Revelation 18:14–20 (NKJV)
John has just related the events of the fall of Babylon, and has explained the seven heads and ten horns of the beast. He has spoken of the mourning for Babylon made by the kings of the earth and the merchants of the earth, and the command of God for His people to move away from Babylon as her judgment falls. Today’s passage speaks of the severity and reach of Babylon’s fall. She is utterly destroyed, and will not come back form this judgment.
14 The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all. 15 The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, 16 and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! 17 For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance 18 and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’Revelation 18:14-18
The losses of Babylon are described as the fruit her soul longed for and the rich and splendid things she possessed. They are gone forever, never to be reclaimed. The merchants who sold her these precious items and became rich stand at a distance and mourn her demise. John repeats a shorter version of their lament here, and reiterates their contention that her demise was quick. This loss was quick and unexpected. She lost everything in one hour, a sudden and swift conclusion to an alliance–a veritable house of cards–that was built on opulence and sensual pleasure. Those that brought her the wares of the merchants, the shipmasters and sailors, all stood at a distance and cried out in dismay at the end of this great city. They had never seen a city compare to Babylon the Great, Ancient Rome, the Great Harlot.
19 “They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’Revelation 18:19-20
20 “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”
The merchants, shipmasters, and sailors all show the signs of mourning, throwing dust on their heads, weeping and wailing. They cry out, saying, “Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth!” These merchants and seamen cried over the wealth to which they no longer had access. They continue to say that her demise happened in one hour, that in this short span of time she became desolate. This is the third time that “alas” and “in one hour” shows up in this passage. The heavenly messenger then instructed all present to rejoice over Babylon, over her destruction and loss. All the heavens, the apostles and prophets, and anyone who served God should rejoice, for God has avenged them on her. Her destruction was the answer to their prayers. The end of her reign and her alliance with the beast would spell out the beginning of the end for the one-world system and its cobbled-together alliances. What seemed like world peace and unity was simply a temporary joining together of otherwise-unrelated entities who only came together around selfishness and hedonism, evil and false religion. The severity of Babylon’s fall was just the first example of the futility of evil and its agents!