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Bible Commentaries

Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation

Revelation 19

Verses 1-2

(1) The heavenly acapella chorus--19: l-6.

The great castrophe of Revelation, the fall of symbolic Babylon, Jerusalem, also called Sodom and Egypt, bringing an end to Judaism, was envisioned as having occurred. The harps and harpers ceased, giving place to a great voice of much people rejoicing over the vindication of divine justice, in answer to the cry of the souls of the slain under the altar, who as a martyred host responded in the alleluia (hallelujah) of the heavenly chorus.

The word alleluia, in verse one, meant praise ye the Lord. In this equivalent it is used first in Psa_104:35 ; thereafter it is used repeatedly to introduce and end the chapters in the Psalms. The word alleluia itself is used only in the nineteenth chapter of Revelation, verses 1, 3, 4 , 6, which lends special significance to the chorus of the heavenly multitude praising God for Salvation from enemies, and righteous judgments on Jerusalem; and for avenging the blood of the martyrs. This was the reason for the ascription of special praise, as indicated in verse two.

Verses 1-21

XII

THE VISION OF VICTORY

(Chapter 19)

There is a striking analogy between these scenes of the church emerging in victory from the period of persecution, described by John in this nineteenth chapter, and the deliverance of Israel from Babylonian exile, described by Ezekiel in the closing section of his prophecy from the thirty-sixth to the thirty-ninth chapters.

The nation of Israel was comforted, and their release was described in terms of a figurative resurrection; and the return to their homeland was pictured as a “new heaven and a new earth.” ( Isa_66:22 ) The closing chapters of Revelation from chapter nineteen to twenty-two follow the course of Ezekiel’s apocalypse of Israel returning from the seventy years of exile, but here the church was seen emerging from the period of persecution. The symbols are similar, and the parallel is evident.

Verse 3

It was not the general or usual form of worship and praise, but a special hallelujah for true and righteous retribution on the harlot woman--apostate Jerusalem--and her affiliates. The words of verse 3 decreed that this judgment was a pronouncement of final doom on Jerusalem. And her smoke rose up forever and ever. This was the declaration that the old Jerusalem would never be restored. It is the parallel of the Lord’s declaration in Luk_21:24 : “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled"--which meant that Jerusalem was permanently trodden down; for the times of the Gentiles. and the fulness of the Gentiles were commensurate with the entire gospel dispensation. A comparison of the preposition until with such passages as Luk_16:16 ; Gal_3:19 ; Gal_4:2 ; Heb_9:10 will exemplify that until signified termination.

For further treatment of the times and fulness of the Gentiles in relation to Jerusalem, reference to GOD’S PROPHETIC WORD (pp. 152-155), is suggested.

Verse 4

Among the heavenly worshippers were listed the four and twenty elders of verse four, a symbol based on the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, representative of the whole and true Israel of God--the church; as discussed in chapters 5, 8, 14, and 11:18. The song of praise was an anthem of victory for the whole church.

Verses 5-6

The voice from the throne, in verses five and six, proclaimed in mighty volume that the Lord God omnipotent (Almighty) reigneth; which was manifested in the destructions of the Harlot woman, and the defeat of the persecuting agencies of the Roman beast. The universal aspect of this joyful victory was expressed in the refrain: Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great --all classes of men who were servants of God were bidden to rejoice. The greatness of the heavenly multitude joined in chorus as one voice, verse six, was not only a scene of awe and veneration, but was impressive of the magnitude of the significance attached to the end of Jerusalem and the Jewish state, and the removal of Judaism as the greatest obstacle to the expansion of Christianity from the path of the church. With the Harlot City, and the system of Judaism which she represented destroyed; there remained only the execution of judgment against political minions who had shared in her spiritual fornication s and abominations.

Verse 7

(2) The marriage supper of the Lamb--19:7-10.

