Revelation 18:4-5 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.”
Is this a call from God for Christians to retreat into a monastic life? Clearly, from Church history, we see that it is not.
As we saw yesterday in Isaiah 47, ’Babylon’ symbolises in Scripture a worldview that has no place for God, or the authority of his written Word – a worldview that is progressively taking hold even in countries like our own that have been blessed with a Christian heritage. The call to ‘come out of her’ must be a call to a ‘mindset’ that is different from that of ‘the world’, rather than just an ‘address’ that is isolated from the world. Over the years, too many well-meaning professing believers have retreated into the isolation of monasteries but have taken a worldly mindset in there with them!
At the beginning of his ministry in our world, in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5-7), Jesus defines a mindset that describes how his followers are to live IN THE WORLD as recognisable and identifiable citizens of HIS Kingdom, under HIS authority and rule. He warns us that a life so lived WILL be marked by persecution, a persecution in the face of which, in fact, we are to ‘REJOICE and BE GLAD’ because it will be a sure sign that we truly BELONG to him and are destined to spend ETERNITY WITH HIM in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:10-12)!
At the close of his time on Earth he reassured his disciples of the ‘inevitability’ and the ‘logic’ of all this: “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. … I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. … I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:1-3, 20, 33).
Jesus’ brother James (actually his half-brother) would have pondered these truths, so later he wrote to suffering Christians, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to KEEP ONESELF FROM BEING POLLUTED BY THE WORLD.” (James 1:27). It is ‘keeping oneself from being POLLUTED by the world’ that constitutes ‘coming out’ of ‘Babylon’, not changing our geographical location.
In the light of the warning given to John in Revelation, it means adopting, and actively continuing to maintain, a mindset firmly focussed on Christ and his Word, to say with the Apostle Paul, “To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) – and to be very careful and restrictive about what we watch and read.
– Bruce Christian