Revelation 17: 3-6; 18: 9-17
Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery:
babylon the great
the mother of prostitutes
and of the abominations of the earth.
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus....
...‘When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:
‘“Woe! Woe to you, great city,
you mighty city of Babylon!
In one hour your doom has come!”
‘The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more – cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.
‘They will say, “The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendour have vanished, never to be recovered.” The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out:
‘“Woe! Woe to you, great city,
dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet,
and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!”
I was amazed when I looked up the Greek word for prostitute or harlot used here in Revelation 17. It is the word porne. You don’t need to be a Greek scholar to realise what English words we get from that.
Porne, the harlot, captivates us, it seduces us, it entices us, it lures us, it draws us in, it looks so exciting, fulfilling. And yet it is fake, it’s not real, it distorts real intimacy, it distracts from real love, it destroys marriages and relationships.
It promises so much but delivers so little. Any pleasure it gives is temporary, then you feel rubbish. It brings shame and guilt and insecurity. It leaves you empty.
It offers you the golden cup – and when you drink it, it’s filled with filth.
The goal, as always, is that our hearts are drawn to things or people or whatever it is – and they are drawn away or distracted from Jesus. That we love anything more than we love God. That we give our best energy and time anywhere else except to His Kingdom.
The good news is that we can stand firm. We can look at the cup and say – no thanks. We can look at the Harlot and say – You’re not my type.
Twice, in 13:10 and 14:12 we read the same thing:
“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.”
We can be faithful. We can keep God’s commandments. Jesus died to save us not just from the penalty of sin – but from the power of sin. His blood doesn’t just forgive our sin, but it enables us to say no to sin.
We can live a life which honours God, we can resist the seduction of Babylon, we can remain faithful to Jesus while living in the culture around us.
We need to have solid lines that we simply won’t cross, deep convictions that we won’t compromise, strong beliefs that determine our lifestyle.
We also need a greater reverence for God, a holy fear of who God is, that we would be so captivated by Him and His glory and beauty and awesomeness, that Babylon looks so unattractive and pitiful in comparison.
There is no one or nothing to match our God. There’s no substitute for the real thing.