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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 19

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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L. The second coming of Christ ch. 19

John wrote the record of his vision of events surrounding the Lord Jesus’ second coming to share the future vindication of Jesus Christ with his readers. The chapter has two parts: the rejoicing triggered by Babylon’s fall (Revelation 19:1-10), and the events surrounding the Lamb’s return to the earth (Revelation 19:11-21).

Verse 1

This first song praises God for judging the harlot. After John received the revelation about the destruction of commercial Babylon, he evidently heard another angelic chorus singing loudly in heaven (cf. Revelation 4:8; Revelation 4:11; Revelation 5:12-14). "Hallelujah" means "Praise the Lord." Its only four occurrences in the New Testament are in this pericope (Revelation 19:1; Revelation 19:3-4; Revelation 19:6), though it occurs frequently in the Psalms. One writer called this section "heaven’s Hallelujah Chorus." [Note: Ford C. Ottman, The Unfolding of the Ages, p. 402.] In the Old Testament "hallelujah" usually has some connection with the punishment of the ungodly, as it does here (e.g., Psalms 104:35). God is worthy of praise because He has all salvation (cf. Revelation 7:10; Revelation 12:10), glory (cf. Revelation 15:8), and power (cf. Revelation 4:11; Revelation 7:12; Revelation 12:10; 1 Chronicles 29:11).

Verses 1-10

1. The praise of God in heaven 19:1-10

This pericope has strong ties to what precedes (Revelation 16:17 to Revelation 18:24). It is the concluding revelation concerning the fall of Babylon (the latter-day Egypt and Tyre) and Antichrist (the ultimate Pharaoh of the Exodus and King of Tyre). The praise in this section is in response to the angel’s invitation for those in heaven to rejoice (Revelation 18:20). [Note: Charles, 2:117-19; Wall, p. 219.] Revelation 19:9-10 conclude the section begun in Revelation 17:1-3. [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 353.] The proleptic silence of ruined Babylon on earth now gives way in the narrative to enthusiastic rejoicing in heaven. [Note: Kiddle, p. 375.] This is the climactic expression of praise in Revelation (cf. Revelation 4:8; Revelation 4:11; Revelation 5:9-10; Revelation 5:12-14; Revelation 7:10; Revelation 7:12; Revelation 7:15-17; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 11:17-18; Revelation 15:3-4; Revelation 16:5-7).

The four songs in Revelation 19:1-5 look back to the judgment of Babylon, and the song in Revelation 19:9-10 looks forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb. The harlot dies, but the bride begins to enjoy new life. [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 355.]

Verse 2

This group praises God because of His true (fair) and righteous (just) judgments (cf. Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:7), especially of the harlot Babylon. It is only right that Babylon, which brought moral ruin on the earth, should lie in ruins.

"By now all men have made their choice between God and Satan. Universal worship of the beast and universal rejoicing over the deaths of the two witnesses mark the world not only as guilty but also as irreclaimable. The earth-dwellers have hardened their hearts forever to a point that precludes any possibility of repentance . . . God’s judgment of those with this disposition is the special occasion of praise to God." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, pp. 357-58.]

The angels anticipated God’s judgment of the harlot; it had not happened yet. Probably both aspects of Babylonianism are in view here: religious and commercial. The essence of the harlot’s guilt lies in her corrupting the earth with her immoralities (cf. Revelation 14:8; Revelation 17:2; Revelation 18:3). By destroying Babylon God will avenge the blood of believers who died as a result of its influences (cf. Revelation 18:24; Deuteronomy 32:42-43; 2 Kings 9:7).

The outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth-dwellers will come as a consequence of believers’ petitions (cf. Revelation 5:8; Revelation 6:9-11; Revelation 8:3-5; Revelation 9:13; Revelation 10:6; Revelation 14:18; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 19:2). [Note: Idem, "The Imprecatory . . .," pp. 123-31; and idem, Revelation 1-7, pp. 517-24.]

Verse 3

A second burst of praise from the same group glorified God for judging Babylon finally so its influences will never rise again. This encore heightens the praise in the first song. The divine judgments of Sodom and Gomorrah and Edom were previews of this judgment (cf. Genesis 19:28; Isaiah 34:10). [Note: Hughes, p. 197.] The smoke represents the effects of the fire that will destroy Babylon (cf. Revelation 17:16; Revelation 18:8-9; Revelation 18:18). It will stop rising when the fire dies out, but the destruction that it symbolizes will be permanent. The punishment of God’s enemies will be everlasting (cf. Revelation 19:20-21; Revelation 14:11; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46).

