The Triumph of the Elect in Heaven.
The hymn of the host in heaven:
v. 1. And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power unto the Lord, our God!
v. 2. For true and righteous are His judgments; for He hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of His servants at her hand.
v. 3. And again they said, Alleluia! And her smoke rose up forever and ever.
v. 4. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshiped God, that sat on the throne, saying, Amen, Alleluia!
The idea which had merely been suggested in the 18:20, is here carried out at length, in a scene which presents the final triumph of the forces of light and righteousness: After these things I heard what resembled the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power are our God's; for true and righteous are His judgments, since He has judged the great harlot, who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged the blood of His servants at her hand. The glory of the last day is here anticipated. As the people of a nation go forth with shouts of victory to meet the returning conquerors, so the multitudes of the perfected saints break forth in hymns of triumph at the return of the victorious Lord of hosts. The salvation of the saints was in His hands, and He wrought it by the mighty manifestation of His grace. And so all glory and power belong to our Lord alone throughout all eternity. His judgments, His sentences, are true; they have been rendered in accordance with His promises; and they are just, for the rulers of the kingdom of Anti-Christ had every opportunity to see the errors of their way and to return to the truth, but they deliberately refused and thus invited the wrath of the Lord. For the countless souls which the great Roman harlot corrupted with her idolatry, and for the lives of other thousands whose blood she shed, she will have to answer with a sharp reckoning on the last day.
The song of triumph is echoed by the singers and the elders: And for the second time they said, Hallelujah! And her smoke ascends forever and ever. And the twenty-four elders and the four living beings fell down, and they worshiped God that is seated upon the throne, saying, Amen, Hallelujah! The great harlot is cast into the abyss of fire and brimstone, to be burned with fire throughout eternity, chap. 18:8. And this fact causes both the elders representing the Church of God and the four cherubs that acted as His servants and messengers to fall down before the throne of God in the act of worshipful adoration, and to repeat, in endless refrain, their hymn of praise, Amen, Hallelujah; to God alone all praise and glory, through all eternity!
The voice out of the throne:
v. 5. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye His servants, and ye that fear Him, both small and great.
v. 6. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude and as the voice of many waters and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
v. 7. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.
v. 8. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
v. 9. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
v. 10. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not; I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus; worship God; for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.
The chorus of praise at the destruction of the great harlot is given in the form of antiphonal singing: And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Extol our God, all His servants, those that fear Him, both small and great. That was the one strophe addressed to the servants of the Lord, to those that are not merely members in His community, but whose special devotion to His interests, to His service and worship, has given them the closest fellowship with Him. That is their glorious privilege throughout eternity, to praise and extol the Lord of their salvation. Therefore they, in an antiphonal chant, respond to the urgent invitation: And I heard what resembled the voice of a great multitude and the rushing of many waters and the muttering of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah, for the Lord God, the Almighty, is King. Like the shouting of uncounted masses of people, like the irresistible rushing of mighty streams, like the grumblings and mutterings of a strong thunder, the song of the elect breaks forth at the Lord's word, giving all praise to Him, the Lord, the almighty God, the King of the ages. The omnipotent God has conquered the portals of all His enemies, and revealed Himself as King over all.
To this fact there is added another cause for rejoicing: Let us he glad and exult, and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready; and to her was given to be clothed in shining white fine linen (for the fine linen was the righteous deeds of the saints). What had been foretold by the prophets and spoken of time and again by Christ and the apostles is here represented as being consummated in heaven. The bride of Christ, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the whole number of those that have come to faith and remained faithful to the Lord unto the end, is celebrating her marriage with the Lamb, with the Savior, with Christ. That, indeed, is a reason for the greatest rejoicing, for the highest exultation, to know that all the hopes of the centuries have now been realized, that all the believers are now united with their Savior throughout eternity. The bride, moreover, is clothed in the most gorgeous wedding-garment, all pure white and shining with brilliancy. It is a pure, precious dress of honor, the dress of salvation. For whereas without Christ all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, in Him, through faith, even our smallest works, all the acts of our every-day life, are acceptable to the heavenly Father. Thus we shall be ornamented in heaven with the garment which the heavenly Bridegroom has merited through His perfect obedience to the commandment of God, through the shedding of His blood, through His death and resurrection.
The importance of this incident is heightened through an additional factor which is here recorded: And he says to me, Write, Blessed are they that are called to the marriage-feast of the Lamb. And he says to me, These are true words of God. So the Bride, the perfected saints, the believers that have been faithful to the end, are also invited to the marriage-feast of the Lamb, the union which He had planned before the beginning of the world. Truly, those people are blessed with a happiness which transcends all human conception, and there cannot be the slightest doubt as to their being heirs of all these joys, because He who is the Faithful, the True One, has given the promise, and He makes no mistake. The scene which John had witnessed so overwhelmed him that he relates: And I fell before his feet to worship him. He was ready to give divine honor to this messenger from heaven that unfolded the final triumph to him in such a singular manner, But the angel interposed: And he says to me, Not that: thy fellow-servant I am and one of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus; worship God (for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy). The testimony of Jesus, to which the angel referred, is that Spirit of Prophecy by whose power all the prophets and apostles, including John himself, had testified of Jesus and of His kingdom. Although the angels are heavenly spirits, powerful and blessed, yet they are but servants and witnesses of Christ, and should therefore not be given divine honor; for that belongs to God alone.
