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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Revelation 19

 

 


Other Authors
Verse 1

Revelation 19:1. Here only in N.T. (after the ruin of sinners, as Psalms 104:35) the liturgical hallelujah of the psalter and synagogue worship occurs. In Revelation 19:1; Revelation 19:3; Revelation 19:6 it stands as usual first, an invocation = “praise Jah”; but in Revelation 19:4 it is responsive, as in Pss. 104–5., 115–117. (the latter being sung at the passover; cf. Revelation 19:7).


Verse 2

Revelation 19:2. ἔφθειρεν, as the first Babylon had been denounced for her depraving influence by Jeremiah (51) Jer 28:25, τὸ ὄρος τὸ διεφθαρμένον τὸ διαφθεῖρον πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν. The impatient cry of Revelation 6:10 has now been answered. God “has avenged the blood (i.e., the murder) of his servants at her hand (i.e., on her),” the LXX rendering (e.g., in 2 Kings 9:7, καὶ ἐκδικήσεις τὰ αἵματα τῶν δούλων κυρίου ἐκ χειρὸς ἰεζάβελ) of the Heb. idiom נקם דם מיד = to exact punishment from a murderer. The idea is substantially that of Ps. Sol. 4:9, 8:29–31. As ἀληθ. καὶ δικ. are a characteristically ample expression for “equitable,” it is in the context rather than in the language of the passage (Ritschl, Rechtf. und Versöhn. ii. 118, 119) that we must find the thought of God being shown to be the real and righteous Saviour of the saints by his infliction of punishment on their persecutors.


Verse 4

Revelation 19:4. After the long interlude of judgments on the earth, the πρεσβύτεροι and ζῷα (incidentally mentioned in Revelation 11:16, Revelation 14:3) re-appear upon the scene, though for the last time, to take part in the chorus of praise over Rome’s ruin. The cradle-song of the future is the dirge of Rome. The drama now centres mainly round the city of God, and the earlier temple-scenery of the Apocalypse (Revelation 19:4-11, Revelation 15:5 to Revelation 16:17) passes almost wholly out of sight.— ἀμήν: the initial (and primitive) use of ἀμήν, social (e.g., 1 Kings 1:36) as well as liturgical, which gravely assents to the preceding words of another speaker.


Verse 5

Revelation 19:5. The O.T. expression servants of God implied (R. S. 69 f.) not simply membership in a community of which God is king, but special devotion to his service and worship. It was not associated with any idea of “slavery to a divine despot,” but was originally confined in the main to royal and priestly families (cf. Revelation 1:5) which had a special interest in primitive religion and which were near to the god of the tribe or nation. Hence, in the broader and later sense of the term, the “servants of God” are all those who live in pious fear of him, i.e., yielding him honour and obedience. John, pre-occupied with judgment, views the faith of the Lord as equivalent practically to his fear; unlike most early Christian writers, who (1 Peter 1:17-18, etc.) carefully bring forward the complementary element of love. Lowly confidence rather than warm intimacy is this prophet’s ideal of the Christian life towards God. See Did. 3, 4.; Barn. Revelation 4:11; Herm. Mand. x. 1, xii. 4, 6.


Verse 6

Revelation 19:6. S ingeniously but awkwardly punctuates after “Hallelujah,” connecting ὅτι κ. τ. λ., with the subsequent χαίρωμεν.— ἐβασίλευσε κ. τ. λ. A sublimated version of the old watchword κυριοσ αυτοσ βασιλευσ η΄ων which had been the rallying cry of pious Jews and especially of the Pharisees (e.g., Ps. Sol. 17:1, 2, 38, 51, 2:34–36, 5:20, 21) during the conflict with Roman aggression. This divine epithalamium is the last song of praise in the Apocalypse. At this point also the writer reverts for a moment to the Lamb, absent since Revelation 17:14 from his pages, and absent again till Revelation 21:9.


Verse 7

Revelation 19:7. A proleptic allusion to the triumphant bliss as a marriage between the victorious messiah and his people or the new Jerusalem (cf. Volz, 331). The conception is primarily eschatological (Weinel, p. 137; cf. Mechilta on Exodus 19:17) and is so employed here. The marriage-day of Christ and his church is the day of his second advent. This is the more intimate and tender aspect of the divine βασιλεία. But, as a traditional feature of the Oriental myth (Jeremiah , 45 f.) was the postponement of the deity’s wedding until he returned from victory (i.e., after vanquishing the darkness and cold of the winter), the religious application turns first of all to the overthrow of messiah’s foes (Revelation 19:11 f.).— ἀγαλλιῶμεν, act. as in 1 Peter 1:8 (cf. Abbott, Diatessarica, 2, 689).


