Revelation 19:1. The heavenly hosts are the first to sing. Their keynote is Hallelujah, a word meaning ‘Praise the Lord,’ and found in the New Testament only here and in Revelation 19:3-4; Revelation 19:6 of this chapter. So in one song of heaven which has no termination closes the Book of Psalms, that ‘great book of the wars of the Lord,’ when the wars have ceased for ever (comp. Neale and Littledale on Psalms 150).
With the beginning of this chapter we enter upon the fifth great section of the Apocalypse, which extends to chap. Revelation 20:6. The object of the section is to bring before us the triumph and rest of the faithful disciples of Jesus after their conflict is over. They have had to contend alike with the world and with the degenerate Church. They have been separated from both; and both have fallen. There is no more struggle for them now, except the final one yet to be described in chap. Revelation 20:7-15. So far as they are concerned, however, that, as we shall see hereafter, can hardly be called a struggle, for their enemies shall no sooner be gathered together against them than they shall be completely and for ever overwhelmed. The first notice of this happy state is presented in the song of thanksgiving sung by the heavenly hosts and by the redeemed from among men over the destruction of Babylon.
Revelation 19:2. The word true of this verse again expresses what is real;—not merely that God has fulfilled His words, but that His judgments correspond to the reality and propriety of things.—For he hath judged the great harlot, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and he hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. The judgment particularly in view is specified in these words. We may observe how strictly it corresponds to the prayer of chap. Revelation 6:10,—‘judge,’ ‘avenge.’
Revelation 19:3. And a second time they said, Hallelujah. The thought of a ‘second’ time has peculiar importance in the eyes of St. John (comp. John 4:54). It confirms with a singular degree of emphasis the idea with which it is connected.—And her smoke goeth up for ever and ever. It went up as the smoke of Sodom (Genesis 19:28). Before, in chap. Revelation 11:8, ‘the city’ that was spiritually ‘Sodom and Egypt’ was that where our Lord was crucified—Jerusalem. Here it is Babylon. The fate of the first city out of which God’s people were called turns out to have been a prophecy of the fate of the last. Thus does God fulfil His word, and ‘bind and blend in one the morning and the evening of His creation’ (Dr. Pusey). But it was more tolerable for Sodom than it will be for Babylon; for (though indeed St. Peter says Sodom ‘suffereth the vengeance of eternal fire,’ yet) its fires were quenched in the waters of the Dead Sea. This fire goes up ‘for ever and ever’ (comp. Isaiah 66:24).
Revelation 19:4. The four and twenty elders and the four living creatures respond to the song of the heavenly host. The Elders we heard last at chap. Revelation 11:16, at the moment when the seventh trumpet had sounded, and the ‘great voices in heaven’ had declared, ‘The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.’ One of the four living creatures we saw last at chap. Revelation 15:7, when it gave to the seven angels their ‘seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God.’ With peculiar propriety, therefore, these beings first answer the hosts of heaven with their loud Amen, and then take up their song Hallelujah.
Revelation 19:5. A voice is next heard from the throne calling upon all God’s people to give praise to Him. The voice is immediately answered.
Revelation 19:6. And I heard as it were a voice of a great multitude, and as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah, for the Lord hath taken to him his kingdom, even our God, the Almighty. The song is new, celebrating something greater and higher than the last, not merely judgment on foes, but the full taking possession of His kingdom by the Lord.
Revelation 19:7. Let us rejoice, and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory to him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. Up to this time the actual marriage of the Redeemer to His people has not taken place. The two patties have only been betrothed to one another (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:2). At length the hour has come when the marriage shall be completed, the Lord Himself being manifested in glory and His bride along with Him.
Revelation 19:8. And it was given to her that she should array herself in fine linen bright and pure, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. The bride arrays herself in her garments of beauty, that she may go forth to meet the Bridegroom, may enter in with Him to the marriage ceremony, and may be united to Him for ever in the marriage bond. Her robes are of dazzling whiteness, free from every stain; nor are they an outward show. Her righteousness is more than imputed, and her whole being is penetrated by it. She is in Christ; she is one with Him; His righteousness takes possession of her in such a manner that it becomes her own; it is a part of herself and of her life. St. John had no fear of saying that the redeemed shall be presented before God in ‘righteous acts’ of their own. He could not think of them except as at once justified and sanctified in Jesus.
Revelation 19:9. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. We are not distinctly informed who the person here spoken of is; but, inasmuch as we seem to be still dealing with the ‘strong angel’ of chap. Revelation 18:21, we are probably to think of him. Alter the marriage comes the marriage supper, the fulness of blessing to be enjoyed by the redeemed. It may be a question whether we are to distinguish between the bride herself and those who appear rather to be spoken of as guests at the marriage supper. But the analogy of Scripture, and especially of such passages as Matthew 22:2; Matthew 26:29, leads to the conclusion that no such distinction can be drawn. Those who are faithful in the Lord are at once the Lamb’s bride, and the Lamb’s guests. Any difficulty of interpretation arises simply from the difficulty, so often met with, of representing under one figure the varied relations between the Lord and His people. By the Lamb’s wife, too, we must surely understand the whole believing Church, and not any separate section of it distinguished from, and more highly favoured than, the rest. As there is one Bridegroom so there is one bride. If, therefore, according to the opinion of many, we are dealing here with the 144,000 of chap. 14, an additional proof will be afforded that in that mystical number the whole company of believers was included.
And he said unto me, These are the true words of God. The word ‘These’ refers, not to all that has been revealed since chap. Revelation 17:1, but to the last revelations made; and they are ‘true,’ expressive of the great realities now taking place.
Revelation 19:10. And I fell down before his feet to worship him, fell overwhelmed with astonishment and delight.
And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow-servant and the fellow-servant of thy brethren that have the witness of Jesus: worship God. The angel reminds the Apostle that worship is due to God alone; that he himself is only his fellow-servant and the fellow-servant of all who have the witness of Jesus,—whose personal possession the witness of Jesus is become.
For the witness of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. The words are spoken by the angel, and they contain the reason why, high as he may seem to be, he ought to be looked upon in no other light than as the fellow-servant of all who believe in Jesus. The argument is as follows:—‘All believers are witnesses of Jesus (comp. chap. Revelation 12:17); I, because I prophesy, and because the witness of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, am also a witness of Jesus; thou and I therefore occupy the same footing before God, and we must worship God alone (comp. chap. Revelation 22:9).’
Revelation 19:11. And I saw the heaven opened, and behold a white hone, and he that sat upon him, called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. It is the Lord Himself who comes to wind up the history of the world, to bring salvation to His own, and destruction to His enemies. The Heaven is opened, and a white horse appears, the same as that of chap. Revelation 6:2. He who then went forth ‘conquering and to conquer’ returns in triumph. His victory is won. In His own being He has proved Himself to be ‘faithful and true,’—‘faithful’ to all His promises, ‘true’ as the essence of all that is real and everlasting.
Revelation 19:11-17 a. These verses contain the lamentation of the merchants of the earth, as they mourn over the fate of a city which presented such a gorgeous picture of worldly riches and extravagance. The expression at the close of Revelation 19:13, souls of men, is difficult to understand. A glance at the original is sufficient to show that it cannot be construed with that immediately preceding it, ‘slaves,’ or, as in the margin of the Revised Version, ‘bodies.’ The contrast is not, therefore, between the body and the soul, so as to allow us to interpret the clause before us as if it meant a spiritual traffic,—some means by which Babylon so ruined the higher nature of men that she might be said to traffic in their souls. The word translated ‘souls’ takes us rather to the thought of persons, as in Ezekiel 27:13; and the probabilities are then in favour of the idea that they are slaves. If this be correct we shall be obliged to reject the rendering given both by the Authorised and Revised Versions to the preceding substantive ‘slaves,’ and to translate it literally ‘bodies.’ Associated with horses and chariots it will then represent some other means by which burdens were conveyed, and will lead us to the thought of hired persons.
Revelation 19:17-19. These verses contain the lamentation of the third group that bewails the fall of Babylon, consisting of sailors and of all who trade by sea. Attention has been already called to the fact that the imagery of this chapter is largely drawn from Ezekiel 26, 27, i.e from chapters describing the fall of Tyre. This, however, need occasion us no surprise, for in the Old Testament Tyre is viewed as if she were another Babylon (comp. Isaiah 24:10, ‘The city of confusion,’ i.e Babylon, ‘is broken down’). Again, it may seem at first sight as if the varied riches of this city can belong to nothing but a city in the ordinary sense of the word, and that they cannot be associated with any spiritual power. Yet it may be for these very riches that the disciples of Christ sacrifice their Lord, and they may obtain them as the reward of their faithlessness. They may act a part the reverse of that for which Moses is commended in Hebrews 11, and may prefer the treasures of Egypt to the reproach of Christ. They may yield to the temptation which Christ resisted, when, as He was offered the kingdoms of the world and all their glory, He replied, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ He withstood, suffered, and died. His degenerate followers may yield, accept, and live. But the price!—is worth considering.
Before passing from the lamentations before us, one interesting trait of the structural principles of the Apocalypse may he noticed. In Revelation 19:9 ‘the kings of the earth shall weep;’ in Revelation 19:11 ‘the merchants of the earth weep;’ in Revelation 19:17 ‘the pilots, etc., stood afar off and cried.’ From the future we pass to the present, from the present to the tense which expresses the taking up of their position in the most positive and determined manner. The sequence is probably to be explained by the circumstance that the destruction of the city is beheld as constantly drawing nearer. But its main interest consists in the illustration which it affords of the careful minuteness with which in the Apocalypse words, phrases, and constructions are selected, and of the depth of meaning which the writer, by each change of expression, intends to convey.
The Victory and Rest of God’s people are further described. The Lord Himself comes forth to be married to His Church, and to lead her in to the marriage supper.
