1 ¶ And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. 2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. 3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
Calling this city Babylon the great is very interesting and seems to indicate that this is a euphemistic name for a city that we may know by another name as the ancient city of Babylon, at this time, is not permanently inhabited.
Birds are used as symbolism for Satan in the Gospels. See Mark 4:4 &15. The symbolism in context here is unclean and hateful bird with devils and every foul spirit so we can see the intent.
This city is so influential at the time of the end and so powerful that all nations have participated in her wickedness. Certainly, one wonders at any city today that has that much control and power. Rome of the first century ruled the Mediterranean world but most certainly did not rule China or the civilizations in what we call the Americas today. What will have to happen for Rome to rule the world if Babylon the great is Rome? The Vatican surely has no political influence over Red China or Islamic nations. Circumstances have certainly changed by the time presented here where the kings of the earth not only commit spiritual fornication with a city but the merchants of the earth are made wealthy by her, a city which appears to be the capital of a world empire.
It is clear that this Babylon is a merchant city and a wellspring of trade in luxury items.
4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. 5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. 6 Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. 7 How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. 8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
Persecution, early as per the account in Acts, and divine revelation late according to Eusebius, drove the Christians from Jerusalem before the destruction of the temple during the general, and future Roman emperor, Titus’s siege and conquest during the rebellion of the Jews in 70AD. This is a warning to God’s people to get out of Babylon, another reason for the first resurrection that raptures or translates living saints and brings the dead who believed to Heaven.
Notice for verse 7, this cross reference for the first, physical and literal Babylon.
Isaiah 47:1 ¶ Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate. 2 Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers. 3 Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man. 4 As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel. 5 Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms. 6 I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.
7 ¶ And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it. 8 Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children: 9 But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments. 10 For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me. 11 Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know. 12 Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. 13 Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. 14 Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it. 15 Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured, even thy merchants, from thy youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save thee.
9 ¶ And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, 10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. 11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: 12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, 13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
This Babylon does business in slaves and souls. This is important as modern ‘First World’ countries do not engage in slavery as a business. Slavery exists in the form of legal slavery where criminals are used to work for the state as in ‘chain gangs’ in the Southern United States although I daresay you would find few inmates actually in chains while they work on the road crews anymore. Slavery, with people as a commodity, must return, at least in the beast’s kingdom. Other things listed could be said to be types until you get to slaves and souls of men and then you have a problem with types. Souls of men easily turns this reference into a city that is not only an administrative and business capital but a center of religion similar to the Vatican, London, Riyadh, or even Nashville, Tennessee.
14 And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all. 15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, 16 And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! 17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, 18 And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! 19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate. 20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. 21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. 22 And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; 23 And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
This magnificent city, a wellspring of power, religion, and culture is destroyed quickly, this destruction causing many to be dismayed and perplexed.
Sorcery comes from a word by which we derive our modern word pharmacy and is relevant in the widespread use of drugs in that era, such as the hallucinogenic musings of the Oracle at Delphi, and for today in the use of drugs to control behavior. I have already talked about the use of drugs in ancient types of religion. Also, today so many prescription drugs are consumed that waste water supplies show evidence of it throughout the world…
…as well as illegal drugs around the world as the following Popular Science website attests…
Of course, we are also medicated and lulled into a submissive state by our entertainment mediums, as in television and movies with the drama of theater and the drama of sports as well. The culture intrudes upon us with our smartphones, television, and the internet keeping us sedated as the control of the world system invades even our churches. It is all a type of sorcery, in a sense.
Certainly, this city is not the cause of all death throughout history but the statement in verse 24 has to do with the events in the Great Tribulation and the reason for so many martyrs in heaven.