Verse 4

The 24 elders and the four living creatures echoed these sentiments in a third song of praise (cf. Revelation 4:9-10; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 5:14; Revelation 7:9-11; Revelation 14:3). The one who sits on the throne is evidently God the Father. "Amen" voices the elders’ and creatures’ approval of the two previous expressions of praise (Revelation 19:1-3), and "Hallelujah" expresses their own praise (cf. Revelation 7:12).

Verse 5

The authoritative voice from the throne probably belonged to an angel (Revelation 19:10). It called for added continuous praise from all God’s servants (cf. Psalms 113:1; Psalms 115:13). Allusions to the Hallel psalms in this pericope connect the vindication that the psalmists cried out for so often with what was now imminent (cf. Psalms 113:1; Psalms 135:1; Psalms 135:20). The bond-servants to whom the voice appealed for praise probably include all the servants of God in heaven, angelic and human, including the saints and prophets (cf. Revelation 18:14; Revelation 18:20; Revelation 19:2). The angel called for the fear of God since judgment is in view. The call extends to creatures of all classes (cf. Psalms 115:13).

Verse 6

This praise followed and probably included that of the angels. Together all God’s servants in heaven now praised Him for the fact that He reigns, after destroying Babylon. In this proleptic statement they look forward to what is about to happen, namely, Jesus Christ’s return to earth and the beginning of His eternal reign. [Note: Beckwith, p. 726; Robertson, 6:449; Ladd, p. 246.] Here He receives the title "the Lord our God, the Almighty." This praise is appropriately great since Messiah’s earthly reign is the climax of history. Thus John heard a voice that sounded like multitudes of people, the roar of a huge waterfall, and loud claps of thunder announcing its arrival (cf. Ezekiel 1:24; Ezekiel 43:2; Daniel 10:6). The singers are evidently angels (cf. Revelation 6:1; Revelation 10:1-4; Revelation 11:15-17; Revelation 14:2).

Verse 7

The song begun in Revelation 19:6 continues with an exhortation to rejoice and to glorify God (cf. Matthew 5:12). This is the last song of praise in the Apocalypse. God deserves praise because He has prepared the bride for the Lamb. [Note: Hughes, p. 201; Sweet, p. 279.]

The bride of the Lamb is evidently the church (cf. Revelation 19:9; Revelation 3:20; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9; Revelation 22:17; John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32). Even though the translators usually render the Greek word gyne, translated "bride," as "wife," here the context clearly shows that a wedding is in view. Gyne clearly describes a bride in other contexts too (e.g., Genesis 29:21; Deuteronomy 22:24 [both in the Septuagint]; Matthew 1:20; Revelation 21:9). The bride is the Lamb’s newly married wife having been joined to Him in heaven immediately after the Rapture. This is the third of three metaphors in Revelation that describe women. The woman (mother) in chapter 12 is Israel, the harlot in chapter 17 is Babylon; and the bride in chapter 19 is the church. God referred to Himself as Israel’s husband in the Old Testament (Isaiah 54:6; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 31:32; Ezekiel 16:7-14; Hosea 2:2; Hosea 2:16; Hosea 2:19). However this figure almost always describes Israel as an unfaithful wife. Only Isaiah used the marriage analogy in a consistently positive way. [Note: Jan Fekkes III, "’His Bride Has Prepared Herself’: Revelation 19-21 and Isaian Nuptial Imagery," Journal of Biblical Literature 109:2 (Summer 1990):272-73.] The prophet did so to show the future relationship between God and the faithful Jewish remnant. [Note: See Richard D. Patterson, "Metaphors of Marriage as Expressions of Divine-Human Relations," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51:4 (December 2008):689-702.] Israel cannot be this bride or part of this bride because this bride comes to earth with Christ, but Old Testament saints will not experience resurrection until Christ returns to the earth (Daniel 12:1-2). The fact that the bride in Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14 includes Israel indicates that the bride will be a growing body of people that will eventually encompass Israel as well as the church. There the bride is the New Jerusalem. However at this time, just before Christ returns to the earth (Revelation 19:7), the figure of the bride must describe the church alone. Covenant theologians see no real distinction between Israel and the church at this time. [Note: E.g., Ladd, p. 248.]

