Revelation 18: 1-8
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendour. With a mighty voice he shouted:
‘“Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!”
She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.
For all the nations have drunk
the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.’
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;
for her sins are piled up to heaven,
and God has remembered her crimes.
Give back to her as she has given;
pay her back double for what she has done.
Pour her a double portion from her own cup.
Give her as much torment and grief
as the glory and luxury she gave herself.
In her heart she boasts,
“I sit enthroned as queen.
I am not a widow;
I will never mourn.”
Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her:
death, mourning and famine.
She will be consumed by fire,
for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
Yesterday we looked at the enticement of Babylon which is - don’t think about it, just let go, feel it, and enjoy it.
What about us as Christians shouldn’t we be different? And if so, how? Look at what God says:
“Then I heard another voice from heaven say:
‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins....” (18: 4)
Come out of Babylon my people. In other words - don’t be part of the dominant culture. How do we do that? Unless we go and live on a desert island or in a monastery we can’t get away from this.
Throughout church history, some have tried this and realised it doesn’t work. Some have sought to separate themselves from the world thinking that if they don’t associate with sinners or the unclean – then they won’t be contaminated, they’ll stay pure and holy.
That’s not what this is talking about. It’s not saying that you should isolate yourself from the world. Nor is it saying that we should create a little Christian commune or sub-culture so that we don’t have to associate with the big, bad, sinful world out there.
But neither are we just to assimilate into the world and become like everyone else. We're not to simply go with the flow, blend in, so that we have a nice easy life.
Rather, God calls us to infiltrate our culture with the hope and purpose of transformation. That we get involved in culture, celebrate all that is good about it, and seek to be catalysts who change what isn’t good. Create a new better culture.
So it’s not isolation from the world, or assimilation to the world, but infiltration in the world with the goal of Kingdom transformation of the world.
Isn’t that what Jesus said himself in John 17 when he was praying for His followers:
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (vv 15-16)
What Jesus is saying is this: Just because the boat is in the water – where it should be – doesn’t mean there has to be water in the boat.
We live in this earthly kingdom but we live by the values of a different Kingdom. Jesus said - we are salt and light. Peter said we are aliens and strangers. Paul said we are citizens of Heaven. We know this isn’t our real home.
There is a true story an American tourist who visited a Polish Rabbi in the last century.
Astonished to see that the rabbi's home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a bench, the tourist asked,
"Rabbi, where is your furniture?"
"Where is yours?" replied the rabbi.
"Mine?" asked the puzzled American. "But I'm a visitor here. I'm only passing through."
"So am I," said the Rabbi.
We live in the world but we know there’s more, there’s something so much more real and lasting and valuable and enduring than what this world offers.
Babylon, our culture around us, might look seductive, it’s alluring and attractive. And yet, like a prostitute, what it offers is temporary fulfilment, it’s not real, it’s a fake relationship – there’s no loyalty, love or covenant. It’s a cheap imitation of something so much more beautiful and enduring.