The Day the World Wept
“Alas! Alas! You great city,
You mighty city, Babylon!
For in a single hour your judgment has come.”
If you have a Bible translation that follows the literary scheme over the verse numeration, you will notice that this section is set off with laments separated by commentary. The laments are sounded by merchants, shipmasters, seamen, and all who made their living, even fortunes, through trade with the Great Prostitute, all of which now rises in smoke far off. Ancient writers testify to the wealth of Rome and especially her upper class, her many luxuries listed in verses eleven through thirteen, including, “human souls.”
“Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen,
In purple and scarlet, adorned with gold and jewels, and with pearls!
For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”
“In a single hour,” we are told, “all this wealth has been laid waste.” When the Lord judges, it is a complete judgment. There are intermittent judgments whereby the Lord seeks to bring repentance as we saw with the seven trumpets. But there are judgments wherein hearts are so hardened that God turns people over unto themselves (Romans 1:18-32). We see this here. There is no more offer of redemption: the great city is completely destroyed. Notice that those who weep weep over the city, and not over their sins. They weep over their means of wealth—nothing more, for that is all they cared about, all that their lives meant to them. Their lives were about the world, and the world was their lives. And God’s judgment is so severe, so final, so decisive, the great city is destroyed in but an hour.
“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets,
For God has given judgment for you against her!”
I struggle with those scholars who see the saints rejoicing over the overthrow of the wicked as somehow sub-Christian and thus whitewash such passages as the saints rejoicing over God’s defense of His own honor against the wicked. This is not the reading of the last line above. The Israelites danced over the bodies of dead Egyptians lying in the sand. The martyrs under the altar prayed for vengeance. If such rejoicing over God’s judgments “for you against her” be sub-Christian, then so is God.