Jesus Christ, the Lamb, frequently referred to Himself as a bridegroom (cf. Matthew 9:15; Matthew 22:2-14; Matthew 25:1-13; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35; Luke 14:15-24; John 3:29). For the Jews, the wedding figure stressed the intimate relationship that will exist between God and His people in the earthly messianic kingdom. [Note: Swete, p. 246; Lee, 4:731; Robertson, 6:449.]

We can clarify the general time and place of the marriage of the Lamb by comparing it with marriage customs in the ancient Near East. [Note: See Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Cultural Aspects of Marriage in the Ancient World," Bibliotheca Sacra 135:539 (July-September 1978):241-52.] There were three main events involved in a marriage. First, the parents chose a bride for the groom. This takes place presently as the Holy Spirit calls the elect out of the world to be Christ’s bride through regeneration. Second, when the time for marriage had come, the groom would leave His home with His friends, go to the home of the bride, and escort her from her home to his. The bride did not know when this would occur. This will take place when Christ comes to take His bride to heaven at the Rapture (cf. John 14:1-2). Third, the groom provided a feast for his bride and his friends at his home that lasted several days. This will take place on earth either at the beginning of the Millennium, [Note: John F. Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, p. 618.] throughout the Millennium, [Note: Pentecost, Things to . . ., pp. 227-28; McGee, 5:1048.] or beginning with the Millennium and continuing throughout eternity (cf. Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9). [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 365.] I favor the first view. The present verse (Revelation 19:7) describes the wedding proper, stage two (cf. Revelation 19:8; Revelation 19:14), which had taken place in John’s vision. It also announces that the bride is ready for the feast: stage three.

The preparedness of the bride is one reason for the celebration called for in this verse. The bride had prepared herself (cf. Matthew 25:14-23; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 John 3:3; Judges 1:21), but the ultimate preparation was God’s, so He deserves praise (cf. Matthew 20:1-16; Ephesians 5:25-27). The theme of the first song (Revelation 19:1-3) was the destruction of the harlot, and the theme of this one is the wedding of the Lamb to His bride, who is the antithesis of the harlot.

Verse 8

The angelic chorus continued to describe the preparation of the bride for the wedding feast. God graciously enabled her to clothe herself in fine linen (cf. Revelation 6:4; Revelation 8:3; Revelation 9:5; Revelation 15:6; Revelation 18:12; Revelation 19:14; Genesis 41:42; Isaiah 61:10; Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6-7). "Bright" indicates divine glory. [Note: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "Lampo . . .," by A. Oepke.] "Clean" reflects purity (cf. Revelation 21:18; Revelation 21:21). This is dress appropriate for God’s presence. Fine linen represents righteous deeds, as this verse explains (cf. Revelation 14:13). These are the works of the saints rather than their standing before God. Their good deeds, which God’s grace made possible, make them dressed appropriately for their righteous Lord (cf. Matthew 22:1-14). The bride’s clothing contrasts with the harlot’s gaudy garments (cf. Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:16).

"Contrast the prostitute and her lovers in the preceding chapters with the Lamb and His chaste bride . . ." [Note: Johnson, p. 571.]

Verse 9

The person who now spoke to John appears to be the same angel who had been guiding him thorough the revelation concerning Babylon (cf. Revelation 17:1; Revelation 17:15). He instructed John to write again (cf. Revelation 1:11; Revelation 1:19; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 21:5), this time another beatitude (cf. Revelation 14:3). This blessing gives Tribulation saints an additional motivation to remain faithful. Those invited to the Lamb’s marriage supper include His friends as well as the bride (cf. Revelation 3:20). This implies the presence of other believers besides church saints at this celebration. Those invited to the supper will include the bride and other believers who are not members of the church. These other believers would be Tribulation martyrs and believers who will live through the Tribulation and enter the Millennium alive (cf. Revelation 12:13-17; Revelation 20:4-5; Matthew 22:11-14; Matthew 25:1-13). They may also include Old Testament saints who will experience resurrection at the beginning of the Millennium (cf. Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2).