The symbolism expressed in the marriage of the Lamb of verse seven, signified the blessed union of the church with Christ, the Head. But the use of the symbol here did not signify that the church had not been thus related to Christ before this apocalypse. The apostle, in Rom_7:4 , represented the marital union of Christ and the church as bringing forth the fruit of wedlock in spiritual offspring. If the marriage did not exist the fruit would be illegitimate. The marriage union of Christ and the church is not a single act or thing. Every union of a believer with Christ in baptism is marriage to Christ, and is representative of the whole relation.

This marriage occurs every time one is baptized into Christ, and it is therefore always in process and is continuous. The accentuation on the marriage to’ Christ in this context was due to the interference of the persecutions with gospel evangelization. Now, that the persecutors were overcome, conversions to Christ would again prevail; hence, the renewed symbol of marriage.

As the marriage itself is continuous, so must be the marriage supper, and it symbolized the continuous fellowship of all who are united to Christ; and it is as continuous as the baptism of believers and of the church itself. This part of the song of victory was based on the renewal of the interrupted fellowship of Christians by the afflictions and the tribulations of persecution.

Verse 8

The figurative clause his wife hath made herself ready was the symbol of victory over the evil forces of opposition --the verse declares that she was already his wife, and envisions the spiritual relation as a complete process, not as a single thing.

That the Lamb’s wife should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white was explained to be the righteousness of the saints, the purity of the New Jerusalem church in contrast with the iniquities of the harlot Jerusalem, which had gone up in the smoke of destruction forever. This attire of clean and white vestures was a beautiful symbol of the character of all who are truly joined in union with Christ. They were the ones called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb, the equal in number of all who were in the married relation with Christ. This metaphor comparable to the illustration of the wedding garment in the parable of Mat_22:11-13 , which was necessary to entrance into the feast; without which the intruder would have been cast out. The guests of the marriage feast were themselves the Bride in the parable, and parallel with they which are called unto the marriage supper in verse nine of this chapter. They were equal in number with the church itself.

Verse 9

The angelic admonition in verse nine for John to write was addressed personally to him, by the voice from the throne, not by an angel, and indicated the distinguished honor of being’ the recipient of the revelation of these things of such tremendous significance.

Having unfolded the visions in two parts, the closing scene of the second part put the emphasis on the state of blessed union with Christ of all who had overcome the trials and tribulations attending the fall of the harlot Babylon. Angels could have no higher or holier relation. The epilogue, these are the true sayings of God, meant that they were not mere words of John in visional narration, or of the angels; but they were the very words of God to the Seer; the directly inspired words of God.

In this connection it was twice repeated that, He saith unto me. The equivalent of these words occurs several hundred times in the Old Testament, and is repeatedly affirmed in the New Testament. The positive affirmation of this verbal inspiration is affirmed throughout all the scriptures; but has been marred and mutilated by the sacrilegious pseudo-translations of the perverted new versions. They have been advertised as new translations, but they are in fact no translations. They ruin Revelation as they do all other portions of the verbally inspired word of God.

The words of the angel had impressed John as a message direct from God; and verse ten stated that he fell at his feet to worship him. In bodily prostration John was about to worship the angel. But the angel refused the homage, saying, See thou do it not: I am a fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God. This testimony of Jesus had reference to the message of Revelation; and being a fellow servant with thy brethren was an expression of humility as expressed by John himself in chapter 1:9.

Verse 10

The closing statement of this section, in verse ten, is: For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. The word spirit here does not signify the Holy Spirit, but rather the inner spirit, the vital element, the life and soul-the essence of the apocalypse was the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ to his servant John by his servants, the angels.

Verse 11

(3) The vision of Christ the conqueror--19:11-16.

After the symbolic Babylon, the Sodom-Egypt, apostate harlot-Jerusalem had been utterly overthrown; the temple demolished and Judaism removed; and the Jewish state terminated; all that Jerusalem represented no longer existent--then the visions of Revelation turned to the ‘victory of the church over heathenism. The visions of this conflict were presented in the language of high symbols, and there is danger of literalism in their application.

