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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 19

Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and RevelationSeiss' Lectures

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Verses 1-6

4; Revelation 19:1-6

Lecture 41

(Revelation 18:9-24; Revelation 19:1-6)


Revelation 18:9-24. (Revised Text.) And shall wail and mourn over her the kings of the earth, who committed fornication with her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off through the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas (woe, woe), the great city Babylon, the mighty city! because in one hour came thy judgment.

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her because no one buyeth their merchandise [or ship's freight] any more,-merchandise of gold, and of silver, and of precious stone, and of pearl, and of fine linen, and of purple, and of silk, and of scarlet, and all thyne [or citron] wood, and every article of ivory, and every article of most costly wood, and of brass, and of iron, and of marble; and cinnamon, and amomum, and odours, and ointment, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine meal, and wheat, and cattle, and sheep; and [merchandise] of horses, and of chariots, and of bodies and souls of men. And thy harvest of the soul's desire has departed from thee, and all dainty things and bright things have perished from thee, and they shall not find them any more. The merchants of these things, who were made rich from her, shall stand afar off through the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, saying, Alas, alas (woe, woe), the great city which was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stone, and pearl, because in one hour such great riches hath been desolated.

And every shipmaster, and everyone who goeth by sea, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What is like to the great city! And they cast heaped-up earth upon their heads, and cried out, weeping and mourning, saying, Alas, alas (woe, woe), the great city by which all who had ships in the sea were made rich from her costliness [or treasures], because in one hour she hath been desolated!

Rejoice over her, O heaven, and saints, and apostles, and prophets, because God hath judged your judgment out of her.

And one, a mighty angel, took up a stone, as a great millstone, and cast [it] into the sea, saying, Thus with a bound shall the great city Babylon be cast down, and shall not be found any more. And the sound of harpers, and musicians, and flute-players, and trumpeters shall not be heard in thee any more, and every artisan of every art shall not be found in thee any more; and sound of the millstone shall not be heard in thee any more; and light of a candle shall not shine in thee any more; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in thee any more; because thy merchants were the great men of the earth; because by thy sorcery all the nations were led astray.

And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth.

Revelation 19:1-6. (Revised Text.) After these things I heard as a great voice of much multitude in the heaven, saying, Alleluia, the salvation, and the glory, and the power, of our God, because true and righteous his judgments, because he judged the great harlot that corrupted the earth with her fornication, and avenged the blood of his servants out of her hand. And a second time they say, Alleluia; and her smoke goeth up for the ages of the ages.

And the twenty-four Elders and the four Living Ones fell down and worshipped the God the sitter upon the throne, saying, Amen, Alleluia.

And a voice came out from the throne, saying, Praise our God all his servants, those that fear him, the small and the great.

And I heard as a voice of much multitude, and as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of mighty thunders, saying, Alleluia, because the Lord God the All-Ruler hath assumed the kingdom.

The fall of Great Babylon is one of the most marvellous events of time. More is said about it in the Scriptures than perhaps any one great secular occurrence. And when it comes to pass the whole universe is thrilled at the sight. But the emotions are not all of the same kind. Two worlds are concerned, and in nothing are they more sharply in contrast than the manner in which they are respectively affected by the dreadful catastrophe. Great Babylon does not mean the world, as some have erroneously supposed; for there is still a world of unsanctified people left to mourn and lament over her after she is no more. And great is the lamentation and terror which her destruction calls forth. Let us look at it for a moment and see to what sudden disappointment and helplessness the schemes of human progress and development are leading. Just when the wisdom, and reforms, and utilitarian philosophies of apostate man have wrought themselves out, and their glorious fruits are being realized, the strong hand of judgment strikes, and all is confounded and blasted in an hour. And the terribleness of the disaster may be read from the lamentation which ensues.

First of all the apostolic Seer hears the wailings of royalty and dominion. "The Kings of the earth wail and mourn." They were all in close affinity with Babylon. They had lent themselves to her bewitching schemes and policy. They were enamoured with the enriching and glorifying power of her greatness. They had given their influence and favours to her, and consented to be the willing ministers to her wantonness. She was their particular love, in whom was their chief delight, and on whom they were glad to lavish their treasures. And when she falls, the main artery of earth's glory is cut, and every government feels its life-blood ebbing away. They contemplate the smoke of her burning with horror. They stand afar off in dread of her torment, alarmed and terrified at the consequences of her ruin. They leaned upon her mightiness, but the strong staff is now stricken from their hands. The mightier power of judgment is before them, and they tremble before its disastrous strokes. They show no penitence, but Alas, alas,--woe, woe,--is the note of outcry from every capital when it is seen and known that Babylon is no more.

Next come "the merchants of the earth," full of tears and grief over the sudden collapse of their enriching trade. It was promised that the wand of the sorceress would give prosperity to nations, and that as commerce ruled all people would be blest by its administrations; and a great tidal wave of mercantile thrift and glory is indicated as having come over the world by this grand unification. There never was so great a market or so brisk a trade as that which grows up with the revival and restoration of Babylon. The whole world becomes alive with traffic in "merchandise of gold, and of silver, and of precious stone, and of pearl, and of fine linen, and of purple, and of silk, and of scarlet, and all thyne or citron wood, and every article of ivory, and every article of most costly wood, and of brass, and of iron, and of marble; and cinnamon, and amomum [a precious preparation from an Asiatic shrub], and odours, and ointment, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine meal, and wheat, and cattle, and sheep; and merchandise of horses, and of chariots, and of bodies and souls of men." Never before was there such a demand for these things, and for all things dainty and goodly, as when the house of the Ephah is built in the land of Shinar, and that Ephah is settled there upon its own base. "The merchants of these things" the world over never before experienced so great a harvest, and double up riches on riches with a rapidity which seems like miracle. Everything looks like secure and perfect triumph for earth's wisdom and inventions. But all at once this mighty commerce stops, and all its wheels stand still. The mercantile circles of the whole earth are stricken with consternation. Every counting-room becomes a place of mourning. The great traders all weep and mourn, not so much for Babylon's sufferings, for man's sympathy for man shall then have been eaten away by the common sordidness; nor yet for their great sins, for the day of repentance is then over for them. The centre of their distress is that their market is gone, that "no one buyeth their merchandise any more," that "in one hour such great riches hath been desolated," that the scorching of the great city's torment reaches them even at the remotest distances. Alas, alas,--woe, woe,--is the cry that comes from all their warehouses and homes.

But there is a third and still larger class of mourners. Great firms have more employes than heads, and very many are dependent on them for occupation and livelihood. Shipmasters, and seagoers, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, with all their helpers and crews, also have their harvest out of this great and enriching Babylonian traffic. And these still more sorely feel the calamity of its sudden interruption. Therefore, from them also comes the cry of lamentation when they behold the smoke of Babylon's burning. And so bitter is the realization of the calamity to them, that "they cast heaped-up earth upon their heads and cry out, weeping and mourning, saying, Alas, alas,--woe, woe,--the great city by which all who had ships in the sea were made rich from her costly treasures!"