Verse 8

Revelation 19:8. “Yea, she is (has been) permitted to put on” (for διδόναι ἵνα cf. Revelation 9:5, Mark 10:37), epexegetic of ἡτοιμ. ἑαυτήν (Isaiah 61:10). “Uides hic cultum gravem ut matronae, non pompaticum qualis meretricis ante (Revelation 17:4) descriptus,” Grot. In the following gloss (see above) the rare use of δικαιώματα (= “righteous deeds”) is paralleled by Baruch 2:19 ( τὰ δικ. τῶν πατέρων) and by an incidental employment of the sing in this sense by Paul (see on Romans 5:18). Moral purity and activity, which are the conditions of future and final bliss, are (as in Revelation 7:14, Revelation 14:4) defined as the outcome of human effort, although of course their existence must be referred to God ( ἐδόθη), and their success to the aid of Christ (loc. cit.); see on Revelation 1:4-6. Ignatius similarly (Eph. 10.) describes the saints as “robed entirely in the commandments of Christ”. The connexion of thought is the same as that in Matthew 21:43; Matthew 22:2; Matthew 22:11-14. For 8 b see the fontal passage from Sohar (cited by Gfrörer, ii. 184, 185): traditum est, quod opera bona ab homine hoc in mundo peracta, fiant ipsi uestis pretiosa in mundo illo.


Verse 9

Revelation 19:9. The saints are the Bride, but—by a confusion inevitable when the the two cognate figures, apocalyptic and synoptic (Matthew 22:2 f.), are combined—they are also the guests at the wedding. (The bliss of the next world is termed “the Banquet” in rabbinic writings, which interpret Exodus 24:11 as though the sight of God were meat and drink to the beholders). Like the Greek πόλις, the church is composed of members who are ideally distinguishable from her, just as in En. xxxviii. 1 the congregation of the righteous is equivalent to the new Jerusalem. With the idea of 7–9, cf. Pirke Aboth, iv. 23: This world is like a vestibule before the world to come; prepare thyself at the vestibule that thou mayest be admitted into the τρικλίνιον.— ἀληθ. either “real” as opposed to fanciful and delusive revelations, or (if ἀληθ. = ἀληθής) “trustworthy words of God” (Daniel 2:9) emphasising the previous beatitude (like ναί, λέγει τὸ πνεῦμα Revelation 14:13). Originally the words (see above) gravely corroborated all the preceding threats and promises (cf. Revelation 17:17), despite their occasionally strange and doubtful look. It is a common reiteration in apocc. (cf. reff.), underlining as it were the solemn statements of a given passage. See, e.g., Herm. Vis. iii. 4, “that God’s name may be glorified, hath this been revealed to thee, for the sake of those who are of doubtful mind, questioning in their hearts whether this is so or not. Tell them it is all true, that there is nothing but truth in it, that all is sure and valid and founded”. In Sanhed. Jerus. Rabbi Jochanan declares, with reference to Daniel 10:1, that a true word is one which has been already revealed by God to the council of the heavenly host.


