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Trading and Shipping in Distress

Revelation 18:14-18
They will say, "The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendour have vanished, never to be recovered." The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out: '"Woe! Woe to you, great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!" 'Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, "Was there ever a city like this great city?" (NIVUK)

The fall of Babylon, in John's vision, is sudden and calamitous. This global anti-Christ powerhouse of politics and commerce which controlled the world was destroyed. The world leaders who were seduced to support it, found that instead of them controlling it, it controlled them. The love of this international marketplace turned to hate. Under God's hand, they destroyed it (Revelation 17:16).

International traders looked at the wholesale destruction in horror. Like a city which has been reduced to a smoking ruin (Revelation 18:9), luxury goods have no value, people have no money, the markets crash shut and everybody has lost everything. The global economy based on greed and consumer desire, collapses. Even the rich people cannot eat their ornate furniture, fine clothing or expensive jewellery (Revelation 18:11-13). Luxury and prestige goods have no value, and their once-powerful owners weep like babies. But there is no comfort in their grief, like a mother separated from her children.

Ships' masters and their crew watch the pall of smoke from afar. There is no place to land their goods, and no safe-haven to hide in. Perhaps even their homes and families have been consumed in the disaster. The more they look the more they shudder to think about the future. This is grief filled with remorse, and without any comfort or hope. So it will be towards the end of time for all who bow to the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Remorse and repentance are very different. Repentance accepts God's right to define what is good and evil, and admits its sin of which it is appalled. Remorse is self-centred self-pity, preoccupied with a passion for self-advancement which admits no wrong and denies God any place while bemoaning its wretchedness. It is the stuff of hell (Luke 16:24), and the pain rises to a crescendo when Jesus Christ returns as Judge (Revelation 1:7). We may not have reached that apocalyptic moment yet, but it is not difficult to see the signs of future catastrophe. It is not social policy which needs to change, but people's hearts. Too easily, the church is drawn to love what God hates – failing to be the distinctive light of Christ. We need these passages of Scripture to realise that it is foolish to go down that road. 2 Peter 3:11-13 says, "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells." Be repentant so that you will not be eternally remorseful.

Holy God. Thank You for being in command of everything, even using unbelievers to achieve Your purposes. Please forgive me for being mesmerised by this world, sharing its ambitions for wealth, comfort and power. Help me to repent of all attitudes which do not represent the Lord Jesus Christ. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams