Evil Has an Expiration Date
Article by Jeff Mingee, DMin
It can seem odd, even wrong, to rejoice at someone else’s demise. But not so in every case. Moviemakers have often captured this moment. The plot line builds to an unavoidable conflict between two forces. The enemy you’ve come to hate has finally met his demise at the hand of the hero you’ve come to love. And when the enemy has been defeated and the smoke is still rising from the battlefield, there’s a moment when the good guys realize they’ve won and, battle-worn and bruised though they be, they raise their swords and cheer.
In Revelation 18, John sees the fall of Babylon—the evil world system that has opposed God since Satan’s first deceiving whisper in Genesis 3. Immediately afterward, in Revelation 19, John hears the praise of heaven:
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever. (Rev. 19:3)
While the smoke of Babylon’s destruction is still rising, heaven breaks out in song. When Babylon falls into ruin, heaven leaps into rejoicing. So should you, Christian. It’s not folly to rejoice at the ruin of evil. The evil that has caused countless sins against you. The evil that has caused you to commit countless sins against God and others.
Christian, evil’s influence on you has an expiration date. There will be a day when, once and for all, God pours out his just judgment on Babylon and makes his people “lie down in safety” (Hos. 2:18). On that day you will rejoice in full. This knowledge both increases our longing for that day and also empowers our obedience on this day.
Babylon will fall. The scene John describes in Revelation 18–19 stirs in believers a longing for that day. This vision throws fuel on the fire of our faith and increases our yearning for the justice and mercy that will descend from God’s throne. When we see Babylon’s ruin and hear heaven’s rejoicing, our hearts are stirred.
We hunger for the day we can sing with heaven that God has “avenged on her the blood of his servants.” (Rev. 19:2). Martyrs like Polycarp and Jim Elliott wait (Rev. 6:9–11). Countless believers whose names remain unknown but who have suffered at Babylon’s cruel hands wait. But one day they will wait no more.
So great is Babylon’s power and influence that her company includes the “kings of the earth” (Rev. 6:15; 17:2, 18; 18:3, 9; 19:19). The powers that be are under her sway. She has stretched her flirty fingers throughout “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages” (Rev. 17:15). As Joel Beeke explains, “no nation, no class, and no generation is safe from the seduction and deception of this woman.”
This isn’t just an American problem. It isn’t a problem just for one gender or ethnicity or socioeconomic group. Babylon has seduced us all. John confronts us with the scope of her evil influence. But he also reminds us that Christ has saved “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation!” (Rev. 5:9). Yes, around his throne is a multitude no one can number! And we long for the day we’re all gathered there
Not only is Babylon powerful; her strategy is to seduce and deceive. She has enticed kings and inebriated earth-dwellers with her wine. Beeke warns, “Far more Christians have been slain spiritually by the seduction of this woman than by her opposition.” Such was the case with Demas, who began as Paul’s fellow worker but ended by deserting Paul, having fallen “in love with this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10).
There are many in our churches for whom Satan has begun to lay his traps, enticing their hearts with the pleasures of this world or the philosophies of this age. He is seducing them. The Puritan Thomas Brooks opens his powerful book Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices with these words:
Satan’s first device to draw the soul into sin is, to present the bait—and hide the hook; to present the golden cup—and hide the poison; to present the sweet, the pleasure, and the profit that may flow in upon the soul by yielding to sin—and to hide from the soul the wrath and misery that will certainly follow the committing of sin.
To borrow Solomon’s words, Babylon is the “forbidden woman” whose lips “drip honey” but in the end is “bitter as wormwood” (Prov. 5:3–4). Her seductive pull in this world demands the believer’s diligent obedience to King Jesus. This is why Paul warns us to let no one “take [us] captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).
The justice that God pours out on Babylon is a sobering vision of the justice that will be poured out on us if we refuse to hide ourselves in Christ. Babylon, though her doom is sure, still entices and lures. She welcomes those who pass by. She promises rewards and hides the cost. As tempting as she is, Christ is better.
Babylon’s days are numbered. Therefore we can and we must reject her siren song, lest we partake of her ruin.
A victory party is coming. With Babylon’s ruin to warn us and with heaven’s rejoicing to welcome us, we must resolve to walk faithfully with Christ, until at last we dwell with him forever.
Jeff Mingee (DMin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the pastor of Catalyst Church in Newport News, Virginia. He also serves as a church planting strategist with the SBC of Virginia and helps lead the Hampton Roads regional chapter of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of several books, including Forgiveness: A Risk Worth Taking (A Verse by Verse Journey through Philemon), Called to Cooperate: A Biblical Survey and Application of Teamwork, and a forthcoming book on exercising dominion in a digital world. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Newport News with their sons Aiden and Carter.