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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
Revelation 19

 

 


Other Authors
Verses 1-21

Chapter 19

THE TE DEUM OF THE ANGELS (Revelation 19:1-2)

19:1-2 After these things I heard what sounded like a great voice of a vast multitude in heaven. "Hallelujah!" they were saying. "Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, because his judgments are true and just, for he judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and has avenged upon her the blood of his servants."

In the description of the total destruction of Babylon, come the words: "Rejoice over her, O heaven, O saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!" (Revelation 18:20). Here now is the rejoicing which was called for.

It begins with the shout of a vast multitude in heaven. We have already come upon two vast multitudes in heaven, the martyrs in Revelation 7:9 and the angels in Revelation 5:11. Here is most likely the multitude of the angels, first in the Te Deum of praise.

This shout of rejoicing begins with Hallelujah. Hallelujah is a very common word in religious vocabulary but the only time it actually appears in Scripture is on the four occasions in this chapter. Like Hosanna (Hebrew #3467 + Hebrew #4994 and Greek #5614) it is one of the few Hebrew words which have established themselves in ordinary religious language. It probably came to be so well known to even the simplest member of the Church through its special use as a response of praise in the Easter worship.

Hallelujah literally means "Praise God". It is derived from halal (Hebrew #1984), which means to praise, and Jah (Hebrew #3050), which is the name of God. Although Hallelujah appears only here in the Bible, it occurs in a translated form frequently. It is actually the first phrase in Psalms 106:1-48 ; Psalms 111:1-10; Psalms 112:1-10; Psalms 113:1-9; Psalms 117:1-2 ; Psalms 135:1-21 ; Psalms 146:1-10; Psalms 147:1-20; Psalms 148:1-14; Psalms 149:1-9; Psalms 150:1-6. The series of Psalms from Psalms 113:1-9; Psalms 114:1-8; Psalms 115:1-18; Psalms 116:1-19; Psalms 117:1-2; Psalms 118:1-29 were called the Hallel (compare Hebrew #1984), the Praise God, and were part of the essential education of every Jewish lad. Where Hallelujah occurs in the Old Testament it is translated by Praise God, but here in this chapter the original Hebrew form, transliterated into Greek, is retained.

God is praised because salvation, glory, and power belong to him. Each of these three great attributes of God should awaken its own response in the heart of man. The salvation of God should awaken the gratitude of man; the glory of God should awaken the reverence of man; the power of God is always exercised in the love of God and should, therefore, awaken the trust of man. Gratitude, reverence, trust--these are the constituent elements of real praise.

God is praised because he has exercised his just and true judgment on the great harlot. Judgment is the inescapable consequence of sin. T. S. Kepler comments: "The moral law can no more be broken than the law of gravity; it can only be illustrated." It is said that the judgments of God are true and just. God alone is perfect in judgment for three reasons. First, he alone can see the inmost thoughts and desires of any man. Second, he alone has that purity which can judge without prejudice. Third, he alone has the wisdom to find the right judgment and the power to apply it.

The great harlot is judged because she corrupted the world. The worst of all sins is to teach others to sin.

All forbidden things we've sought,

All the mischief we have wrought,

All the sin to others taught,

Forgive, O Lord, for Jesus' sake.

There is one other reason for the rejoicing. The judgment on Rome is the guarantee that God never in the end abandons his own.

THE TE DEUM OF NATURE AND THE CHURCH (Revelation 19:3-5)

19:3-5 And a second time they said: "Hallelujah! for the smoke from her rises for ever and ever."

And the twenty-four elders, and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped the God who is seated upon the throne. "Amen," they said, "Hallelujah!" And a voice came forth from the throne. "Praise our God," it said, "all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great."

The angelic host sings a second Hallelujah. Their praise is that the smoke of Babylon rises for ever and ever. That is to say, never again will she rise from her ruins. The actual picture comes from Isaiah: "The streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into brimstone; her land shall become burning pitch. Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up for ever and ever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever" (Isaiah 34:9-10).

There follows praise from the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures. The twenty-four elders were prominent in the early visions (Revelation 4:4; Revelation 4:10; Revelation 5:6; Revelation 5:11; Revelation 5:14; Revelation 7:11; Revelation 11:16; Revelation 14:3) as were the four living creatures (Revelation 4:6-9; Revelation 5:6-14; Revelation 6:1-7; Revelation 7:11; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 15:7). We saw that the twenty-four elders represent the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, and, therefore, stand for the totality of the Church. The four living creatures, respectively like a lion, an ox, a man and an eagle, stand for two things, for all that is bravest, strongest, wisest and swiftest in nature--and for the cherubim. Hence a song of praise from the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures is a Te Deum from the whole of the Church and the whole of nature.

The voice that comes from the throne is most likely to be understood as the voice of one of the cherubim. "Praise our God," says the voice, "all you his servants, you who fear him." Once again John finds his model in the words of the Old Testament, for that is a quotation from Psalms 135:1; Psalms 135:20.

Two sets of people are called on to praise God. First, there are his servants. In the Revelation two kinds of people are specially called the servants of God; the prophets (Revelation 10:7; Revelation 11:18; Revelation 22:6), and the martyrs (Revelation 7:3; Revelation 19:2). First, then, this is the praise of the prophets and the martyrs who have witnessed for God with their voices and with their lives. Second, there are the small and the great. H. B. Swete says that this comprehensive phrase embraces "Christians of all intellectual capacities and social grades, and of all stages of progress in the life of Christ." It is a universal summons to praise God for his mighty acts.

THE TE DEUM OF THE REDEEMED (Revelation 19:6-8)

19:6-8 And I heard a voice which sounded like the voice of a vast multitude, and like the sound of many waters, and like the sound of mighty crashes of thunder.

"Hallelujah!" they said, "because the Lord our God, the Almighty, has entered into his kingdom. Let us rejoice and let us exult, and let us give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has prepared herself, and it has been granted to her to clothe herself with fine linen, shining and pure." For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of God's dedicated people.

The final shout is the praise of the host of the redeemed. John goes out of his way to heap up similes to describe its sound. It was, as H. B. Swete puts it, like "the din of a vast concourse, the roar of a cataract, the roll of thunder."

Once again John finds his inspiration in the words of Scripture. In his mind are two things. First, he is remembering Psalms 97:1 : "The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice." Second, he says: "Let us rejoice and exult." There is only one other place in the New Testament where these two verbs (chairein, Greek #5463, and agallian, Greek #21) come together--in Jesus Christ's promise to the persecuted: "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven" (Matthew 5:12). It is as if the multitude of the redeemed sent up their shout of praise because the promise of Christ to his persecuted ones had come abundantly true.

Next comes the marriage of the Lamb to his bride. That picture stands for the final union between Jesus Christ and his Church. R. H. Charles finely says that the marriage symbolism "denotes the intimate and indissoluble communion of Christ with the community which he has purchased with his own blood" a communion which is "first reached in fulness by the host of the martyrs."

The thought of the relationship between God and his people as a marriage goes far back into the Old Testament. Again and again the prophets thought of Israel as the chosen bride of God. "I will betroth you to me for ever," Hosea hears God say, "I will betroth you to me in righteousness" (Hosea 2:19-20). "Your Maker is your husband; the Lord of hosts is his name," says Isaiah (Isaiah 54:5). Jeremiah hears God say and appeal: "Return, O faithless children, for I am your master" (Jeremiah 3:14). Ezekiel works out the whole picture most fully in Ezekiel 16:1-63 .

The marriage symbolism runs all through the Gospels. We read of the marriage feast (Matthew 22:2); of the bridechamber and the wedding garment (Matthew 22:10-11); of the sons of the bridechamber (Mark 2:19); of the bridegroom (Mark 2:19; Matthew 25:1); of the friends of the bridegroom (John 3:29). And Paul speaks of himself as betrothing the Church like a pure virgin to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2), and for him the relationship of Christ to his Church is the great model of the relationship of husband and wife (Ephesians 5:21-33).

This may seem to us a strange metaphor. But it conserves certain great truths. In any real marriage there must be four things which must also be in the relationship between the Christian and Christ.

(i) There is love. A loveless marriage is a contradiction in terms.

(ii) There is intimate communion, so intimate that man and wife become one flesh. The relationship of the Christian and Christ must be the closest in all life.

