Today, Friday July 08
The Slavery of Materialism and Pleasure
"And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men. The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.' "
In Revelation 18, the final destruction, by God Himself, of economic, commercial and political Babylon, is being described by John. In this chapter we hear at least four voices. The first voice was the voice of destruction by the mighty angel from heaven (vv. 1-3), proclaiming “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen.” The second was a voice from heaven calling God’s people to come out of this worldly ungodly system. “Come out of her, my people” (v. 4). The third is a voice of lamentation (vv. 9-19). When this economic, commercial and political Babylon is destroyed in one hour there is great lamentation by those who have profited by her. They are said to be weeping, lamenting, mourning and wailing”.
John then gives an inventory of some of the commodities that brought wealth to these kings, merchants, and shipmasters. Gold, silver, and precious stones led the list. Then he described costly garments (see also Rev. 18:16) and items made of different materials. "Citron wood" (Rev. 18:12) was valued highly by the Romans who used it for decorative cabinets and other luxury furnishings.
Imported spices were greatly sought in that day, both for foods and for personal use as perfumes. The city of Rome had to depend on imported foods, just as many nations do today. In fact, our great cities would starve were it not for trucks and trains that daily bring in fresh produce and meats.
Last on the list, and most disturbing, is "slaves and the souls of men" (Rev. 18:13). It has been estimated that one third of Rome's population was enslaved; and it was not unusual for 10,000 human beings to be auctioned off in one day in the great slave markets of the Empire. There were probably over 60 million slaves throughout the Empire, people who were treated like pieces of furniture, bought and sold, used and abused.
Is John suggesting that there will, in the end times, be a return to slavery? Perhaps not in the ancient sense, but certainly we can see an increasing loss of freedom in our world today. Persons are "bought and sold" (and even traded!) by athletic teams; and our great corporations more and more seek to control the lives of their officers and workers. As people become more enslaved to luxury, with more bills to pay, they find themselves unable to break loose from the "system."
It would take little imagination to conceive of a universal enslavement under the rule of "the beast" We have already seen that he required his mark on everyone who would buy or sell (Rev. 13:16-17), and he also demanded that all people worship his image. He will promise "freedom," but put men and women in bondage (2 Peter 2:19). He will take advantage of the people's appetites (Rev. 18:14) and use their appetites to enslave them. John may also have had in mind Ezekiel 27, the lament over the fall of Tyre. As you read that chapter, you will find a number of parallels.
I couldn’t help but think of what Paul wrote in Romans 6:16: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” When we yield ourselves to the materialism of the world and the pleasures of the flesh we then become enslaved by them. They control and drive us!
May the Lord help us today to yield our minds and bodies to Jesus Christ and holy living and become slaves to His righteousness!