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Bible Commentaries

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Revelation 19

Verses 1-8

1 8 .] The Church’s song of praise at the destruction of Babylon . As each of the great events and judgments in this book is celebrated by its song of praise in heaven, so this also: but more solemnly and formally than the others, seeing that this is the great accomplishment of God’s judgment on the enemy of His Church. Cf. ch. Revelation 4:8 ff., introducing, the whole heavenly scenery: Revelation 5:9 ff., celebrating the worthiness of the Lamb to open the book: Revelation 7:10 ff.: Revelation 11:15 ff., on the close fulfilment of God’s judgments at the sounding of the seventh trumpet: Revelation 15:3 , on the introduction of the series of the vials: Revelation 16:5 , on the retributive justice shewn in the pouring out of the third vial.

After these things I heard as it were a great voice of much multitude in heaven, of people saying ( λεγόντων is most naturally a second dependent genitive following on ὄχλου ) Hallelujah (the word so often found in the Psalter, הַלְלוּ־יָה , ‘Praise ye Jah,’ i. e. Jehovah. Perhaps it is hardly justifiable to lay, as Elliott has done, a stress on this Hebrew formula of praise being now first used, and to infer thence that the Jews are indicated as bearing a prominent part in the following song. The formula must have passed, with the Psalter, into the Christian Church, being continually found in the LXX: and its use first here may be quite accounted for by the greatness and finality of this triumph), the salvation and the glory and the might belong to our God: because true and just are His judgments: because He judged (the aorr. as before are proleptic. In this case they can be rendered by the simple past in English) the great harlot, which corrupted (imperf.: whose habit it was to corrupt) the earth in ( ἐν of the element of the corruption) her fornication; and He exacted in vengeance the blood of His servants from her hand (so almost verbatim in 4 Kings Revelation 9:7 , καὶ ἐκδικήσεις τὰ αἵματα τῶν δούλων μου τῶν προφητῶν , καὶ τὰ αἵματα πάντων τῶν δούλων κυρίου ἐκ χειρὸς Ἰεζάβελ . The vengeance is considered as a penalty exacted, forced, out of the reluctant hand: see also Genesis 9:5 ; Ezekiel 33:6 , where the verb is ἐκζητεῖν ). And a second time they said Hallelujah; and her smoke (of her burning, ch. Rev 18:9 al.: not, as Ewald, because τῆς πυρώσεως αὐτῆς is not added, of hell in general) goeth up to the ages of the ages (this addition gives a reason for the praise, parallel with those introduced by ὅτι before). And the twenty-four elders and the four living-beings fell down and worshipped God who sitteth upon the throne, saying Amen: Hallelujah (thereby confirming the general song of praise of the great multitude). And a voice came forth from the throne ( ἀπό perhaps (De W.) gives more the direction than the actual source of the voice ( ἐκ , as rec.). It is useless to conjecture whose voice it is: but we may say that ( τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν ) it is not that of the Lamb, as Ew. and Hengstb. Our Lord never spoke thus: cf. John 20:17 , note) saying, Give praise to our God, all His servants (cf. Psa 134:1 ), [ and ] ye that fear Him, the small and the great (cf. Psa 115:13 ). And I heard as it were the voice of much multitude (cf. Rev 19:1 ), and as it were the voice of many waters, and as it were the voice of strong thunders, saying (nom. see ref.], Hallelujah, because the Lord God Almighty reigneth (here is a case where we cannot approach the true sense of the aor. ἐβασίλευσεν but by an English present: “ reigned ” would make the word apply to a past event limited in duration: “hath reigned” would even more strongly imply that the reign was over. It is well to note such cases, to shew the inadequacy of our past tenses to reproduce the Greek ones). Let us rejoice and exult, and we will give the glory to Him: because the marriage of the Lamb is come (these words introduce to us transitionally a new series of visions respecting the final consummation of the union between Christ and His Church, which brings about the end, ch. Revelation 21:1 ff.: the solemn opening of which now immediately follows in Revelation 19:11 ff. This series, properly speaking, includes in itself the overthrow of the kings of the earth, the binding of Satan, the thousand years’ reign, the loosing of Satan, the final overthrow of the enemy, and the general judgment: but is not consummated except in the entire union of Christ and His with which the book concludes. So that the aorr. ἦλθεν , ἡτοίμασεν , are in a measure proleptic.