(iii) There is joy. There is nothing like the joy of loving and of being loved. If Christianity does not bring joy, it does not bring anything.

(iv) There is fidelity. No marriage can last without fidelity, and the Christian must be as faithful to Jesus Christ as Jesus Christ is to him.

THE ALMIGHTY AND HIS KINGDOM (Revelation 19:6-8 continued)

This passage calls God by a certain name; and says that he has entered into his kingdom.

It calls God the Almighty. The word is pantokrator (Greek #3841), literally the one who controls all things. The significant thing about this great word is that it occurs ten times in the New Testament. Once it is in an Old Testament quotation in 2 Corinthians 6:18; the other nine times are all in the Revelation (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8; Revelation 11:17; Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:6; Revelation 19:15; Revelation 21:22). In other words, this is the characteristic title for God in the Revelation.

There was never a time in history in which such forces were drawn up against the Church as when the Revelation was written. There was never a time when the Christian was called upon to undergo such suffering and to accept so continually the prospect of a cruel death. And yet in such times John calls God pantokrator (Greek #3841).

Here is faith and confidence; and the whole point of this passage is that that faith and confidence are vindicated.

The Church, the Bride of Christ, is clothed in fine linen, pure and shining. There is a contrast with the scarlet and gold of the great harlot. The white linen represents the good deeds of God's dedicated people; that is to say, it is character which forms the robe which arrays the Bride of Christ.

THE ONLY WORSHIP (Revelation 19:9-10 a)

19:9-10a And he said to me: "Write! Blessed are those who are invited to the feast of the marriage of the Lamb!" And he said to me: "These are the true words of God." And I fell down before his feet to worship him; and he said to me: "See that you do not do this. I am your fellow-servant and the fellow-servant of your brothers who possess the testimony which Jesus gave. Worship God!"

The Jews had the idea that, when the Messiah came, God's people would, as it were, be entertained by God to a great Messianic Banquet. Isaiah speaks of God preparing for his people "a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined" (Isaiah 25:6). Jesus speaks of many coming from the east and the west and sitting down with the patriarchs in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11). The word used for sitting down is the word for reclining at a meal. The picture is of all men sitting down at the Messianic Banquet of God. Jesus at the Last Supper said that he would not again drink of the cup until he drank it new in his Father's kingdom (Matthew 26:29). That was Jesus looking forward to the great Messianic Banquet.

It may well be from that old Jewish idea that there came the idea of the marriage feast of the Lamb, for that indeed would be the true Messianic Banquet. It is a simple picture, not to be taken with crude literalness, but simply saying very beautifully that in his kingdom all men will enjoy the bounty of God.

But this passage confronts us with something which became of very great importance in the worship of the Church. It was John's instinct to worship the angelic messenger; but the angel forbids him to do that, because the angels are no more than men's fellow-servants. Worship is for God alone. John was forbidding angel worship; and that was a very necessary prohibition, for in the early church there was a well-nigh inevitable tendency to worship angels, a tendency which has never wholly disappeared.

(i) In certain circles of Judaism the angels had a very large place. Raphael tells Tobit that he is the angel who brought his prayer before God (Tobit 13:12-15). In the Testament of Dan (Daniel 6:2) the angel who intercedes for men is mentioned. In the Testament of Levi (5:5) Michael is said to be the angel who intercedes for Israel. A fourth century A.D. Rabbi, Jehudah, actually gave the odd instruction that men ought not to pray in Aramaic because the angels did not understand Aramaic! The prevalence of all this in Judaism is underlined by the fact that certain Rabbis insisted that prayers must always be offered direct to God, and not to Michael or to Gabriel.

In Judaism there was increasingly stressed the transcendence of God, because of that it was increasingly felt that man needed some intermediary. Hence arose the prominence of angels.

When Jews came over into Christianity, sometimes they brought this special reverence for the angels with them, forgetting that with the coming of Jesus no other intermediary between God and man can be necessary.

(ii) A Greek came into the Church from a world of thought which made angel worship a real danger. First, he came from a world in which there were many gods--Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Aphrodite and the rest, What was easier than to keep the old gods in the form of angels? Second, he came from a world in which it was believed that God did not interest himself directly but made his contact through the demons (daimon, Greek #1142), by means of whom he controlled the natural forces and acted upon men. What was easier than to turn the demons into angels and to worship them?

