Revelation (Part 36): The Fall of the Prostitute
We discussed what the fall of the Prostitute is—the failure of human-focused society’s belief that it can satisfy self with truth, goodness, and beauty. We also talked about when this occurred. In the same way that the Christ’s victory over sin and death was won at the atonement and continues through this age and the gospel in its completed form was first presented at the atonement and continues through this age, so was the fall of human-focused society in their false attempts to gain satisfaction in themselves sealed at the atonement and continues through this age. In other words, this age (between the first and second comings of Christ) incorporates all the significance of the atonement in both redemption and judgment.
The nature of this fall is in the search for truth, goodness, and beauty. God made us all as human beings imaging him, desirous of those qualities that are the essence of who God is. God is truth; God is goodness; and God is beauty. Relationship with him rests on those three qualities of his very essence. Turning away from him in sin does nothing to diminish our individual desire to be satisfied in truth, goodness, and beauty (TGB). But by turning away from the source of TGB, we are condemned to search without ever finding satisfaction. This search, satisfied in the God-focused but miserably elusive to the human-focused, is the nature of this interadvental period and why the human-focused can demand their ideas be followed when their dreams are never met and demand tolerance for themselves while, in their frustration, being so intolerant.
In conjunction with these thoughts of human-focused expectations and frustrations is the urging on from the spirit world. Verse 2 of Revelation 18’s introduction tells us that Babylon (the Prostitute—human-focused society) has “become a dwelling for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit.” Why is this so? The Great Deceiver (Rev 12:9), Satan himself, with his demons are simply doing that which angels do—they deliver messages. The angels of God deliver his message of TGB to the minds and hearts of those willing to look to him—to trust him—for that TGB message and blessing. The demons (fallen angels) do not have their source in God. So the message they bring must necessarily be devoid of TGB and therefore be filled with deceit.
This fall, then, plays itself out in the image of sexual immorality—the searching for satisfaction in TGB, yet searching for it anywhere except with its source—God. But notice that verse 3 tells us in this search of the human-focused, they find wrath. We have discussed the wrath of God before. The most effective and impactful expression that God can give to show his displeasure is to withdraw himself. This thought may be difficult at first to understand because for us, our withdrawal simply has more impact for ourselves than it does for someone else. But that is because our withdrawal—the withdrawal of our essence (our material/physical essence)—is different from God withdrawing his essence—the very existence of truth, goodness, and beauty. As God withdraws, TGB is removed, leaving in its place only horror, evil, frustration, despair, and all the dreadful realities of the absence of TGB. We saw this concept shown vividly in the bowl judgments. And it is what Paul emphasizes in Romans 1:18–32. Constantly, Paul tells us that God’s wrath (v.18) results in God delivering them over (giving them up) in verse 24, verse 26, and verse 28. God withdrawing delivers his wrath of horrendous consequences to the evil hearted. And this thought is the heart of the emphasis in Revelation 18 verses 4 through 8.
And the thought continues through the rest of the chapter. We had seen in chapter 17 that the Prostitute seemed to have allure and wealth and power (17:4–6). But each of these things, we find in chapter 18, fall apart. In verses 9 and 10, the kings of the earth mourn the loss of power. In verses 11 through 17a, the merchants mourn the loss of her allure in all the trappings intent on making her seem desireable. And in verses 17b through 20, the sailors mourn the loss of wealth. Of course, these are pictures—images of the reality that they depict. The reality—the loss being mourned—is the realization that the grasping at what would seem to provide satisfaction—the wealth, allure, and power that human-focused society mistakes for truth, goodness, and beauty—fails to satisfy and leaves them miserably starved in their frustration.
The chapter ends in verses 21 through 24 with an angel tossing a huge stone, like a millstone, into the sea, equating that toss with the destruction of this human-focused society. Even in this act, we realize that God’s judgment is not that he actively seeks to beat, burn, and torture. The throwing of the stone into the sea is a discarding, providing the same consistent picture of God in his wrath—a turning away or withdrawing of his TGB and leaving the horror that is the absence of TGB.
Chapter 19 presents the final section of the battle of this age that began back in chapter 14. In this chapter we see Christ riding forth. But the preparation leading to that covers the first half of the chapter.
