out to the Lord). There’s so much emotional language.

But in the midst of all of that, the main command seems to be 18:4, “Come out of her, my people.” Come out of her, my people. And this is not a geographical invitation to load your luggage and move to a different physical place. This is a spiritual invitation to be distinct, totally different. At the root, the word “holy” means distinct or different. It’s a completely different way of thinking and living. Well, that can be confusing for us, right? If we’re supposed to come out, but we’re not physically, necessarily, moving location. Whether we’re talking about the first readers hearing that command or us today or one day in the midst of great tribulation, that command is still calling us to come out of her, and yet we’re not moving location. So, what does that mean? What does it mean to come out of Babylon as “my people” yet not necessarily move physically?

And we look for some clues in the text. We noticed four in chapter 17:1-19:5 that we’re going to focus in on. The first two we looked at last week. You see your addiction. Signs that you’ve come out of her, you see your addiction. Because in 17:2, this woman is described as using the wine of her immorality so that “the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” Whatever it means to come out of Babylon, it means that we are no longer intoxicated by her. Did you ever talk to a drunk person? It varies, the experience varies depending on whether they’re an angry drunk or a happy drunk. Having a conversation with an angry drunk is terrifying. Having a conversation with a happy drunk is pathetic, because in either case, drunkenness inhibits our ability to think and speak clearly, rationally.

And so, what we see here by this illustration, this analogy of drunkenness, is he’s not just talking about being physically drunk again. He’s talking about being intoxicated by the idolatries and deceptions that lead to immoralities and perversions of Babylon — being mesmerized or tranquilized by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life — whether it manifests itself in something like self-righteousness, which is more common in church, or porn, or violence, or something very subtle like self-pity. All of these can be examples of this kind of addiction. One of the characteristics of those who are coming out of Babylon is they can see the addiction.

Secondly, you hear your calling. Another clue is in verse 14 of chapter 17, an external voice penetrates our inebriation, and we go through spiritual detox. This sobriety comes through the Lamb. Verse 14, the Lamb, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, will one day make all things new. It says,

“Those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

This is similar to what he said in 14:4, that we are “those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” We hear his voice, we respond “yes” to his summons. He summons us to a new way of thinking and living, and he is described as a Lamb. Odd, odd description of someone who is conquering. But that idea of Lamb is communicating how he conquered, how he proved his sovereignty through his death, burial, resurrection. He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and he is righting all that is wrong.

So, you see your addiction, you hear your calling. And the third one, the one we’re going to focus on today, number 3, you feel the tension. You feel the tension. This is chapter 18. You thrive in this tension. What tension are we talking about? Well, I think you’ll see it as we walk through. Let’s walk through chapter 18 and notice the flow of chapter 18, the structure of chapter 18. It is an odd experience, chapter 18, because it is the dramatization of a funeral dirge. In one sense, it’s terrible. It’s a funeral dirge. But even the original is communicating a certain eloquence and a melodic tone. There’s a beauty in the midst of a dirge. So even the way it’s written is communicating terrible, beautiful. There’s tension in the way chapter 18 is written.

Notice the four parts. Number 1, prelude, verses 1-3. This is the introduction, the overture. Verse 1,

“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!’”

This prelude reveals three things. Number 1, her fall, Babylon’s fall. This announcement of the demise of Babylon, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” Her residents, her occupants. Verse 2, “She has become a dwelling place for demons.” A haunt is a prison or a place of banishment. Unclean spirits, birds, detestable beasts — all that is unclean moves into her place of desolation. Her crimes are revealed in verse 3, she is indicted for breeding evil. She doesn’t just practice, she promotes it.

“For all the nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

Her influence is vile, but it goes viral. She has been described in chapter 17, verse 5 as the mother of prostitutes. So, it’s not just that she’s doing evil, she is breeding evil.