This figure, of a marriage between the Lord and His people, is too frequent and familiar to need explanation. Cf. in the O. T. Isaiah 54:1-23.54.8 ; Ezekiel 16:7 ff.; Hosea 2:19 f.: and in the N. T., Matthew 9:15 [123] and note, Matthew 25:1 ff.; John 3:29 ; Ephesians 5:25 ff. Indeed it penetrates almost every where the thoughts and language used respecting Christ and the Church), and his wife hath made herself ready (is complete in her adornment, as in next verse).

[123] When, in the Gospels, and in the Evangelic statement, 1 Corinthians 11:23-46.11.25 , the sign (║) occurs in a reference, it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in the other Gospels, which will always be found indicated at the head of the note on the paragraph. When the sign (║) is qualified , thus, ‘║ Mk.,’ or ‘║ Mt. Mk.,’ &c., it is signified that the word occurs in the parallel place in that Gospel or Gospels, but not in the other or others .

And it was given to her (have we in these words still the voice of the celestial chorus, or are they merely narrative, written in the person of the Seer himself? It seems to me that the latter alternative is rendered necessary by the fact of the explanation, τὸ γὰρ κ . τ . λ ., being subjoined. Düsterd. makes the song end at λαμπρόν : but this seems harsh and disjointed. Moreover the ἐδόθη is the regular formula narrandi of the book) that (a construction of St. John’s, see reff.) she should be clothed in fine linen raiment, bright (and) pure (“Vides hic cultum gravem ut matronæ, non pompaticum qualis meretricis ante descriptus.” Grot.), for the fine linen raiment is (imports, see Mat 26:26 reff.), the righteousness of the saints (i. e. their pure and holy state, attained, as in the parallel description ch. Revelation 7:14 , is declared by the elder, by their having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The plur. - ματα is probably distributive, implying not many δικαιώματα to each one, as if they were merely good deeds, but one δικαίωμα to each of the saints, enveloping him as in a pure white robe of righteousness. Observe that here and every where, the white robe is not Christ’s righteousness imputed or put on, but the saints righteousness , by virtue of being washed in His blood. It is their own ; inherent, not imputed; but their own by their part in and union to Him).

Verses 9-10

9, 10 .] The Bride in this blessed marriage being in fact the sum of the guests at its celebration, the discourse passes to their blessedness, and an assurance of the certainty of that which has been foretold respecting them. The Apostle, moved by these declarations, falls down to worship the angel, but is forbidden . And he saith (who? the only answer ready to our hand is, the angel of ch. Revelation 17:1 . Some, as Ewald and Ebrard, suppose some one angel to have been constantly with St. John throughout the visions: but there seems no reason for this) to me, Write (cf. ch. Rev 14:13 ) Blessed are they who are bidden (see reff.: and bear in mind, throughout, our Lord’s parables on this matter: Matthew 22:1 ff; Matthew 25:1 ff. Our ch. Rev 3:20 furnishes us with a link binding on the spiritual import to the figure) to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. And he saith to me (the solemn repetition of this formula shews that what follows it is a new and important declaration), These sayings (cf. ch. Revelation 17:17 . If we understand that the speaker is the angel of ch. Revelation 17:1 , then οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι will most naturally include the prophecies and revelations since then) are the true (we should hardly be justified, in a book where ἀληθινός has repeatedly occurred in a sense hardly distinguishable from ἀληθής , in pressing it here to its more proper meaning of “ genuine ” (as Düsterd.), which would very well suit the sense in this place) ( sayings ) of God (are the very truth of God, and shall veritably come to pass).

