In chapter sixteen, God’s judgement is poured out on the earth. The angel in charge of the waters makes a statement in response to our horror at seeing this happen to fellow human beings: “You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your people and your prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve” (16:5-6). The altar itself responds with its own vindication of God “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments” (16:7). God is declared to be just in punishing humans in this way because he is holy and they have sinned, not just against him, but against his people. Revelation 16:9 provides further evidence of their obstinacy: “They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.” There is recognition that God is definitely in charge of these plagues; there is no question that he is causing them to suffer and they rightly assign the source of their trouble, but instead of blaming themselves and repenting for their actions which caused their suffering, they curse God (Cf. 16:11).
The rest of this section details the collapse of Babylon the Great. It is not referring to the actual city of Babylon in modern day Iraq because Rome was the Babylon of that period which opposed God and persecuted his people. Rome has long fallen and now Babylon refers to any and every world power or system which systemically opposes God. The spirit of Babylon has been rampant on both Main and Wall streets in the last decades and we are currently seeing the world reap its fruit. Not just in the US or the west but in every city which worships Babylon instead of God. Fortunately, there is still time for those who do not worship God to repent and turn to him. I was just reading in the New York Times today that Evangelical churches are recording huge attendance increases as people seek God in these tumultuous times. Unfortunately, the article takes quite a pragmatic approach to the issue when it should be urging people to get right with God before the end does come, either personally or collectively.
Speaking of the end for people, I read yesterday on the BBC about a $50,000,000,000.00 fraud by Wall Street broker Bernard Madoff, the former head of Nasdaq. His hedge fund turned into a giant pyramid scheme. Brad Friedman, a lawyer for some of the investors, said to the NY Times: “There are people who were very, very well off a few days ago who are now virtually destitute. They have nothing left but their apartments or homes – which they are going to have to sell to get money to live on.” It seems no exaggeration when Revelation says, “In one hour she has been brought to ruin!” (18:19). I wonder how many more houses of cards will collapse as people (investors) scramble to find security and truth in the midst of this calamity.