Years ago when our church first started, we ministered to a family that had many different kinds of brokenness, but the closer we got as a church to caring for this particular family, the more we realized that almost all the girls in the family had been pregnant by 13, 14, 15 years old at least. And the closer we got, the more we realized the grandmother was actually breeding the grandchildren, the daughters and granddaughters, and getting checks for all these babies from the government. And this mobile home was filled with children from this breeding. There’s something different about, yes, committing evil, but there’s something different when we’re breeding it from generation to generation. That’s what’s being exposed here. Verse 3, all nations have become intoxicated with her idolatry, immorality, luxurious living. That’s the prelude.

Second is the warning in verse 4.

“Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people [Come out of her, my people], lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues.’”

So, God is warning us of the gravitational pull of the idols and pleasures of this world. She is dirty, that’s that part in her sins. But she is also dangerous, “share in her plagues.” Her sin will come back to haunt her and everyone connected to her. Verse 6, “repay her double” does not seem consistent with the crime. But because the cup of her immorality is full of abominations and impurities, 17:5, and because her sins, like the tower of Babel (Which is where “Babylon” comes from.) “are heaped as high as heaven,” 18:5, her judgment, likewise, will overflow.

Verse 7, she is characterized by what I would call a deadly combination — two characteristics that make change humanly impossible. I’ve noticed this in counseling. For marriages that are struggling, rarely change, rarely improve, when someone has these two characteristics. The first one, verse 7, is entitlement. “She glorified herself and lived in luxury.” I deserve. I deserve a good marriage. I deserve a better husband. I deserve an easy life. I deserve to be treated a certain way. And the second is defensiveness, that ensures that change will never happen, that insecurity.

“‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I will never see.’”

I’m never going to mourn, so don’t you even try to tell me something I don’t want to hear. Don’t you dare deliver bad news to me. Don’t you dare confront me. I will never mourn. And notice the self-identification. I am queen. I’m not going to own my wrong. I can point to your wrong. Entitlement and defensiveness and that kind of defensiveness that is grounded in insecurity — you don’t get me, you don’t understand me, you cannot question me — it’s like a Bondo that guarantees no change, and it’s grounded in delusion. This is the warning.

Third leads to lament. In verses 9-20 there is a series of laments. And it’s like a series of choirs crying out in this funeral dirge. “The kings of the earth, (in verses 9 and 10) who committed sexual immorality” with her and “lived in luxury with her,” they begin to “weep and wail.” And they are weeping and wailing over her demise, which to them seems instantaneous – verse 10, “in a single hour.” You portrayed yourself as no problems. You’ll never mourn! And then all of a sudden in a single hour you’re gone. You’re taken down. They’re weeping and wailing. “Merchants (in verses 11-17A) of the earth,” they “weep and mourn,” specifically, verse 11, for their loss of commercial gain. “No one buys their cargo anymore.” Which is highlighting the sick nature of this relationship, in it for what we can get out of it. This is profit at all costs, even verse 13, at the cost of human souls. The sea captains chime in. They join in the wailing as they see “the smoke of her burning” second half of verses 17-20. By the way, let me emphasize this passage is not anti-trade or anti-business or anti-profit. But what it is highlighting is that when you sacrifice love of God and love of neighbor for commercial gain, the end will always be weeping and wailing. Always.

And so, the finale in verse 21. Number 4, the finale, the climax, the conclusion.

“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.’”

The image is so powerful. It’s like a giant rock being thrown in the water, and the chances of that floating are zippo. It is going to drop fast. And the city, end of verse 21, will be “‘no more.’” Notice all the “no mores.” Verse 22, music will be no more, craftsmen will be no more, business will be no more, light of the lamp will be no more, weddings will be no more. All that is beautiful, all that is joyful, no more. For the powerful people, “the great ones,” verse 23, drank the Kool-Aid, were deceived by your sorcery, and the prophets and the saints became expendable. Today more believers around the world are being martyred than ever.

Do you feel the tension from this chapter? I know we moved through it quickly, but I want us to feel that tension. It is terrible. It is beautiful. Let’s look at look at those one at a time.