And I fell down before his feet to worship him (out of an overweening reverence for one who had imparted to him such great things: see also ch. Revelation 22:8 , where the same again takes place at the end of the whole revelation, and after a similar assurance. The angel who had thus guaranteed to him, in the name of God, the certainty of these great revelations, seems to him worthy of some of that reverence which belongs to God Himself. The reason given by Düsterd., that in both cases John imagined the Lord Himself to be speaking to him, is sufficiently contradicted by the plain assertion, here in ch. Revelation 17:1 , and there in ch. Rev 22:8 itself, that it was not a divine Person, but simply an angel): and he saith to me, Take heed not (to do it): I am a fellow-servant of thine, and (a fellow-servant) of thy brethren who have the testimony of Jesus (as in reff.: on the former of which see note): worship God (both words are emphatic: let προσκύνησις be reserved for Him ), for (these words following are those of the angel , not of the Apostle, as Düsterd.: Revelation 19:8 , and ch. Revelation 5:8 , where the Apostle gives explanations, are no rule for this place, where the explanation of necessity comes from the speaker, whose reason for prohibiting the offered homage it renders) the testimony of Jesus (the gen. Ἰησοῦ is, as before, objective : the testimony borne to Jesus by these σύνδουλοι , men and angels) is the spirit of prophecy (there is no real difficulty in this saying: no reason for destroying its force by making Ἰησοῦ subjective, and ἡ μαρτ · Ἰης . to mean “the witness which proceeds from Jesus” (Düst.). What the angel says is this: Thou and I and our brethren are all ἔχοντες τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ (= μάρτυρες Ἰησοῦ , as uniformly in this book); and the way in which we bear this witness, the substance and essence of this testimony, is, the spirit of prophecy; ἓν πνεῦμα ἐποτίσθημεν . This Spirit, given to me in that I shew thee these things, given to thee in that thou seest and art to write them, is the token that we are fellow-servants and brethren. Thus Vitringa: “Idem ille Spiritus qui loquitur agitque per eos qui prædicant testimonium Christo, quod agebant Apostoli, idem ipse est, qui per me loquitur, qui missus sum a Domino ut res venturi temporis tibi declararem. Tanta itaque tua quanta mea est dignitas, sumusque adeo conservi ad officia non disparia honoris et gradus a Domino appellati.” It does not follow that every one of those ἐχόντων τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ has, in the same distinguished degree, the Spirit of prophecy: but every such one has the same Spirit, and that one Spirit, and no other, is the Spirit of prophecy).

