I don't like moving. I don't like the packing. I don't like the hauling. I don't like the unpacking, sorting, and finding new places for everything in my new place. I don't like moving. But perhaps the thing I dislike most when it comes to the whole moving experience is the obligatory call I have to make to the cable guy. You know how the conversation goes. I call and say, "I've just moved in to a new place and I would like someone to come out and hook up my cable TV and internet." "Okay," the associate responds in her best cheerful tenor, "We can schedule an appointment for two weeks from today between 8 am and 5 pm." "Two weeks from today? Don't you have anything sooner? And can't you give me a more specific window of time than nine hours?" I ask. "No sir," comes the polite reply. "I'm sorry, we can't." And so I wait. And after two weeks, the day finally comes. And I wait again. And I wait and I wait and I wait. And finally, at 4:30 in the afternoon, the cable guy shows up. And 15 minutes later, he's finished. All that waiting for 15 minutes of labor. How frustrating.
After reading about a vile prostitute named Babylon in Revelation 17 (cf. Revelation 17:5) and how she became "drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus" (Revelation 17:6), we now read about this woman's demise in today's reading from Revelation 18. And her demise is a spectacular one. A chorus laments:
"Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come! Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin! Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!" (verses 10, 16-17, 19)
Babylon, the ultimate symbol of power, excess, and greed, has been utterly obliterated. As another chorus sings in the following chapter, "The smoke goes up from her forever and ever" (verse 3). But did you catch the pattern of the laments in chapter 18? Each lament begins with a double woe, accompanied by a reckoning of how long it will take to destroy her: "one hour." One hour to for this giant of a spiritual harlot to meet her demise? That seems awfully swift.
One of the promises that we Christians receive concerning God's judgment is that it will be swift and irrevocable. As Paul elsewhere writes, "For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape" (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). Thus, in John's vision, the enemies of God are destroyed in a mere hour while the people of God, in that same time frame, receive their anxiously anticipated salvation.
In the mean time, however, it can sometimes feel as though Christians are left waiting for a cable guy who has given them a painfully vague time frame as to when he will finally arrive. Jesus promises only that he will come "soon" (Revelation 22:20). Can't he get any more precise than that? Actually, he can't. For as Jesus himself admits, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:36). But rest assured, even if it's at 4:30 in the afternoon, Jesus will come. And when Jesus does come, the wait will most certainly be over. For his judgment will only take a moment.
Thankfully, while we're waiting for Jesus to come, we need not sit around in our houses all day like I had to while waiting for the cable guy. Indeed, Jesus doesn't want us to sit around all day waiting for him. Instead, he wants us to use this precious time to share his precious message of salvation. This is why Jesus declares, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). Jesus, not desiring the destruction of sinners, is waiting as long as possible for us to share his message of grace before he ushers in his End. So don't just sit there, share Jesus! After all, who knows? Jesus might just be waiting for you to share him with someone today. I hope you will.