First of all, the terrible part. This is describing the ultimate group think, a global deception. Verse 3, “all nations have drunk.” When someone is drunk, really drunk, they often are staggering, swaying back and forth, have a hard time stabilizing. And that picture that’s painted here in this chapter is a vivid picture of our broken systems that flow from our broken hearts. When we try to solve problems apart from God’s common grace, we typically run from this problem by creating this problem, and then we sway back and forth.

Let me give you a couple examples of this. For example, in Amsterdam, they came to the conclusion years ago that there were too many prostitutes in the streets, too many illegal drugs and all the crimes that went along with that. And so, the solution to the problem was let’s legalize a lot of the drugs. Let’s legalize prostitution. And that helped solve the problem. Street prostitution fell by 50%. But it created a new problem. Today, the Netherlands is one of the sex trafficking capitals of the world. In an attempt to solve one problem, when you have no real moral compass, and you’re trying to pragmatically solve problems, you create a greater one. Amsterdam is one of the global destinations in the sex trade. Poor women from Eastern Europe are trafficked and then raped for a living. We create this meat market of human souls for the gratification of others who might just happen to have enough money. One problem supposedly solved; a worse problem created.

Another example is in the US. Years ago, we were told there are too many back-alley abortions, too many unwanted children, too much pressure and fear on a woman, for example, who wants to be able to have sex without marriage or family. So, let’s solve that problem by legalizing abortion. And now for many years about a million babies a year are killed to solve a problem. Praise God, that number is declining, but not nearly fast enough.

One more example, race. Have any of you seen “Just Mercy,” this new movie that just came out? I typically don’t go to movies, they’re so expensive. And I typically don’t cry, I’m so callous. But I went to this movie, and I cried. It is a very important movie. And it’s based on Bryan Stevenson’s book, which is why I wanted to go. But a racist sheriff framed Walter McMillian, a black man, for a murder that the sheriff, and anyone who looked at the evidence would have said he did not commit this crime. And Walter was on death row, so he was going to be killed for no other crime than being a black man in the wrong county. Praise God, Bryan Stevenson represented him, got him off death row, as he has many others, and out of prison. But in some counties still, and this is the shocking thing. All of us know these horrific things happened in the past. You know, we’re thinking 1800s and even some horrific things in 1900s. This is not back then. The sheriff, the racist sheriff who set this man up to go to prison and to be on death row, retired last year. There were no consequences. In some counties in our country, you’re guilty if you’re a black male. Guilty at birth. That is terrible. That has to stop. But we have come a long way, and in most counties that is not the case.

But yet we see some counties where the opposite now is happening. Specifically, some campuses where you’re guilty if you’re born white. I’ll give you just one example. Evergreen State University in Washington. The campus was taken over in 2017 by a mob. There have been since then, professors who did nothing wrong, who were driven out of their teaching positions. The president who was imprisoned in his office and treated like a child, all in the name of fighting racism. And so, in the end, the Board of Trustees, listened to some of the people who were affected by this. And this is just one very mild example, but one of the students said,

“I’ve been told several times that I’m not allowed to speak because I’m white. The school seems to focus so much on race that it actually is becoming more racist in a different sort of way.”

It’s tragic to watch Dr. King’s dream die before our eyes in the name of solving a problem. And this is why Lady Justice has blindfolds, because you can’t solve a problem by creating another one, by treating someone else unjustly. But this is how our world systems work. You’ll watch it. I could give a hundred examples — the swaying back and forth, the staggering. And it’s far worse than that because the inebriation does not merely affect our systems. It’s not merely systemic or out there in society. It penetrates right to our own hearts. It’s intensely personal. You get a glimpse of that in verse 14.

“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!”

Is there anything more tragic than that?