The vision of the exalted Christ:
v. 11. And I saw heaven opened, and, behold, a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war.
v. 12. His eyes were as a dame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written that no man knew but He Himself.
v. 13. And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God.
v. 14. And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
v. 15. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations; and He shall rule them with a rod of iron; and He treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
v. 16. And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Here the last door is opened, and the great Victor appears in person: And I saw heaven opened, and, behold, a white horse, and He that sat upon Him was called Faithful and True, and in justice He judges and wages war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head He had many diadems, having a name written which no one knows but Himself, and clothed with a garment bespattered with blood, and His name is called "The Word of God. " Every Bible-reader recognizes this man at a glance; for every feature of this picture is depicted and repeated again and again. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself appears here upon a white horse as the Victor, as the triumphant King. In that bloody battle for the souls of men He has proved Himself the stronger, He has conquered all the enemies of mankind, forcing them to acknowledge His power forever. Faithful He is, for He has kept His promise, as it was given even in the Garden of Eden after the Fall; true He is, to be trusted at all times implicitly, for He is a Rock upon whom our confidence may rest without wavering. He has brought about a decision in the just cause which He represented; He has overcome in the war which the enemies themselves began. The zeal of justice and of judgment shines from His eyes, and He has the power over all the diadems and crowns of the world, all kings and rulers being but clay in His hands. All the languages of the world cannot possibly express the unspeakable majesty of the name of the Lord, Mat_11:27. His garment is bespattered with the blood which He shed for the salvation of the world, Gen_49:11; Isa_63:2-3. Like the wounds in His hands and feet and in His side His blood-spattered garment is a witness of His triumph. One of the names which He proudly bears is "The Word of God," Joh_1:1. As the almighty Word of the Father He has revealed Himself in this war by the victory which He has won, by which world, death, and Satan are overcome and vanquished forever.
The Lord and His companions are further described: And the troops in heaven followed Him on white horses, clothed in white, clean, fine linen; and out of His mouth there proceeds a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations, and Himself will rule them with an iron rod, and Himself will tread the wine-press of the anger of the wrath of God Almighty; and He has upon His garment and upon His thigh a name written, "King of kings and Lord of lords. " The great army of heaven, consisting of the troops of all the elect, takes part in the triumph of the Champion. With white, clean, silk like linen the saints are clothed, as the Lord had promised them, chap. 3:5; for their garment is the perfect righteousness of their Savior. They can trust their Lord all the more implicitly since the sharp, two-edged sword of the Word proceeds out of His mouth. This is the Word with which the Lord will kill His enemies, Isa_66:16, and overcome all antichrists and adversaries, Isa_11:4; 2Th_2:8. Against them it is the Word of His wrath, with which He will rule as with an iron scepter, Psa_2:9. He it is that treads the wine-press of the wrath of God, of which the seer had spoken, Rev_14:19-20. Thus, in the final destruction of His enemies, the exalted Christ will reveal Himself as the King of kings and the Lord of lords, having divine power and glory from everlasting to everlasting.
The destruction of the anti-Christian forces:
v. 17. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God,
v. 18. that ye may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of captains and the flesh of mighty men 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.
v. 19. And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army.
v. 20. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
v. 21. And the remnant were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of His mouth; and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
This scene is introduced with a terrible and terrifying announcement: And I saw a single angel standing in the sun, and he called with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, Come, gather yourselves to the great feast of God, that ye may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of generals and the flesh of mighty ones and the flesh of horses, and of those that sit upon them, and the flesh of all free as well as of slaves, both small and great. This is a ghastly announcement, all the more so because of its finality. In a most commanding and conspicuous position the angel with this command is placed, in order that all hearers should realize and appreciate its importance. This surely is a contrast to the joyful marriage-feast of the Lamb; for not only will the corpses of the enemies of the Lord lie unburied, in itself one of the worst misfortunes which men knew of, but their bodies should become the prey, the food, of the birds, mainly the vultures that fly in the sky above the heads of men. The destruction of Anti-Christ and of his host is thus assured from the beginning; they will be given to the evil spirits, to the devil and his angels, to be destroyed and tormented forever.
This announcement served as a sign to the forces of evil to assemble for a last great and desperate, but futile effort to storm heaven: And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their hordes gathered to wage war against Him that sits upon the horse and against His army. And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet that performed the miracles before him, by which he deceived those that had accepted the mark of the beast and those that worshiped his image; while still alive, these two were thrown into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. This is the final overthrow of the beast, the kingdom of Anti-Christ, of his false prophet, the Popes, and of all those hat had become the servants of the beast by receiving his mark on their forehead or in their hand, that had worshiped his image by bailing the hierarchical system of the Church of Rome as an organization from God. And the leaders of the anti-Christian kingdom, the seducers of the world, the avowed and implacable enemies of the Lord and of His Gospel, were punished with eternal damnation in the lake burning with fire and brimstone. Hell itself will devour them, and they will receive the punishment which their works merited. Their lot is shared by their followers: And the rest were killed by the sword of Him that sits upon the horse, that proceeds out of His mouth, and all the birds were glutted with their flesh. A gruesome picture, well calculated to call men to repentance. For the sword of the Lord is the word: "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire," Mat_25:41. As the vultures make a meal of the carcasses to which their attention is directed, so will Satan and his angels forever feed on the souls and bodies of those that dared to oppose the almighty Lord and to take the parts of Anti-Christ. That is the end of the Church of Rome, of the kingdom of Anti-Christ.
The triumph of the exalted Christ and of the elect in heaven is shown in a series of pictures giving the hymn of victory, showing the army of the Lord arrayed against the hordes of Anti-Christ, and the complete overthrow and final punishment of the Lord's enemies.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Revelation 19". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany