Turn Out The Lights . . . The Party’s Over

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Those who align themselves with "Babylon" will be forgotten forever.

Revelation(52) (Part of the Jesus Unveiled(51) series)
by Marc Webb(11) on December 30, 2018 (Sunday Morning(98))

Discipline(2), Judgement(7)

TURN OUT THE LIGHTS, THE PARTY’S OVER

 

There was a study commissioned by Post-It Brands in 2013 that founded you are not actually crazy when you forget where you're keys are on a regular basis. In fact, the results say the average person forgets four things a day. The study was conducted with 2,000 adults and the most common things forgotten in addition to forgetting where your keys are were misplacing your phone and misplacing your wallet.  In total, most of the respondents were found to have forgotten over 1,400 things in a year.

According to this study, ladies, it should be noted that 56% of guys really rely on YOU in a relationship to remember things. The opposite is said for you; most women say they can't rely on their other half to remember things. There is also proof that guys are more forgetful on passing along important messages or remembering birthdays and anniversaries.

Post-It Brands says, “Our days are so jam packed full of tasks whether at work or at home, it’s no surprise people find it hard to keep track of everything. With much longer working hours, financial concerns and just busier lifestyles, even those with the best memory can stumble when it comes to remembering even the most simplest of things during a hectic day.”

So what are the most common things forgotten by people? They came up with what they called the "THE FORGOTTEN FIFTY.” Here are some of them. See if these are true for you.

Forgetting what you went into a room for, forgetting where you put your keys, forgetting where your car is parked, forgetting where you put your wallet, forgetting where you put your glasses or sunglasses when they’re on your head, forgetting your passwords or pin numbers, forgetting special days such as birthdays or anniversaries, forgetting a meeting and then double booking yourself, picking up the phone and forgetting who you were going to call, forgetting your debit/credit card in the ATM machine, forgetting to charge your phone, forgetting to flush the toilet or to put the toilet seat back down, forgetting to renew your car registration or inspection, forgetting to take your medication and finally forgetting to return library books

Those last couple are the ones that I have had trouble with over the years and still do. A couple of years after I moved up to Pennsylvania in 1987, I was going through my stuff and found a library book that had been due in 1979. It was 10 years late. They must not have missed it as I never received a notice in the mail. I have also forgotten to renew my car’s registration and inspection. My wife, Judy was stopped one time in my car with one of our youth from Hanover and was cited for an out of date registration. I think it was 6 months late. And then a year or so after coming to Idaville, Seth Johns and I were coming back from Gettysburg after delivering canned goods to the Gettysburg Soup Kitchen when I was stopped for an out of date inspection. I think it was only three months late. My biggest one even today is forgetting to take my medication. If my routine in the morning is changed in any way I forget to take it. In fact, one of the days I was working on my sermon for this morning I actually did forget to take my medication.

So, how about you? Yell out something that you tend to forget.

What do you think the following places have in common? St. Elmo, Colorado, Monte Ne, Arkansas, Monroe, VA, Tartown, PA, Aitch, PA, Ricketts, PA, Somerfield, PA. They are all towns that for one reason or the other were once alive and teeming with activity but today have been abandoned and forgotten.

St. Elmo, Colorado was founded in 1880. It was once a highfalutin gold mining town and popular whistle-stop on the Pacific Railroad. It boasted almost 2,000 residents and more than 150 mines, and enough hotels, brothels, saloons, and dance halls to keep everybody in town happily cutting a rug. When the Alpine Tunnel closed in 1910, however, the music stopped. With the price of silver already down, the last remaining rail service stopped in 1922. 

 

Monroe, VA is supposedly located beneath Smith Mountain Lake. The history of the town of Monroe is a bit of a mystery. Some don’t believe that the town ever existed, but most think the 19th-century community was submerged by the construction of the Smith Mountain Lake dam.

 

In 1946, the town of Somerfield, PA was flooded to make way for the Young Dam. Every once in a while, the water level in the dam becomes low enough that glimpses of this underwater ghost town can be seen. The historic 1818 US 40 bridge is one such rarely seen landmark.

 

Tartown, is an extinct community in Adams County, PA. The remains of Tartown are located on the property of the Waynesboro Borough and in the adjacent Michaux State Forest. The locale has in part been inundated by the reservoir created by the Waynesboro Dam.

Aitch is an extinct town in Huntingdon, County, PA. The town site was inundated by the creation of Raystown Lake.