The angel concluded with the final sentence, "These are true words of God" (cf. Revelation 22:6; Revelation 22:8-9). He could have been referring to what we read in the first part of this verse. [Note: Hughes, p. 201.] However since this statement concludes all that this angel had revealed since Revelation 17:1, it seems better to take it as referring to all the intervening revelation. [Note: Düsterdieck, p. 454; Alford, 4:725.]

Verse 10

The wonder of this revelation and the certainty of its fulfillment seem to have overwhelmed John. He fell down to worship the angel because the angel had revealed these things to him (cf. Revelation 1:17; Acts 10:25). This was not proper, as the angel explained (cf. Revelation 22:9). Human beings should never worship angels (Colossians 2:18). The beast, who is not even an angel, will receive worship gladly (cf. Revelation 13:4; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 13:12; Revelation 13:15). How easy it is to fall into idolatry! The angel described himself as a fellow servant of God with John (cf. Hebrews 1:14). Angels, like humans, can only bear witness to the testimony borne by Jesus (cf. Revelation 1:2; Revelation 1:9; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 22:9; Revelation 22:20).

"St John’s repeated reference to his temptation and the Angel’s rebuke (cf. xxii. 8f.) may well be due to his knowledge that such a tendency existed in the Churches to which he wrote." [Note: Swete, p. 248.]

Therefore the angel directed John to worship God (cf. Revelation 22:9; John 4:21-24). To emphasize the centrality of Jesus Christ in this testimony and to encourage worship of God, the angel said that the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.

The last clause of the verse ("for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy") is capable of various interpretations. Some take the genitive "of Jesus" as objective, which yields two possible understandings. Perhaps the angel meant that testimony about Jesus is the common substance of all prophecy, that all prophecy ultimately reveals Him. [Note: Erdman, p. 148; David J. MacLeod, "Heaven’s Hallelujah Chorus: An Introduction to the Seven ’Last Things’ (Revelation 19:1-10)," Bibliotheca Sacra 156:621 (January-March 1999):83.] Alternatively the angel could have meant that the true spirit of prophecy always manifests itself in bearing witness to Jesus; prophecy that does not bear witness to Him is false prophecy. [Note: Morris, p. 228.] If the genitive is subjective, the angel meant that the testimony that Jesus has given is the essence of prophetic proclamation. [Note: Mounce, p. 342; Beasley-Murray, p. 276.] This last view seems preferable since it affords the best explanation of why John should not worship the angel: Jesus is the source of revelation, and angels just communicate it. Moreover the phrase "of Jesus" in the preceding clause also seems to be subjective.

Verse 11

John saw another scene in heaven (Gr. kai eidon, "And I saw"). He now saw heaven standing open (cf. Ezekiel 1:1), not just a door open (Revelation 4:1) or the heavenly temple open (Revelation 11:19). A white horse symbolizes victory over one’s enemies (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:14). Here John saw Christ rather than Antichrist (Revelation 6:2) riding a white horse (cf. Isaiah 62:11). John described Him as Faithful (trustworthy) and True (righteous, the real Messiah; cf. Revelation 1:5; Revelation 3:7; Revelation 3:14; 3 Maccabees 2:11). The Antichist was unfaithful in that he broke his covenant with Israel, and he was untrue in that he deceived people. Jesus Christ came out of heaven to judge the beast and to make war with him on earth (cf. Isaiah 11:3-5).

Verses 11-16

2. The return of Christ to earth 19:11-16

On the one hand, the return of Jesus Christ to the earth is the climax of all that has gone before in Revelation. On the other, it is the first of seven final things that John saw and recorded. These things were Christ’s return, Satan’s capture, Satan’s binding, the Millennium, Satan’s final end, the last judgment, and the new heavens and earth, including the New Jerusalem. [Note: See David J. MacLeod, The Seven Last Things.] These events are in chronological sequence, as will become clear. The view that they are non-sequential rests on similarities between Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 19-22. [Note: E.g., M. Eugene Boring, Revelation, p. 195; and Wall, pp. 227-28.] But it fails to account for the differences. The chronological progression of events on earth resumes from Revelation 16:21. Thomas viewed the second coming of Christ plus everything else through Revelation 22:5 as part of the seventh bowl judgment. [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 381, 567-85.] Most other commentators have seen it as the first event after the seventh bowl judgment. I agree with the majority.