John insists that angels are no more than the servants of God; and that God alone must be worshipped. Any other intermediary than Jesus Christ between God and man must be utterly opposed.

THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY (Revelation 19:10 b)

19:10b The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

We take this phrase by itself, because it is both ambiguous and important.

The ambiguity springs from the fact that the testimony of Jesus can bear either of two meanings.

(i) It can mean the witness which the Christian bears to Jesus Christ. That is the way in which H. B. Swete takes it. He says: "The possession of the prophetic spirit, which makes a true prophet, shows itself in a life of witness to Jesus, which perpetuates his witness to the Father and to himself" A prophet's message lies in the personal witness of his life, even more than in the spoken witness of his words.

(ii) It can equally mean the witness which Jesus Christ gives to men. On that interpretation the phrase will mean that no man can speak to men until he has listened to Jesus Christ. It was said of a great preacher: "First he listened to God, then he spoke to men."

This is the kind of double meaning of which the Greek language is capable. It may well be that John intended the double meaning; and that we are meant not to choose between the meanings, but to accept both of them. If so, we can define the true prophet as the man who has received from Christ the message he brings to men, and whose words and works are at one and the same time an act of witness to Christ.

THE CONQUERING CHRIST (Revelation 19:11)

19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and, behold, a white horse, and he who is mounted on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

Here is one of the most dramatic moments in the Revelation, the emergence of the conquering Christ.

(i) John sees Christ as the conqueror. He is, as H. B. Swete puts it, "a royal commander followed by a dazzling retinue." Here is a picture which is essentially Jewish. Jewish dreams were full of the warrior Messiah, who would lead God's people to victory and smash his enemies. In the Psalms of Solomon we have that picture:

Behold, O Lord, and raise up unto them their king the Son of

David,

At the time in which thou seest, O God, that he may reign

over Israel, Thy servant.

And gird him with strength that he may shatter unrighteous

rulers,

And that he may purge Jerusalem from nations that trample

her down to destruction.

Wisely, righteously, he shall thrust out sinners from the

inheritance,

He shall destroy the pride of the sinner as a potter's vessel,

With a rod of iron he shall break in pieces all their substance,

He shall destroy the godless nations with the word of his

mouth;

At his rebuke nations shall flee before him,

And he shall reprove sinners for the thoughts of their hearts

(Wis 17:23-27).

There is a Rabbinic picture of the Messiah: "How beauteous is the king Messiah, who is about to rise from the house of Judah. He hath bound his loins and gone forth to war against those who hate him; kings and princes shall be slain; he will make red the rivers with the blood of the slain...his garments will be dipped in blood."

The white horse is the symbol of the conqueror, because it was on a white horse that a Roman general rode when he celebrated a triumph.

It is well to remember that the whole background of this picture lies in Jewish expectations of the future and has little to do with the Christ of the Gospels who was meek and lowly in heart.

(ii) His name is Faithful and True. Here, on the other hand, is something which is valid for all time. Christ is described by two words.

(a) He is faithful. The word is pistos (Greek #4103); it means absolutely to be trusted.

(b) He is true. The word is alethinos (Greek #228) and has two meanings. It means true in the sense that Jesus Christ is the one who brings the truth and who never at any time has any falsehood in anything that he says. It also means genuine, as opposed to that which is unreal. In Jesus Christ we meet reality.

(iii) He judges and makes war in righteousness. Again John finds his picture in the prophetic words of the Old Testament, where it is said of the chosen king of God: "With righteousness he shall judge the poor" (Isaiah 11:4). John's age knew all about the perversion of justice; no one could expect justice from a capricious heathen tyrant. In Asia Minor even the tribunal of the proconsul was subject to bribery and to maladministration. Wars were matters of ambition and tyranny and oppression rather than of justice. But when the conquering Christ comes, his power will be exercised in justice.

THE UNKNOWABLE NAME (Revelation 19:12)

19:12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many royal crowns, and he has a name written which no one knows except himself.

We begin the description of the conquering Christ.

