Sin Destroyed on Earth
The word "Hallelujah" occurs just four times in the New Testament and every occasion is in this chapter. It is Hebrew for "Praise Jehovah" and comes from the Temple Worship of the Psalms.
We have seen that heaven is the great temple of God which the earthly temple foreshadowed and reflected. In the same way, all the elements of the temple worship, with musicians, singers, incense and sacrifice, each have their counterpart in heaven.
The joyful Hebrew shout comes from a "great multitude" and, once, from the twenty four elders and the four living creatures. This is the same unity of praise which we heard in chapter seven. The focus there was on the worshippers; here they are presented as being "off stage" so that we can concentrate on the theme of their praises.
The word of praise is shouted rather than sung. Perhaps we should imagine this as a shout of victory. The armies of heaven are about to appear (v14) and before they burst into view we hear the shout of their battle cry like thunder rolling ahead of them.
Each of the four Hallelujah's carries the message of victory forward. The first (vs1,2) proclaims that God has judged in favour of His servants and against their opponents. The second (v3) proclaims eternal torment and destruction upon the godless world. The third (v5) calls on us to praise God for this demonstration of His justice and the fourth (v6-8) proclaims the glorious consequence of this victory, the gathering and perfecting of the church under the absolute rule of God.
The Wedding Supper Of Christ And His Church
There are many places in the Old Testament where the theme of Israel as the bride of God is taught and applied. The idea of God as a gracious husband selecting a wife who was "beneath" Him and graciously raising her to this glorious height was wonderful to the prophets. The Jews often failed to live up to the dignity which God's choice implied and then the emphasis would be on the unfaithful and adulterous nature of the chosen people who often acted like a wayward and ungrateful wife.
God's love has a patient persistence, however, and he will finally have His bride, washed and purified, as a holy people for His eternal praise. The promises to Israel have been broadened to include Gentile servants of God as part of this glorious bride.
Just as the saints are symbolised by a faithful wife, so the worldly multitude are represented by Babylon, the adulterous prostitute. The contrast is sharply pointed up in this chapter because the moment of judgement and separation is about to be described.
Christ will come and complete his relationship with His people. We taste today the goodness of belonging to Him but there is much more to come. Now is only the "engagement", we are His as a matter of promise and commitment - when Christ appears the marriage begins with a great celebration, the marriage feast of Jesus (v.9),
We should make ourselves ready for that day (v7) by living righteous lives. V.8 connects the good we do now with our future happiness. Our fine linen will be our "righteous acts". But these acts are "given" to us. What can this mean?
It means that we are to do good but that our good deeds are not righteous in themselves. Our lives need to be "washed in the blood of the Lamb" (see 7:14). We MUST do good deeds [of what else does the life of faith consist?] but even our best needs to be cleansed and made acceptable by Christ's death for sins. Are you making yourself ready by repenting of sin and living by faith in Christ's saving work?
What joy and celebration weddings cause! But what greater joy when sin is banished from the world and the righteous Kingdom reigns perfectly! All of creation will be made new and glorious and the crown of it all will be the perfected church of Christ.
In chapter nineteen the wedding is announced as being imminent but we do not see the wedding feast itself or have a description of it. This is consistent with John's way of introducing an idea and then developing it later. The description must wait until chapter twenty one. Before the eternal celebrations begin the enemies of Christ and His people must be finally defeated and removed from the earth.
The White Rider
Heaven opens and the first thing we see is a white horse. The parallel with the white horse of 6:2 is obvious but there are also very important differences. The progress of the Gospel in chapter six was only one of a number of powers released to work in the earth, in chapter nineteen Christ rides out to claim a total victory. The riders of the red, black and livid green horses will be unseated and disarmed when this white rider appears.
Instead of being armed with the bow of the gospel and arrows of conviction, Christ will use the sword of his mouth (v15) which represents His word of judgement, to beat down all opposition.
Although He is not named, the descriptions make the identification of the rider as being Jesus absolutely sure. He is the faithful and true One (19:11 and 1:5, 7:1, 3:14); His are the eyes of fire (19:12 and 1:14, 2:18); the sword of God's Word comes from His mouth (19:15 and 1:16, 2:12); and His is the iron sceptre to rule the nations (19:15 and 2:27). There is only one "King of kings and Lord of lords" (19:16, 1:5).