Jake Meador writes about the show, “This Is Us.” I’ve not seen it, so I’m not recommending it. It might be great; it might not be. In the first season though, William Hill realizes he is dying of stomach cancer. A younger artist asked him what it’s like to be dying, but she seems more interested in the drama of it all than in really understanding his loss. So, he explains,

“All of these beautiful pieces of life are flying around me, and I’m trying to catch them. When my granddaughter falls asleep in my lap, I try to catch the feeling of her breathing against me. When I make my son laugh, I try to catch the sound of him laughing — how it rolls up from his chest … but the pieces are moving faster now, and I can’t catch them all. I can feel them slipping through my fingertips. And soon where there used to be my granddaughter breathing and my son laughing, there will be nothing.”

There will be nothing. This is why there is so much weeping and wailing in Revelation 18. “The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you.” Everything you long for and looked to, it soon will be (six times those two words end of chapter 18), “no more.” Verses 21-23, no more city, no more music, no more craftsman, no more business, no more light, no more weddings. This is terrible. When what we have longed for, when the pieces of our lives that we’ve tried to grab and get a hold of to make life meaningful, are all flowing through our fingers and turning to dust and are no more, that is terrible. And we all, every one of us knows what this feels like to some extent. And that is terrible.

But there’s also something very beautiful here. Look at verse 4 again,

“Come out of her, my people.”

That is an invitation to something very different. Come out of her. Don’t go with her to destruction, to loss, to emptiness. Verse 20,

“Rejoice over her, O, heaven.”

This is not just a sadistic smirk at another’s demise. Remember, Babylon is a system, not a literal woman, but a satanic force that is being dismantled. Yes, real people are caught up in her, but this cursed world system of lust of flesh and lust of eyes and pride of life is going down and will be destroyed. All that is evil will be judged and destroyed and removed for all that is good and new. And ironically, this is one of the greatest ironies of chapter 18, is all the “no mores” at the end are going to be once more.

So, Wednesday, I was in my office and Ferguson came running in, “Have you noticed?” He had been listening to all these chapters over and over again. He said, “Everything in chapter 18 that gets eliminated comes back in chapter 19, 20, 21, 22.” Example after example. Let me just give you a couple examples. The voice of the bridegroom that disappears in verse 23, reappears in 19:7 and 21:2, a new wedding. The light of the lamp that disappears in verse 23 reappears in chapter 21. Let me show you on the screen, 23.

“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations. [By the way, that’s the largest global, cultural recycling project.] But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Back up to verse 3.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be [hope!] Neither shall there be mourning. [Remember, Babylon said, “I’m never going to mourn. If you will mourn now, you won’t mourn then because there will be no more mourning. If you refuse to mourn now, you will mourn in the future.] Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne, said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”

This is beautiful. This is terrible, but beautiful. What do we do with this tension? I think this is a good time to go back to what we talked about a few years ago, learning to listen, lament, and love. Listen, lament, and love. To learn to listen. As we talked about, this chapter is full of weeping and wailing and “alas, alas,” so much crying. We get glimpses of that now, don’t we? You can hear the cries in the music, in the movies, in the books, in our neighborhoods, in our streets, classrooms.

Christians need to know how to listen well, not to just block our ears, but kind of like a tracker in the woods who knows what certain sounds communicate. I had a friend who grew up on the streets and eventually became a youth pastor. He was downtown Chicago with a group of students when he suddenly said, “Everybody on the bus.” And as soon as they got on the bus, there was an explosion of violence. And everybody was like, “How did you know to get on the bus?” He knew the sounds of the street. He knew what they were saying, what was about to happen. So, in a different sort of way, Christians need to know how to listen. What are the cries saying? And not just the presenting problem, because we all will describe what we’re struggling with in one direction, but it’s learning how to follow that to the heart, to listen.

And then secondly, to lament. To lament. This is a chapter of lamenting, end-time lamenting. But we’re all called to mourn. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. To lament is, a lament is “a prayer in pain that leads to trust.” Mark Vroegop’s definition, I think is really helpful. A prayer in pain that leads to trust. And as we grow in our ability to lament, the psalms come alive, right? A third of the psalms are laments. Those are the psalms you always want to skip, but they are really important, that we know how to lament, to weep with those who weep, to mourn with those who have been deceived by and abused by this evil.