Verse 10

Revelation 19:10. Jewish eschatology at this point has much to say of the return of the ten tribes and the general restoration of Zion’s children from foreign lands but these speculations were naturally of no interest to the religious mind of the Christian prophet. As hitherto the command to write has come from Christ, the seer perhaps thinks that this injunction also proceeds from a divine authority (Weiss), but his grateful and reverent attempt to pay divine homage to the angelus interpres (cf. Revelation 22:8) is severely rebuked. The author’s intention is to check any tendency to the angel-worship which—(whether a Jewish practice or not, cf. Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. 5, 41; Lightfoot on Colossians 2:18; and Lueken, 4 f.)—had for some time fascinated the Asiatic churches here and there. If even a prophet need not bow to an angel, how much less an ordinary Christian? A contemporary note of this polemic is heard in Asc. Isa. vii. 21 (Christians): et cecidi in faciem meam, ut eum (the angelus interpres, who conducts Isaiah through the heavens) adorarem, nec siuit me angelus, qui me instruebat, sed dixit mihi ne adores nec angelum nec thronum. In Asc. Isaiah 2:11 the angelic cicerone even rebukes the seer for calling him Lord: οὐκ ἐγὼ κύριος, ἀλλὰ σύν δουλός σού εἰμι. The repetition of this scene (Revelation 22:8 f.), due to the Oriental love of emphasis by reduplication, is significant in a book where angels swarm (cf. Daniel 2:11).— γὰρ κ. τ. λ., “for the testimony or witness of (i.e., borne by) Jesus is (i.e., constitutes) the spirit of prophecy”. This prose marginal comment (see above) specifically defines the brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus as possessors of prophetic inspiration. The testimony of Jesus is practically equivalent to Jesus testifying (Revelation 22:20). It is the self-revelation of Jesus (according to Revelation 1:1, due ultimately to God) which moves the Christian prophets. He forms at once the impulse and subject of their utterances (cf. lgnat. Rom. viii.; Eph. vi.). The motive and materials for genuine prophecy consist in a readiness to allow the spirit of Jesus to bring the truth of God before the mind and conscience (cf. Revelation 3:14; Revelation 3:22). The gloss even connects in a certain way with τῷ θεῷ προσκύνησον. Since angelic and human inspiration alike spring from the divine witness of Jesus, therefore God alone, as its ultimate source, deserves the reverence of those whom that inspiration impresses. The prestige of the prophets lies in the fact that any one of them is, as Philo called Abraham, σύνδουλος τῶν ἀγγέλων. An angel can do no more than bear witness to Jesus. Furthermore, there is an implicit definition of the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 11:7, etc.) in its final phase as a revelation of Jesus Christ. Even the O.T. prophetic books, with which the Apocalypse claims to rank, were inspired by the spirit of the pre-existent Christ (see on 1 Peter 1:11; Barn. Revelation 19:6). But now, by an anti-Jewish and even anti-pagan touch, no oracular or prophetic inspiration is allowed to be genuine unless it concerns Jesus who is the Christ. Such is the triumphant definition or rather manifesto of the new Christian prophecy.


Verse 11

Revelation 19:11. The military function of the messiah is known even to the philosophic Philo, who (de praem. et poen. 15–20) represents him incidentally as καὶ στραταρχῶν καὶ πολεμῶν ἔθνη. The victory of messiah over the earthly foes of God’s kingdom meant the triumph of the kingdom, according to Jewish and Jewish Christian hopes; but owing to the increased spiritualisation of the latter, this nationalistic tradition was laid side by side with the wider hope of an eternal, universal judgment upon dead and living. The latter was originally independent ot the earlier view, which made the culmination of providence for Israel consist in the earthly subjugation of her foes. The prophet John, by dividing God’s foes into the two classes of Rome and Rome’s destroyers, preserves the archaic tradition and also finds room for the Gog and Magog tradition later on.


Verses 11-16

Revelation 19:11-16. messiah and his troops or retinue: Jesus to the rescue (cf. Samson Agonistes, 1268 f.). The following description of a semi-judicial, semi-military hero is painted from passages like Isaiah 11:3-5 (where messiah, instead of judging by appearances, decides equitably: πατάξει γῆν τῷ λόγῳ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ: his breath slays the wicked: his loins are girt δικαιοσύνῃ and ἀληθείᾳ), the theophany of Habakkuk 3, and the sanguinary picture of Yahveh returning in triumph from the carnage in Idumea (cf. Revelation 19:13 with Isaiah 63:1-6). On the connexion of this celestial Rider with the Rider in 2 Maccabees 3., cf. Nestle in Zeits. f. alt. Wiss. 1905, pp. 203f.


