We begin by seeing the writ of judgment being read over Babylon. “And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.” The continuing series of angels involved in the unfolding of this revelation is seen again in this chapter. The last days and the judgment of mankind belong to the angelic spheres (Matt. 13:41, 42, 49, 50). The angel that interpreted the fall in the 17th chapter now gives way to another angel. Little is known about this angel. We know that he comes with great power and authority in the matter of Babylon’s judgment. We know that this angel is covered with light to the point that the earth as a whole was lightened with his glory. There are no doubt some that see this as the divine angel of the Lord of the Old Testament which was God in angelic form, the Son of God before the Incarnation. They saw the same thing with another angel in our study (Rev. 10:1). There is no doubt that the presence of God will make the earth shine with His glory one day: “behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory” (Ezek. 43:2, see also II Thess. 2:8). That is a different prophetic moment but the end is the same. Christ Himself in the omnipresence of His deity appeared after His birth as the Angel of the Lord with the glory of God all around Him in much the same manner as our text (Luke 2:9). Christ Himself shone in such a fashion at the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2). However, the face of Moses shone after He was forty days in the presence of God how much more the angels of God who are forever in His presence shine. There is no specific reason to see this angel as deity. The angel by his present emanated glory. If the glory is seen as finding its source from the angel then the angel should be seen as divine. If the angel is simply reflecting the glory of God, as the moon does the sun, then the angel should be seen as one of the ministering spirits created by God. Regardless, this angel is sent to announce the end of Babylon and carries great power and authority to read the writ of her judgment.
The angel begins by reading the writ of destruction: “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.” There is an intensity to the cry of the angel; he cried (i.e. shouted loudly), he cried mightily (i.e. to a great degree or with great force), and he cried mightily with a strong voice. In other words, the angel used his powerful voice to shout out this decree with a great degree of force. There is an intensity to this announcement which shall be heard all over this earth.
The announcement is simple, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen. The angel declares the twice fallen Babylon (Isa. 21:9, Rev.14:8). Babylon would not just fall as a system but there will be an actual material fall. Just as Babylon of old was sacked and not one stone left on another so shall Babylon fall (Isa. 13:19-21). We have already discussed the twofold fall so let us continue to the point of the writ which declares the end of the fall: “and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” This is what Babylon has become. There is a three part progression of its end; it will become a habitation, a hold, and a cage. The bottom line of this is that the reader is left with a picture of utter desolation; a howling spiritual wilderness of suffering. This is much the same as the description of Babylon in the days of old (Isa. 13). The idea that Babylon has become a habitation of devils carries the idea of desolation. We remember the parable of Christ when the man was made clean of an unclean spirit but kept his house empty, swept, and garnished; when the unclean spirit returned he brought seven other spirits more wicked and dwelt there (Matt. 12:43-45). The idea there fits. Because Babylon would not be filled with the things of God it is left to be a habitation of many devils in the plurality of sense. There is nothing left for it but to be a place for devils to dwell. This speaks of the hopelessness of its plight. Just as the devils entered into the swine and drove them to be choked into the sea so the devils enter into Babylon. Not only has it become a habitation but it has also become a hold – not just a hold but “the” hold. It is a place where spirits are not only inhabiting but it is a placed were they are detained. It is a house (habitation) or detention (the hold). There is only one other place in which the term “foul spirit” is used. The father who brought the deaf and dumb possessed child to the disciples but they could not cast him out was described as a foul spirit (Mark 9:25). That spirit tore that young man and had often thrown him into the fire and water. Christ himself said that such a spirit could only be cast out by prayer in fasting. The term foul describes something that is most base and most defiled and therefore most damaging. It goes from a habitation to a hold and now to a cage: it becomes “a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” We see the all-inclusive term “every” used here just as it was with the foul spirits. Now we know in the literal sense there are actual birds that are known as unclean (Lev. 13). The unclean bird is the one that preys on other animals and birds and/or feeds upon the dead carrion and rotten flesh. If a man was to find his sustenance from such it would be hurtful and harmful to him. But, obviously this is not meant to speak of actual birds. An actual bird may be unclean but it is not hateful in a positive sense. Birds here in this context is synonymous with devils and unclean spirits. The idea here given by the term cage is that Babylon has become a trap to these birds. Babylon was a place of apparent demonic victory and unfettered demonic activity. But they become trapped there to their own ultimate destruction. These birds of prey in the service of their satanic intents hated and warred with God and all mankind and flew into the cage of Babylon to find themselves forever trapped. Babylon is fallen with all of its demons into the possession of God. It has been laid waste and the demons there await the judgment of God to fall upon them. Such will Babylon in all of its pomp become.
