How the Wicked Pine for Babylon
God’s people are given another wonderful scene in chapter eighteen – the scene of the fall of Babylon, the Great Prostitute, to whom we were introduced yesterday. You will remember that Babylon is any city or world system that seduces mankind into the sin and degradation that are part of this world. Babylon is full of adultery and infidelity, pride and luxury – and so she is personified as a prostitute. She is the polar opposite of our Lord and of the city he has founded in heaven, sometimes referred to in Scripture as Mount Zion. Here, we see Babylon fallen, cast down, burned up, and destroyed.
In chapter nineteen, we will hear heaven rejoice over the destruction of Babylon. But for now, it is important to notice how the wicked feel over her destruction. Notice that the kings of the earth weep and wail over her, for they had committed sexual immorality with her and had grown rich by consorting with the Prostitute. The merchants weep and mourn for her, because the source of their wealth is now burning up. The sailors lift up a lament as well and throw dust on their heads: “What city was like the great city!” These all gnash their teeth as their mistress is ruined; her ruin is their ruin.
So the wicked increase in wickedness, and regret the loss of the fount that provided them such sinful pleasures. For sin is lodged deep in the heart of men, and they will not be easily shaken from it (Jeremiah 17:9); yea, cannot be torn from it till God moves the heart of a man and makes a saint out of what was before reprobate. So unregenerate man pines away for his sin, and is angry when he is denied what he perceives as his right – the right to indulgence and consumption, to pride and contempt, to lust and sensuality. And he will demand his rights, even if it kills him – even if he must kill others to get them.
So the warning comes to the faithful: “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins.” Babylon is no place for the people of God. “Go out … and be separate.” (2 Corinthians 6:16-18). The warning continues, “Lest you share in her plagues.” The wise man asks: “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned” (Proverbs 6:27)? The righteous owe her no pity, and if one does pity her, one wonders if it be for some longing to be with her. Let evil men pine for Babylon, but let God’s people flee even from her appearance, lest we be burned with her (1 Thessalonians 5:22).