"After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor." NIV translation
Since we were introduced to the beasts (in chapter 13), John has told us of six different angels that have all been described as "another angel".
We see that this angel is the sixth (another) angel but it is not an ordinary angel as we are told that he has great authority and splendor. This is a picture of what is to come as we are told that, in the new heaven and earth, God will be the source of light and there will not be any darkness. You know that you are getting close to that time when an angel provides light (illuminates) to the earth.
"With a mighty voice he shouted: 'Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.'" NIV translation
This angel brings to light the fact that God is going to judge the world economic system and the city at its center. In the Old Testament, Babylon was the center of commerce and they were the ones that introduced God's people (Israel) to a modern system of trade and commerce. This angel tells us that this system has become a home for all kinds of evil and unclean things. The system of the Babylonians was much like our system today in that it was based on greed and getting all of the money that you can no matter what. This is what the apostle Paul was talking about (in 1 Timothy 6) when he warned us about the "love of money" being the root of all kinds of evil.
"'For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.'" NIV translation
Everyone from the national leaders to the businessmen to the common man has bought into this system of greed. When this verse speaks of "merchants" it is not talking about storeowners like we think; it is talking about people that are brokers. They do not actually buy and sell goods but simply push papers with numbers on them. This is very similar to our current financial system and the rise of world stock markets. The Wall Street stock broker types grow rich from pushing these papers and they live outrageous lives with the excesses that go along with the riches. When things go wrong, such as a crash of the markets, the political leaders are quick to jump in and bail out these types with money that they take from the common man.
Revelation 18:4 & 5
"Then I heard another voice from heaven say: 'Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.'" NIV translation
God is calling His people out of this system/city and in order to get out we must first understand what/where it is. Many have said that this "Babylon" is New York City while others have said it is a rebuilt city of Babylon (in Iraq) but, as we shall see, it is not.
First, we must understand the system so that we can identify the city.
This system is a financial (banking) system that is tied together with the false religion of the previous chapter. As we saw, that religion is tied together with the political system which is backed by the devil. Although our system of capitalism is regulated by the government, it is basically an atheist system and "religion" is not a part of it. Therefore, the system described must be something else and, in fact, it is called Islamic Finance. This is a combination of government regulation through religious law and banking. The center of this system is found in the city of Dubai which is a part of the United Arab Emirates.
Revelation 18:6 & 7
"'Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, "I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn."'" NIV translation
The judgment on this system is going to be severe because it used religious law against the people of God. This is the same thing that the devil tries as he is known as the accuser and attempts to condemn people with religious law. The leaders in this system live it up in excess as they preach a message of sacrifice and restraint to the masses. They believe that this system is far above anything else and, as always, pride comes before a fall.
"'Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.'" NIV translation
The system will continue until God intervenes and personally judges it and those who are a part of it. All the riches that they have stored up for themselves will be destroyed by fire.
Revelation 18:9 & 10
"'When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: "Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!"'" NIV translation
When the city and economic system is destroyed, the world leaders will mourn over what is gone. They had placed their hope in this financial system and now it is in ruins as God takes control of all things. They will be absolutely terrified at the display of power that God rains down on them and they will know that money was an idol and not a god.
"'The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more - 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; 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 bodies and souls of men.'" NIV translation
Those that benefited from this system will "weep and mourn" because there is no one to continue to give them money. In this passage, we are given a long list of things that had been bought and sold. This is to show us that, in this system, everything is sold for a price. We see it today in that the leaders of this financial system will denounce things (such as alcohol, drugs, selling women, etc.) and at the same time take part in the selling of them for a profit.
"'They will say, "The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered."'" NIV translation
All of the material things that this system has provided will be destroyed. Although today it may seem like a shining city and a model for others, it is going to be judged.
"The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn" NIV translation
When the judgment starts on the system and the city, the politicians and the business leaders will abandon them like rats leaving a sinking ship. They will grieve from afar meaning they will try to distance themselves from the system and say they were not a part of it because they do not want to be caught up in the judgment.
Revelation 18:16 & 17a
" and cry out: '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!'" NIV translation
If you have never been to Dubai, it is hard to imagine what the city/state is like but it is easy to see the wealth. This city has even built islands off its coast that are in the shape of palm trees and it seems that all of the rich people of the world are going there for business as well as pleasure. When God judges the system/city, all of that wealth will be gone in an hour.
Revelation 18:17b & 18
"'Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, "Was there ever a city like this great city?''" NIV translation
Those who travel on the sea will see the destruction of the city and distance themselves from it and its financial system. They will wonder at the destruction of this great city but not know that a greater city is coming which is the New Jerusalem. (see Revelation 21)
"They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: '"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!"'" NIV translation
Throwing dust on your head was a symbol of mourning at this time much like the wearing of the color black is for us today. Those that benefited from this world financial system will be mourning in their hearts that it has come to an end because they got rich from the system. Even today, many will compromise their faith for the love of money and go along to prosper in this world.
"'Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you'" NIV translation
While those who were a part of this system mourn, we will rejoice at God's righteous judgment. Do you face trials and persecutions as a Christian today? If so, then, you can take comfort in this verse and the fact that God will judge those who treat you badly.
"Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: 'With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.'" NIV translation
A millstone is a stone two to three feet in diameter and about a foot thick (it would weigh quite a bit). When thrown into the sea, it would sink rapidly to the bottom. God uses this picture to tell of the rapid judgment on this economic system and the city at its center. This picture of using a millstone for judgment was also used by Jesus to describe how bad it was to cause a little child to sin (see Luke 17:2).
This is a picture of a millstone that is located in the Old City section of Jerusalem in Israel.
"The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again." NIV translation
This great city was a bustling center of commerce and in a moment it is gone. If you travel to Dubai, you will see that it is rising as a world center of commerce and finance. It has been trying to become a center of culture as well and that is described in this verse.
"The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world's great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray." NIV translation
The spell of wealth can be a very strong force and, as we see here, the world's great men were led astray by the pursuit of money. Where there used to be celebrations and parties, there is now only darkness.
"In her was found the blood of the prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth." NIV translation
Greed and the pursuit of money have been the root of all kinds of evil. When combined with a "religion", the evil results in the persecution of God's people. It will come to an end after this economic system has ran its course and Jesus returns in judgment.