The fall of mystery Babylon is pronounced, and her ritual impurity exposed and denounced by an angel – Revelation 18:1-8.
Next, John saw an angel descending from heaven, one who had “great authority” with which he pronounced the “fall of Babylon” and described her ritual pollution by demonic spirits. This was followed by a voice summoning the saints to separate themselves from the “Harlot,” otherwise, they would participate in her “plagues.”
There are several parallels between the present passage and the earlier pronouncement of Babylon’s fall in chapter 14 and with the city’s demise when the “seventh bowl of wrath: was emptied. The vision of chapter 18 provides the detailed description of that “fall” that was anticipated in the earlier passages – (Revelation 14:8-10, 16:19-21).
- (Revelation 18:1-8) – “After these things, I saw another angel descending from heaven, having great authority. And the earth was illumined with his glory. And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying: Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great, and has become the habitation of demons and the prison of every impure spirit and hated bird, because by the wine of the wrath of her fornication have all the nations fallen, and the kings of the earth with her did commit fornication, and the merchants of the earth by the power of her wantonness waxed rich. And I heard another voice out of heaven, saying: Come out of her, my people that you may have no fellowship with her sins, and of her plagues that you may not receive, because her sins were joined together as far as heaven, and God has remembered her unrighteous deeds. Render to her as she also rendered, and double the double, according to her works; in the cup wherein she mixed, mix unto her double, as much as she glorified herself and waxed wanton, so much give to her torment and grief, because in her heart she is saying: I sit a Queen and widow am I not, and grief in nowise will I see!”
Most probably, the “second angel” from Chapter 14 is the angel seen here who has “great authority.” He was sent to announce Babylon’s fall and to illuminate the earth. The earlier declaration that “fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great” is virtually identical to the one now given by this angel. His authority is necessarily “great” because he pronounces the destruction of the “great city, Babylon the great.”
The angel “illuminated” the entire earth because the fall of the “Great Harlot” and her allies meant the removal of all the false ideologies that blind men to the truth – (Compare Jeremiah 50:29, 51:6-8, 36-37, 45).
She is the “habitation of demons and the prison of every impure spirit.” “Prison” or phulaké more correctly means “guardhouse” or “watchtower,” the structure from which a guard would watch over a prison. The demonic spirits were not imprisoned in Babylon, but instead, they were the guards that watched over the “inhabitants of the earth” who were enslaved by her along with the “kings of the earth” and the “nations” that were made drunk by the “wine of her fornication.”
“The merchants of the earth” were the men who profited from the maritime trade. The stress later in the passage is on the economic influence of “Babylon” more than on her religious influences. But her religious influence is not absent from the passage (e.g., “her sorceries”). In the Roman empire, it would have been difficult for a merchant to conduct business without some involvement in pagan rituals.
“By her wantonness they waxed rich.” The sentence more accurately reads – “The merchants of the earth were enriched by the power of her arrogance.” That is, the overconfidence they placed in her economic might. The clause intentionally echoes the earlier warning to the church at Laodicea:
- (Revelation 3:17) – “Because you say, I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are the wretched one and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
“I sit a queen.” This alludes to the dirge pronounced by Ezekiel on the maritime city-state of Tyre, and the allusion prepares the reader for the economic critique of “Babylon” that dominates the rest of the chapter. Tyre was a Phoenician city involved in commerce throughout the Mediterranean region.
- (Ezekiel 27:3) – “Son of man, take up a lamentation over Tyre; and say to Tyre, O You that dwell at the entry of the sea, that are the merchant of the peoples to many isles, thus says the Lord Yahweh: You, O Tyre, have said, I am perfect in beauty.”
“In one day” (en mia hémera). The clause corresponds to the judgment elsewhere that occurred “in one hour,” the “hour of trial” that was to try the “whole habitable earth” – (Revelation 18:10, 16, 19).
“Come forth, my people, out of her.” This is the point of the passage, for the saints to separate themselves from end-time “Babylon.” If they compromise with the surrounding pagan society, they very well may partake of Babylon’s punishment.