Broadcasting now. Watch Live.

Babylon Is Fallen! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 18


I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to Revelation 18. We're continuing our journey through this magnificent story of the future. This is history. This is what is yet to be. Our Lord is telling us so that we can be encouraged that He has a plan, and He's written it as well, for those who will live during that time, so that they would know how to respond and how to live. We'll see that even tonight. We're in chapter 18.

Just to remind you of the larger context: The tribulation is described beginning in Revelation chapter 6, all the way through the end of chapter 18. The seven-year tribulation begins as Christ takes the title deed to the earth and begins to break its seven seals. The breaking of each of those seven seals unleashes a fresh display of God's judgment on a deserving earth. The seventh seal: As Christ breaks the seventh seal, we've learned that seal contains seven trumpet judgments. And each of those judgments, in turn, unfold out of the seventh seal. And the seventh trumpet judgment announces and contains seven more judgments, the seven bowl judgments. The bowl judgments are intense, rapid- fire judgments that come at the very end of the tribulation and immediately precede, and usher in, Christ's return. These final, intense judgments are described as the pouring out of seven bowls of wrath. Don't think deep bowls. Instead, the picture and the image that's used is a shallow bowl. And the picture is [this]: As God unleashes His judgment, it's like a bowl is suddenly tipped, and its entire contents come pouring out, unleashing in a moment its judgment on the earth. They come quickly, one after another. They're the most intense of the judgments of God this world has ever experienced. And there's no break. There's no relenting for the world to catch its collective breath. It will be the final hour of the day of the Lord.

The seventh bowl, the last of the judgments that's described in Revelation, is introduced to us in the end of [Revelation] 16:17-21. And the seventh bowl judgment produces a worldwide earthquake that literally destroys the planet. It will be the worst, most devastating disaster the world has ever known. Turn back to chapter 16 and look at verse 17: "Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, 'It is done.'" Here's history's most violent storm: "[And] there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder." And then comes history's greatest earthquake: "And there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty." And that earthquake will be followed by worldwide devastation.

Look at verse 19: "The great city" — Jerusalem — "was split into three parts." That's in preparation, actually, for the Lord's millennial reign, as we discovered. But then notice, "Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And huge hailstones," — we have this atmospheric disturbance because of the volcanic activity from the earthquake — "about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe." Now, the effects of this final bowl judgment extend right up to the second coming and the establishment of the millennial kingdom. When this final bowl is emptied, [Revelation] 15:1 says, "The wrath of God is finished." So that bowl is described in chronological order, in chapter 16, in the seven bowl judgments.

But in Revelation, chapters 17 and 18, we learn in detail of the destruction of antichrist's false religious system, his political and commercial empire, and his capital city. In other words, chapters 17 and 18 step away from the chronological flow of the events of the end of the tribulation to enlarge on the theme that John mentioned in the seventh bowl, and that is that "Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath." So, chapters 17 and 18, then, describe in detail the destruction of Babylon the great. We have examined [Revelation] 17:1-18, and there we witness the destruction of religious Babylon. Interestingly enough, that actually happens at the midpoint of the tribulation. At the beginning of the tribulation, there will be this massive religious ecumenism where all the false religions of the world come together and form one great whole. And antichrist will use that in order not only to come to power, but to sustain his power. And it will be a massive religious system, wealthy beyond imagination. And antichrist will use it for his own advantage.

But at the midpoint of the tribulation, as we've discovered, antichrist has what appears to be an apparent death and resurrection. And at that point, he will crush all of that religious empire that's been built, and he will establish himself, and himself alone, as the object to be worshipped. So, the destruction of religious Babylon, interestingly enough, comes from God, but He uses antichrist and his allies to destroy it.

Tonight, we come to chapter 18 and to the destruction of political-commercial Babylon. And I've hyphenated political-commercial, because if I say only political, you might not get the full picture. You see, the nations of the world ultimately exist in order to advance their economic privilege and their prosperity, and the two go together, and that's what happens, and will happen, in this future empire of antichrist. We see this unfolded in [Revelation] 18:1-24.