Verses 11-21

Revelation 19:11-21 : a second vision of doom, on the Beast and his allies (in fulfilment of Revelation 12:5). Their fate (Revelation 19:17-21) follows a procession of the angelic troops (Revelation 19:11-16, contrast Revelation 9:16 f.). The connexion of this and the foregoing volume (Revelation 19:7-9) is mediated by the idea that the marriage of the warrior-messiah (cf. En. lx. 2; 4 Esd. 12:32, 13:38; Apoc. Bar. xxxix., xl., lxx.) cannot take place till he returns from victory (so in the messianic Psalms 45.). Now that the preliminary movements of the enemy (Revelation 17:16-17) are over, the holy war of Revelation 17:14 begins, which is to end in a ghastly Armageddon. This passage and the subsequent oracle of Revelation 20:1-10 reproduce in part a messianic programme according to which the dolores Messiae (cf. Klausner: mess. Vorstellungen d. jüd. Volkes im Zeitalter der Tannaiten, 1904, 47 f, and Charles on Apoc. Bar. 27:1) are followed by messiah’s royal advent on earth (here sketched in part from Sap. 18:4-24) to found a kingdom of the just (i.e., Israel) who are raised for this purpose. Israel supplants Rome as the world-power (Bar. 39.). Her period of superiority opens with the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, and closes with a crushing defeat of Gog and Magog, who are led by an incarnate villain (“dux ultimus,” xl.), but are finally vanquished by the aid of the ten tribes who return to take part in this campaign. Death and Satan then are annihilated, and eternal bliss ensues. Like Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:20 f., John modifies this scheme of tradition freely for his own Christian ends. He introduces a realistic expansion of the messianic age into three periods: (a) a victory of messiah (mounted, like Vishnu, on a white horse for the last battle) and his ἅγιοι (cf. Revelation 14:20) over the beast, the false prophet, and the kings of the world, who—as already noted—turn their attention to the saints after crushing Rome (Revelation 19:11-21); (b) an undisturbed reign of Christ and his martyrs (Revelation 20:1-6), evidently in Palestine; (c) the final defeat of Gog and Magog, with Satan their instigator (Revelation 20:7-10). There is little or nothing specifically Christian in all this section (except Revelation 20:4-6, cf. Revelation 19:13), but the general style betrays the author’s own hand, and there is no reason to suppose that a Jewish source in whole or part (so e.g., Vischer, Sabatier, de Faye, Weyland, Spitta, von Soden) underlies it. The sequence of the passage with Revelation 16:13-16; Revelation 16:18-20 is due to a common cycle of tradition, rather than to any literary source (Schön). It is a homogeneous finalê written by the prophet, in terms of current eschatology, to round off the predictions at which he has already hinted. Moralising traits emerge amidst the realism, but it is impossible to be sure how far the whole passage (i.e., 11–21) was intended to be figurative.


Verse 12

Revelation 19:12. διαδήματα πολλά, bec. he is king of kings (Ptolemy on entering Antioch put two diadems on his head, that of Egypt and that of Asia (1 Maccabees 11:13); cf. the ten golden diadems of royalty in ancient Egypt). Once crowned with thorns, Jesus is now invested with more than royal rank (cf. Barn. vii. 9, where Jesus, once accursed, is shown crowned). Eastern monarchs wore such royal insignia when they went into battle (e.g., 2 Samuel 1:10). Jesus has far more than the four (of a good name, of the law, of the high priesthood, of the divine kingdom, Targ. Jerus, on Deuteronomy 34) 5 or three (omitting the first) which Jewish tradition assigned to Moses (see Pirke Aboth, iv. 13, vi. 5; Joseph. Bell. i. 2, 8, prophetic, priestly, and royal honours).— ὄνομα κ. τ. λ., cf. Ep. Lugd., “when Attalus was placed on the iron seat and the fumes rose from his burning body, he was asked, ‘What name has God?’ ‘God,’ he answered, ‘has not a name as man has.” Contrast οὐδεὶς κ. τ. λ., with Matthew 11:27. The earlier words, πιστ. κ. ἀληθ., are a description of the messiah’s character and function, rather than a title. At this debût, which is the only event in the Apocalypse at all corresponding to the second advent (Revelation 1:7), the messiah’s judicial power is practically restricted to the external work of crushing the last pagan opposition to God’s cause on earth; it becomes therefore almost military. The divine commandant of the saints is “faithful and true,” as he loyally executes the divine purpose and thus exhibits fidelity to the interests of the faithful. The sense remains unchanged, whether the two adjectives are taken as synonyms, or ἀληθ. assigned its occasional meaning of “real”. Even in the latter case, to be real would mean to be trustworthy.