"The second coming of Christ is an absolutely essential theme in New Testament theology. In his cross and resurrection, Christ won a great victory over the powers of evil; by his second coming, he will execute that victory. Apart from his return to purge his creation of evil, redemption remains forever incomplete." [Note: Ladd, pp. 252-53.]

"Those who believe in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ must also look for his return." [Note: Lilje, p. 244.]

Verse 12

Jesus Christ’s eyes suggest His piercing judgment of sin that takes everything into account (cf. Revelation 1:14; Revelation 2:18). His many diadems (Gr. diadema, regal crowns, cf. Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:1) symbolize His right to rule the world as King of kings. [Note: Caird, p. 241; Robertson, 6:451-52; David J. MacLeod, "The First ’Last Thing’: The Second Coming of Christ (Revelation 19:11-16)," Bibliotheca Sacra 156:622 (April-June 1999):213.]

"Christ, who refused the diadem when [it was] offered to Him by the Tempter (Mt. iv. 9) was crowned on the merit of His victorious Passion, and now appears wearing not one royal crown alone, but many." [Note: Swete, p. 251.]

His unknown name was not known to John or to anyone else in John’s day, but it may become known when Jesus Christ returns (cf. Revelation 2:17; Genesis 32:29; Judges 13:18; Matthew 11:27).

"Throughout the ancient world a name revealed the nature of an individual, who he is and what he is. The unknown name of the Christ comports with the fact that his nature, his relationships to the Father, and even his relationship to humanity, transcend all human understanding." [Note: Beasley-Murray, pp. 279-80. Cf. Swete, p. 252.]

"It is possible that there is another thought. Those who practiced magic in the first century believed that to know a name gave power over him whose name it was. John may well be saying that no-one has power over Christ. He is supreme. His name is known only to Himself." [Note: Morris, p. 230.]

Verse 13

The blood on His robe is probably the blood of his enemies, in view of the context (cf. Isaiah 63:2-3). John did not see Christ as the redeemer in this vision but as the warrior and judge. As many of the symbols in this passage, this one is also proleptic, anticipating His victory. The "Word of God" is a familiar title signifying that He is the expression of God’s mind and heart (Isaiah 49:2; John 1:1; John 1:14; cf. 1 John 1:1; Hebrews 1:1). This "word" includes prophecies about God’s purposes (Revelation 19:9; Revelation 1:2; Revelation 17:17). It is the same "word" that brought the worlds into existence as God’s active agent (John 1:3; cf. Genesis 1:3; Genesis 1:6; Genesis 1:9; Psalms 33:6; Hebrews 4:12). As a title in Revelation, "Word of God" emphasizes the authoritative declaration that results in the destruction of God’s enemies rather than the self-revelation of God. [Note: Mounce, p. 345.]

Verse 14

Armies mounted on horses will come with Christ.

"As the Lamb, Christ is followed by the saints (Revelation 17:14); as the heavenly Warrior, he is followed by the angels." [Note: Ladd, p. 255.]

Angels will accompany Jesus Christ at His second coming (Matthew 13:41; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:30-31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; 2 Thessalonians 1:7), but it seems unlikely that they are the persons on horses. Rather these seem to be human beings (cf. Revelation 17:14; Revelation 21:2-7; Zechariah 14:5). Their dress connects them with the Lamb’s bride (Revelation 19:8).

"This heavenly army, unlike their leader, has no swords or spears. They take no part in the action. They wear no armor because, being immortal, they are immune to injury. They are noncombatant supporters of the Messiah as He wages the war single-handedly . . ." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 387.]

Verse 15

Christ will strike down His enemies with a word that His long, tongue-shaped sword (Gr. hromphaia) symbolized (cf. Revelation 1:16; Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 49:2). He will destroy His enemies with inflexible righteousness that the iron shepherd’s rod that will serve as His scepter pictures (cf. Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5; Psalms 2:9; Psalms 45). Ruling includes destroying as well as reigning over (Psalms 2:9). He will execute the fierce wrath of God Almighty that these enemies must drink (cf. Revelation 19:13; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 14:10; Revelation 14:19-20; Revelation 16:19; Isaiah 63:1-6). God will judge Israel, namely, Jews living when He returns (Ezekiel 20:33-38), and the Gentiles living then (Matthew 25:31-46).