Revelation 19:12. The description of the Lord given in this verse sums up various characteristics of Him mentioned in earlier parts of the book; and the many diadems are in token of His rule over the many nations of the world. And he hath a name written which no one knoweth, but he himself (comp. chaps. Revelation 2:17, Revelation 3:12). This cannot be the name of either Revelation 19:13 or Revelation 19:16, for both these names are known. It must be some name which shall be fully understood only when the union between the Redeemer and His Church is perfected.
Revelation 19:13. And he is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood, and his name is called The Word of God. The idea is taken from Isaiah 63:2-3, and is therefore that of a garment sprinkled not with the Warrior’s own blood, but with the blood of His enemies. ‘Is called,’ i.e is, and has been always, called. The resemblance to John 1:1 and 1 John 1:1 need not be enlarged on.
Revelation 19:14. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure. These armies comprise in all probability both the angels and the saints (comp. chap. Revelation 17:14). All triumph with their triumphant Head and King. But no blood is sprinkled upon their garments. So in Psalms 110:3 the Psalmist does not speak of Messiah’s people as fighting; they are ‘willing in the day that He warreth’ (Perowne).
Revelation 19:15. On the sharp sword mentioned in this verse comp. chaps. Revelation 1:16, Revelation 2:12; Revelation 2:16. On the tending as a shepherd comp. Revelation 2:27, Revelation 12:5. The heaping up of words of judgment in the last clause is very striking, the winepress of the wine of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God. For the ‘winepress’ comp. chap. Revelation 14:19-20.
Revelation 19:16. And he hath on his garment and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords. The name mentioned in Revelation 19:12 was probably written on the forehead. The place of this name is different. It seems to have been written on the garment where it covers the thigh to which the sword is bound (Psalms 45:3). For the name itself comp. chap. Revelation 17:14. What was there indicated in prophecy is here realized. The warfare of the Lord is ended: ‘All kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him’(Psalms 72:11).
Revelation 19:17. And I saw one angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, Come, be gathered together unto the great supper of God. For the angel’s standing ‘in’ the sun comp. what was said on the thrones of the twenty-four elders at chap. Revelation 4:4. The Lamb is come. But another supper has to be eaten: it is ready, and the invitation to it is issued. All ‘the birds that fly in mid-heaven’ are invited; and it is apparently for this reason that the angel stands ‘in the sun’ (which is to be conceived of as in the zenith of its daily path), so that he can the more easily summon the birds that fly in the uppermost regions of the air. At the same time it seems not unlikely that the sun of chap. Revelation 1:16 is also in the writer’s eye. The Son of man is come to judgment: the angel who summons to it is the expression of the sun as he ‘shineth in his power.’ Much difficulty has been felt in the effort to determine what is represented by these ‘birds.’ Yet attention to the natural strain of the passage as well as to Revelation 19:21 ought to leave us in little doubt upon the point. They cannot possibly be the enemies of the Lord, the armies of antichrist, for Revelation 19:18 shows us that these constitute the materials of the banquet, the food that is eaten. They must, therefore, be simply the birds of prey, the vultures, whose province it is to fly in the loftiest regions of the sky, and which are here introduced in order to convey to us a clear image of the destruction awaiting the ungodly. The picture is obviously taken from Ezekiel 39:17-22, and it forms a striking contrast to the supper of the Lamb spoken of in Revelation 19:7-9. To this latter the people of the Lord come in peace and joy, and are feasted with the food which has been prepared for them by the Bridegroom of the Church. To the former the enemies of the Lord are summoned, not to feast but to afford a feast to all fierce and hateful birds.
Revelation 19:18. The idea of Revelation 19:17 is expanded in this verse, the enemies of Christ being grouped under the various classes mentioned in it.
Revelation 19:19. 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 hone and against his army. No doubt the ‘war’ is that of chap. Revelation 16:14. It is the final war waged by the beast and his ten kings and their armies against Jesus and His army. The ‘army’ of the latter is in the singular; the ‘armies’ of the former are in the plural. The thought of the unity of the one compared with the inner dissensions of the other lies at the bottom of the change (comp. chap. Revelation 11:8).
Revelation 19:20. The description given in this verse can leave no doubt that we have here the two enemies of chap. 13, the beast and the lamb-like beast with the two horns.—The ‘lake of fire’ is again mentioned in chaps. Revelation 20:10; Revelation 20:14, and Revelation 21:8.
Revelation 19:21. And the rest were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, even the sword that went out of his month, and all the birds were filled with their flesh. By ‘the rest’ here spoken of it seems probable that we are to understand all who have imbibed the principles of the beast and the false prophet, as distinguished from these two great enemies of Christ themselves. In like manner we read in chap. Revelation 12:17 of ‘the rest’ of the woman’s seed, as distinguished from the body of the professing Church. This ‘rest’ might have partaken of the supper of the Lamb, but they rejected the light because they loved the darkness; and the evil which they chose now brings with it swift and irresistible destruction.
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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 19". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany