An angel announces the fall of Babylon – all that the world offers, instead of God, comes to nothing. This passage has many allusions to Old Testament prophecies about ancient Babylon and Tyre (Jeremiah 50-51, Ezekiel 27). Babylon’s fall is complete – nothing left. Unlike Jerusalem in the exile, there will be no remnant or shadow and no human habitation. The symbolic picture replaces normal animals by every unclean and detestable bird and beast, symbolising the uncleanness of Babylon.
In v.4-8 saints are told to come out of Babylon, be separate from its immorality. Purity and spiritual separation from worldliness are a repeated theme. Babylon’s temptations are subtle, so vigilance and watchfulness are required – we must be aware of the devil’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11).
In v.5 we are told that Babylon’s sins pile up to heaven – that’s ironic given that the aim of the tower of Babel was to reach the heavens (Genesis 11:4).
So many are enticed by Babylon’s seductions – kings, v.9, merchants, v.11, sailors, v.17. They have loved her and profited from her. When she finally falls they lament and miss her, rather than repenting, looking back to previous times of prosperity, just like Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s the problem with sin, even though people know it leads to destruction, they cannot bear to give it up. Verses 11-13 show us that all the luxuries and lust are at the expense of others – slaves. Modern slavery is still a huge issue, over two centuries after Wilberforce saw the slave trade abolished.
Wickedness needs to be destroyed as it is an offence to God and to those oppressed by it.