Verse 16

The robe is a symbol of majesty, and the thigh suggests power. Evidently the name appeared on the part of Christ’s robe that covered His thigh, which would be most conspicuous. This interpretation takes the "and" (Gr. kai) ascensively, meaning "even," specifying the location of the name more exactly. The title "King of kings" is one that Persian and later rulers of empires ascribed to themselves (cf. Ezra 7:12), but only the Messiah qualifies for it in its true sense (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17; Daniel 4:37 LXX). [Note: Moffatt, 5:468-69; Wall, p. 229.]

People living on earth at the time of the Second Coming will see Jesus Christ return (Matthew 24:30). The more important passages on the second coming of Christ are Deuteronomy 30:3; Psalms 2; Isaiah 63:1-6; Daniel 2:44-45; Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21; Acts 1:11; Romans 11:26; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:7 to 2 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Peter 2:1 to 2 Peter 3:17; Judges 1:14-15; and Revelation 1:7; and Revelation 19:11-21. [Note: For a concise review of the major revelation in each of these passages, see John F. Walvoord, "Christ’s Coming to Reign," Bibliotheca Sacra 123:491 (July-September 1966):195-203.] What a contrast this coming is with the Lord Jesus’ first coming: as a baby, in humility and obscurity, riding a donkey into Jerusalem rather than a horse, coming to die rather than to reign.

Verse 17

John saw next an angel standing in the sun, a conspicuous position in which all the birds could see him. He cried loudly for all the birds flying in mid-heaven to assemble (cf. Ezekiel 39:4; Ezekiel 39:17). Jesus referred to the same battle and mentioned vultures (or eagles, Gr. aetoi) being present (Matthew 24:28; Luke 17:37). After the coming battle, the site will provide a feast for vultures (cf. Ezekiel 39:4; Ezekiel 39:17-20). It is a great supper that God gives them. This is the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16). This picture of it stresses the greatness of God’s victory over His enemies. [Note: Swete, pp. 255-56; Hughes, p. 207.] The "great supper of God" is not the same event as the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). The former event will be a scene of great sorrow but the latter one of great joy.

"John took Ezekiel’s prophecies [in Ezekiel 39:4; Ezekiel 39:17-20] broadly enough to foreshadow both Harmagedon and the final attack on Jerusalem (Revelation 20:8-9). . . . Harmagedon precedes the thousand years and the other battle follows . . ." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 394.]

Verses 17-21

3. The destruction of the wicked on earth 19:17-21

Verse 18

The angel’s invitation to the birds indicates how devastating the destruction of Christ’s enemies will be when He returns. Some experts have estimated that perhaps one million birds of prey migrate annually between their nesting places in Africa to the south and Europe and Asia to the north. They cross the only arable land bridge that connects these continents, namely, Palestine.

Jesus Christ will destroy all who resist Him, people from all classes of society and from every status in life (cf. Revelation 6:15; Revelation 13:16). The indignity of having their bodies unburied is a judgment in kind since they did not bury the bodies of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:9-10; cf. Ezekiel 39:11-15). Their death also recalls the ignominious fate of Jezebel (2 Kings 9:30-37).

The only people left alive will be faithful believers who have not died or suffered martyrdom during the Tribulation (cf. Revelation 12:13-17). They will enter the Millennium with mortal bodies and will repopulate the earth (cf. Genesis 9:1).

Verse 19

John now saw another scene on earth. The beast at this time will have 10 allies (Revelation 17:12-14; cf. Psalms 2:2). Their armies will represent the worldwide population of earth-dwellers. These armies will unite to oppose Christ (Revelation 16:13-16). The battle will be over world leadership. When Jesus Christ returns, the beast’s 10 allies that will have been fighting each other (Ezekiel 38:21; Daniel 11:40-44) will unite against Christ (Revelation 16:14). This is a description of the judgment portrayed proleptically in Revelation 14:14-20. It is surprisingly brief in view of its importance in history. This probably indicates that the battle will not last long (cf. Matthew 24:13-45).

