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Double Punishment

Revelation 18:5b-8
... and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Pour her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torment and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, "I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow;I will never mourn." Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her. (NIVUK)

Babylon is overthrown by the consortium of world rulers who swallowed her lies to achieve their own greatness (Revelation 17:16). But really this ideological monster will be defeated by the hand of God (Revelation 17:17; 19:1-2). The unrepentant, Christ-hating, creation-exploiting, self-glorifying, illusion-promising, seductive 'woman' will not have the last word. The Lord sees each cascade of evil rippling out to create so much pain: He will judge her, severely.

God dealt that way with wayward Israel. His chastening was to bring her back from spiritual adultery to be faithful to Him again through the punishment of 70 years of exile in Babylon. That was described by Isaiah as, '… receiving from the Lord's hand double for all her sins' (Isaiah 40:1-2). In the Last Days, God will sit as a refiner of silver; purifying His people in the heat of troubles (Malachi 3:2-4). God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:5-11). So, it is not only the wicked who feel the rebuke of Father God, but His own people too. However, the end of the unrepentant and repentant is very different. Isaiah 61:7 speaks of God's redeemed people: "Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours."

The overthrow of 'Babylon' will take place in one day. Such a sudden reversal of the once-proud empire of ideology might have seemed impossible but, in the end, the world rulers will realise that it is useless and hollow. The plagues of death, grief, famine and fire will wipe out whatever benefits the world leaders thought they might gain from aligning to her anti-Christ agenda. As Tucker writes, 'The righteous God of the universe has not overlooked the sins of the elite power brokers who have used commerce and government for centuries to live luxuriously at the expense of others.' But this is not just social justice; it is a demonstration of the cause and effect morality which is God's right to exercise (Galatians 6:7-8).

God's justice is a part of His character as well as His actions. It is a huge comfort to His people who have been oppressed and ridiculed, for whom martyrdom is a real possibility. Although, like Jesus they forgive their enemies (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60), they know that justice is not in their hands but in God's who is always just. This prevents believers from rage and revenge knowing that they must leave it to God (Romans 12:17-19). Although the downfall of Babylon will be acted out on a grand scale towards the end of time, the principles hold good now. God will not forget our labours of love (Hebrews 6:10) nor will He forget injustice without repentance. So we may, and must, leave the world in God's hands for Him to deal with as He knows is best.

God of Justice and forgiveness. Thank You for being Just; and for forgiving repentant people who confess that their punishment has been laid upon Jesus. Forgive me for treating sin lightly, or for taking justice into my own hands. Please help me to trust You to exercise justice and to forgive those who sin against me – knowing that they are answerable to You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams