The Noise of Heaven, the Silence of Hell (Revelation 18.20–24)


 
Revelation 18.20–24 sharply contrasts the noise of heaven with the silence of hell.
 
“Rejoice over her, O heaven,” a voice cries out, referring to the destruction of Babylon. And not only heaven, but also “you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” As I explained earlier, Christian joy at the demise of Babylon is not a grotesque example of Schadenfreude, but rather of simple pleasure at a world turned right side up. Gone are Babylon’s seductive religion, oppressive politics, and unjustly gained wealth, never to haunt the earth again.
 
Have you ever noticed how noisy life is? Oh, not only the annoying noises of alarm clocks and traffic and clacking keyboards and cell phones, but the necessary noises of living organisms. Breathing, eating, talking, humming, singing, laughing, crying. The first time I ever babysat my youngest nephew, I remember spending an anxious hour standing in his doorway just to hear the reassuring monotony of his light snoring. Life is filled with noise.
 
Death is silent. A mighty angel announces the complete devastation of Babylon by pointing out its silence: “the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters will be heard in you no more.” Well, of course not! Such music would be inappropriate to a lament. But the angel points out other silences: no “craftsman of any craft, no “sound of the mill.” The noises of a world at work are absent from a Babylon that has been judged by God.
 
Perhaps the most painful element of Babylon’s destruction is found in verse 23: “the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more.” From the first day of creation to the present, wedding sounds have signaled to one and all a commitment to lifelong love and the bringing of children into the world. Marriage is a commitment to the future, a statement of faith in God. In devastated Babylon, there are no love, no children, no future, and no faith. All is silent.
 
In the life of the Spirit, there is a time for silent meditation on the wondrous grace of God. But because God’s grace brings life, and because such life is noisy, the making of a joyful noise to the Lord is the duty of all Christians. Our life—in all its sounds—should be a symphony of praise to a just and gracious God.

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