Now, there is no question that chapters 17 and 18 are describing the same empire of antichrist and the same capital city. In both chapters, the city is called by the same name. The focus of chapter 17 is on the false religion that is based in antichrist's capital city and that characterizes his entire empire. Chapter 18 focuses on the political and commercial aspect of antichrist's empire. They are also centered in the same capital city, which is called Babylon the great. Now, I mentioned to you that it may be that the name Babylon is used because the site of the ancient city on the Euphrates may eventually become the location of the capital city of antichrist's empire. There are many who believe that and who teach that. It's also possible that the name Babylon is used only metaphorically, referring back to the tower of Babel and all false religion that stemmed from it, and it could be any of the world's great cities. What we will discover the next time we study Revelation together is that wherever this city is, it will be a port city.

So, both the religious aspect and the political and commercial aspects of antichrist's future empire will be based in the same city. The destruction of that city, with its political and commercial power, is here in our text. It is announced by God in verses 1 through 8.

First of all, in verses 1 through 3, it is announced by a great angel. God gives an angel this responsibility. In verse 1, we see a description of that angel. Verse 1 says, "After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven." After these things refers to the destruction of religious Babylon in chapter 17, which, as I said, will occur at the midpoint of the tribulation. John saw another angel. This is not the same angel, then, who was John's guide in chapter 17, but another of the same kind whom John sees coming down out of heaven. Verse 1 says, "Having great authority." Scripture teaches that there's a structured order among the angels. There is an order of authority. This angel is clearly near the top of the angelic chain of command. He has great authority. Verse 1 says, "And the earth was illumined with his glory." Along with the authority that God has assigned this angel, God has also given him incredible splendor and glory. His brilliance, a reflection of the glory of the God he serves, will light up the entire earth. A great announcement, the great announcement God's about to make, requires a great angel to make it.

That brings us to a declaration of judgment in verse 2: "And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, 'Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!'" With a strong or mighty voice, he cries out so that it can be generally heard. This is an announcement the world needs to understand: "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!" John actually borrows those words, or I should say, the angel borrows those words, from the pronouncement of judgment on the ancient nation of Babylon. In Isaiah 21:9, about that nation we read, "Now behold, here comes a troop of riders, horsemen in pairs. And one said, 'Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the images of her gods are shattered on the ground.'" Here, since this city is connected to the future antichrist, this Babylon is referring to a city associated with his empire in the future. In fact, it will be the capital city of his empire, the center of religious and political-commercial Babylon. Although this angel is announcing something yet to happen, he uses a tense in Greek that implies it's already happened, to stress its certainty.

That brings us to a description of the judgment in the second half of verse 2. The second half of the verse describes just how complete the fall of Babylon and its destruction will be. Notice what the angel says: "She has become a dwelling place of demons." This picture, again, comes from the Old Testament. When God wants to describe the utter destruction of a nation that He has brought judgment on, He uses these sorts of terms. Here's an example; this is Isaiah 13:21-22: "But desert creatures will lie down there, and their houses will be full of owls; ostriches also will live there, and shaggy goats" — now, it's interesting, the Septuagint uses the word demons in this text — "and [shaggy goats] will frolic there. Hyenas will howl in their fortified towers and jackals in their luxurious palaces. Her fateful time also will [soon] come and her days will not be prolonged."

You get the picture, a picture of a nation so completely destroyed that all of its great buildings are desolate and filled with roving scavengers and animals. [Revelation 18:2] goes on to say that capital city will become "a prison of every unclean spirit." It'll be so desolate, it'll be a place where unclean spirits, just another term for demons, can be safely imprisoned away from everything and everybody, against their wills. And verse 2 ends, "And a prison of every unclean and hateful bird." That's another metaphor, another symbol of a place that is completely desolate. Jeremiah 51:37 puts it this way: "Babylon will become a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals, an object of horror and hissing, without inhabitants." The point that the angel is making here is that the future great city of Babylon, the luxurious capital city of antichrist's kingdom and the world's greatest city, by far, will become a desolate wilderness. That's how complete its destruction will be.

Next comes a defense of that judgment as the angel continues to unfold this. We've seen the declaration of judgment, a description of that judgment. In verse 3 comes a defense of that judgment. The angel explains why God's destruction, utter, complete destruction of Babylon, is justified. And the reason is because it has corrupted the entire world. First of all, it will corrupt its people. Notice verse 3: For because, here's why it's justified, "all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality." In other words, the entire population of this planet will become so enamored, both with the false religion and the material prosperity that Babylon stands for and sells, that it will be like they've become drunk, the entire planet and everybody on it.