 

These cities are called Ghost Towns or Lost Cities. A lost city is a settlement that fell into terminal decline and became extensively or completely uninhabited, with the consequence that the site's former significance was no longer known to the wider world. A ghost town is an abandoned village, town or city, usually one that contains substantial visible remains. A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods, prolonged droughts and government actions. 

 

Today, we are going to see a picture of the final destruction and obliteration of the ‘harlot’ system of religion, philosophy, political power and commerce of the Antichrist that the Scriptures call ‘Babylon’. For John and his readers, they would have seen this as the destruction of Rome and even though Rome was very much alive, so great is John’s faith in the sovereignty of God and so great is his confidence that the justice of God must eventually punish evil, John writes as though Rome had already fallen. We will see the sudden, violent and complete destruction of this evil city. This is God’s judgment of the many evil incarnations of the cities of Satan down through history. This morning in chapter 18, verses 21-24 Babylon will become more than a Ghost Town; it will become a place that will never be found again and will be totally forgotten forever. This morning John wants us to know that those who align themselves with Babylon and its idolatry and other evil ways will be forgotten just as suddenly, violently and completely as the city itself. That is the big idea I would like for you to take away from here today: Those who align themselves with Babylon will be forgotten forever.

 

Before we dive into the passage today let us pray. Heavenly Father, we ask for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us this morning. We ask you to give us ears to hear what you want us to know and learn this morning. We ask you to help us take what we hear and give us opportunities to share it with those you put in our paths this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

In Scripture, rebellion against God is often associated with a “city”. Cain, for example, the son of Adam and history’s first murderer, after being cast out of the presence of the Lord, went out and founded the first city ‘Enoch’, named after his son. This was the beginning of man’s boasted civilization. All the arts and sciences had their origin there. There were skilled craftsmen in brass and iron. There was trade and barter and the pursuit of the unrighteous all-mighty dollar began there. Those who played the harp and the organ also dwelt there. Music charmed the weary sons of Cain as they sought to make themselves happy and this world attractive apart from God.

As we know God blotted all this out in the Flood during Noah’s time, but it is evident that Ham, Noah’s son, had learned the same ways. The world as an ordered system of things, apart from God, had a new beginning in his family. Nimrod—who was the grandson of Noah’s son Ham (whose son Canaan fell under Noah’s curse because of Ham’s sin) also founded many cities; and we’re told that “the beginning of his kingdom was Babel …” The tower of Babel was built on a spirit of rebellion against God’s command to spread out through the earth and multiply. It became the mother-city from which others went out and built a selfish and godless civilization.

Of course, not all cities of the Bible were built upon a spirit of rebellion against God. But it does appear that ‘cities’ and ‘rebellion’ against God’s rule have at times been strongly connected together. The history-long spirit of warfare against the rule of God will one day be summarized in a single city in the future; and as Pastor Stuart has already shown us in the two previous sermons in chapter 18, that future city is called Babylon and is already slated for judgment.

Our text, this morning, is separated into three parts. The first part is called the Symbol of Judgment and we see this in Revelation 18:21. This is what God’s word says: 21 Then a strong 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 not be found any longer. 

Here we see a strong or mighty angel take up a large stone and throw it into the sea. This is another angel from heaven and it clearly means that this angel has the authority of heaven in actively bringing about Babylon’s downfall.

The millstone would have been a very heavy stone usually four to five feet in diameter and a foot thick used for pulverizing grain into flour. Here God is telling us that Babylon is going to be pulverized into nothing, just as a heavy millstone pulverizes grain. It will no longer be a great city with great power. A stone of that nature would sink to the bottom of the sea. It could not float back to the surface and it would never be recovered. This stone is used to illustrate the judgment that is coming upon Babylon. It will be sudden, swift and sure. And it is a judgment that is forever settled! Babylon will be destroyed and will never be found again. We see a parallel in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in that no trace of those two cities has ever been found to this day.

John is taking his picture from the destruction of ancient Babylon. His readers would be reminded of Jeremiah 51:63-64. Jeremiah, the prophet, had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon ancient Babylon. He sent the scroll with Seraiah who was to read the scroll to the Jewish people who had been taken to Babylon from Jerusalem. After reading the scroll he was to tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates River, and as it sank, say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring on her. And her people will fall.” To the Jewish people in Babylon this would be symbolic of God destroying Babylon. The curse on Babylon in Jeremiah's day is echoed in the words of the mighty angel. In Osborne’s commentary it says, “The same violence that occurred when the huge boulder was “cast” into the water will occur again when God’s wrath “casts down” the empire of the beast.” The parallel is striking because Jeremiah had written of Babylon's judgment on a scroll, and if you remember back in Revelation chapter 4 a scroll was used to introduce all the judgments in the book of Revelation.

