(Rev 18:1) And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
“And after these things…”
“After these things” basically refers to the events of the previous chapter, chapter 17, where we see John’s vision and its interpretation by the angel. This phrase, “after these things,” signals a new vision unit.
Chapter 17 declared the "judgment of the mystery Babylon." The objects of God’s judgment, the woman and the beast she rides, were also described.
Chapter 18 will have somewhat similar themes, but it will spend a lot of extra time on the wealth of the city at the time of the antichrist’s rule.
“…I saw another angel come down from heaven…”
So the angel that will be speaking at this point is not the same one that gave the interpretation of John’s vision in the previous chapter. The previous angel was one of the seven that poured out the last seven bowl judgments (17:1).
This angel is different in many ways. One notable way is that, unlike the previous angel, it does not speak to John directly. John basically overhears the declaration that the angel speaks and records it. The angel seems unconcerned or unaware that John is even present. This could either be a type of drama put on for John’s benefit, or perhaps John is overseeing actual events that will take place in the spiritual realm at the time of the harlot city’s judgment.
“…having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.”
This angel is described with some provocative language. It says it has great power. We are not told how John knows this. Perhaps it is evident from its appearance or some other quality.
It is tempting to say this is a picture of Christ because of the idea of the angel’s glory lighting the earth, but it is not necessary, as the idea of an angel having illuminating glory, or “doxa” is mentioned in Ezek 9:3 and Heb 9:5. In both cases, a cherub is described. Cherubs spend their time in the throne room of God and so one theory could be that they are shining with the glory just like Moses’ face shone when he spent time on Mount Sinai in the very near presence of God (Exo 34:29). So this could simply be a particularly high ranking angel or a cherub.
A point that strengthens this view is that in verse 4, we hear a separate voice from heaven saying, “come out of her my people,” which seems to be the voice of Christ (see verse 4 notes). This would mean that this angel is probably not Christ, but a high-ranking angel.
(Rev 18:2) 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.
It is interesting to note that the last verse of the previous chapter (17:18) was where the first angel concluded its interpretation of John’s vision by declaring that the woman was an actual city. Now, in Chapter 18, it begins to refer to Mystery Babylon in this sense with a geographical location. Here it talks of it being a habitation of devils. Later it will speak of merchants bringing goods to it.
While it continues to use the symbolic imagery of the harlot woman to describe Mystery Babylon (18:7), it much more frequently talks of Mystery Babylon as if the reader by now understands that it is a physical city on earth, just as the angel said it was.
“…And he cried mightily with a strong voice…”
The second angel is said to have a strong voice or “megas phone” in the Greek. Earlier in Revelation chapter 5, John described another angel with the phrase “megas phone” when he is having a vision of the throne room of God:
“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?’” – Rev 5:1-2
Because this angel is apparently in such close proximity to the throne, and it is described with the same strong voice, it lends a measure of credibility to the earlier interpretation that the angel of Revelation 18 is a cherub, or at least of the same quality and rank as the angel in our current verse.
“…saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen…”
The angel seems to be hearkening back to the familiar phrase used in the various prophecies of the old city of Babylon’s destruction:
“And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.” – Isa 21:9
John F. Walvoord, a well-known theologian and author notes:
“The repetition of the verb ‘is fallen,’ found in the aorist tense, indicates a sudden event viewed as completed, though the context would indicate a future event.”1
It seems that what’s happening with this phrase is that the destruction of Mystery Babylon is indicated here as being imminent – that is, it hasn’t happened at this point, but it is now on its way or imminent. The context of the rest of this chapter supports this conclusion, as Walvoord also noted.
“…and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird…”
Here John makes it clear by the use of the terms “devils” and “foul spirits” that this city is home to multiple demonic entities. The idea of a “hateful bird” is also an indication of demonic beings. Actual birds are not “hateful” even if they are birds of prey or scavengers. In addition, birds are used in other places to refer to demonic beings, or at least the work of Satan (Mark 4:3-4, 13-15).
There is a very interesting parallel to the devils and birds lodging in a city which can be seen in the passages referring to Babylon’s destruction in the Old Testament:
“And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls.” – Isa 34:13
When we read on we find more interesting points:
“The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate.” – Isa 34:14-15
I think that there are two possibilities here. This could be referring to the utter desolation that the city will be reduced to after its destruction. That is, it will only be inhabitable by beasts and birds. However, I think, because of the explicit language John uses here about demonic beings, that this may refer to the gathering of demons that would take place if Satan, through the antichrist, makes a particular city his capital city at the end times. It would be a kind of gathering place or abode of these beings.
Revelationcommentary.org says of this idea:
“The Harlot City is the home or lair of the demons…. These are issues, which contribute to the wickedness of this harlot/city. Everything that the city stood for has been perverted. Evil in its worst form makes its home in God’s holy city. She is a harlot destined to destruction.”
(Rev 18:3) 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.
"For all nations…”
This is referring to the fact that the whole world is enticed into worshiping the antichrist. We see references to the “all nations” phrase in relation to the antichrist in several places:
“And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.” – Rev 13:3
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” – Rev 13:8
“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads…” – Rev 13:16
“…have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication…”
Other translations perhaps render the sense of it better; for instance the ESV says:
“For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her [fornication]…”
The idea is that she herself is so deceived by the antichrist that she passionately promotes him and worships him as her messiah, her long awaited king and husband. So intense is her fornication that the entire world is somehow drawn in to be deceived by his seductive power as well.
The phrase “kings of the earth.” Here it seems to almost be saying the same thing as the first part of this verse – that is, that all the nations drink of her fornication. It seems to be restating this, as Scripture will do from time to time, when it says the kings of the earth commit fornication. In other words, not just the people of the earth, but the rulers of those people will also be engaged in this fornication.
Some other passages in Scripture seem to suggest that these kings have more of a financial interest in the fornication than a religious interest. The kings seem to have similar motives as the merchants in relation to the Mystery Babylon city. For instance, later on it says of these kings:
“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.” – Rev 18:9
The phrase “lived deliciously with her” seems to suggest that the kings have similar motives as the merchants who are mentioned next. There is a financial interest for them, as there will apparently be a lot of revenue to be made out of all the people of the world being forced to pay tribute to the antichrist.
I think it would be wrong to conclude that the kings of the earth mentioned here are exact matches to the ten kings that are used to destroy the city and to war against the descent of Christ at Armageddon. Although there may be some of the same kings involved, I think the intention here in verse 3 is more broad, and suggestive of the rulers of the entire world, not just ten specific ones used for a specific purpose, as is the case with the ten kings mentioned in chapter 17.
“…and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.”
These merchants are going to be discussed at great length at the end of this chapter, and I am going to spend quite a lot of time discussing them. So I will not spend all that much time here except to simply say that the merchants of the earth will prosper during the time of celebration over the antichrist as if he is the Messiah.