Verse 13

Revelation 19:13. “Dipped in blood” (i.e., the blood of his foes): from the “crimsoned garments” of Yahveh in Isaiah 63.; cf. also Revelation 19:15 with “I have trodden the wine-press.… Yea, I trod them in mine anger ( κατεπάτησα αὐτοὺς ἐν θυμῷ μου), and trampled them in my fury,” etc. Add Targ. Palest, on Genesis 49:11, “How beauteous is the King Messiah! Binding his loins and going forth to war against them that hate him, he will slay kings with princes, and make the rivers red with the blood of their slain, and his hills white with the fat of their mighty ones, his garments will be dipped in blood, and he himself like the juice of the wine-press.” The secret name denotes his superiority to all appeals; it indicates that the awful and punitive vigour of his enterprise made him impervious to the invocations of men. This is no Logos who dwells among men to give light and life; it is a stern, militant, figure of vengeance attacking the rebellious. Hence his name is mysterious; for “the identity, or at least the close connection between a thing and its name, not only makes the utterance of a holy name an invocation which insures the actual presence of the deity invoked, it also makes the holy name too sacred for common use or even for use at all” (Jevons’ Introd. Hist. Relig. 361). The passage reflects certain phases of later messianic belief in Judaism, which had been tinged by the Babylonian myth of Marduk, Ea’s victorious son, to whom divine authority was entrusted. Marduk’s triumph was explained by Babylonian theologians as caused by the transference to him of the divine Name (so Michael, En. 69:14). 13b may be a Johannine gloss upon the unknown name of Revelation 19:12 (cf. Philippians 2:9-10), under the influence of passages like Hebrews 4:15, Sap. 18. (“Thine all-powerful Logos leapt from heaven out of the royal throne, as a stern warrior into the midst of the doomed land, bearing the sharp sword of Thine unfeigned commandment”), and Enoch xc. 38 (cp. however Beer, ad loc).— κέκληται, perf. of existing state, “the past action of which it is the result being left out of thought” (Burton, 75). If the above explanation of the mysterious name be correct, the author’s idea was evidently forgotten or ignored by some later editor or copyist of the Johannine school, who inserted this gloss in order to clear up the obscure reference, and at the same time to bring forward the transcendent name widely appropriated by that school for Christ in a pacific and religious sense (so nearly all critical editors). In any case the two conceptions of the Apocalypse and the Fourth gospel have little or nothing in common except the word. But the introduction of this apparently illogical sequence between 12 and 13 might be justified in part by E. B. D. 94, “I am he that cometh forth, advancing, whose name is unknown; I am Yesterday, and Seer of millions of years is my name”. The application of such titles to Jesus certainly gives the impression that these high, honourable predicates are “not yet joined to his person with any intrinsic and essential unity” (Baur); they are rather due to the feeling that “Christ must have a position adequate to the great expectations concerning the last things, of which he is the chief subject”. But their introduction is due to the semi-Christianised messianic conceptions and the divine categories by which the writer is attempting to interpret his experience of Jesus. Backwards and forwards, as pre-existent and future, the redeemer is magnified for the prophet’s consciousness.


Verse 15

Revelation 19:15. αὐτός—The victory of the messiah is single-handed (“I have trodden the wine-press alone”); cf. on Revelation 19:13, and Sap. 18:22, Ps. Sol. 17:24–27, where the word of messiah’s mouth is the sole weapon of his victory (an Iranian touch as in S. B. E. iv. p. lxxvii. f., the distinguishing excellence of Zoroaster is that his chief weapon is spiritual, i.e., the word or prayer). This fine idea, taken originally from Isaiah, was reproduced, naturally in a more or less realistic shape, by the rabbis who applied it to Moses at Exodus 2:11 (Clem. Alex. Stron. i. 23), and by apocalyptists (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Ap. Bar. xxxvi. f., liii. f.; 4 Esd. 10:60 f., and here) who assigned an active rôle to the messiah in the latter days. The meaning of the sword-symbol is that “the whole counsel of God is accomplished by Jesus as a stern judgment with resistless power” (Baur). Thus the final rout of the devil, anticipated in Revelation 12:12, is carried out (1.) by the overthrow of his subordinates (mentioned in ch. 13) here, and then (2) by his own defeat (Revelation 20:10), although in finishing the torso of ch. 12. (Bousset) the prophet characteristically has recourse to materials drawn from very different cycles of current messianic tradition.