Babylon will also corrupt its leaders. Notice verse 3: "And the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her." In other words, the presidents, the prime ministers, the leaders of the nations of that time, will be in bed with antichrist's empire. Why? For one reason. Not because they love antichrist and want to promote him. It's for selfish ends, it always is: To enjoy the material prosperity of being linked in trade and commerce with the wealthiest, most powerful, most luxurious city and empire in the world.

Babylon will also corrupt its merchants. Notice verse 3: "And the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality." The Greek word translated merchants is emporoi. You recognize the word emporium we get in English. The Greek word is made up of two words: em, meaning in, and poros, meaning journey. So, the word literally means, translated merchants here, one on a journey to conduct business. The world's greatest businessmen and women will become incredibly wealthy. Notice what verse 3 says, literally, by the power of her luxury.

Now, don't misunderstand. Being wealthy, and enjoying the fruit of one's wealth, is not inherently sinful. Many of the righteous in Scripture God chose to bless with even extreme wealth, such as Abraham, David, Solomon before his sin, and many others. Even in the New Testament, we're told that those who come to Christ who are wealthy are not to necessarily sell everything. In fact, 1 Timothy 6:17 says this:

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

Paul goes on:

Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

So, the Bible doesn't say that wealth is sin. That's a Marxist idea. Get that out of your head. It's not sinful to be wealthy. That's not the issue here. But the word that's used here for sensuality or luxury in verse 3 has a very negative connotation. Robert Thomas writes, "The idea of the term is that of insolent luxury, self-indulgence, with accompanying arrogance and the vicious exercise of strength." It's describing the arrogant wealthy who use their power and influence to get whatever they want, and it doesn't matter who is hurt in the process. It is the abusive use of wealth. All the world's great businessmen and women of that time will get very wealthy through their commercial partnership with the city of Babylon.

So, this first mighty angel makes his announcement of God's judgment. But that message is soon reiterated by another angel in verses 4 through 8: And "I heard another voice from heaven." By the way, there's no indication that this is the voice of God or of Jesus the Lamb. Instead, this is an angel speaking for God, as we have seen before in this book. And this angel also describes the coming judgment of Babylon. But interestingly, he actually begins with a warning for God's people in verses 4 and 5. Notice what he says, verse 4: "Saying, 'Come out of her, my people.'" This is an urgent call from God through His angel for His people. That is, [for] all true believers who are still alive at that point, at the very end of the tribulation, to exit the literal city of Babylon, if they're still there, in order to avoid the coming judgment, and to refuse to give in to its temptations. It's like the warning given to Lot, you remember, who [had] pitched his tents towards Sodom and ended up living there. And in Genesis 19:12, the two men, the two angels, said to Lot, "'Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place'" because God's about to judge it.

Verse 4 says, "'So that you will not participate in her sins.'" The angel tells God's people, who will be alive at that time, be careful that you don't participate with them in the same sins. Don't engage in their idolatry, their arrogant, luxurious living, their self- sufficiency, their independence from God, and their violence against human life. Don't participate in her sins. And verse 4 says, "'and receive of her plagues.'" If those who are truly God's people, the angel says, stay in the city and engage in the same sins with the rest of its residents, they will face the same plagues that are about to fall.

Sadly, the story of Lot is another perfect parallel. You remember the story, Genesis 19:17: When the angels had brought Lot's family outside, "One said, 'Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.'" Verse 26 says but Lot's wife, "from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt." She longed for what the city offered. That's the very warning that the angel is giving God's people here. Can I just say that while this warning is to those who are alive during the tribulation, it's a warning to us as well? It's a warning that, as believers, we cannot participate in the sins of fallen humanity around us. It's so easy because it's the world we live in. It so surrounds us that sometimes I don't think we're even aware of the sins that the people around us are committing. It's like a fish: It's so surrounded with water it doesn't even know it's wet. We live in the world so surrounded by sin that sometimes I don't even think we recognize it.

I remember one of my professors telling the story of his young daughter, who was watching a television program at one point, and it was a fictional account, but in the story that was unfolding on the television screen, someone was killed, someone was murdered, and his young daughter began to weep. Why? Because it's the death of an innocent life. The same temptation can come to us in real life. We get so accustomed to the sin around us, we don't even recognize it. This is a warning.