Thus, from every throne on earth, and from every power behind the throne, from every seat of trade, and every city,--from every continent, every island, every sea, and every ship that plies upon the sea,--comes forth the voice of woe and irremediable disaster. It is a triple voice, each part of which is double. It is the evil six complete. It is the inconsolable lament of all the potencies and activities of earth, exhibiting another star in the crown of this world's wisdom and progress.

But whilst the chorus of lamentation, disappointment, and terror is upon the earth, a grand jubilation fills the sky. As this world's great ones, and rich ones, and dependent ones cry Woe, woe, over Great Babylon's fall, all the peoples on high pour out their mightiest Halleluias. No sooner has the harlot city gone down amid her judgment fires, than a voice springs up spontaneous over all the holy universe: "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and saints, and apostles, and prophets, because God hath judged your judgment out of her."

For all the ages had God's messengers and people been protesting, prophesying, and declaiming against these worldly philosophies, systems, hopes, and spirit. It lies in the very nature and essence of the profession of all saints to "renounce the Devil and all his works, the vanities of the world, and the sinful desires of the flesh." No one in any age can have place among God's holy ones without this. As Noah by his faith, so the children of God in all time, by the very act of becoming God's children, "condemn the world," and give judgment against its wisdom, its principles, its spirit, and its hopes. So, too, all the teachings of the apostles, all the holy messages of the prophets, and all the sermons of God's faithful ministers the world over. What, indeed, has been the great controversy ever since the race begun, but that between revelation and the sensual wisdom, between the system of God's salvation and that which men propose to work out for themselves, between the bringing up of the world on principles of human progress and the only redemption through faith in Christ Jesus? And between these two there is an inherent, irreconcilable, and eternal antagonism. That which makes and marks the saints, the apostles, and the prophets, is at perpetual variance with what characterizes and animates all the rest of the world, condemns it, and ever pronounces and prophesies against it. Thus far, however, as respects this world, the saints, apostles, and prophets have had the worst of it. Always in the minority, the world at large has never listened to them, never agreed with them, never consented to accept their system, never sympathized with their hopes, never respected their profession. They depreciate its interests too much. They are too severe on its principles. They are in the way of its liberties. They would draw a cowl over its joys. They would disable its beneficent progress. They are pessimists, who shut off all blessed outcome from its philosophies and efforts touching the amelioration of the condition of the race. In a word, they are intolerable to the world, a poor croaking set, fit only to be killed off by the hand of power where they are too persistent and loud, and unfit at best to receive respectful attention. If the world can find a Balaam, ready to compromise himself for gold, to bless it for a price, and to speak God's benediction on its lusts and passions, him it will honour, and to him will Balak's nobles come; but for the Elijahs, Isaiahs, Jeremiahs, Peters, and Pauls, their fate has ever been to be mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn asunder, slain with the sword, nailed to the cross, thrown to wild beasts, or compelled to seek asylum in deserts, mountains, and dens and caves of the earth, being destitute, tormented, afflicted, because they condemn the godless world, its Ahabs, its Jezebels, its Herods, and its sins. Compared with the great mass of mankind, the true Church has always been a "little flock," toiling with difficulties, opposition, and hatred, and never able to make effective headway against the powers holding sway over the race. Now and then the course of history seemed on the point of justifying her principles and profession, but then came internal defections, setting her back again, and almost extinguishing her being. And so it will be unto the end. So far as this present world is concerned, the general verdict of mankind, sustained by the great current of human history for 6,000 years, is against the faith and testimonies of the saints, apostles, and prophets of God. To the general population of the earth their profession stands branded as mere hallucination and lies. But at last their vindication comes. When the vaunted wisdom, and progress, and experiments of unregenerate man are consummated, and there is nothing to show from it but a valley of burning cinders and desolation, with the whole earth from highest kings to meanest subjects howling in helpless lamentations, terror, and despair, history will have added its seal to all that saints, apostles, and prophets have said and maintained. Then will their judgment have been judged out of that world which despised and persecuted them, and spurned their hated pessimism for more flattering philosophies. Then will their renunciation of this world and its delusive hopes be justified by the ruin of its most cherished greatness. Then will the false verdict under which they have lain and suffered for sixty centuries be reversed in the living facts, of which they never ceased to tell and prophesy. Now they have sorrow, and can only weep and lament, whilst the world rejoices and sets them at naught; but then the sorrow and joy will exchange places, and the sorrow of the one be turned to joy, and the joy of the other to enduring lamentation.

It is in answer to this call for heaven, saints, apostles, and prophets to rejoice, that the sublime outbursts described in this chapter occur. John listens and looks, and sounds fall on his ears, and sights pass before bis eyes, which stir and affect him more deeply than anything he yet had seen or heard since the first vision.

First of all he hears "a great voice of much multitude in heaven, saying, Alleluia." Here, for the first time in the New Testament, we come upon one of the most admirable words of praise ever made known on earth. It is the same that occurs so often in the most exultant of the Hebrew Psalms. Anselm of Canterbury, considers it an angelic word, which cannot be fully reproduced in any language of man, and concurs with Augustine that the feeling and saying of it embodies all the blessedness of heaven. The Apocrypha (Tobit 13:18) gives it as among the great glories of the New Jerusalem that all the streets shall say, Alleluia. And this word John hears sounding from the sky,

Loud as from numbers without number,
Sweet as from blest voices uttering joy.

It is one of the very highest acknowledgments and celebrations of God. Where it is understandingly sung there is at once the profoundest adoration and the most exultant joy. And this is the feeling and experience in the heaven when the proud system of this world's apostate wisdom and glory falls.

We are not told precisely from whom this voice comes. It may be from the souls under the altar who waited so long to be avenged. It may be from that multitude which no man could number who come out of the great tribulation. It may be, but not so likely, from the host of holy angels who had been ministering for all these ages for what is then being realized. It may be from the 144,000 remembering the terribleness of the Antichristian severities they suffered, whose acclaim is elsewhere compared to mighty thunder. (Revelation 14:2.) But whoever the particular parties may be, it is the voice of a multitudinous company of people in the heaven, and it is the voice of exultant adoration, celebrating "the salvation, and the glory, and the power of our God." Thus, what the kings, merchants, and shippers on earth mourn and lament as destruction, is celebrated in heaven as divine "salvation." What is considered nothing but woe here is praised as divine glory there. And what is here regarded as the unmaking of all that earth called mighty is sung there as the very triumph of divine goodness. Heaven's estimate of things is widely different from that entertained by this world. The object of earth's fondest love and delight is the object of God's intensest wrath. That which men most work for, and most fondly serve, is that which God most severely judges. And that which the great ones most deplore is the very thing which evokes the sublimest heavenly Halleluias.