Again, since this whole battle scene of this age relates to the interadvental period—that period from Christ’s atonement to his return—it is of course natural that the start of chapter 19, including the start of a new perspective on this period—would begin at the beginning of this period—at the atonement. Verse 1 shows a vast multitude in heaven cheering the victory of the atonement. Who is this multitude? The obvious sense of the scene is that these are the redeemed—but specifically the redeemed at the time of the atonement. In other words, these are the OT saints that had, in their lives on earth, given themselves to God, trusting he would fulfill his covenant commitment to redeem. At the atonement, God’s righteousness (covenant fulfillment) is realized, and those OT saints who had been waiting burst forth in praise of God.
Their cheer includes the pronouncement that salvation, glory, and power belong to God. Salvation, of course, refers to the redemption just won—rescue in redemption through the death and resurrection of the perfect man Jesus. Glory is cheered because it was God’s glory that motivated the rescue. God’s glory stands in direct contrast to the previous chapter’s display of the frustration of the world in grasping at wealth, allure, and power to be satisfied. God’s glory is his TGB expressed in faith, in hope, and primarily in love. And his power is not the watered-down human-focused idea of mere strength over the physical. God’s power is the surety of his purpose. Though the world of the human-focused oppose him and though they are supported by the principalities and powers and rulers of darkness, nothing can stand against the accomplishment of God’s redemptive plan fulfilling his Zion purpose of everlasting love relationship with his image bearers of faith.
Verse 3 tells us that the OT saints sing out hallelujah a second time. But notice throughout the praise is associated with the destruction of the Prostitute. We must remember that the judgment aspect of the atonement is not separate from the blessing aspect of redemption. It is necessarily the other side of the coin. As God turns toward those of faith, he necessarily turns away from those without faith. This entire section from chapter 12 on has been focusing on the judgment side of things (although not ignoring the blessing to those of faith). Thus, in this chapter, the appreciation of the OT saints for their rescue also carries with it the appreciation of the dividing judgment of God.
Verse 4 brings in the 24 elders and four living creatures that occurred together before in Revelation 4. Back there they stood as gatekeepers, standing between evil humanity and the holy God. But here in Revelation 19, they give their Amen to the chorus of OT voices praising God for their redemption. Yes, they confirm, redemption is accomplished. God’s people may cross the sea in love relationship with their redeeming God.
Verse 5 shows a solitary voice directing praise to God. This is the voice of Jesus himself—the redeemer who carried out the atonement. As Jesus had done throughout his earthly ministry (read the Gospel of John), here again he directs praise to God.
And in verse 6, the OT saints respond to Jesus’s direction with continued praise, their voices sounding as thunder, depicting the thrilling satisfaction in victory.
The saints cry out that the Lord God has begun to reign (19:6b). Why only begun? Hasn’t God been sovereign since before the world began? Yes, but here the focus is on the kingdom of God (as referenced by Jesus in John 18:36). The kingdom of God is the community of his image bearers who have faith and relationship with him. That community was not in existence until the atonement brought them to relationship with God. Thus, their new status in relationship, won through the atonement, is the kingdom over which God now reigns.
Verse 7 changes the picture. For a moment, the kingdom image is put aside in favor of the marriage picture. The marriage of the Lamb has come—again showing that the marriage image and feast to follow (verse 9) is not some future event after Christ’s second coming, but rather is what has been accomplished at his first coming and continues through this age. We are being married now. We are feasting now. The marriage feast image is of being sustained in relationship with God. And we wear white robes (19:8b)—representing righteousness. What is our righteousness? Well, certainly we share in the righteousness of Jesus. But I think here it is especially intended to show our fulfillment of covenant obligation as opposed to the human-focused non-fulfillment. Our covenant obligation is faith. God through Christ has done all the work of reconciliation. We do not merit it. But faith in God is our acceptance of his gift, without which it is impossible to have relationship.
We should not be troubled by the perspective of verse 9. It appears from that verse that we are invited guests to the wedding. But Paul calls us the bride. As we see in the Matthew 22 parable, the guests are brought into relationship. Yes, in another perspective we are the bride, but the contrast with the human-focused here points out those to whom God turns his attention in the image of inviting.