The angel includes the reason that the city is about to be destroyed in verse 5: "'For her sins have piled up as high as heaven.'" The Greek word is an interesting word, translated piled up. It literally means to glue together. Their sins are joined to each other, glued together, until they reach heaven itself. This is almost certainly a reference to the tower of Babel, in the book of Genesis. But instead of bricks stacked on top of one another, reaching up to heaven, the sins of Babylon are stacked up on one another until they reach heaven itself. Verse 5 says, "'And God has remembered her iniquities.'" The word iniquities is used here in the legal sense of crimes. God will not — in fact, in His justice, He cannot — forget the crimes that people commit, the crimes of the citizens of Babylon. Back in chapter 16, you remember, we read it just a moment ago, in the seventh bowl judgment, verse 19, it says, "Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath." The massive crimes of Babylon have indelibly impressed themselves on the memory of God's justice, and He will deal with them in justice. The angel follows that warning for God's people in verses 6 through 8 with a call for divine judgment.

In verses 4 to 5, this second angel speaks to believers alive at the end of the tribulation. But in verses 6 through 8, he directs his comments to those angels who will carry out God's judgment, the executioners of God's judgment. And so, it's God's judgment the angel is calling for here. And in calling for that judgment, the angel describes the characteristics of God's judgment.

First of all, I want you to notice that God's judgment is just. Verse 6: "'Pay her back even as she has paid.'" Again, Robert Thomas writes, "This is not a prayer for personal vengeance by the persecuted saints, but a judicial pronouncement against a sinful civilization that has reached the ultimate limit of evil." Pay her back. The angel's words here are really a reflection of the Old Testament law, lex talionis, an eye for an eye. "'Pay her back even as she has paid.'" We've talked about the lex talionis before, that Old Testament law. It's not a call for personal vengeance. I grew up watching Gunsmoke on television, and so often the villain who was about to kill somebody would quote, "An eye for an eye"; I'm going to hurt you; I'm going to kill you because of what you did. That's not what that Old Testament law was about. That Old Testament law was a call for perfect justice, for a punishment that was absolutely equal to, and appropriate to, the crime.

If you read Hammurabi's law code, for example, you discover that somebody steals, and they cut off his hand. That's not a punishment that fits the crime. In the Old Testament law, God was very concerned, meticulously so, that the punishment fit the crime. And that's really what the angel's calling for here. "'Pay her back even as she has paid.'" Let Babylon's punishment fit her crimes "'and give back to her double according to her deeds.'" Now again, don't misunderstand. This doesn't mean let the severity of her judgment be twice the seriousness of her sin. That isn't justice. Instead, Babylon's sins are double, so give her back double punishment. Again, notice: Let the judgment be according to, or appropriate to, or in keeping with her deeds. Verse 6 says, "'In the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.'" Babylon's multiplied sins had been mixed in her cup. And the angel challenges God's executioners, who are going to carry out God's judgment, to mix for her double in the cup of God's undiluted wrath. Let the punishment be the exact equivalent of the offense. The offense has been huge. Let the punishment be huge.

Verse 7: "'To the degree,'" again, let the punishment fit the crime, "'to the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously.'" This is why God's judgment is necessary. And you'll notice in the text the angel identifies several sins here that characterize Babylon and require God's judgment. First of all, in verse 7, there is arrogant self-glorification: "'To the degree that she glorified herself.'" Then there's arrogant self-indulgence: "'And lived sensuously.'" The verb form of the noun sensuously, or I should say this is the verb form of the noun sensuality in verse 3, it refers to a luxurious lifestyle with the accompanying trappings of rudeness, arrogance, self-indulgence, and the ruthless exercise of power. In response to those sins, notice the angel says, "'To the same degree, give her torment and mourning.'" Torment is the severe pain experienced through torture. Mourning is the normal word that's used for mourning the death of someone you love. So, the angel is calling for those who experienced an easy, luxurious life to experience intense pain and suffering. He's calling for those who have only known wealth to experience the mourning and gloom that come with bereavement. In other words, he's saying, listen, God in His goodness has allowed them to enjoy many things in this life, but they have spurned that goodness, like Romans 2, right? The goodness of God was intended to lead you to repentance, Paul says, but by refusing to repent, you are storing up for yourself judgment and wrath in the day of God's wrath. That's what's happening here. He's calling for those who've known only ease and wealth to experience the worst.