The writ of judgment continues “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.” The reason for her final judgment is given. The reason is threefold: all nations drunk of her wine, the kings have shared her bed of fornication, and merchants have been made rich by her delicacies. The first two reasons have been explored at length. Ellicott pointed out that Babylon affected the earth on three different levels: she affected nations, she affected kings, and she affected merchants. The nations drunk of that wine that she mingled. They partook of her drunkenness and her fornication. They were spiritually filled with her spirit and partook in her spiritual unfaithfulness. They drank her wine to their own destruction. We have spoken about that at length (14:8). She affected kings in that they committed fornication with her. The rulers of the various nations took part in the bed or her wickedness. They took part in her unfaithfulness. They followed her as she departed from her God. This we also spoke of at length (17:2). The great difference in our text is the effect she had upon the merchants of the earth; they waxed rich by her delicacies.
There are two questions that should be asked and which we will try to answer. What are her delicacies and in what way were they made rich by them? Let start with the first question. What are her delicacies? This is where the fall of Babylon begins to touch on the material instead of the spiritual (though they continue to be intertwined). It is here that the fall of Babylon touches the influence she had sitting on many waters. The word abundance here, according to Barnes, does not simply speak of the quantity of those delicacies but of the power of them. This could take into account their influence. Obviously, it would include the wine of her fornication. So whatever those delicacies are they exercise a great power or influence. Further they are specifically possessed by the woman. They are “her” delicacies. They are particular to her. They originate with her in some way. The term delicacy is the state of being delicate. It is particular to Babylon and will be lost when she is judged: “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” (Isa. 47:1). It is also indicative of the pomp of kings according to Christ: “A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts” (Luke 7:25). It is also related to the word delicious. It speaks of the experience of pleasure. We see this connection in the seventh verse of this chapter. So, whatever the delicacies of our text is it had to do with the pleasures that she enjoyed and therefore imported to others. It is the spirit of indulgence. A list of things is later provided in this chapter of the things that were sold by the merchants that found their origin in her in the 12th and 13th verses. There the word merchandise is used instead of delicacy. In the 14th verse the relationship to all of those things from the gold to the slaves were summed up as “the fruits that thy soul lusted after…, and all things which were dainty and goodly….” It is not necessary that she actually sells those wares to the merchants and the merchants to the nations. What is important is that the spirit of those things were learned and acquired from her. Barnes stated this of the term delicacy: “It properly means rudeness, insolence, pride; and hence “revel, riot, luxury.” It may be rendered here properly as “luxury,” or “proud voluptuousness”; and the reference is to such luxuries as are found commonly in a great, a frivolous, and a splendid city.” These are the things that we are to reject in order to put on Christ (Rom. 13:12-14). This begins to answer the second question. How the merchants were made rich by her delicacies? They learned of her delicacies by the spirit of her excesses and they marketed those things. Rome taught us about excess. Rome taught us of luxury. Rome taught us to exploit in order to find ease and comfort. The merchants throughout time have learned her example of excess and marketed it. They are made rich by selling peace and ease and pleasure. They have learned the spirit of Babylon in telling all that they deserve a break and they should enjoy this pleasure or that. Sin sells and that is the ware of Babylon that makes the merchants of this world rich.