The destruction of Great Babylon is an illustrious exhibition of the truth and righteousness of the divine administrations. Often it would seem as if God had forgotten his word, or quite abandoned the earth, so great is the prosperity of the wicked, the triumph of injustice, the wrongs and afflictions which those who most honour him suffer. But it is not so. He is true. His ways are just. Everything will come out fully equalized at the last. And here is a signal demonstration of the fact. The godless wisdom and pride of men are left to work themselves out to the full, but when the harvest is ripe the sweep of the sharp sickle of judgment comes against it and it suddenly falls, and all its just deservings it gets. The harlot has her day; but then comes her night with never a star of hope to rise upon her any more. She is permitted to lure, delude, and debauch the world, because men preferred her abominations to the truth and kingdom of God; but only that her judgment may be the more conspicuous, and her destruction the more signal and complete. And the Halleluia of eternity is all the louder and more intense because her judgment comes as it does. Ah, yes, God's ways are right; his judgments are true and righteous. Perplexing and trying as they may be for the time, our Halleluias will be all the deeper and the sweeter by reason of what we may now deplore. Nay, they will be double then, by reason of the darkness now; for "a second time they say, Alleluia."

And what the unnamed heavenly multitude so exultantly express, the twenty-four Elders and the four Living Ones equally feel and endorse. They even prostrate themselves in profoundest adoration, and "worship the God, the sitter upon the throne, saying, Amen, Alleluia."

And here we meet with another of those peculiarly sacred and expressive words, reasonably supposed to have had their origin in heaven. From our first meeting with it in the Scriptures (Numbers 5:22) to the concluding word of this Book, we find it used as the special word of holy acquiescence and sacred ratification. It was constantly on the lips of the Saviour in his most solemn enunciations. It is the sealing word to all the Gospels and Epistles. It is not an oath, yet it has much of the solemnity and force of an oath. It contains no adjuration or appeal, yet it authenticates, confirms, binds, seals, and pledges to the truth of that to which it is affixed. It is not an imprecation upon him who utters it, but it is a tying up and giving over of his whole being and life to what he thus acknowledges and confirms. When placed at the end of an utterance or act of devotion, as placed by the Saviour at the end of the prayer he propounded as our model and form, it has the office of an underwriting or subscription, carrying the hearty consent and confidence of the worshipper with what has gone before. It is the word of fervency and soul-earnestness by which every utterance is grasped up again, and renewedly laid before God, as the full and ardent desire of our hearts, and as that which our souls most feel and most sacredly rest in. And so it is in the case now before us. The Elders and the Living Ones hear the triumphant celebration of the salvation, and the glory, and the power of our God, as sounded forth in the great voice of the much multitude, and feel the convictions and emotions of their own souls so completely expressed that they adoringly bow down and sacredly make it their own. All heaven is of one mind and of one soul.

Therefore the self-prostrated Elders and Living Ones answer the Halleluias of the unnamed host with a third Halleluia, prefaced with the Amen, which makes the other two theirs also.

But this triple utterance of exultant praise and celebration of the salvation glory, and power of our God, is still further urged on by a voice that comes out from the throne itself, saying, "Praise our God, all his servants, those that fear him, the small and the great."

We are not told whose voice this is. Some take as the voice of Christ, who is elsewhere said to be "in the midst of the throne." (Revelation 7:17.) If it is his voice, he thus recognizes the Father as his God, as he did in the days of his earthly life, and at the same time owns all the glorified as his associates. But Whether it is Christ's voice or not, it is the voice of the throne, a voice having authority to command and lead off in further exultation for the marvellous things then being accomplished. Nor is it unlikely that the Saviour himself leads in the praise enjoined. So the promise runs in Psalm chapter 22: "I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the Lord, praise him. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation; I will pay my vows before them that fear him."

The subject of the praise here called for seems to look two ways, embracing the judgment just executed, and new glories about to be realized, of which that judgment is the pledge and inauguration. The voice which gave the first and second Halleluias was the voice of a vast heavenly multitude. The Amen and third Hallluia were from the Elders and the Living Ones. These all centre in the display of divine truth, justice, and almightiness in the judgment of Great Babylon, and the avenging of the blood of the saints out of her hand. If there be any other servants and fearers of God, great or small, they are also called to join in the exulting praises for the same. But as response comes to this admonition from the throne, the songs take in other subjects, and seem to embrace all that is described in the latter part of the chapter. The Halleluia which now comes with redoubled power and majesty celebrates the assumption of the kingdom by the Lord God, which would seem to imply that the victory in the battle of the great day is included. The marriage of the Lamb, the readiness and array of the Bride, and the blessedness of those who are called to the marriage banquet are likewise recounted, which can hardly be taken as coincident with the fall of Babylon. A point would, therefore, seem to be indicated in this call, from which the contemplation is both backward to Babylon's overthrow and forward to the fall of the Beast, and the contemplation of the Church's blessedness in her Lord; the main stress gravitating now toward what follows the judgment on Babylon.

No sooner does the voice from the throne give command for praise than John "heard as a voice of much multitude, and as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of mighty thunders, saying, Alleluia, because the Lord God the All-Ruler hath assumed the kingdom." This is a mightier Halleluia than either of the preceding. It refers also to an ampler subject. The judgment of Great Babylon demonstrated, indeed, that God is mighty, and that he is the All-Ruler. It also showed a potent taking up and enforcement of his sovereign and righteous authority. But what was thus shown in one aspect and relation is at once followed out to a much wider and more direct assumption of active rule and sovereignty. When the seventh trumpet was sounded a great voice anticipatively exclaimed: "The kingdom of the world [not kingdoms, as some versions and unsupported copies read, but ἡ βασιλεία του κοσμου, as all the great manuscripts have it, rendered by Wickliffe, the Rheims version, the old Vulgate, and the still older Syriac, the kingdom of the world], is become our Lord's and his Christ's." The kingdom of the world means the political sovereignty of the world, the rulership of the world, the kingly dominion or government of the world, the same which is now exercised by the potentates and authorities of the earth. And this kingdom of the world, this sovereignty this rule, this power of making and enforcing the laws regulating human society, the great voice said was then about to pass into the hands of the Lord. It does not mean the leavening of existing governments with Christian principles, the spiritual conversion of countries and empires, leaving them in existence, and simply Christianizing them so as to exhibit something of Christ's spirit in their administrations; but the total displacement of all this world's sovereigns and governments, the taking of all dominion and authority out of their hands, and the putting of it in the hands of Christ, as the true and only King of the world. And the actual assumption of this rulership of the earth in the place and stead of existing governments and lordships is what the song of praise to God here so mightily celebrates. "As a voice of much multitude, as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of mighty thunders." comes forth the grand "Alleluia, because the Lord God, the All-Ruler, hath assumed the kingdom;" that is, has himself entered upon the actual administration of the sovereignty and government of the world.

The fall of Great Babylon heralds and begins the political regeneration of the earth.

