Sitting on a mega bus trying to post Thursday's blog (and then Friday's) this is harder than it looks (lol).
Chapter 17 is the set up for the promised destruction of Rome. It is not complicated -- the woman in scarlet sits among 7 hills (that would be Rome) the great city rules over the Kings of the earth (18), etc. are all point out that Rome is Babylon the Great. But there is more here than just the promised judgment on Rome. "Babylon the Great" represents all of the evil empires past, present and future (was, is and will be again).
When we think of the "wrath of God" poured out it is important to remember that all oppressive forces will receive their just due. God does not take the persecution of his saints lightly and God is not ignorant of the destructive forces that human beings continually visit upon creation (and one another).
The merchants and the kings of the earth drink from the cup of the scarlet woman (Babylon the Great). Babylon is not only a great power but also is the source of the power of many other kings of the earth. Imagine the great evil permission giver that empowers all the little evils around it. The woman is drunk on the "blood of God's holy people" and will see just deserts.