His eyes are a flame of fire. We have already met this description in Revelation 1:14 and Revelation 2:18. It stands for the consuming power of the victorious Christ. On his head he has many crowns. The word used here for crown is diadema (Greek #1238), which is the royal crown, as opposed to stephanos (Greek #4735) which is the crown of victory. To be crowned with more than one crown may seem strange, but in the time of John it was quite natural. It was not uncommon for a monarch to wear more than one crown in order to show that he was the king of more than one country. For instance, when Ptolemy entered Antioch he wore two crowns or diadems--one to show that he was lord of Asia and one to show that he was lord of Egypt (1 Maccabees 11:13). On the head of the victor Christ there are many crowns to show that he is lord of all the kingdoms of the earth.

He has a name known to no one but himself. This is a passage whose meaning is obscure. What is this name? Many suggestions have been made.

(i) It has been suggested that the name is kurios (Greek #2962), Lord. In Philippians 2:9-11 we read of the name above every name which God has given to Jesus Christ because of his complete obedience; and there the name is almost certainly Lord.

(ii) It is suggested that the name is Y-H-W-H. That was the Jewish name for God. In Hebrew writing there were no vowels; the vowels had to be supplied by the reader. No one really knows what the vowels in Y-H-W-H were. The name was in fact so holy that it was never pronounced. We usually pronounce it JEHOVAH but the vowels in Jehovah are really those of the Hebrew word 'Adonay (Hebrew #136), which means Lord, the name by which the Jews called God in order to avoid pronouncing the sacred name. Many scholars think the name should be Y-A-H-W-E-H. The letters Y-H-W-H (Yahweh) are called the sacred tetragrammaton, the sacred four letters.

(iii) It may be that the name is one which can be revealed only at the final union of Christ and the Church. In the Ascension of Isaiah (Isaiah 9:5) there is a saying: "Thou canst not bear his name until thou shalt have ascended out of the body." There was a Jewish belief that no man could know the name of God until he had entered into the life of heaven.

(iv) It may be that here is a lingering relic of the old idea that to know the name of a divine being was to have a certain power over him. In two Old Testament stories, the wrestling of Jacob at Peniel (Genesis 32:29), and the appearance of the angelic messenger to Gideon ( 13:18) the divine visitor refuses to tell his name.

(v) It may be that we shall never know the symbolism of the unknown name but H. B. Swete has the very fine idea that in the essence of the being of Christ there must always remain something beyond man's understanding. "Notwithstanding the dogmatic helps which the Church offers, the mind fails to grasp the inmost significance of the Person of Christ, which eludes all efforts to bring it within the terms of human knowledge. Only the Son of God can understand the mystery of his own being."

GOD'S WORD IN ACTION (Revelation 19:13)

19:13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is the Word of God.

Here are two further pictures of the warrior Christ.

(i) He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, not his own but that of his enemies. As R. H. Charles puts it, it is essential to remember that the Heavenly Leader is this time, not the Slain One, but the Slayer. As usual John takes his picture from the Old Testament and is thinking of the terrible picture in Isaiah 63:1-3, where the prophet pictures God returning from the destruction of Edom; "I trod them in my anger, and trampled them in my wrath; their life blood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all my raiment." This is the Messiah of Jewish apocalyptic expectation far more than the Messiah whom Jesus claimed to be.

(ii) His name is the Word of God. Although the words are the same as in the first chapter of the Fourth Gospel, the meaning is quite different and much simpler. Here we have the purely Jewish idea of the Word of God. To a Jew a word was not merely a sound; it did things. As Dr. John Paterson puts it in The Book that is Alive: "The spoken word in Hebrew was fearfully alive. It was not merely a vocable or sound dropped heedlessly from unthinking lips. It was a unit of energy charged with power. It is energised for weal or for woe." We can see that, for instance, in the old story in which Jacob filched Esau's blessing from Isaac (Genesis 27:1-46 ). The blessing given could not be taken back.

If that is so of human words, how much truer it is of the divine word. It is by his word that God created the earth and the heavens and everything in them. And God said is the recurring phrase in the narrative of creation (Genesis 1:3; Genesis 1:6; Genesis 1:9; Genesis 1:14; Genesis 1:26). The word of God, said Jeremiah, is like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23:29).