And well may the tide of holy exaltation swell to its sublimest height over such an actuality. What is the crown and consummation of that prayer which the Lord Jesus put upon the lips and into the hearts of all his followers when he said, pray, "Thy kingdom come?" Does it mean no more than that our own hearts may be thoroughly subdued to our Maker, purged of idolatry and lust, purified by the Holy Ghost, and filled with all pureness, heavenly knowledge, devotion, obedience, and grace? That might be, and yet the earth be crushed with misrule, tyranny, corruption, and oppression. Does it mean simply that the Church may be ever dear and faithful to God, its ministers multiplied, its membership increased, its Scriptures distributed, its faith kept pure, its sacraments observed, its defections healed, its weaknesses removed, its success augmented, and all its members blessed with all spiritual riches in Christ Jesus? That might all be and the world still be to her a valley of Baca, a Bochim, a wilderness of sorrow and hardship. Does it mean only the removal of what hinders the preaching and belief of the Gospel, or the progress of faith and piety in the individual and in the world? That might also be and still God's kingdom be no nearer than it is at present. When Isaiah prophesied of Christ, he said: "The government shall be upon his shoulder; of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice." (Isaiah 9:6-7.) When the Holy Ghost explained the meaning of the all-crushing stone in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which broke to atoms the whole statue of worldly power and dominion, took its place, and filled the whole earth, the word was, This is the kingdom which the God of heaven shall set up, which shall break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:32-45.) When Daniel was beholding till "the judgment was set and the books opened," he saw in the night visions, like to the Son of Man, brought before the Ancient of days, "and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him," even "the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven," "an everlasting kingdom." (Daniel 7:1-28.) When Gabriel announced to Mary the child to be born of her, he said: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:26-33.) When he himself was among men, because some "thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear," he spake a parable, and said that the matter is as a nobleman going "into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return," meanwhile entrusting to his servants certain possessions with which to trade and occupy till he should come. (Luke 19:11-13.) And so again he said: "When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit in the throne of his glory." (Matthew 25:31.) All these and many like passages treat of that very kingdom, for the coming of which all are commanded to pray. Nor can they be explained according to their plan and pointed terms without taking in the coming again of Christ to reckon with his servants, to take the rule out of the hands of those who have usurped dominion over the earth, to dethrone Satan and all his agents, and to reign from sea to sea, the only rightful King of the world. And thus, when Great Babylon falls, it will be God's kingdom come, as it never yet has come, and the burden of the prayer of all these weary ages answered.

This assumption of the rule of the world will likewise bring with it the great desideratum of the race. When Adam was in Eden God was king. In the days of Israel's greatest triumph it was the same. And until the original Theocracy is restored, and the powers of heaven again take the rulership and control of the nations, there is no peace, no right order for man. There is no earthly blessing like that of good, wise, and righteous government; but there is no such government outside of the government of the Father and the Son. Some are better than others, but none are satisfactory. Men have experimented with power for 6,000 years, and yet there is no department in which there is more disability, corruption, and unsatisfactoriness than in the administrations of government. There is nothing of which all people so much complain, or have so much cause to complain, as of the manner in which their political affairs are managed and administered. Those who live on government patronage and plunder are enthusiastic enough in behalf of what they call their country, and consider it piety to eulogize the instrument which pampers their greed and passions; but the helpless multitude is left to sigh and cry in vain over the abominations that are done. The best governments man has ever tried have invariably disappointed their founders, and proven themselves too weak or too strong, too concentrated or too dissevered, and in one way or another have turned into instruments of injustice, ambition, selfishness, and affliction. The demonstration of the ages is, that "that which is crooked cannot be made straight, and that which is wanting cannot be numbered." So true is this that one has said, with a pathos that shows how deep the conviction was, "I know no safe depositary of power among mortal men for the purposes of government. Tyranny and oppression, in Church and State, under every form of government,-social, civil, ecclesiastical, monarchical, aristocratical, or democratic,--have, sooner or later, characterized the governments of the earth, and have done so from the beginning." Bad government is doubtless better than no government. In the nature of things we must have government of some sort. Because of the worse ills of anarchy we take the lesser afflictions of government in such forms as we can get it. But what right-thinking and right-feeling man is not outraged every day at the injustice, maladministration, perversion, and abominations that go along with every government of man? So it ever has been, and so it ever will be while "man's day" lasts. "The kingdom is the Lord's," and till he comes and assumes it there will be disappointment, misrule, revolution, and incurable trouble in all human calculations and affairs. Nothing but the sway and reign of heaven can redeem this fallen world out of the pestilential morasses of its incompetent and oppressive governments. But there is an All-Ruler who will yet assume the kingdom, and give the race the reign of blessedness. "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him, and his enemies shall lick the dust. All kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him. For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth, the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence, and precious shall their blood be in his sight. He shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba; prayer also shall be made for him continually, and daily shall he be praised. His name shall endure forever, and men shall be blessed in him. All nations shall call him blessed."

Thus flowed the glorious numbers from David's prophetic harp, telling of the All-Ruler's assumption of the kingdom, and exulting in it, until the royal singer's soul fired up into the very Alleluia of the text, crying, "Blessed be his glorious name forever! and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. A men, and A men." Human utterance could go no higher. The mountain summit of the promised blessedness was reached. And there the prayers of David, the son of Jesse, ended. (Psalms 72:1-20.)

We thus begin to see something of the dawn and character of those better times to come when once the mystery of God is finished. Tyrants, despots, and faithless and burdensome governments shall then be no more. Like wild beasts, full of savage instinct for blood and oppression, have the world-powers roamed and ravaged the earth, treading down the nations, their will the only law, the good and happiness of men the furthest from their hearts. But it will be otherwise then. "The Lord shall be king over all the earth," and therein is the signal and pledge of the dominion of right and everlasting peace. Wars shall be no more. Injustice and unequal laws shall be done away. Enemies will be powerless. Men will then have their standing according to their moral worth. The salvation of God will be nigh to them that fear him. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Therefore the voice of eternal right is, "Praise our God, all his servants, those that fear him, the small and the great," and from all the holy universe comes the song, in volume like the sea, in strength like the thunder, "Alleluia, because the Lord God the All-Ruler HATH ASSUMED THE KINGDOM."

Verses 7-10

Lecture 42

(Revelation 19:7-10)


Revelation 19:7-10. (Revised Text.) Let us rejoice and exult, and we will give the glory to him, because is come the marriage of the Lamb, and his wife [the Woman] prepared herself. And it was given to her that she should clothe herself in fine linen, bright pure; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints.

And he saith to me, Write, Blessed they who have been called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. And he saith to me, These are the true words of God.

And I fell down before his feet to worship him. And he said, Take heed, no; I am a fellow-servant of thee and of thy brethren that have the witness of Jesus; worship God; for the witness of Jesus is the spirit of the prophecy.

The fall of Great Babylon lifts a heavy load from the hearts of all the holy universe. The day and reign of apostate man then reach their final close. The hopes and prayers of faith, and all the gracious prophecies and promises of God, then come to the goal of their fulfilment. Earth's true, invincible, and eternal king then takes the sovereignty, never again to pass it into other hands. The heavenly worlds understand it, and pour forth their mightiest exultations. And thick and thronging are the subjects of joy which now crowd upon their enraptured attention. Among the rest is one singled out with special interest and delight. Whilst the song of Halleluia swells to the dimensions of mighty thunders, because the Lord God the All-Ruler hath assumed the kingdom, a call goes forth, "Let us rejoice and exult, and we will give the glory to him, because is come The Marriage of the Lamb." The Harlot swept away, the faithful Woman comes to her rightful honours. The betrothed, so long waiting amid privation, persecution, and contempt, now becomes a Bride. The time of her marriage has at length arrived, and the grand nuptial banquet begins. And that marriage and that banquet are what we are now to consider. God help us to understand it, and to rejoice ourselves in the contemplation!