There are three things we can see from this verse about the destruction of Babylon. One, the destruction of Babylon would be violent. This action of the angel throwing the millstone it into the sea would speak of a violent ‘crashing’ judgment. The words “with violence” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of a “sudden rush or violent impulse,” which means that the destruction of Babylon is going to be swift and furious. This is not a playful skipping of a rock across a pond. This is a forceful throwing down of a heavy rock like you are trying to kill something.

Two, the destruction of Babylon will be sudden. Imagine how quickly that heavy millstone would disappear under the surface of the water and how quickly it would get to the bottom of the sea. The destruction of Babylon will be sudden and it will be quick just like that millstone being swallowed up by the sea when thrown down.

Lastly, the destruction of Babylon will be complete. Like the stone cast into the sea it cannot be raised, so the destruction of Babylon will be so complete that it will never rise again. The end of verse 21 says it “will not be found any longer”. Babylon will never be found again in any form.

This is stressed seven times in chapter 18 showing the completeness of Babylon’s judgment. We see this once in verse 14, once in verse 21, three times in verse 22 and twice in verse 23. Further, in each case the negative “no” or “not” in the Greek text is a very emphatic double negative that means “by no means.” This is the final incarnation of that evil city that Satan has used over the millennia for his purposes against the people of God. The destruction of Babylon that John is seeing will be violent, sudden and so complete that it will never be found again and will be forgotten forever. The warning for John’s readers and for us today is our big idea this morning. ​​ That those who align themselves with Babylon will be forgotten forever. ​​ 

The second part of our text is called, “The Sound of Silence” and we see this in verses 22-23a that tell us of the things that are no longer found in the city. This is what those verses say, 22 And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer; 23 and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer;

When Babylon is judged and ceases to exist, her passing will also signal the passing of life as the world knows it. All normal things of this earth will cease. As with any ‘great city’, there are many things that are connected with it and that either draw their life from it, or add their life to it. These things will end with the destruction of Babylon and are described here by the angel.

One, there will be no more music. Music has always been associated with happiness and joy. There will be no more reason for rejoicing for those opposed to God. Music and entertainment will come to an end. This would, of course, speak particularly of ungodly forms of such music and entertainment. Things that have often been used by the devil to corrupt cultures and lead people into immorality.

Two, there will be no more manufacturing. The tools of the craftsmen who furnished the items of luxury will suddenly be as silent as a tomb and the wheels of industry will grind to a halt. There will be no more making or selling of merchandise. The love of things that has often degenerated into idolatry will be no more. People have always been industrious. Man has always found a way to work with his hands and provide for his family. Man works because he has hope for the future. When Babylon falls, the hope for the future for those opposed to God vanishes with her.

Three, there’s an end to the food industries. The millstones which grind the grain for flour will also stop. The food supply, which at that point is already in short supply, will now disappear altogether.

Four, there’s an end to the constant, twenty-four hour activity of the marketplace as illustrated in the loss of the lamps to illuminate commerce both night and day. The lamp which lights the homes and businesses will be permanently dark. A light in the window of a house suggests happiness, hope and family. All these are taken away when Babylon falls. The homes of the world will be plunged into darkness and despair! Darkness, symbolizing the spiritual state of the world and the system of the beast, will now engulf everything. Imagine how it would be to experience total blackness. This would again echo the plague of darkness in Egypt.

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Throughout history God has always had a witness in the world. That witness has always been at war with the kingdom of Satan. Here God is telling us that the light of a candle will no longer shine.  This could also mean there is no longer a flicker of the gospel to be taught anymore because the day of salvation for those who oppose God is now past.

This ‘city that never sleeps’ will now sleep forever never to wake again. Today, when we think of a city that never sleeps, we would probably say New York City. It was probably one of the first to be called the city that never sleeps. New York's subway system never closes, tons of restaurants and bars are open until the wee hours of the morning and the Staten Island Ferry is still hopping at 2 a.m. You wouldn’t have trouble finding food and or entertainment at any time in New York City. Imagine if we woke up tomorrow and New York City was totally destroyed and had become a ghost town. ​​ Imagine, no more Times Square on New Year’s Eve. It would be a shock to our way of life. Babylon will be destroyed and it will be a shock to those who have aligned themselves with that evil, idolatrous, God-hating city.