In verses eleven through fourteen, a name was given to the Rider of the white horse; he was called Faithful and True. He was the Christ himself, leading the procession of triumph, with a heavenly army consisting of the legion of martyrs and overcomers of persecution, to wage war against Caesar-worship and heathenism. With him in this glorious war of Christ against idolatry were the chosen faithful who shared the triumph of the procession of victory.

He was identified as the same Rider of the white horse in chapter 6:2; then going forth to conquer, but now in procession of victory over the emperial persecutors; to judge and make war against all heathenism. This war was to be waged by the sharp sword which proceeded out of his mouth --that is, a war on the heathen minions by the word of God, the two-edged sword of Heb_4:12 , and the sword of the Spirit of Eph_6:17 . His descriptions were put in symbols of a royal and ruling conqueror, which compared with the array of the Son of man in the midst of the seven churches in chapter 1:13-16. The vestures of the Rider were dipped in blood, an imagery of the battle with the persecuting beasts who had slain the martyrs and had shed the blood of the saints. With the heavenly army Christ, the Rider, subsequent to the extermination of Judaism, was seen marching against the strongholds of heathenism.

Verse 12

In verse twelve it is stated that the Conqueror had another name-- a name written which no man knew, but he himself --which indicated the things of God and Christ unrevealed to me. It compares with the statement of Jesus in Mat_11:27 : “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Jesus Christ alone has “a name above every name,” which signifies a power over heaven and earth that no one can know but Himself --the sole owner of the name and the one possessor of the inherent power of the undefined and unrevealed name.

Verse 13

In verse thirteen, the Rider was called by a third name --The Word of God. The Word was not a name without significance. The same John of the apocalypse referred to the Son of God as the Word in the gospel of John l:1-14. The word is the vehicle of conveying thoughts--and Jesus Christ was the full and complete expression of God’s will to man; the beginning and the end of all revelation; hence, his title The Word. The name The Word Of God, signifies the armament of the warfare in which he was in this vision to engage--it was the conflict of Christianity with heathenism, and the truth was the weapon against all error.

Verse 14

In verse fourteen the armies that followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were the overcomers of the tribulation--redeemed from the period of persecution. In verse fifteen it was declared that the Rider would smite the nations and rule them with a rod of iron. The process of this smiting was indicated in God’s commission to Jeremiah, chapter 1:10: “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” In the Revelation text the phrases, smite the nations and rule them with a rod of iron, were symbolic of the impact of the gospel on the heathen world.

This inherent power and force of Christianity was prophesied in the second psalm, chapter 2:1-3: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”

Verse 15

The psalm prophecy is quoted by the apostle Peter in Act_4:25-26 with this application of the effect of preaching Christ to the heathen world. The ruling with a rod of iron referred to the inexorable character of the law of Christ--the invincible word of God. The treading of the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of God was the symbol of the execution of the inflexible judgment of retribution. And in Revelation it was Almighty God, the supreme Judge of all men, who should formulate the sentence and render the judgment against the heathen nations.

Verse 16

In verse sixteen a fourth name was inscribed on the Rider-- King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This was the highest title to be conferred. It symbolized the position and power over all kings and rulers of all rank in the heathen world, all of whom must yield to the invincible Word of God. This stage of the vision was in repetition of chapter 11:15: The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ. It was the sublime apocalypse of the conquering Lord, and his victorious church. The conquest of “the kingdoms of this world” was spiritual, not literal; and it was to be accomplished by the spread of the gospel and expansion of Christianity over the heathen world, as stated in Mat_24:31 and as prophesied in the second Psalm.

The names and insignia attached to the Rider comport with the Psalm prophecy and with all the divine offices of the Christ Rider. His insignia were: the white horse, the diadems, the blood-dipped garments, the flaming eyes, and the inscribed name, unknown to men. His divine works were: to judge, to wage war, t o smite with a verbal sword, to tread the winepress of God’s wrath, and to rule with the inflexible iron rod of the inexorble law of the Christ.

Verses 17-18

(4) The great sacrificial Supper--19:17-18.