Expositors generally have taken it for granted that this marriage is so familiar to the readers of holy Scripture, and so well understood, as to need no explanation. Perhaps had they attempted to set forth in definite form what they pass as so plain, they would have found the task less easy than they thought. Though the subject is common to both Testaments, there is not another of equal prominence and worth upon which so little direct attention has been bestowed by modern divines, or upon which clear ideas are so scarce. In my study of it, question after question has come up, even with regard to some of the most essential points, which I find it very hard to answer satisfactorily. And if others have found it so plain and easy as to render the explanation of it a work of supererogation, they would have relieved me much, as well as an almost total blank in our theologies with regard to one of the most frequently recurring subjects of Holy Writ, if they had condescended to record the results of their examinations. As it is, we must examine for ourselves.

I. Who is the Bridegroom? On this point, fortunately, there is not much room for misunderstanding. It is "The Lamb," the blessed Saviour, who gave himself to death as a sacrifice for our sins, and is alive and living forever. It is the everlasting Son of the Father made incarnate for our salvation, and in his twofold nature exalted, glorified, and enthroned in eternal majesty. And yet it may be a question whether, in his character and marriage as The Lamb, everything is to be understood to which the Scriptures refer under the figure of man's marriage to God; whether there is not some particular and special intimacy or relationship meant to be set forth in this case; whether it respects the Jewish people only, or Christian people only, or all saints alike. The Old Testament Church is everywhere represented as betrothed to God as a candidate for a glorious union with him in due time. (Isaiah 14:1-8; Ezekiel 16:7 seq.; Hosea 2:19 seq.) It is the same with regard to the New Testament Church. Christ represents himself as the Bridegroom. (Matthew 9:15.) He speaks of the kingdom of heaven being "like unto a certain king which made a marriage for his son," and those called by the Gospel as "bidden to the marriage." (Matthew 22:1-13.) He speaks often of the judgment time as the coming of the Bridegroom for his Bride. (Matthew 25:1-10.) John the Baptist spoke of Christ as the Bridegroom, and of himself as "the friend of the Bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, and rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom's voice." (John 3:29.) Paul speaks of those whom he begat in the Gospel as espoused to one husband, whom he desired to present as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2.) Earthly marriage is likewise spoken of as a mystery, significant of Christ's relation to his Church. (Ephesians 5:23-32.) All this proves, as clearly as may be, that in the economy of grace and redemption our blessed Saviour takes the character and relation of a Bridegroom or Husband to his people, of one class or another, and that a great and blessed union between himself and them remains to be celebrated. Whether the marriage in each case is precisely one and the same thing, or respects the same identical parties, it is equally certain that it is The Lamb,--the glorified Lord Jesus Christ,--who is here contemplated as the Bridegroom and Husband.

II. Who is the Bride? Upon first blush the answer would be, the Lord's true and faithful people, all who by faith and obedience were affianced to him, and continued faithful to the end. In a general way this answer may be accepted as the truth, but in a narrower and closer view of things it cannot be taken as strictly and absolutely correct.

The 45th Psalm unmistakably refers to this subject. The qualities and doings of the King, come forth from the ivory palaces, are there described with great vigour and animation. But there is also the Queen, the King's Bride, standing on his right hand, in gold of Ophir, and all glorious within. It is said of her that "she shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needle-work." But, besides the Queen, the King's Bride, there is another blessed company, who are also to enter with rejoicing into the King's palace, and to share the light of his countenance. They are called "the virgins," the "companions," associates, and bosom friends of the Queen, but plainly distinct from the Queen herself. They do not go with her when she is taken, but "follow her,"-come after her,-and are "brought unto the King" at a subsequent time, and in quite another capacity from that of the Queen and Bride. All of them belong to the general congregation of the saved. All of them are made forever happy in their Lord, the King. But the Queen is one class, and "the virgins her companions that follow her," are another class.

So, too, in the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 6:8-9), we read of queens, concubines, and virgins, whom the fathers, for the most part, understood as referring to the various classes which make up the Church as a whole. Theodoret, and some others, have held that these are not to be taken as representing the true people of God; but why then are they called by names so descriptive of the King's most intimate associates and household? Or how could they have that devout and admiring sympathy with the Bride, blessing and praising her as they do, if not of the same general fellowship with her? Some narrow Churchmen see here the various sects which stand opposed to what they consider the Church; but opposition and secession are not significant of admiration and blessing, and if these queens, etc., be of the household of faith in any sense, their relation to the King, in the very nature of the terms, must be true and real. The oldest Christian interpretation, and that which is best sustained, sees in them none but genuine believers, but of different degrees of honour and nearness to their Lord; in which case, again, not all have the Bride's place.

So the parable of the Ten Virgins tells of a coming Bridegroom, and of friends of the Bride going out, as in ancient custom, to meet and welcome him, and to go in with him to the marriage; but where is the Bride? Both the connection and the terms of this parable imply that she is then already within the Father's house, there awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom, whilst these her friends go out to meet him,-not in hope of becoming his Bride, but of having the blessedness of going in with him to the marriage. As a matter of fact, distinctly stated, the day of the Lord has already commenced when the kingdom of heaven assumes the precise shape here indicated. In the verses preceding, the Saviour spoke of the gathering of certain eagle saints to that body on which they live, of the mysterious taking of some, while others are left, and of the sadness of being cut off from the high privileges and honours of that first class; and it is "then," he says, only then, that matters take the shape described in the parable. Those who are "taken" before "then" are people of preeminent saintship and watchful preparedness. (Comp. Luke 17:33-37; Luke 21:34-36.) They correspond to the Bride, whilst the wise virgins come after, not being ready when the Bride was taken. Nay, it is the removal of these waiting and ready ones which awakens the intense adventism of those that are "left," and serves as the means of bringing at least half of them in as guests and witnesses of the marriage. The "left" know now that Christ is presently to come as the Bridegroom, on his way to join his Bride. To be ready for that Bridegroom coming, that they may go in with him to the marriage, is now the one great thought. In all ordinary custom-to which the allusion is-the going in would be the going into the Father's house where the Bride already is, arrayed and ready for her coming Lord.

To say nothing, then, of the place and fate of the five unwise virgins, this parable, taken in its connections, inevitably implies that not all of those who finally get to heaven are of that class which actually constitutes the Bride of Christ, however related to that Bride.

It is also the common doctrine of the Scriptures that there are great diversities in the portions awarded to the saints. There are some greatest and some least in the kingdom of heaven. There are some who shall be first and some who shall be last. There are some who get crowns, and there are some who get none. There are some who are assigned dominion over ten cities, some over five, and some who lose all reward, and are saved only "so as by fire." The four Living Ones, and the four-and-twenty Elders, are the representatives of men saved from the earth. They sing the song of redemption by the blood of Christ. But they are in heaven, crowned, glorified, and installed in blessed priesthoods and kinghoods in advance of the vast multitude whose rewards are far inferior. Diversities so great are incompatible with the peculiar honours and regality of the wife of a king.