Lastly, there will be no more marriage celebrations. No longer will love bring a hopeful couple to an altar to exchange their vows. There will be no more beautiful brides in their white dresses. No more nervous grooms in their tuxedos. There will be no flower girls, ring bearers and wedding bells. Weddings are times filled with hope and happiness. A couple meets at the altar with their hearts full of love and hope for the future. They begin their relationship with great expectations. When Babylon falls, there will be no more love, no more marriages and no more hope for the future! John’s readers might well have recalled the words of God through Jeremiah in Jeremiah 7:34: “I will remove from the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and gladness and the voices of the bridegroom and the bride, for the land will become a desolate waste.”

As Christ prophesied, men and women will be marrying and remarrying without any real concern for marriage as a divine institution of God. When marriage is entered into, it will be a mere convenience if they bother to marry at all. Life during the Tribulation will go on as usual in spite of its judgments, which shows just how callused people will become and how much they will be enslaved to the luxuries and pleasures of the world. All the activities of this ungodly system together will pridefully proclaim, “We can be happy and fulfilled and great without God.” But it will come to a sudden and violent end. Note that we’re told that none of these things will be found anymore in the city, or seen any more in the city or heard any more in the city. The diversity of occupations indicates the impossibility of escape—the destruction will fall on all classes of people alike. The sound of silence in Babylon will be final and deafening and that silence will be a testimony to God's devastating judgment.

The third part of our text this morning is called the “Reason for Judgment” and is found in verses 23b-24. This is what it says, “for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.”

There are three reasons we are given for the judgment of Babylon being so final. One, we’re told it is because Babylon’s “merchants” were “the great men of the earth”. The expression “great men” in the Greek means “the chief, noble, the magnates of society.” These are the men who were looked up to, worshipped, honored, adored, and presented to everyone as the ultimate. They had the power in society; they controlled the destinies of men, and lived in the super luxury which everyone is supposed to want and that people think will give them happiness.

They were made ‘great’ in a strictly human sense by Babylon and they held their greatness over others in an oppressive and inhumane manner. Matthew 20:25 says this,But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.” And James 5:1-6 say this, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.  Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!  Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.”

It is because of this viewpoint that judgment comes. It is a perversion and a prostitution of divine values and priorities. These were people who worshipped and longed for wealth and luxury and thereby compromised their principles and priorities to play the harlot with the merchants of Babylon. Money and luxury was their god. To them character, righteousness and integrity meant nothing.

Two, we’re told that this judgment upon Babylon is ‘final’ because it deceived all the nations by its “sorcery”. The Greek word for sorcery is farmakeia where we get our word, pharmacy. This is the use of medicine, drugs or potions as in casting spells,” and metaphorically, “to deceive and disorient.” The word was used of poisoning and witchcraft, or trafficking in the demonic. In effect this Babylonian system will use whatever method it can to poison the minds of the people and deceive them—demonism, drugs, and various forms of propaganda will be the norm.

This evil system was a world conspiracy by the merchants in control of the commercial system of Babylon to completely deceive the people. People were lead to believe that salvation was in achieving riches and success. That is the lie of the devil! It is better to have none of this world’s goods, than for this world’s goods to have you. Proverbs 11:4 says, Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. Proverbs 11:28 says, He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.

Thirdly, we’re told that this judgment upon Babylon is so final because in the city was found “the blood” of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth”. The word “blood” is plural which stresses the many deaths and the magnitude of Babylon’s crimes against the people of God all through history. Babylon as a system was responsible for all the murders of God’s people from the murder of Abel to the time of John’s Revelation and to the end of time. Therefore, because of Babylon's accumulated guilt it will be destroyed once and for all at the end of the great tribulation.

Jesus similarly lamented over the generation of the city of Jerusalem in His time in Matthew 23:35. This is Jesus talking, “so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” Jerusalem’s destruction was temporary, Babylon’s will not be.

At the end Babylon will be joyless, dark, and silent, and will stand out as a monument to the utmost vengeance of God. Babylon will fall and will never rise again. Her destruction can’t be cured or changed. ​​ 

What a horrifying place this future city will be! What a dreadful system of ungodliness it will embody! No wonder God’s judgment will, at last, fall upon it so suddenly, violently and completely!

Pastor Stuart three weeks ago told us in chapter 18, verse 4 that we, God’s faithful people, are commanded to ‘come out’ of Babylon, lest we “share in her sins” and “receive of her plagues. But why do we need to “come out” of Babylon? What’s the harm?