These verses represented a feast on the flesh of kings consumed by the birds of prey and was one of the most highly metaphorical sections of the entire series of visions.

In Mat_24:28 , Jesus said: “For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” This forecast was the Lord’s illustration of the siege of Jerusalem, which was the carcass; and the Romans were the eagles, whose armies swooped on Jerusalem to destroy and devour it. But in this vision the metaphor was reversed. The rulers of the persecuting powers, with all the forces opposing Christ and his church, were the victims of this supper of the Great God. The sacrifice of animals was the common method of celebrating victories; such as king Saul, without warrant, had presumptuously planned in celebration of victory over Amalek, as recorded in 1Sa_15:15 ; 1Sa_15:21 . Here in this vision the eating of the flesh of kings, as the victims of the sacrificial supper, was symbolic of the victory of the saints over all the persecuting powers of the heathen governments, including all Roman tributaries which were the minions of the composite Roman beast. This symbolic representation was a repetition of the previous figurative descriptions of the fearful visitations of divine wrath on the wicked persecutors, which no kings or rulers of nations could withstand.

The same metaphorical representation of the celebration of the return of Israel from exile, subsequent to the fall of Babylon, was employed by Ezekiel in chapter 39: 17-20: “And, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God; Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood. Ye 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 bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord God.”

It is apparent that this sacrificial supper in Revelation was the vision of celebration for the triumph of the church over all the forces of heathenism. The inclusion in the metaphor of the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great meant that no class or condition of men in the heathen society which formed a part of the forces of persecution and of opposition to the church, were exempt from retribution; but were all alike victims of this symbolic celebration of the victory over heathenism in the sacrificial supper of the great God.

The vision of the angel standing in the sun, of verse seventeen, indicated not only the glory of this messenger of Christ, but the central station from which to summon the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven. The word heaven in the previous visions has designated the ruling authorities of the earth, or place of the nations. The reference to the fowls in the mid-heaven indicated that the birds of prey, symbolizing this awesome picture of visitation of divine wrath, were flying in the very midst of these evil authorities ready to descend on the carrion of the pagan persecuting powers, the defeated forces of heathenism.

The foregoing descriptions were designed to symbolize that no class or condition, high or low, in the heathen world could stand against the spiritual forces of Christ, the Conqueror and Rider of the white horse--and from this imagery of spiritual victory over all the forces of heathenism, the vision turns to the scene of judgment and final banishment of the Roman beast and his subordinate beast, the false prophet, who had beguiled the people into the emperor-image worship, and who was the original source of the spiritual war delineated in the apocalypse.

Verse 19

(5) The complete destruction of the persecuting power of the Roman beast and his subordinate false prophet-- 19:19-21.

The fact that these visions anticipated events before, during and after the destruction of Jerusalem, should be observed and retained in the mind, as the considerations advance from one stage and scene to another.

The scene of verses nineteen to twenty-one reverted to the spiritual battle between the heavenly armies of the Rider, and the armies of the Roman beast--the heathen persecutor. It was after the destruction of Jerusalem; and after the evil forces of heathenism were diverted from the scene of Jerusalem and Judaism to converge on the church.

But the vision saw the triumph of Christianity. It was declared in verse twenty that the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet . . . with which he deceived them that received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. This beast was the original first sea-beast of chapter 13--personified in the emperor, the source of authority for all the persecutions. The false prophet was identical with the second land-beast, of Judea and Palestine, described in chapter 13, as the subordinate of the imperia1 beast who seduced the inhabitants of Judea to worship the emperor. As previously postulated, the mark of the beast was submission to the decree for emperor worship and acceptance of the image of the emperor as deity and the worship of the Roman image in acts of idolatry for the emperor.

