After John was given the vision of Babylon falling, he hears another voice with a double edged message. One edge cutting into Babylon and her followers and the other challenging God’s people to “give back to her as she has given, pay her back double for what she has done, mix her double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself.” (vv.6-7) These instructions seem to fly in the face of what Jesus taught, that revenge belongs to God alone. So, in Revelation, Christians to “heap burning coals” is in obedience to the commands of Jesus as well as Peter (I Peter 3:9) and Paul (Rom. 12:19-21). This paradox calls for patience, endurance and faithfulness which result in Christians participating in judgment by not taking up the sword, like Jesus, being the slain Lamb of God.
The other edge of the message refers to how the world reacts to the demise of the Babylon/Roman Empire. The three laments from the kings, merchants, and seafarers are repeated, “Woe! Woe! O great city, O Babylon, city of power…” What are they lamenting about? The loss of life? I doubt that. They are lamenting about the loss of revenue, loss of profit, material wealth! I wonder what we, here in America, would lament about should disaster, calamity on a large scale occur? I think about what some people said in light of the oncoming hurricane Florence to the East Coast, “…we’re not evacuating our homes/businesses because we want to be available to see, protect what we own…” At the risk of life, material possessions are a priority? As Christians, when Jesus asks for commitment, what are we committed to? What are we willing to give up for following Christ?