These items were common commodities in the ancient world (many of them are included on the list in Ezek. 27:12–24) and were the source of immense financial gain. They are only representative of the great wealth of Antichrist’s future commercial empire.
What a catalog of opulence! What a vivid picture of a great, commercial city, trafficking in every luxury the heart could desire. This is the world’s great Vanity Fair. It offers articles of adornment and display, beautiful things to grace the mansions of the world’s millionaires. It deals in exotic spices and perfumes, in delicacies for the table, in provisions for banquets, in slaves, and in the souls of men. And Babylon imported all these things.… Babylon’s demand for this world’s goods was insatiable; ever it clamored for more and more!
All of the city’s luxurious and splendid (Gk., lampros, a word that may refer to clothing) possessions have passed away from her and men will no longer find them. They will be gone forever as God bankrupts the system. The words no longer translate a double double negative in the Greek text, which is the strongest form of negation in the Greek language. That indicates these items will never be found again.
They weep and mourn, not out of some emotional sympathy for the decimated city, but because with its collapse they have been stripped of the key source of their financial resources. The merchants lament because their materialistic passions can no longer be fulfilled. The weeping that begins then will last for eternity in hell (Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). These greedy merchants are the classic illustration of all those in all times who gain the whole world, but forfeit their souls (Mark 8:36).
In addition to her political and economic importance, Babylon will also be an important distribution center. With its destruction, there will be no more goods to be transported by those who make their living by the sea. Like the rulers and merchants, the sailors were careful to stand at a safe distance from the city. As they gazed on the ruined city they were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, “What city is like the great city?” Their lament is reminiscent of the proud boast of Antichrist’s deluded followers in 13:4, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” But the seemingly indestructible city is already destroyed before their eyes, and its seemingly invincible ruler will shortly meet his end (19:20).
Then, in a typical ancient expression of grief, the sailors threw dust on their heads (cf. Josh. 7:6; 1 Sam. 4:12; 2 Sam. 1:2; 15:32; Job 2:12; Lam. 2:10; Ezek. 27:30). Like the rulers (vv. 9–10) and the merchants (vv. 15–16), they too will cry out, “Woe, woe, the great city.” That is an expression of pain, suffering, and grief, but not of repentance. The sailors do not mourn over their sins, or those of Babylon, but because of their lost business, since all who had ships at sea became rich by Babylon’s wealth. Like the rulers (v. 10) and the merchants (v. 17), the sailors also express amazement at the swiftness of Babylon’s downfall, exclaiming, “In one hour she has been laid waste!” In an astonishingly short period of time, the city that was the source of their wealth was destroyed.
Heaven will have quite a different perspective on Babylon’s judgment than that of Antichrist’s earthly followers. The angel who began speaking in verse 4 then addressed the redeemed in heaven: the saints (a general term for all believers) and apostles and prophets (the special class of saints given to the church, as indicated in Eph. 2:20; 4:11). He calls on them to rejoice over Babylon’s fall, because God has pronounced judgment for them against her. The long-awaited moment of vindication, retribution, and vengeance, for which the martyred Tribulation believers prayed (6:9–10) and for which all the redeemed hoped, will have arrived. Heaven rejoices, not over the damnation of sinners, but because of the triumph of righteousness, the exaltation of Jesus Christ, the elimination of His enemies, and the arrival of His kingdom on the earth.
The city will be so completely abandoned that even the light of a lamp will not shine in her any longer. There will be no more falling in love; the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in her any longer. Babylon will be so thoroughly destroyed that it will never rise again, as predicted by the Old Testament prophets (Isa. 13:19–22; 14:22–23; Jer. 50:13, 39; 51:37).
using their wealth to ascend to positions of power, prominence, and influence. The abuses of the proud, arrogant rich are well documented in Scripture.
Sorcery is from pharmakeia, the root word of the English words “pharmacy” and “pharmaceuticals.” The word is used in the New Testament to refer to magic and occult practices (9:21; Gal. 5:20). Babylon’s hold on the world will not be entirely due to her military and economic power, but also to her occult influence.