It's like Jesus' parable in Luke 16:25, when Abraham said to the rich man, "'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is comforted here,'" in heaven, "'and you are in agony.'" It's a reminder that we don't believe in retribution theology. That is, we don't believe that your circumstances right now are an indication of whether God is pleased or displeased with you. God is good to all, and so God may be lavishing His good on you. But if you're living in unrepentant sin and rebellion against Him, that goodness is a call for you to repent. It's not a sign that He's happy. God's judgment is always just.

Also, we learn in verse 7 that God's judgment is sudden; we could add, and complete. Look at what he says in verse 7: "'For she says in her heart, "I sit as a queen and I am not a widow," and will never see mourning.'" — here again we learn another sin of Babylon. Not only arrogant self-glorification and arrogant self-indulgence, but also arrogant self-centeredness — "'For she says in her heart, "I sit as a queen".'" Babylon's attitude here is essentially [that] there is no other God but me. It's like Psalm 10:4: "The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek [Him]. All his thoughts are, 'There is no God.'" "He says to himself," verse 11, "'God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He will never see it.'" Verse 13: "Why has the wicked spurned God? He has said to himself, 'You will not require it.'" Psalm 14:1: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good." In other words, their declaration of atheism is a cover and a cloak for their sin. That's still true, by the way. People who reject God don't have an intellectual problem. They have a moral problem. They will not have God tell them what to do.

A fourth sin is listed in verse 7, and that's arrogant self-confidence: "'For she says in her heart, "I sit as a queen and I am not a widow," and will never see mourning.'" Like the ancient cities of Babel and Tyre and Nineveh, antichrist and the citizens of his future capital city will believe themselves to be totally secure, completely beyond God's reach, untouchable. They claim there's no way they'll ever be widowed in a figurative sense, or experience sorrow. But because of her sins, judgment will come suddenly. Verse 8: "'For this reason,'" because of their arrogant self-confidence, "'in one day her plagues will come.'" In one day: That's a biblical expression that means suddenly, unexpectedly. Suddenly, her plagues will come. Everything, the citizens of this great city, with all of its economic prosperity, with all of its wealth, suddenly everything that they have tried to avoid through that wealth, all of those things will suddenly happen.

The city of Babylon, the greatest city in the world, in the aftermath of the seventh bowl judgment, will suddenly experience four massive plagues. Look at verse 8: "'Pestilence,'" literally death. The idea is death through the spread of disease. She claims she would never be a widow, but she experiences the death of many of her citizens, and mourning. Her citizens claim they would never experience sorrow, but they will experience devastating sorrow when everything that they treasure is suddenly destroyed. Verse 8 adds, "'And famine.'" In their self-confidence, the citizens of that great city will trust in their abundance, but they will quickly be reduced to famine. And she will be burned up with fire, that great city. And I want you to think about the greatest cities that exist on the planet today. This city will surpass them all. This will be the greatest city on the planet, probably the greatest city that will ever exist in human history. But that great city will not die through gradual decline, but sudden destruction. After the great earthquake that we read about in chapter 16, in the seventh bowl, destroys the city, within a few days there will be rampant disease; there will be sorrow and bereavement as people die left and right; and there will be a shortage of food. And on top of all of that, a massive fire will sweep through the ruins and destroy everything. Nothing will be left. God's judgment is just. It is sudden and complete.

There was an old Southern Baptist preacher who preached a sermon called Payday Someday, talking about Ahab and Jezebel and how long it was between God's pronouncement of judgment on them and the judgment actually coming. It's more than 20 years, if I remember correctly. His point was this: The judgments of God often have leaden heels, and they travel very slowly, but they always have iron hands, and they crush completely. That's the story here.