After accomplishing the destruction of Jerusalem and the obliteration of the Jewish state, the vision represents the beast as having lost the battle against the church. The invincible spiritual forces of Christianity prevailed against all powers of heathenism, and both the beast and his satellite false prophet were taken; that is, captured and consigned to the bottomless pit of banishment, symbolized by the lake of fire burning with brimstone. The object of this vision was to symbolize the war of righteousness led by Christ Himself, the Head of the church, against the wickedness of heathenism. It described the progress of the persecution of the church, after the fall of Jerusalem, through the period of tribulation of chapter 2:10; and of the hour of trial in chapter 3:10; in the deadly conflict with the heathenism of the Roman world.

The entire second psalm is a magnificent prophecy of the defeat of all the cohorts of heathenism by the King whom God had set “upon the holy hill of Zion,” and is worthy of insertion here in its entirety: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, 0 ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

This psalm was quoted more than once in the New Testament as having fulfillment in the universal expansion of the kingdom of Christ. The messianic psalm finds its climax in these visions of Revelation where the “heathen raged” and “the kings of the earth set themselves . . . against his Anointed.” The rulers did “take counsel together,” and determined to “break their bands asunder,” and thus to scatter the forces of the Anointed; but “the Lord shall have them in derision” and “shall break them with a rod of iron” which was done in the descriptions and fulfillment of these visions. In this imagery the Psalmist foresaw the establishment of the kingdom of Christ, and the defeat of all heathen opposition by the gospel’s rod of iron --the invincible Word of Truth.

Verses 20-21

The apocalypse of these last verses of chapter nineteen follows the same pattern in visions of the defeat of the hosts opposing Christ. The second Psalm decreed that thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel, and the apocalypse declared that they were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. One of these passages cannot be considered more or less literal than the other--both were figurative expressions which signified the utter end of the persecuting authorities of heathenism against Christianity. The phrase cast alive into a lake of fire was equivalent to burned alive, and it symbolized complete destruction.

The signal triumph of the cause of truth represented by the burning alive of the beast and the false prophet did not symbolize the destruction of the Roman Empire, but of the persecutions waged by the emperors, which the beasts represented. The lake of fire was not literal any more than the beast was literal. Neither was subject to literal application--both were figurative. The beast symbolized the persecuting power of the Roman emperor; and casting him into a lake of fire signified the complete defeat of the heathen powers he represented in the war against the church; and it was accomplished by the sword that proceeded out of the mouth of Jesus Christ, the Rider of the white horse. The sword was not a literal steel blade; it was the Word of God, the weapon by which the church won the victories over heathenism and idolatry; and which is even yet the only righteous weapon in the warfare of the truth against error.

The last passage of this chapter verse twenty-one, was the brief vision of the defeat of the remnant which had been slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse. This remnant symbolized the enemies of Christ other than the persecuting beasts. It represented all forms of error and evil and doctrines of antichrist that stood in the way of the church. They were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse; and the text identified the sword by the modifying phrase: which sword proceeded out of his mouth --the Word of God. By his word all forms of heathenism were exposed and the enemies of his cause, in the battle imagery, were slain, or defeated. They were figuratively slain, by a figurative sword: which sword proceeded out of his mouth --that is, by the teaching of the truth and the spread of the gospel.

To complete the visional and metaphorical picture, chapter nineteen ends with verse twenty-one in the final statement: And all the fowls were filled with their flesh. As the birds devour the carrion, the truth consumes every form of error inimical to the cause of Jesus Christ.

The Lord foretold that this result would follow the destruction of Jerusalem in Mat_24:31 : “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” The equivalent declaration of the apocalypse is in chapter 11:15: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” Another parallel to this Revelation passage is the reference of Paul in Eph_5:5 to the inheritance in “the kingdom of Christ and of God.” The kingdom is everlasting; the inheritance is eternal; and therefore the reign is forever and ever.

These parallels between the Lord’s account of these events in advance of their occurrences, and the visions of John in anticipation of the same series of events, have formulated accumulative evidence throughout the book, that the apocalypses of Revelation were but the extension of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew--the Lord’s own forecast of the events preceding and subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem.

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Bibliographical Information
Wallace, Foy E. "Commentary on Revelation 19". "Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/foy/revelation-19.html. 1966.