Verses 11-16

11 16 .] The triumphal coming forth of the Lord and His hosts to victory . And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse (the same words, including the five following, as in ch. Revelation 6:2 . It is wonderful that this striking identity, in a book where symbolism is so constant to itself, has not prevented the mistakes which have been made in interpreting that place. This horse and Rider are (symbolically) the same as there: the νικῶν καὶ ἵνα νικήσῃ is on the point of its completion: the other horses and their riders, dark forms in His great world-long procession to victory, will now for ever vanish, and war and famine and pestilence be known no more), and He that sitteth upon him [ called ] faithful and true (see ref.), and in righteousness He judgeth and warreth (both those acts being his concern in his present triumphant progress. Notice that the very construction with the participles καθήμενος and καλούμενος is the same as that in ch. Rev 6:2 ). His eyes (the δέ , as often, is best given in English by an asyndeton, marking a break in the sense, passing from the subjective to the objective description) [ were as ] a flame of fire (ch. Rev 1:14 verbatim, again beyond question identifying Him), and upon His head (accus.: see ch. Revelation 4:2 , note) many diadems (probably as He is βασιλεὺς βασιλέων : so Ewald, De W., Hengstb. Certainly these are not the crowns of the ten kings, as Züllig, al., for they are yet to be overthrown, Revelation 19:19 ff. The στέφανος of ch. Rev 6:2 has become multiplied in the course of the subjection of the world to Him): having [ names written (if these words are genuine, probably the meaning is that the names were inscribed on the diadems, signifying the import of each), and ] a name written (where, is not said. From this portion of the description regarding His head, probably on the Brow) which none knoweth except Himself (what name is indicated? Certainly not that given below, Revelation 19:13 ; nor can these words mean that He Himself alone knows the mystery latent in that name (so Vitringa, al.). Nor again can we say that it is any of the names by which our blessed Lord is known to us already (so Ewald, al.). But it is the τὸ ὄνομά μου τὸ καινόν of ch. Revelation 3:12 ; some new and glorious name, indicative, as appears from the context there, of the completed union between Him and His people, and of His final triumph. This name the Apostle saw written, but knew not its import: that, like the contents of the sealed book, being reserved for the day when He shall reveal it): and clothed in a vesture dipped in blood (see Isaiah 63:2-23.63.3 ; which is clearly in contemplation here, from our Revelation 19:15 b. This being so, it is better perhaps to avoid the idea of His own blood being in view): and His name is called, The Word of God (this title forms so plain a link between the Apocalypse and St. John’s writings, where only it occurs, that various attempts have been made by those who reject his authorship, to deprive it of that significance. I have discussed these in the Prolegomena, § i. parr. 110, 111). And the armies which are in heaven (not the holy angels only, as De W. and Hengstb., but the glorified saints: the οἱ μετ ʼ αὐτοῦ of ch. Revelation 17:14 , who are spoken of in reference to this very triumph, and are said to be κλητοὶ καὶ ἐκλεκτοὶ καὶ πιστοί ) followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen [ raiment ] white, pure (this clothing also speaks for the saints being included in the triumphal procession: see Revelation 19:8 , and ch. Rev 6:11 ). And out of His mouth goeth forth a sharp sword (see ch. Revelation 1:16 , Revelation 2:12 ; Rev 2:16 ), that with ( ἐν , as invested in or with) it he may smite the nations; and He (there is an emphasis in this and the following clause on αὐτός , which however would be too strongly rendered by “ himself ”) shall rule (see ch. Revelation 2:27 , Revelation 12:5 , and note) them (masc.; their component members being in the Writer’s mind) with a rod of iron: and He (and none other, as we know from Isa 63:3 ) treadeth (it is His office to tread) the winepress of the wine of the fierceness of the wrath (of the outbreaking of the anger: see on ch. Rev 16:19 ) of Almighty God. And He hath upon His vesture and upon His thigh a name written (i. e. most naturally, written at length, partly on the vesture, partly on the thigh itself; at the part where, in an equestrian figure, the robe drops from the thigh. The usual way of taking the words is to suppose the καί epexegetic or definitive of the former words, “on His vesture,” and that on the part of it covering His thigh. So De W., Düsterd., al. Others imagine (so Grot., al.) a sword, on the hilt of which the name is inscribed. But there is no trace of this in the text. Wetst. quotes Cicero, Verr. iv. 43, “Signum Apollinis pulcherrimum, cujus in femore literulis minutis argenteis nomen Myronis erat inscriptum:” and Pausanias, Eliac. extr., ἀνάθημαἀνδρὸς εἰκὼνἐλεγεῖον δὲ ἐπ ʼ αὐτὸ γεγραμμένον ἐστὶν ἐπὶ τοῦ μηροῦ , Ζῆνι θεῶν βασιλεῖ μ ʼ ἀκροθίνιον ἐνθάδ ʼ ἔθηκαν Μενδαῖοι . See also Herod. ii. 106, where the inscription runs across the chest from shoulder to shoulder), King of Kings, and Lord of Lords (ch. Rev 17:14 ).