Thirdly, God's judgment is certain. Verse 8 says, "'For the Lord God who judges her is strong.'" He is strong. You see? This will happen. It absolutely will happen, because no one exists who can frustrate God's plans or thwart His purposes. Psalm 33:11: "The counsel of Yahweh stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation." Isaiah 14:27, speaking about Assyria and her destruction, "[For] Yahweh of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?" Isaiah 43:13: "'Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of my hand; I act and who can reverse it?'" Isaiah 46:10: "'"My purpose will be established. And I will accomplish all My good pleasure."'" And then there's the judgment that God brought on Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4. And what did Nebuchadnezzar learn? Daniel 4:35: "'"All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; [and] no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, 'What have you done?'"'" This is certain.

So, you look at this passage, and you ask yourself, so what am I? As a 21st-century believer, sitting in Southlake on this weekend, what am I supposed to learn from this? Let's look at the lessons. We'll finish this chapter the next time, but let's look at the lessons for us.

The first lesson is this: The sins that will bring God's judgment on the future capital city of antichrist are just as serious to God today, in nations and in individuals. Beware of arrogant self-glorification. In fact, it's interesting, if you read the early chapters of Isaiah, when God talks about bringing this world to a close-in judgment, you know what He stresses again and again? I will humble the arrogant, those who lift themselves up as though I weren't God and had no right to tell them what to do. Beware of arrogant self-indulgence that takes advantage of others. Beware of arrogant self-centeredness. And beware of arrogant self-confidence: I'm untouchable.

Brothers and sisters, we need to make sure that we are not tempted by, or engaging in, those same sins, because God hates them every bit as much in nations today. And we see it on a massive global scale, don't we? We see it coming from the heads of states all around our world. We also see it in individuals. And wherever God finds it, wherever God finds these sins, He hates them, and He will destroy.

Number two: The central theological message in this chapter is that of God's justice. We need to understand that. We live in a day in a church, a period in the history of the church, when so many believers have forgotten this reality. Let me just remind you, first of all, God never forgets a single sin that has ever been committed. Proverbs 5:21 says, "[For] the ways of a man are before the eyes of Yahweh, and He watches all his paths." The Hebrew word for paths refers to our patterns of behavior. In other words, God knows all of our habits. God sees all our acts of sin, even those we intend to hide and think we have [hidden]. Psalm 90:8: "You have placed our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of your presence."

But His knowledge of our sin doesn't stop with our external behavior. It also includes our words. [In] Matthew 12:36, Jesus says, "'[But] I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.'" Every careless word. Even more unsettling is the fact that God knows our thoughts and our motives. First Corinthians 4:5: When the Lord comes, He "will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts." Hebrews 4:13: "[And] there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Like His word, His omniscience pierces to the thoughts and motives of the heart.

Think about this for a moment. From the day that we were born, God has personally observed every single time you and I have sinned in our actions. He has personally heard every sinful, careless word that has left our mouths. Every sinful thought, whether it's lust or anger or bitterness or jealousy or whatever it is that has ever flitted for a moment through our minds, God has fully known. You may have forgotten; God hasn't. And He even knows what we don't, the motives and the affections that drive our decisions and our wills. God knows and never forgets, without choosing to forget, a single sin that's ever been committed.

Related to that is that not one of those sins will ever go unpunished. This is God's justice. Not one sin. Listen to that for a moment. Not one sin that anybody on this planet has ever committed will go unpunished. Not one sin I have committed will ever go unpunished. Not one sin you have ever committed will ever go unpunished. He will punish every single violation of His righteous law because He has to. He is just. Exodus 23:7: "'I will not acquit the guilty.'" Exodus 34:7: "'[He] will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.'" Ecclesiastes 12:14: "[For] God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil." Jeremiah 32:19: The Lord's "eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds." Wow! That's God's justice.