Besides, princesses and queens, above all on occasions of their marriage, always have their associates, companions, maids of honour, attendants, suites, and friends, who, in a general way, are counted with them as making one and the same company, but who in fact are very distinct in honour and privilege from those on whom they find it their happiness to attend. Just as the Bridegroom comes not alone, but with attendants, companions, and a long train of rejoicing ones who make up his party, the whole of whom together are called the Bridegroom's coming, whilst, strictly speaking, there is a wide difference between him and those with him; so it is on the side of the Bride. She has her companions and attendants too,--"virgins which follow her." They make up her company and train. In coming to wed her the Bridegroom comes also into near and close relation to them. To a blessed degree they share the Bride's honours. And in general terms we must include them when we speak of the Bride, although, in strict language, they are not all the Bride. The Bride has relations to the Bridegroom which belong to her alone, and it is only because of her and their association and companionship with her, and not because they are the Bride in actual fact, that the whole company of the saved Church of God is contemplated as the Lamb's Wife.

Hence, also, the angel directed John to write, "Blessed they who have been called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb." It is the wider and the more general blessedness of the occasion that the seer was thus to attest. If all the saved were actually the Bride, it would have been enough, and more to the point, to say, "Blessed they that are called to be the Wife of the Lamb." But there is a blessedness of being called to witness his marriage, and a blessedness of participation with the bridal company in the marriage banquet, as well as a more special blessedness of being the actual Bride of the Lamb. The call is indeed to make up the Bride. It is out of these called ones that the Bride is chosen. But the choosing of the Bride does not, therefore, exclude the rest of the company from the honours and privileges of the marriage supper, or from companionship with the Lamb and his Wife. The blessedness of the marriage supper is much wider than that of becoming the Bride, though the Bride has honour and nearness to the Lord which belong to her only. Hence the writing was to be, not simply "Blessed they that are called to be the Wife of the Lamb," but "blessed they who are called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb,"--called as in the parable of the marriage of the king's son, which call includes the opportunity to become the Bride as well as happy guests.

In this sense also am I constrained to take the subsequent showing of "the Bride, the Lamb's Wife," "that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of the heaven from God." It is called the Bride, because it embraces the Bride, and because it is the Bride's everlasting home and residence. But for the very reason that it is the home and residence of the Lamb's Wife, it must include her retinue, her companions, and her attendants, who share the glory with her, but who are not strictly the Bride herself. In general terms the whole city, as made up of those who inhabit it, including all the saved up to the time of the resurrection of all saints, is the Bride, the Lamb's Wife, because all that are there pertain to her company, fill out the grandeur and glory of her estate, and share immensely in it; albeit, some are there who, in a narrower and more particular discrimination, are not actually the Bride.

III. What is the making of Herself ready? The allusion seems to be to something of the same sort with the putting on of the wedding garment, of which so much is made in the parable of the marriage of the king's son. (Matthew 22:1-14.) There one of the guests was found without a wedding garment, and for that deficiency was put away from the happy company amid shame and sorrow. But in this case the Bride "prepared herself. And it was given to her that she should clothe herself in fine linen,--bright, pure,--for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints." Thus it is said in Isaiah 61:10, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels." Thus, also, when the seer saw the holy city coming down from God out of heaven, she was "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." (Revelation 21:2.) The excellencies in which the Bride here arrays herself are described as the finest linen, of the intensest purity and lustre; but it is at the same time a spiritual linen, which is "the righteousnesses of the saints."

Three things appear in the notice of this ready-making. (1) There is self-activity on the part of the Bride to prepare herself. (2) There is gratuity and bestowment, putting what is requisite at her command. And (3) she is receptive and obedient in making the intended use of what is given her. The description evidently takes in the whole previous career of those who make up the Bride. The preparation refers not only to something that is done at this time, but also to what has been in the course of doing all along, and now comes to its fruit and award. The coming to Christ, the learning of him, the espousal to him in holy confession, and justification by faith in his blood and merit, are unquestionably included. Paul was aiming at this very preparedness and honour of the Bride of the Lamb, and counted all temporal possessions as nothing, and exerted himself in every way to be fit for it. But that fitness, he tells us, was his being found not having his own righteousness, which is of the law,-a mere show of human works,--but having that righteousness which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. (Philippians 3:8-14.) But the righteous acts and good works of the justified are also included. The word is in the plural-"the righteousnesses of the saints." Some call it the plurality of dignity, and make nothing special of it. Others say it is the distributive plural, in allusion to the many who have it. But parallel instances are wanting to sustain either of these theories. It distinctly implies that the saints have more than one righteousness, as the Scriptures elsewhere teach.

There is a righteousness of justification, and a righteousness of life and sanctification. There is a righteousness which is the free gift of God in Christ Jesus, and a righteousness of man's own active obedience to God's ordinances and commands. True, saints have both; a righteousness by imputation through faith without works, and a righteousness which is the fruit of faith, consisting of works springing from and wrought in faith. And both enter into that adornment of the Bride wherein she maketh herself ready. She is clothed with the fine and shining linen of "the righteousnesses of the saints," the righteousness of a free justification by faith in her Lord who died for her, and the righteousness of a life of earnest, active, and grateful devotion to make herself meet and worthy for so good and gracious a Husband. (Comp. Luke 20:35; Luke 21:36; Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; Revelation 3:4.)

But it is not certain that the clothing of herself in these righteousnesses is all that is embraced in the Bride's preparation for the wedding. That is the part of her ready-making as respects this life; but who knows what else remains for her to do after this life is over, or what practical activities remain for the saints between the moment of their removal to immortality and the heavenly solemnities which are shadowed to us under the idea of the marriage of the Lamb? Heaven is no more a scene of quiescence than earth. There is history in the career of saints after they leave this world as well as in it, and far greater and sublimer history than pertains to them here. And who knows into what grand activities the people of God are ushered when their mortality is swallowed up of life? or with what preparations they may then be called to busy themselves for the sublime events and ceremonies that lie before them in their instalment into the relations and dignities of their everlasting estate? The celestial population seem to know of ready-making in heaven, which comes after the ready-making on earth, which is to them a subject of glad rejoicing, and of new and special giving of glory to God. But just what it is, or exactly to what it relates, we must content ourselves not to know till the time for it comes.

IV. What is the Marriage? Here again we must be satisfied with very imperfect information. John did not see the marriage, neither was it explained to him. He only heard the heavenly rejoicing that the time for it had come, that the Bride had prepared herself, and that he was to declare the blessedness of those who are called to the banquet then to be spread. That the marriage and the supper are not one and the same thing, the nature of the case, as well as the manner in which they are referred to, would seem to make evident. The marriage is accompanied with a becoming feast, but the feast is one thing and the marriage is another, though occurring at the same time and most intimately correlated.

