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The Right Path - The Book of Revelation
Week 14, 2018
Next we will cover Revelation 18:11-20, which continues with the prophecy of Babylon and how we should respond to this system:
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.' Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance
and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, 'What is like this great city?'
They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ďAlas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.'
"Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!" (NKJV)
This text especially focuses on the character of the counterfeit church as a major source of commerce. During the Middle Ages the church was not only a major source of commerce, but the primary source. There were others, but by far the church was the largest. There is nothing wrong with commerce, but it was something that the Lord rejected for His Fatherís house. This was probably because of how easily it corrupted the spiritual purity His house of prayer required.
The two pillars of the temple of Solomon were named after a priest and a businessman. Business was therefore intended to be a pillar in the temple as it represents basic human interchange. However, it is one thing to love and promote fair trade and commerce, and quite another to turn the church into a business. Doing this would bring in many with motives different from the holy purpose of the church, leading to idolatry. Remember that money is an ultimate idol of the human heart. An idol is both what we love more than God and what we put our trust in in more than God.
The corruption the church in the Middle Ages experienced when it was made into the state church and given political power was just as great. The church was intended to have prophetic influence with governments , culture, and commerce, but it lost its prophetic authority in these realms when it became part of them. Even worse, it drew into its leadership corrupt people who wanted to use the church to make money or promote their political ambitions.
These sources of corruption and compromise were so devastating that they quickly turned the church into the opposite of what she was called to be. This Mystery Babylon is called a harlot because she had many partners. Harlots give themselves for gain, not love, and that is what the counterfeit church became. There is more in Revelation about the corruption of this counterfeit church, but what should we do to avoid making our churches today into ďhouses of merchandise?Ē As one who writes and sells books, I have considered this issue deeply for over thirty years. I donít claim to have all of the answers, but I think Iíve learned some of them.
First, I consider it dangerous to use the church as a marketplace. Of course, virtually everything we do is dangerous, but this should caution us to be circumspect. Are the products we sell in our bookstores spiritually beneficial to the people, or are we just trying to make money?
I also must search my heart about things like conferences, or churches I agree to speak at. I check my motives to see if I am taking them because of the potential income or because the Lord is sending me. I have never demanded anything for speaking, and I do not invite those to speak at our conferences or churches who demand a certain amount. We well understand the expenses they incur and want to bless them generously, but itís the demanding part that can separate the true messengers from the hirelings.
There are other things we do as well to combat this tendency to make the Lordís house a house of merchandise. I do not claim that we are doing this perfectly, but we know how important this is. When I started MorningStar Publications, we would not accept money for our books, but rather gave them away. Then the Lord said that He had not told me to do this, but that a religious spirit had. He instructed me to check the impact of giving the books away. Upon investigation, I found out that only about 10% of the books we gave away were being read. When we started charging a modest price for them, this was reversedóabout 90% of what was purchased was read. However, good stewardship compelled me to sell them for a modest price, and we still give them away to any who cannot afford to pay for them.
Again, there is a ditch on either side of the path of life. Legalism is not the answer to lawlessness. We can overreact and fall into the ditch on the other side. I have done this on both sides of this issue. It may have been easier if the Lord had given us clearer guidelines in His Word, but He did not do this for a reason. The Lord did not give us clear guidelines about many important issues because He wanted us to follow His Spirit and do what we do from the heart.
Now consider that Jesus did not turn over the tables of the money changers in the temple because they were money changers, but rather because they were in the temple. There are indications that these had become greedy and started taking advantage of the pilgrims. They started outside, but then they moved inside and took more and more of the space intended for ministry. The temple needed money changers because so many came from foreign lands to worship. They also needed those who sold the sacrificial animals because the pilgrims could not have carried these animals with them. However, the merchants needed to stay outside of the place reserved for ministry to the people. They also needed to be fair traders if they were going to market to worshippers.
It is along such spiritual and moral lines that it can be the most difficult to stay on the right path and avoid extremes. We should not try to walk or live close to them unless we are called to, and then we must do it with the utmost care and vigilance. We should seek to know and understand the devastation brought to the church in history by this issue. That is why these things are illuminated in Revelation.
next week 15