Verse 16

Revelation 19:16. “And on his garment and (i.e., even) upon his thigh”; on that part of the robe covering his thigh, he has a title of honour written. Some Greek statues appear to have had a name written thus upon the thigh (Cicero mentions one of Apollo marked in small silver letters, Verr. iv. 43). Messiah, like many of the Assyrian monarchs, bears a double name. King of kings, a Persian (Æsch. Persæ, 24; Ezra 7:12) and Parthian title of royalty, which is the Apocalypse is the prerogative of messiah as the true Emperor was applied to Marduk as the conqueror of chaos and the arbiter of all earthly monarchs (cf. Zimmern in Schrader, 373 f.).


Verse 17

Revelation 19:17. ἐν ἡλίῳ, a commanding and conspicuous position.


Verses 17-21

Revelation 19:17-21 : the rout and destruction of the Beast and his adherents, modelled upon Isaiah 56:9 f. and Ezekiel’s description of the discomfiture of prince Gog (Ezekiel 39:17-21), where beasts as well as birds are bidden glut themselves with carrion (4). This crude aspect of the messianic triumph had commended itself to Jewish speculation on the future (see En. xc. 2–4); it reflects the intense particularism of post-exilic Judaism in certain circles, and also the semi-political categories which tended to dominate the eschatology. In Asc. Isa. iv. 14, the Lord also comes with his angels and troops to drag into Gehenna Beliar and his hosts.


Verse 18

Revelation 19:18. In the ancient world, this was the worst misfortune possible for the dead—to lie unburied, a prey to wild birds. On the famous “stele of the vultures” (bef. 3000 B.C.) the enemy are represented lying bare and being devoured by vultures, while the corpses of the royal troops are carefully buried.


Verse 20

Revelation 19:20. This marks the culmination of many previous oracles: the messiah meets and defeats (Revelation 16:13 f.) the beast (i.e., Nero-antichrist, Revelation 11:7, Revelation 13:1 f.) and the false prophet (i.e., the Imperial priesthood = second beast of Revelation 13:11 f.) and their allies (the kings of the earth, cf. Revelation 11:9; Revelation 11:18, Revelation 14:8, Revelation 16:14, Revelation 17:12 f.), according to a more specific form of the tradition reflected in Revelation 14:14-20. Possibly the ghastly repast of Revelation 19:21 is a dramatic foil to that of Revelation 19:9. At any rate there is a slight confusion in the sketch, due to the presence of heterogeneous conceptions; whilst one tradition made messiah at his coming vanquish all the surviving inhabitants of the earth, who were ex hypothesi opponents of God’s people (cf. Revelation 2:26-27, Revelation 11:9 f., Revelation 12:9, Revelation 14:14 f., Revelation 16:13-16, Revelation 19:17 f.), the prophet at the same time used the special conception of a Nero-antichrist whose allies were mainly Eastern chiefs (Revelation 9:14 f., Revelation 16:12, Revelation 17:12 f.), and also shared the O.T. belief in a weird independent outburst from the skirts of the earth (Revelation 20:8). Hence the rout of nations here is only apparently final. See on Revelation 20:3. The lake of fire, a place of torment which burns throughout most of the apocalypses (Sibyll. ii. 196–200, 252–253, 286, etc.; Apoc. Pet. 8), was lit first in Enoch, (sec. cent.) where it is the punishment reserved for Azazel on the day of judgment (Revelation 9:6) and for the fallen angels (Revelation 21:7-10) with their paramours. The prophet prefers this to the alternative conception of a river of fire [Slav. En. 10.]. The whole passage reflects traditions such as those preserved (cf. Gfrörer ii., 232 f.), e.g., in Targ. Jerus. on Genesis 49:11 and Sohar on Lev.–Exodus (miracula, uariaque et horrenda bella fient mari terraque circa Jerusalem, cum messias reuelabitur), where the beasts of the field feed for one year, and the birds for seven, upon the carcases of Israel’s foes. The supreme penalty inflicted on the opponents of Zoroastrianism is that their corpses are given over to the corpse-eating birds, i.e., ravens (Vend. 3:20, 9:49). cf. Introd. § 4 b.