"The Seer is not describing the gradual conquest of evil in the spiritual struggles of the faithful, but a great historic event which brings to an end the Antichrist and his forces and ushers in the long-awaited era of righteousness." [Note: Mounce, p. 349.]

Verse 20

The Lord Jesus Christ will then cast the beast and the false prophet into the lake of fire alive (cf. Numbers 16:30; Psalms 55:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:8). The description of the false prophet vindicates his punishment. They will still be there 1,000 years later (Revelation 20:10). Thus consignment to the lake of fire does not mean annihilation. The wicked who have died throughout history are not yet in the lake of fire (cf. Matthew 5:22; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:43; James 3:6). They are in Hades (or "the grave;" cf. Matthew 16:18; Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27), the temporary abode of dead unbelievers before their resurrection. The Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, was a foreview of this lake (cf. 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31-32; Jeremiah 19:6; Matthew 5:22; Mark 9:43). Neither is the lake of fire "the abyss," which is a temporary place of confinement for angels (Revelation 9:1; Revelation 20:1). At the end of the Millennium, Christ will cast all unbelievers into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15). God originally prepared the lake of fire for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

"Because no one has yet experienced the lake of fire, it is difficult to portray in human language the awful nature of that punishment. The figure of a burning lake is God’s chosen imagery for visualizing eternity separated from Him. One should remember that figures of speech are always less than the reality, not more!" [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 398.]

Brimstone is a sulphurous material that, united with fire, represents indescribable torment (cf. Genesis 19:24-25; Ezekiel 38:22).

"The fact that in the gospels hell is pictured not only as a place of fire but also as a place of darkness (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 25:30) suggests that both descriptions use metaphorical language drawn from contemporary Judaism to describe final and irremedial [sic] judgment." [Note: Ladd, p. 258.]

Verse 21

The rest of Jesus Christ’s enemies, the 10 kings and their armies, will die in a moment by His word and will go to Hades. There they will await resurrection and final judgment at the end of the Millennium (Revelation 20:11-15). "The rest" probably also includes all earth-dwellers. They had plenty of opportunity to repent but did not do so. How they will die is not clear, but their death proceeds from the mouth of Jesus Christ. Probably the sword proceeding from His mouth represents a word of judgment that He utters. The means that He uses are obscure, as is true of how He created the universe with a word. So many people will die that the birds will have plenty to eat (Ezekiel 39:17-20). [Note: For another exposition of this passage, see David J. MacLeod, "The Second ’Last Thing’: The Defeat of Antichrist," Bibliotheca Sacra 156:623 (July-September 1999):325-35.]

Some interpreters have seen the Rapture occurring at the same time as the Second Coming (i.e., posttribulationists). However none of the events John recorded in Revelation 19:11-21 correspond to the events predicted to take place at the Rapture (John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18). The differences in the descriptions of these two events argue for a pretribulation Rapture.

What is the relationship of the Tribulation to the dispensation of grace? Dispensational writers have suggested several answers. Three of these are the major views. Some have seen the Tribulation as a revival of the dispensation of the law. They believe the dispensation of grace ends at the Rapture. [Note: E.g., Lewis S. Chafer, Major Bible Themes, p. 100.] The major problem with this view is that no other dispensation begins again once it has ended. A second explanation is that the Tribulation is a dispensation itself occurring after the dispensation of grace. Advocates of this view say the dispensation of grace ends with the Rapture and the dispensation of the kingdom begins with Christ’s second coming. [Note: E.g., William Evans, Outline Study of the Bible, pp. 30-37.] Critics of this view point out that the Tribulation does not bear the marks of a full-fledged dispensation. The marks of a dispensation include a change in God’s basic governmental relationship with humankind and a consequent change in people’s responsibility to God. A third view is that the Tribulation occurs within and at the end of the dispensation of grace. [Note: E.g., Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, pp. 56-57; idem, Dispensationalism, p. 56.] Every other dispensation also ends with human failure and divine judgment. The Tribulation is the period of divine judgment following believers’ failure to fulfill God’s will during the inter-advent era (i.e., the dispensation of grace). The church age is only a part of this inter-advent era, since it began on the day of Pentecost and will end with the Rapture. This view seems to me to be the best explanation. It views the dispensation of grace as identical with the inter-advent era rather than with the church age.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 19". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/revelation-19.html. 2012.
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