It is curious to observe how various are the notions which interpreters have given of this marriage of the Lamb. Beza, Robertson (of Leucbars), Clarke, and others are confident that it refers to a happy condition of the Church in this world, when "whole contemporary churches are in covenant with Christ in a most upright manner." It is supposed by these that when the Church becomes more pure in her doctrines, more pious in her experiences, and more righteous in her conduct than ever she has yet been, this whole showing will be exhausted. Accordingly, the Bride of Christ would be nothing but the Christians of one particular generation, and the Living Ones, and Elders, and the multitude which no man can number, and the 144,000 sealed ones, and other classes which this Book shows to be in heaven before the marriage of the Lamb is announced, have no part nor lot in it. Fuller and William Jones see the whole picture fulfilled in a fancied Millennium on earth, "when Jews and Gentiles from every nation under heaven shall be brought to believe in Jesus, and led to confess him as their true Messiah, Saviour, and King;" which likewise cuts off all those who have lived and faithfully served Christ in all the long ages prior to the thousand years, and equally vacates the whole marriage idea as contrasted with the already existing union between Christ and his people. Hengstenberg thinks that "we are here beyond the thousand years, beyond the last victory over God and Magog," though he thus makes the people in heaven say it is come a thousand years before it does come. Some refer it to the taking again of the seed of Abraham to be God's peculiar people, after the present church period has reached its termination. This would well accord with a variety of Scripture passages otherwise obscure, but it does not meet some of the main features of the case. If at all in the contemplation, it cannot be more than an earthly and inferior correspondence of the chief thing, which must relate to heaven, for when the Bride was shown to John he beheld her in the form of a glorious city coming down from God out of heaven, proving that her marriage must needs have been in heaven. Vaughan speaks of the marriage as "the ideal concourse and combination of the blessed company of all faithful people on their entrance into their rest." This would seem to accord with the presentations as to time and place, but tells nothing as to what the marriage itself is. Düsterdieck understands it to be "Christ's distribution of the eternal reward of grace to his faithful ones, who then enter with him into the full glory of the heavenly life;" which may be true enough in general, for the marriage is surely the result, award, and consummation of grace toward the Bride; but it still leaves us in the region of mist and darkness as to any difference between the marriage and the judgment. The translator of Lange (in loc.) comes closer to the truth when he represents the marriage as "the union of the whole body of the saints with a personally present Christ in glory and government-the establishment of the kingdom." As the writer of The Apocalypse Expounded says, "It is a scene taking place in the heaven, after the resurrection of the saints, and ere Jesus and his risen ones are manifested to the earth, as heaven is not opened till the marriage has occurred." The blessedness of it is not inaptly described by Lange to be "the reciprocal operation of a spiritual fellowship of love." It is Christ in the character of the Lamb, the mighty Goel, formally acknowledging and taking to himself as copartners of his throne, dominion, and glory, all those chosen ones who have been faithful to their betrothal, and appear at last in the spotless and shining apparel of the righteousnesses of the saints, thenceforward to be with him, reign with him, and share with him in all his grand inheritance, forever.

Just what the ceremony of this marriage is we are nowhere told. Some have thought that it is the first opening of the city of God, the New Jerusalem, to the footsteps of the redeemed. Jesus says that he is now preparing a place for us. The ancient saints looked for a city whose maker and builder is God. That city John saw and describes in a subsequent chapter. That city was shown him as the Bride, the Lamb's Wife, so called on account of those who inhabit and dwell in it. The placing of the redeemed with their Redeemer in that sublime and eternal home necessarily involves some befitting formality.

Nor is it far-fetched to connect that first formal entrance into that illustrious heaven-built city with the ceremonial of what is described as the marriage of the Lamb. When the sacred tabernacle was first opened and used it was with great solemnities, which God himself prescribed, and in the observance of which there was also a marked coming together of God and his people. By visible manifestations of Deity a point of union and communion was then and there established between man and Jehovah, so direct and close that the holy prophet could say of Israel, "Thy Maker is thy Husband." And the fact that God so ordered and honoured the occasion is ample warrant for taking it as the type of a corresponding formality in the heavens, answering to the coming together of the Lamb and his affianced people for the first time in that glorious city, which even the great voice from the throne calls "The Tabernacle of God." (Revelation 21:2-3.)

V. What is the Marriage Supper? Contrary to all congruity, many take it as about one and the same with the marriage itself. Marriage is the establishment of relationship and status; a marriage feast is the refreshment, the eating, and drinking, and general social joy on the part of those attending upon a marriage. First the Bridegroom comes, next the marriage is solemnized, and then the assembled company is invited to the special repast provided for the occasion. And so in this case. The Bridegroom appears, the marriage takes place, and then the grand banquet ensues; so that the supper is a different thing from the marriage, though following immediately upon it.

Everywhere in the Scriptures do we hear of this feast. As in the matter of the marriage, something of it is to be enjoyed already in this life. There is a supper of Gospel blessings of which we may now partake. But as the actual marriage occurs in heaven subsequent to the resurrection, so also the fulness of the Gospel supper is deferred till then. Isaiah (Isaiah 25:6-9) sung of a feast of fat things, of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined, which the Lord of Hosts is to make. The feast of Gospel blessings is doubtless included; but it is a feast whose glorious fulness is beyond the grave. A chief part of its glory is that then "death is swallowed up in victory," tears are all wiped away by Jehovah's hand, the disabilities and hardships of his people are gone, and the shout is, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." Of that same feast the Saviour spoke when he said to his disciples, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:29.) So, also, when he had finished the paschal supper, and said, "I will not any more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." (Luke 22:16.) As Melchisedek, king of righteousness, and king of peace, brought forth bread and wine to Abraham returning from the scenes of judgment upon the marauding kings, so will he whom Melchisedek typified spread before his victorious people the precious viands of a heavenly banquet, of which our holy Lord's supper is the constant prophecy and foretaste.

Of what that supper shall consist we cannot yet know. The Scriptures speak of bread of heaven and angel's food, and the Saviour tells of eating and drinking there. He who supplied the wedding at Cana, and fed the thousands in the wilderness, and furnished the little dinner to his worn disciples as they came up from the sea of toil to the shore trodden by his glorified feet, can be at no loss to make good every word, and letter, and allusion which the Scriptures contain with reference to that high festival. The angels know something about it, and the angel told John that it will be a blessed thing to be there. "Write," said the heavenly voice, "write, Blessed they who have been called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb."

VI. Who, then, are the Guests? Chief of all who sit down to the marriage banquets on earth are the bridegroom and the bride. It is in honour of their union that the feast is held, and to them is assigned the most conspicuous place. This is a genuine marriage feast, the antitype of all the marriage feasts of time, and this particular feature cannot be wanting there. In the after chapters we are told that the Lamb is the light of the golden house in which it is held. He, therefore, is there in unveiled glory, the observed, the adored, the sublimest joy of all. And where he is there his bride is also, for they are united now, never to be separated any more. She is there in all her perfected loveliness, "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing," but "all glorious within," and enfolded in her garments of needle-work, and gold, and in the faultless and radiant linen of the righteousnesses of the saints. There also are "the virgins, her companions that follow her," and make up her sublime and glorious train. And whosoever, in any age, in any land, of any language, of any tribe, has heard of the promised seed of the woman, and believed in him, and listened to the calls and promises of God, and directed his heart and pilgrim steps for that blest city, shall likewise be there. Whether as bride or guest, the whole Church of the firstborn, from Adam down to the last martyr under the Antichrist, shall be there, radiant in that redemption for which they hoped and suffered. The quaint old hymn says truly:

There be prudent Prophets all,

The Apostles six and six,

The glorious Martyrs in a row,

And Confessors betwixt.

