After the kings of the earth mourned over the destruction of Jerusalem, so, too, did the merchants of the earth (Revelation 18:11, 15-16). In a previous study I described the merchants of the earth not as traders in goods but peddlers of Judaism—Jewish evangelists, prophets, rabbis etc. who preached Judaism around the Empire—making the doctrines of men (Matthew 15:3-9; 23:15; Mark 7:7-13; Titus 1:14) appear as though they were the word of God. According to Jesus’ parable of the Pounds (Luke19:12-27), his disciples were like tax collectors (merchants of the earth) who did business for the Kingdom of God. If we use this analogy for the merchants mentioned in Revelation 18, then it becomes clear that these men didn’t peddle goods but rather dealt in the business of the Jewish religion. They sought to enhance its power and influence in the Roman world to include gentile proselytes, especially those gentiles who had political power and could realize the will of the Jews of the Diaspora upon those who differed from them (cp. Acts 13:50; 14:4-6, 19; 17:5-9).
At first one may interpret Revelation 18:11-13 to mean the merchants actually sold goods to the ‘great harlot’, but this simply isn’t so. In Revelation 3:18 Jesus used this same Greek word (G59 – agorazo – to buy) to tell the Laodiceans to buy gold from him. How could they do that literally? They couldn’t. Obviously, it has a spiritual significance, having to do with sacrificing their comforts, and perhaps their lives in order to do the business of the Kingdom and walk with Jesus. In the same fashion these merchants complained that no one buys (agorazo – G59) their merchandise anymore (Revelation 18:11), which was:
“merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, perfume and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men” (Revelation 18:12-13).
In Revelation 13:17 it was forbidden for anyone who didn’t have the mark of the beast or the number of his name to “buy and sell.” In other words, no one could do business in the Jewish faith unless he had the mark of the beast. This same Greek word, agorazo (G59 – to buy) was used in Luke 19:45 to describe who the Lord cast out of the Temple—those who bought (G59) and sold—exchanging money, selling and buying animals for sacrifice, precious items for adorning the Temple etc. That is, Jesus cast all those who conducted the business of Judaism, the merchants of the earth, out of the Temple compound.
It is also interesting that, if we look closely at the merchandise that was no longer bought in Revelation 18:11-13, these items were the very things that were used in the Temple at Jerusalem. All the good things and the things that were desirable to adorn the Temple were bought no more, nor were they any longer available for use in the Temple (Revelation 18:14). No one did the business of the Jewish faith any longer, because the Temple was destroyed! They who forbade Jesus’ disciples of exercising their faith in the Temple (Revelation 13:17), were judged in a manner that kept them from doing so, too, forever.
 Josephus records a remarkable fact that is probably applicable here. He says that Ananias (Annas of Luke 3:2; John 18:13, 24; Acts 4:6; and Ananias of Acts 22:12; 23:2; 24:1) ordered his servants to take by force the tithes that were normally given to the poorer priests. The poorest of them died of want, because of this persecution. According to Josephus, this persecution developed just after the stoning of James, who was called the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19), which occurred just after Paul was sent to Rome by Festus (Acts 25:12), cir. 62 AD. See Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1-2.