In an issue of Atlantic magazine there was an article by Prof. Bernard Lewis of Princeton, the dean of American orientalists. ​​ At that time, before his retirement and disappearance from public life, he was a respected scholar and commentator upon all things having to do with Islam. In the article he notes that the two “expansive and civilization-defining” religions in the world are Christianity and Islam. Both of them, he says, have a problem with tolerance. And that is inevitable. For they both believe that they have the final truth from God and that everyone must believe that truth and accept it and live by it or else. Prof. Lewis, like so many others who think the same way, failed to recognize that everyone is intolerant in this way; the difference is simply what they happen to be intolerant about! Nevertheless in the article Bernard Lewis expressed the hope that more and more Christians would become Christians of the modern, relativistic type who believe that all religions lead to God, that there are many ways to conceive of religious truth, that there is nothing really important at stake in the choice of one religion or another. If so religion would increasingly become no big deal, certainly nothing to fight and die for as did the terrorists of 9/11. In that way we would all get along.

But to say that – and of course there are many others besides Bernard Lewis saying just that to the Christian church today – to wish that is precisely the same thing as saying that Christians should not come out of Babylon. It is to wish for the reverse of what John commands Christians to do. It is to wish that Christians would make their peace with Babylon, which, of course, is precisely what Babylon wants them to do! Then they will have forsaken Christ and gone over to the Devil, left the City of God to become a citizen of the City of Man.

I remind you that the Book of Revelation was written to and for the Church. This book was to be read in the worship services of the churches John was writing to. If you ask why churches go bad, why they lose their way, why Christian churches in great number, especially in Europe, the United States, and in Canada that once stood for the gospel of Christ, now spout smooth, vapid and toothless slogans to largely empty sanctuaries; why such churches no longer interest their own children; why they never witness the revolutionary impact of the gospel of Christ on human life; the answer is this: in every case they refused to come out of the world, they got into a double harness with unbelief, they weakened, blurred, smudged and then finally obliterated the bright line that distinguishes faith and unbelief, wickedness from righteousness, darkness from light, God from idols. They did precisely what Bernard Lewis hoped Christians would do! By refusing to keep the difference between Babylon and the New Jerusalem clear, by refusing to keep the distinction between the two kingdoms front and center, and then by refusing to live out that distinction, they lost the distinction altogether and became part of Babylon and didn’t even realize it in most cases. Many of Babylon’s most beautiful churches were once Christian churches! When Christians merge with Babylon, Babylon does not become Christian; Christians become Babylon! We need to come out of Babylon because if we continue to align ourselves with Babylon, we will be forgotten forever. That brings us to our next step for this morning. My next step is to come out of Babylon so I will not share in her sins and be forgotten forever.

My title this morning is taken from a Willie Nelson song called, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.” It also comes from Monday Night Football back in the days of Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford and Don Meredith. Don Meredith was a star quarterback in college at SMU and later for the Dallas Cowboys. His style was a down home, country boy image being from Texas. One of the funniest things he would do took place toward the end of games in which the outcome was obvious – one team was just too far ahead and it was a foregone conclusion that they were going to win the game. In this situation, Meredith would break into the old country western song by Willie Nelson…“Turn out the lights…the party’s over”. There is coming a day when the One who is the Light of the world, will turn out the lights of the world. The code name that is used here for the world is “Babylon.” What we have seen today is this evil city and its people in the end of time who are only worried about the “party” will be destroyed and will be forgotten forever.

In the late 90’s Judy and I were working with the youth at Uriah UMC just over the way from Idaville. For about three or four years in a row we would have a New Year’s Eve lock in. I remember our lock in on December 31, 1999. For weeks or even months everyone was worried about computers and other infrastructure in the area and the entire United States. What was going to happen when the clock struck midnight as we rung in the New Year and a new millennium? Would the world become dark and be plunged into chaos? ​​ Of course, I put a flyer together. I always thought I had a flair for the dramatic so would try to come up with a catchy phrase when putting events together. It actually comes in handy even now when I work on titles for sermons etc. So when I put the flyer together for this particular New Year’s Eve Lock In it read, “Where you going to be when the lights go out?” My premise was what better place than church to be at if “the world was coming to an end”. So as I finish this morning, I want to leave you with a question, “Where will you find yourself when the lights go out and the party’s over?” Will you find yourself aligned with Babylon, with this world, and forgotten forever, or will you be aligned with God and the Lamb and spend forever in their presence?

As the ushers prepare to take up the communication cards and the praise team comes to lead us in a final song, bow your heads with me as I pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, we confess that at times we are “of the world” and not just “in” it more than we care to admit. This morning we ask you for the strength to “come out” of Babylon. We do not want to share in her sins and be forgotten and separated from you forever. I pray that we would heed your Holy Spirit in our lives daily and follow your command to “be in the world but not of it.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.