The Worthlessness of Worldliness

"The kings of the earth who committed fornication [they knit their lives to the things of this world] and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning."
-Revelation 18:9, emphasis added

The possessions of this world are not worth coveting or worshiping. The words "weep and lament" speak of an uncontrollable sobbing and beating of the breast in anguish. Worldly possessions won't last forever-they are insecure and will not endure in the end. Everything you see around you is going to be destroyed. Therefore, "since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?" (2 Peter 3:11).

Worldly possessions can't meet our deepest needs.Look at what happens in these verses: " ‘ "Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come." And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore. . . . 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' " (Revelation 18:10-14).

That passage lists eight categories of possessions that are going to be destroyed:

1. Possessions of Security: In the entire world's history, the wealth of the rich has been protected against inflation, warfare, and decline because of their investments in gold, silver, and precious stones.

2. Possessions of External Beauty: These are the fine materials of clothing, decorating, and fashion.

3. Possessions of Exquisite Furnishings: This refers to rare woods such as thyanine (a single table top of this choice wood can cost $10,000) and other expensive building materials like ivory and marble.

4. Possessions of Personal Luxury: These are the fragrances of perfumes and incenses, the oils of ointments and beautifiers, the spices of exotic cuisine.

5. Possessions of Personal Indulgence: The inclusion of wine would cover all the personal intoxicants, including distilled spirits (not known in the ancient world) and drugs (known and used back then). The oil named may be the olive oil of the ancient world or a prophetic look ahead to the vast petroleum industry.

6. Possessions of Life: The list also has foodstuffs for daily life; this would be all agricultural products plus the named fine meats.

7. Possessions of Transportation: The word for chariot is not the normal two-wheeler that we might picture from movies like Ben Hur; it is the four-wheeled wagon (Greek: rheda) of travel. This may be a prophetic look at the vast automotive industry.

8. Possessions of Slavery: The inclusion of slaves ("souls of men") may indicate a resurgence of slavery which, though outlawed by Christian nations in the nineteenth century, continues in Asia and Africa. This could also be a spiritual reference to the sale of indulgences. All these things will be gone.

In four verses in Revelation 18 the earth dwellers lament their loss of luxuries, money, and things (vv. 9, 11, 15, 19) as well as the lightning--like speed of their loss (vv. 10, 17, 19). The "weeping and wailing" is the sound of the uncontainable bawling of someone who has lost something irreplaceable. But in all the weeping and wailing, they fail to even notice that the greatest loss is of their own souls! What a tragic scene!

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