Revelation 18: 11-13: Soul-traders.
‘The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more – 12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.” NIV
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with trade. We live in an inter-connected world where people grow things, produce things, make things which others want and/or need, and are prepared to pay for. I can’t see that there is anything fundamentally wrong with the idea of goods fairly sold at a fair price. I don’t think the book of Revelation is condemning the normal processes of trading at this point. But, like everything else in the world, trade is now tainted by sin; it is contaminated by lust and greed, covetousness and dishonesty etc. Things get bought and sold that shouldn’t be. This also applies to people.
There is something slap you in the face shocking about the statement:
‘’…and bodies and souls of men’’ (13b).
There is also something tragically contemporary about it. Human trafficking is a huge, corrupt, wicked business right now. We have modern forms of slavery.
Tom Wright explains its place in Roman times:
‘Slavery was to the ancient world, more or less, what steam, oil, gas, electricity and nuclear power are to the modern world. Slavery was how things got done. Life was almost literally unthinkable without it.
And yet John believed in the God of the Exodus, the God who sets slaves free. A huge amount of his book, as we have seen, was built up on the basis that what God did in Egypt he will do again, this time on a cosmic scale – and that the basic act of slave-freeing has already taken place with the sacrificial death of Jesus…(5.9)’ ‘Revelation for Everyone’ pp.164/165.
Slavery was the system upon which the ancient world was built. It was one of the expressions of ‘Babylon’ then, and it remains so now. But as we keep seeing, ‘Babylon’s’ days are numbered.