The moment being described here is the day of Christ's appearing which is the focus of so much scripture in both the Testaments. This is also the day which is meant to be eagerly awaited and sought by all christians. This appearance will mean the end of Anti-Christ in both his forms of beast and false prophet (compare 2 Thessalonians 2:8 with Revelation 19:19-20).
The picture consists of heaven being opened and Christ sweeping down to Earth to claim a total and effortless victory. Even though the forces of earth are marshalled together in verse 19 there seems to be no contest since the victory of the next two verses is immediately completed. When "the gloves are off" Christ's limitless power easily sweeps aside the combined opposition of hell and the world.
The armies of heaven ride out like massed cavalry, only to find that their Lord has won the war single handed. Indeed, they seem to be armed only with their white robes of holiness. The battle is indeed the Lord's alone and the glory of victory belongs to Christ and no other.
The victories of God are never a matter of the raw exercise of power, however. Verse 11 introduces Christ as the one who is worthy to rule. He is the Faithful and True who judges and makes war with the purest and most exact justice. The foundation of His throne is not His almighty power as the Son of God but rather the perfect righteousness of the Holy One of Israel.
The Supper Of The Birds
Two suppers are announced in this chapter but the contrast between them is complete and startling. The return of Christ is connected with them both.
His coming will have a completely opposite appearance to those who do not believe in Him. He will appear as the dreadful agent of precise justice whom we see in verses 11-16.
The anger of God is not like our unrightous passion - it is rather the expression of His perfect, penetrating Justice. "With justice He judges and makes war."(v11). This makes Him all the more terrible to men and women who have not come to Him for grace and forgiveness. Could you stand before Jesus when He comes if He judged your heart and life by the standard of strict justice alone?
Justice demands the death penalty. Death for both soul and body. The image of a vast pile of human flesh being gorged on by birds of prey is disgusting and disturbing (vs.17-18). It is a picture of horror and degradation which alerts us to the fate of those who wage war on God by rejecting His rule. Everyone is included in this grisly scene; verse 18 tells us that the great and powerful will not be able to avoid it and that the poor and insignificant will be caught in the same way.
These people are represented as being the armies of the beast and false prophet. It is because they served these evil human powers rather than God that they are lumped together to suffer this dreadful fate.
We have seen already that in the age of the gospel there is no middle ground, no neutral corner which the agnostic or drop-out can hide in. If we are servants of God who fear Him then we can have great confidence of blessing whether we are "small or great" (v5). If we are not his servants then we are numbered with the opposition who are condemned "small and great"(v18).
We should be part of the armies of heaven (v.14) rather than the armies of earth (v.19).
The Fiery Lake
In 19:20 we have the first mention of the fiery lake of burning sulphur. True to John's style, we have just a mention now which will be amplified in the next chapter a little. The reference to sulphur ties in with 14:10-11 which explains that this is not simply destruction but eternal pain. The idea of Jehovah's Witnesses of annihilation for God's enemies is contradicted by the Revelation very clearly. The lake of fire is a place where condemnation is an everlasting experience.
The beast and false prophet are thrown into this aweful place. The ruling and religious/intellectual elites who abused and misled mankind (and therefore did the devil's work) are the first to be condemned to this eternal torment. It is fitting that those who led in violence and lies should also be first to taste the consequence but all who are outside Christ must go this way eventually.
The life's work of Christ is to destroy the devil's work (1 John 3:8) and that great task will be completed at His second coming when He will remove evil from the earth completely.
Even now Christ is destroying sin and evil in the world and some of us will see our evil washed away by His death applied to our lives. Our sin will be forgiven and removed and we shall be wedded eternally to Him.
Others of us will suffer the destruction of our evil in our own flesh and minds. Death will be our eternal experience. If we are not wedded to Christ we are wedded to sin and therefore must suffer God's punishment.
We have seen the fall of Babylon, the fickle and unfaithful culture of the great city, and now we have seen the destruction of the two beasts (the beast out of the sea and the false prophet) who led mankind in opposition to Christ. In the next chapter we will see the last enemies destroyed and the wrath of God completed.
The appearing of Christ is the key event which marks the end of the last days of this world. It is the end of all the "sevens" of the Bible. The seventh day of creation, the seventh seal of the scroll, the seventh blast of the trumpets and the seventh bowl of wrath are all fulfilled and finished in the day of Christ. The old order will then be finished and the new, eternal order will begin.