And then love. We listen, we lament, and we love. This is what we do within this tension as we come out of her. We listen, lament, and love. As we live in and give out God’s love, we play the role that God has called us to play in this society. It’s so easy to fall off the cliff on either side, to stand firm. Remember the church at Ephesus back at the beginning of Revelation? They stood firm doctrinally, but they lost their first love. You know, to be firm in what we believe but to be warm in compassion, that love. It’s so interesting to me the way Jeremiah called God’s people to this way of living, who were literally in Babylon, literally exiled to the city of Babylon. And Jeremiah wrote about a love that is rooted in God’s covenant loyalty. Verse 11 of Jeremiah 29,

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

What do while we’re crying out to him? Well, verse 5,

“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

He’s talking about Babylon. Come out of her. Come to me, and I will set you free. And then where am I going to send you? I’m going to send you back so that you can seek the welfare — righteous welfare, true welfare, long-range welfare — not becoming part of the system that perpetuates victims or that continues to stagger from one problem to the other extreme. But truly loving our neighbor and seeking the common good. And he ends there by saying, verse 8,

“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.”

That’s a really important ending. If you are not rooted to what God says, you will fold. We are rooted to God’s Word. Don’t believe the lies. Cling to the truth. And that sets you up to love well.

Peter asked a similar question, what to do with this tension in 1 Peter 2:9. And ironically, he was writing from Babylon. Now it’s debated whether that was literally Babylon, which there’s no real evidence there was a church there. Probably referring to Rome. But at the end of his epistle, he referred to greetings from a woman in Babylon. But in 1 Peter 2:9 he says,

“You are chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness [That’s what Revelation 18:4 is doing. “Come out of her, my people.” Come out of her.], called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. [So, coming out of her is to receive the mercy of God and then live in that mercy.]  Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles [who have been called out, to go in], keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, [calling you bigots or haters] they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” [I think I skipped a part up in verse 11.] “Which wage war against your soul.

That’s the intoxication of Babylon. Peter is saying, you live in the love of God that builds up your immune system so that you can resist the lies that wage war against your soul. Our invitation today, “Come out of her, my people.” Let’s pray.

Jesus, you have taught us how to listen well, how to lament well, how to love well. You have heard our cries. You have wept for us. You have proven your love on the cross. And your love is not just a good feeling. It is active, sacrificial. So, we pray, Father, that you would do that same work in us. I pray for some who are still bound in lies that today would be a day to come out, to come out of the bondage of sexual addiction, to come out of the bondage of doubt and fear that is paralyzing us in our relationship with you. Lord, you have not set us free to send us back into bondage, but to send us back into ministry of love, rescuing others, blessing the culture we live in, seeking the common good. So, Father, thank you for speaking to us from your Word. We pray that your Spirit would continue to move among us now, in Jesus’ name, amen.

So, the most vivid picture of terrible and beautiful is the Lord’s Supper, because it was on the cross that the most terrible crime that has ever occurred — the righteous Jesus Christ being crucified. So, when we remember his broken body, we are saying it is terrible. But it’s also beautiful because he shed his blood so that we can “Come out of her, my people.” So that we can be free and new. And the redemption, not just of our individual souls, but of all creation, flows from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

So, we’re going to spend a few minutes searching our own hearts. And let me encourage you, if you don’t know Jesus, this would be a great time to call out to him. If you have unresolved sin, give that over to him. We encourage you to not be flippant about this practice, this real mini meal we take together to remember his broken body and shed blood. All are welcome, but if you don’t know Jesus, and you have to pass that along, that’s fine. You’re welcome here. We encourage you to come to him. We’ll spend a few minutes searching our own hearts, praying to him individually, and then we’ll call out to him in song. And then I’ll come back up, and we’ll take the bread and the cup together.

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