The messiah who forms “the central figure of this bloodthirsty scene,” written like the preceding out of the presbyter’s “savage hatred of Rome” (Selwyn, 83) has a semi-political rather than a transcendental role to play. The normal Christian consciousness (cf. Revelation 22:12) viewed the return of Jesus as ushering in the final requital of mankind; but in these special oracles (cf. Revelation 17:14) where a semi-historical figure is pitted against Christ on earth, the latter is brought down to meet the adversary on his own ground—a development of eschatology which is a resumption of primitive messianic categories in Judaism. The messiah here is consequently a grim, silent, implacable conqueror. There is no tenderness in the Apocalypse save for the pious core of the elect people, nothing of that disquiet of heart with which the sensitiveness of later ages viewed the innumerable dead. Here mankind are naïvely disposed of in huge masses; their antagonism to the messiah and his people is assumed to have exposed them to ruthless and inexorable doom. Nor do the scenic categories of the tradition leave any room for such a feeling as dictated Plutarch’s noble description (De Sera Uind. 555 E. F.) of the eternal pangs of conscience. Upon the other hand, there is no gloating over the torments of the wicked.

Now that the destructive work of messiah is over, the ground seems clear for his constructive work (cf. Ps. Sol. 17:26 f.). But the idiosyncracies of John’s outlook involve a departure from the normal tradition of Judaism and early Christianity at this point. Satan, who survives, as he had preceded, the Roman empire, still remains to be dealt with. The third vision of doom, therefore (Revelation 20:1-10) outlines his final defeat, in two panels: (a) one exhibiting a period of enforced restraint, during which (for 2, 3 and 4–7 are synchronous) messiah and the martyrs enjoy a halcyon time of temporal and temporary bliss, (b) the other sketching (Revelation 19:7-10) a desperate but unavailing recrudescence of the devil’s power. The oracle is brief and uncoloured. It rounds off the preceding predictions and at the same time paves the way for the magnificent finalê of 21–22, on which the writer puts forth all his powers. But it is more than usually enigmatic and allusive. “Dans ces derniers chapitres les tableaux qui passent sous nos yeux n’ont plus la fraícheur vivante de ceux qui ont précédé. L’imagination ayant affaire à des conceptions absolument idéales et sans aucune analogie avec les réalités concrètes de la nature, est naturellement moins sûre d’elle-même, et ne parvient plus aussi facilement à satisfaire celle du lecteur” (Reuss). Ingenious attempts have been made (e.g., by Vischer, Spitta, and Wellhausen) to disentangle a Jewish source from the passage, but real problem is raised and solved on the soil of the variant traditions which John moulded at this point for his own Christian purposes. In the creation-myth the binding of the chaos-dragon or his allies took place at the beginning of the world’s history (cf. Prayer of Manass. 2–4). As the dragon came to be moralised into the power of spiritual evil, this temporary restraint (cf. on Revelation 19:2) was transferred to the beginning of the end, by a modification of the primitive view which probably goes back to Iranian theology (cf. Stave, 175 f., Baljon, Völter, 120 f., Briggs, etc.). The conception of messiah’s reign as preliminary and limited on earth was not unknown to Judaism (Encycl. Relig. and Ethics, i. 203 f.) or even to primitive Christianity (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:21-28, where Paul develops it differently). But the identification of it with the sabbath of the celestial week (which was originally non-messianic, cf. Slav. En. xxxii. 33.) and the association of it with the martyrs are peculiar to John’s outlook. A further idiosyncracy is the connection between the Gog and Magog attack and the final manœuvre of Satan. The psychological clue to these conceptions probably lies in the prophet’s desire to provide a special compensation for the martyrs, prior to the general bliss of the saints. This may have determined his adoption or adaptation of the chiliastic tradition, which also conserved the archaic hope of an earthly reign for the saints without interfering with the more spiritual and transcendent outlook of Revelation 20:11 f. His procedure further enabled him to preserve the primitive idea of messiah’s reign (4) as distinct from that of God, by dividing the final act of the drama into two scenes (4 f., 11 f.).—With the realistic episode of 1–3, angels pass off the stage (except the angel of Revelation 21:9 f. and the angelus interpres of xxii. 6–10), in accordance with the Jewish feeling that they were inferior to the glorified saints to whom alone (cf. Hebrews 2:4) the next world belonged. There is no evidence to support the conjecture (Cheyne, Bible Problems, 233) that ἄγγελον in Revelation 19:1 represents “an already corrupt text of an older Hebrew Apocalypse, in which mal’âk was written instead of mikâ’çl” (cf. above on Revelation 12:7).

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 19:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/revelation-19.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, August 13th, 2020
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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