In Wisdom there is a description of the plagues in Egypt, and in particular of the slaying of the first-born sons of the Egyptians: "Thine Almighty Word leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne, as a fierce man of war, into the midst of a land of destruction, and brought thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and standing up filled all things with death; and it touched the heaven, but it stood upon the earth" (Wisdom of Solomon 18:15-16). It is the active word which carried out the commandment of God. Here is the idea in Hebrews 4:12 : "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword."

When John here called the warrior Christ "The Word of God", he means that here in action is all the power of God's word; everything that God has said, and threatened, and promised is embodied in Christ.

THE AVENGING WRATH (Revelation 19:14-16)

19:14-16 The armies which are in heaven followed him, on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure.

From his mouth there comes forth a sharp two-edged sword, so that with it he may smite the nations, and he will control them with an iron rod. He will tread the winepress of the anger of the wrath of God the Almighty.

And on his robe, and on his thigh, he has a name written--King of kings and Lord of lords.

The description of the warrior Christ is further filled in.

He has with him the armies of heaven. With this we may compare Jesus' words at his arrest, when he said he could have had twelve legions of angels to fight for him (Matthew 26:53). The armies of heaven are the hosts of the angels.

From his mouth goes forth a sharp two-edged sword (compare Revelation 1:16). This description of the warrior Christ comes from two Old Testament passages put side by side. Isaiah says of the heavenly king: "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked" (Isaiah 11:4). The Psalmist says of the Messianic king: "You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (Psalms 2:9). Once again we must remember that this picture is demonstrably painted in Jewish terms.

He will tread the winepress of the anger of the wrath of God. The picture is of the warrior Christ trampling the grapes so as to produce the wine of the wrath of God, which his enemies must drink to their doom.

Our most difficult task here is to discover the picture behind the statement that the warrior Christ has the name King of kings and Lord of lords written on his robe and on his thigh. Various suggestions have been made. It has been suggested that the name is either embroidered on his girdle or engraved on his sword hilt. It is suggested that it is on the skirt of his general's cloak, for that is where it would be easiest to read on a horseman. It is suggested that it is actually written on his thigh, because it was sometimes the custom to engrave the titles of statues on the thigh. It seems clear that the name is visible to all, and, therefore, probably the likeliest solution is that it was written on the skirt of the warrior Christ's robe, lying over his thigh, as he rode upon the white horse. In any event, the name singles him out as the greatest of all rulers, the only true divine One and the universal King.

THE DOOM OF THE ENEMIES OF CHRIST (Revelation 19:17-21)

19:17-21 And I saw one angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a great voice to all the birds who fly in midheaven. "Come," he said, "assemble for the great feast which God will give you, that you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of those who ride them, and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, both small and great."

And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war with him who rides the horse, and with his army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet, who performed in his presence signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast, and who worship his image. The two of them were cast alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone; and the rest were slain with the sword of him who rides the horse, with the sword which comes out of his mouth; and all the birds were glutted with their flesh.

Here is a grim picture of birds of prey being invited to come from all over the sky to glut themselves on the corpses of the slain. Again this is a picture taken directly from the Old Testament, from Ezekiel's picture of the slaughter of the forces of Gog and Magog. "Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field.... You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth--of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bulls.... And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk at the sacrificial feast which I am preparing for you" (Ezekiel 39:17-19). This bloodthirsty picture is again far more in line with Old Testament apocalyptic expectations than with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here we have a repetition of the imagery of chapter 13. The beast is Nero redivivus; the false prophet is the provincial organization which administered Caesar worship; those who have the mark of the beast are they who have worshipped at the shrine of Caesar; the kings of the earth and their armies are the Parthian hosts, which Nero was to lead again against Rome and against the world.

So all the forces hostile to God assemble themselves; but the warrior Christ is to conquer. Antichrist and his henchmen are cast into the lake of fire; and all their supporters are slain, to await in Sheol the final judgment.

The cosmic drama is drawing to a close. Nothing has yet been said of the fate of Satan, but now we go on to see that fate.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Revelation 19:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/revelation-19.html. 1956-1959.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, August 10th, 2020
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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