And, brothers and sisters, this is why every person on this planet needs the gospel, because God's justice is the foundation of His throne. Somebody's going to pay for every single sin you have ever committed. But here's the great news of the gospel. You don't have to be the one who pays the punishment for every one of those sins, because if you trust in Christ, He gets every one of those sins on the cross, and He suffers the full payment to satisfy the wrath of God completely. God's justice has been met. Therefore, you come to Romans 8:1, and Paul, after describing justification, what Christ has done, says for the one who believes in Jesus, there is therefore — now what? — "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Look at Colossians chapter 2. This passage is filled with the language of substitution. Colossians 2:13: "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, [He] made you alive together with Him" — Christ, He gave you the new birth — "having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us," and "[He has] taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." I wish I had time to exegete this text. But there's a beautiful picture here. It's like there's this document that has all of God's laws, everything He demands of us, written, and we are responsible to keep it. It's like a certificate of debt that we sign. Yes, I'm obligated to keep this. And we have miserably failed. We've broken them all. But what God did at the cross! Pilate, when he nailed over the head of Jesus that statement of why he was being crucified, This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews, that's from a legal Roman standpoint, why Jesus was crucified. But God nails something else to the cross. Christian, He took the list of your sins, every single one of them. Not one was missing: Past, present, future. He took the list of your sins, and God nailed them to the cross. And Jesus died for those crimes. And He paid the debt in full, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt that was hostile to us. On the cross, God punished Christ for all of my distorted motives, for all of my perverse thoughts, for all of my ungodly words, for all of my sinful actions. And there's no punishment left for me: There is therefore "now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."

What we see in chapter 18 of Revelation is what I deserve. It's what you deserve. Pay them back as they have paid. But instead, on the cross, Christ said, Father, pay me back for what they have paid. Aren't you glad you know the One who is both just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus?

Let's pray together. Father, when we read this chapter, it is a sobering chapter to read, to think of the reality that You will bring devastating judgment on those who oppose You. And it's sobering, Father, because we are painfully aware that that's what we deserve. But, Father, I thank You that for many of us in this room, we have trusted in Your son. O God, how can we ever thank You, that You have taken the complete list of our sins, and You've nailed them to the cross so that Jesus paid the debt in full. And now You've promised that You will not remember our sins again, forever. You will not bring them up against us. You choose to put them out of Your mind, to remove them as far from us as the east is from the west, to cast them into the deepest sea, to turn Your back on them, never to see them again, because Your justice was satisfied in the Lamb who was slain. Lord, thank You for the gospel. Thank You for Your justice. Thank You that You will deal in perfect justice. But, Lord, thank You that Your justice was satisfied for us in our substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.


Babylon is Fallen! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 17:1-18:24

Babylon Is Fallen! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 18

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 18

More from this Series



The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3

The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3

Salutation & Dedication

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:4-6

The King is Coming!

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:7-8

A Vision of the Exalted Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:9-20

A Vision of the Exalted Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:9-20

Ephesus: Loveless Fidelity

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:1-7

Smyrna: Faithful in Suffering

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:8-11

Pergamum: Undiscerning Tolerance

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:12-17

Thyatira: Extra-Biblical Authority

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:18-29

Sardis: Dead Christianity

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:1-6

Philadelphia: Enduring Faithfulness

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:7-13

Laodicea: A False Gospel

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:14-22

He is Worthy! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

He is Worthy! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

He is Worthy! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

He is Worthy! - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

The First Six Seals: The Tribulation Begins - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 6:1-17

The First Six Seals: The Tribulation Begins - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 6:1-17

Tribulation Saints - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 7:1-17

Tribulation Saints - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 7:1-17

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Little Book

Tom Pennington Revelation 10:1-11

The Two Witnesses - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 11:1-13

The Two Witnesses - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 11:1-13

The Seventh Trumpet: The Beginning of the End

Tom Pennington Rev. 11:14-19

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

Antichrist - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10

Antichrist - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10

The False Prophet

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:11-18

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

Heaven Prepares for the End

Tom Pennington Revelation 15:1-8

Seven Bowls of Wrath - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 16:1-21

Seven Bowls of Wrath - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 16:1-21

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 17:1-18:24

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 17:1-18:24

Babylon Is Fallen! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 18

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 18

The Rapture of the Church

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

The Future Tribulation

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-18

Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:1-10

Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:1-10

The Glorious Return of Jesus Christ

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:11-16


Tom Pennington Revelation 19:17-21

The Real Binding of Satan

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-3

The Millennium: Christ's Future Reign on Earth - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10

The Millennium: Christ's Future Reign on Earth - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10

The Millennium: Christ’s Future Reign on Earth - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10

The Last Judgment

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:11-15

Our Eternal Home - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:1-8

Our Eternal Home - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:1-8

The Eternal City - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5

The Eternal City - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5

The Eternal City - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5

How Should We Then Live? - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21

How Should We Then Live? - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21

How Should We Then Live? - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21

How Should We Then Live? - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21