Fair weather friends. Here today, gone tomorrow. It turns out that’s all Rome’s friends were to her.
A mighty angel comes on to the scene and shouts a death notice for Rome:
Babylon the Great has fallen! She has fallen! (18:2)
He also makes one last call to God’s people to be a separate people until the end. We are reminded that holiness is one of the main themes of Revelation:
Come out of here, my people, so that you don’t become embroiled in her sins, and so that you don’t receive any of her plagues. (18:4)
Judgment has come to this wicked woman who thought no harm would come to her, that no one would hold her accountable for her behavior, even the buying and selling of humans (18:13). But she will be paid back double (18:6).
To be sure, Rome’s fall is lamented. But not for the reasons we might expect.
The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, because nobody will buy their cargo anymore. (18:11)
“Alas, alas,” they said, “the great city! Everyone who had ships on the sea could get rich from her wealth, but in a single hour she has become a desert.” (18:19).
The merchants and mariners who cry over Rome’s demise are really crying for themselves. They care about only to the degree it affects them. They are broken up over their loss of business. Not exactly compassion now, is it?
Power intimidates. Power can produce great respect. Power might even engender admiration. But power is not the recipe for loyalty, sacrificial kinship, or even love. When power wanes, so too do the alliances that power brought. Rome only knew how to operate by power. The kingdom of the Lamb is the dominion of love.
Tonight is Christmas Eve. My family has made a bunch to trips to Target and Sam’s Club and the grocery store the past few days. I am thankful those businesses exist. As much driving as many of us do around the holidays, I am glad the big oil companies exist. I look forward to sitting down tonight in peace and order and even a reasonable level of affluence, and I know that I have the sacrifices of soldiers and the tireless hours of civil servants to thank. But when I sit down tonight it will be with my family whom I love. Maybe my family of faith too at a nearby Christmas Eve service. Tomorrow my family will enjoy each other’s presence and we will make time to celebrate the birth of the Lamb. Love breeds love, not power.