This passage is written in the style of a first century Jewish funeral dirge (elegy), as Jeremiah mourned over the destruction of the cities of Israel and the captivity of her people by Babylon and Ezekiel’s oracle on the fall of Tyre in chapters 27 and 28. Yet, this was an “ironic dirge,” meaning a sarcastic prophecy meant to curse instead of praise, saying “you get what you deserve.” John, who is imprisoned on a small island for defying Rome, is showing his contempt for oppression and evil and his faith as a mighty man who is humble before God.
John is starting to get an answer from the angels as to whom the “harlot” and “bride” are. It seems clearly that they have been referring primarily to apostasy in general, discord in the church, and perhaps to evil Jerusalem and Rome. Or, the revelations to John are showing Rome as an example of apostasy and faithlessness and its pending judgment and doom as a result of the consequences of sin. The bride is goodness, charity, “heavenly Jerusalem,” and the Church, as depicted by the life and work of Christ. Christ is the ultimate Bride, whom we are to seek and pursue. It shows a contrast of what we seek and place first in our lives—will it be evil or good, the harlot or the Bride? Christ is eternal and offers eternal salvation; the harlot, Satan and evil, offer fleeting, temporary pleasure that only ends in self-destruction, destitution, and helplessness, followed by judgment and eternal despair (Rev. 21:9).
This passage also is about judgment and how people living in the ways of the world lament and panic while those who are faithful rejoice! This is because most people seek only self-gratification and pleasure without accepting cares or responsibilities, and thus are not concerned with God or His Way and Love—even those in the Church. They would rather die hopeless than be filled with love and be saved for eternity!