Verses 11-21

Rev 19:11 to Revelation 22:5 .] THE END: beginning with the triumphal coming forth of the Lord and His saints to victory ( Rev 19:11-16 ), then proceeding with the great defeat and destruction of the beast and false prophet and kings of the earth ( Rev 19:17-21 ), the binding of Satan and the millennial reign (ch. Rev 20:1-6 ), the unbinding of Satan and his destruction and that of the deceived nations ( Rev 20:7-10 ), the great general judgment ( Rev 20:11-15 ), and terminating with the vision of the new heavens and earth , and the glories of the new Jerusalem ( Rev 21:1 to Rev 22:5 ).

Verses 17-21

17 21 .] Defeat and destruction of the beast and the false prophet and the kings of the earth : preceded by ( Rev 19:17-18 ) an angelic proclamation , indicating the vastness of the slaughter.

And I saw an (one) angel standing in the sun (not only as the place of brightness and glory becoming the herald of so great a victory, but also as the central station in mid-heaven for those to whom the call was to be made): and he cried with a great voice, saying to all the birds which fly in mid-heaven, Come, be gathered together (see, on the whole of this proclamation, Ezekiel 39:17 ff., of which it is a close reproduction; also Mat 24:28 ) to the great banquet of God, that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains of thousands, and the flesh of strong men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all, free as well as bond, both small and great (this proclamation is evidently not to be pressed into a place in the prophecy, nor are its details to be sought in the interpretation, as has been done by Andreas and Primasius, who hold the birds to be angels, and Brightm., who holds them to be nations and churches. The insertion is made, as above, to shew the greatness and universality of the coming slaughter). And I saw the beast (ch. Rev 13:1 ) and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together (as above under the sixth vial, ch. Revelation 16:12 ff., on the field of Harmagedon) to make their war (viz. that predicted above, ch. Revelation 16:14 , Rev 17:14 ) with Him that sitteth upon the horse and with his army ( στρατεύματος , sing. probably as being one , and having one Head, whereas they are many, and under various leaders). And the beast was taken (reff.), and those with him (to wit, the ψευδοπροφήτης , and οἱ λοιποί , Revelation 19:21 ; or, and with him the false prophet ), the false prophet who wrought the miracles in his presence (cf. ch. Revelation 13:11-66.13.17 , by which it clearly appears that this false prophet is identical with that second beast), with which he deceived those who received (not necessarily nor probably, who had received, as E. V.: the aor. part. is contemporary, as usual, with the aor. verb: and is probably here used because the receiving the mark is one act, the worship ( προσκυνοῦντας ) a continued habit) the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image (cf. ch. Revelation 13:14 ; Rev 13:16 ): the two were cast alive into the lake of fire which burneth (the extraordinary concord, τοῦ πυρὸς τῆς καιομένης , appears to have been in the original text, and must be simply accepted as it stands) with brimstone (viz. into Gehenna, or hell properly so called, Matthew 5:22 ; where also, after the millennium, Satan himself is cast, ch. Revelation 20:10 , and when their work is finally accomplished, Death and Hades, Revelation 20:14 a. This lake of fire constitutes the second death, Revelation 20:14 b, Revelation 21:8 . These only, and not the Lord’s human enemies yet, are cast into eternal punishment. The latter await the final Judgment, ch. Revelation 20:11 ff.). And the rest (the βασιλεῖς and their στρατεύματα ) were slain with the sword of Him that sitteth on the horse, which (sword) goeth forth out of His mouth (see Isaiah 11:4 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:8 . De Wette remarks, that it is a hint of the spiritual nature of this victory, that no battle seems actually to take place, but the Lord Himself, as in 2 Thess., destroys the adversaries with the sword out of his own mouth. But clearly, all must not be thus spiritualized. For if so, what is this gathering? what is indicated by the coming forth of the Lord in glory and majesty? Why is His personal presence wanted for the victory?): and all the birds were satiated with (out of, as the material of the satiety) their flesh .

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Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Revelation 19". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.