There doth the crew of righteous men

And nations all consist;

Young men and maids that here on earth

Their pleasures did resist.

The sheep and lambs that hardly 'scaped

The snare of death and hell,

Triumph in joy eternally,

Whereof no tongue can tell;

And though the glory of each one

Doth differ in degree,

Yet is the joy of all alike

And common certainly.

There David stands, with harp in hand,

As master of the choir;

A thousand times that man were blessed

That might his music hear.

There Mary sings "Magnificat,"

With tunes surpassing sweet;

And all the virgins bear their part,

Singing about her feet.

"Te Deum," doth St. Ambrose sing,

St. Austin doth the same;

Old Simeon and Zacharie

Anew their songs inflame.

There Magdalene hath left her moan,

And cheerfully doth sing,

With all blest saints whose harmony

Through every street doth ring.

And in that holy company

May you and I find place,

Through worth of him who died for us,

And through his glorious grace;

With Cherubim and Seraphim,

And hosts of ransomed men,

To sing our praises to The Lamb,

And add our glad Amen.

VII. What authority have we for all this? There be those who count it all a dream, a pleasant fancy, a sweet hallucination, by which enthusiastic souls impose upon themselves. And if it were, why deny to poor, sorrowing, and afflicted humanity its consoling radiance? Be it a mere conceit, is not the race the happier and the better for believing it? But no, it is not delusion. The very blessedness which it diffuses through the souls that take it to their thoughts is a voucher for its heavenly reality. The holy being who told of it to the seer propounds it as the sum of all sacred revelations, and says, "These are the true words of God."

Ah, yes; there is a Lamb, once slain, now risen and glorified, moving serene and mighty amid the principalities of eternity, himself the highest of them all, to whom all believers stand betrothed and plighted, preparing and waiting for a wedding day to come, when they shall be joined to him in fellowship, glory, and dominion forever. There is a city of gold, and light, and jewels for God's people, building for these many ages, and now near its readiness for their everlasting habitation. There is in store a banquet when once the honoured Bride sets foot upon its golden streets, the call to which, if heeded, is man's superlative blessedness. Room for doubt, is none; for "these are the true words of God."

The revelation to John was overpowering. It so thrilled upon his soul, and so stimulated his sense of grateful wonder and adoration, that he fell down before the angel's feet to worship him. It was an error to offer such honour to a fellow-servant with himself, and the same was promptly checked; but it helps to tell the entrancing magnificence of the final portion of the saints--the overwhelming majesty of the glory to come when the Bridegroom comes. It bends the soul in awe even toward the messengers who tell of it. It is more than heart of flesh can well stand up under, even in prospect. What then will be the actual realization? A holy apostle falls upon his face in adoration when he hears of it, and the glorified in heaven cry, "Let us rejoice and exult, and we will give the glory to God," when the time for it arrives.

What then, O man, O woman, is the state and feeling of your heart concerning it? To you has come the call to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb; what is the response you have made to it? To you is offered the wedding garment to appear there in honour and glory; have you accepted it, and put it on, and kept its purity unsoiled? The cry has long been ringing in your ears, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!" Are your loins girded about, your lights burning, and ye yourselves like unto those who wait for their Lord? Five virgins once set out to reach that festival, but when they came "the door was shut." They knew what was required; but the Bridegroom came, and this was the consequence of their unreadiness. God forbid that this should be your experience!

Wake, awake, for night is flying,
The watchmen on the heights are crying;

Awake, Jerusalem, at last!

Midnight hears the welcome voices,
And at the thrilling cry rejoices;

Come forth, ye virgins, night is past!

The Bridegroom comes, awake,

Your lamps with gladness take;


And for His marriage feast prepare,
For ye must go to meet Him there.

Verses 11-21

Lecture 43

(Revelation 19:11-21)


Revelation 19:11-21. (Revised Text.) And I saw the heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and one seated upon him. Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judgeth and warreth; his eyes flame of fire, and on his head many diadems, having a name written which no one knoweth but himself, and clothed in vesture dipped [or stained] with blood, and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies, the ones in the heaven were following him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white, pure. And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it he may smite the nations; and he shall rule [or shepherdize] them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the wine of the anger of the wrath of the God, the All-Ruler. And he hath upon his vesture, even upon his thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

And I saw a certain angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a great voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in mid-heaven, Hither, be gathered together to the great supper of God, that ye may eat flesh of kings, and flesh of captains of thousands, and flesh of mighty men, and flesh of horses, and of those that sit on them, and flesh of all [classes], both free and bond, and small and great.

And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and his armies, gathered together to make the battle with the sitter upon the horse, and with his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet who wrought the miracles in his presence with which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worship his image; these two were cast alive into the lake of fire which burneth with brimstone; and the rest were slain with the sword of the sitter on the horse, which (sword) proceedeth out of his mouth; and the fowls were filled from their flesh.

The marriage of the Lamb, and the grand banquet which attends it, are speedily followed with the closing scene of this present world. It is a scene of war and blood. It is the battle of the great day of God Almighty. It is the coming forth of the powers of eternity to take forcible possession of the earth. It finds all the confederated kingdoms of man mustered in rebellion against the anointed and rightful sovereign of the earth. A collision ensues, which is the most wonderful that ever occurs under heaven. And the result is a victory for the right, which is to be forever. The description is one of the grandest contained in these Revelations. In proceeding to contemplate it four things are to be considered:





God help us to take in these particulars to our edification and spiritual profit.


The sublime Hero of the scene is none other than our ever blessed Lord Jesus. His name is not given, but the marks and inscriptions which he bears, and all that is said of him, infallibly identify him as that same Jesus who went up into heaven from the summit of Mt. Olivet, and whose holy feet are to stand again on these selfsame heights.

He comes forth out of heaven. For this purpose John saw it opened. When Jesus came up from the waters of baptism," the heavens were open unto him," and the Spirit descended upon him, and a voice from the empyrean depths said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16.) When Stephen was martyred he saw "the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55.) When Jesus was on earth he promised his disciples that they should see the heaven opened. (John 1:51.) At the beginning of these visions John beheld a door opened in the heaven, and through that opening he was called up, while all was closed to the general mass of men. (Revelation 4:1.) But here was quite a different opening from any that has occurred or will occur till then. This is that rending of the heaven for the glorious Epiphany of Christ with his people, to which the Scriptures refer so much. For, as we believe that "he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty," so we believe that "from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." So the Lamb, being married now, leaves the Father house and comes forth to take possession of what is peculiarly his own.

He rides upon a white horse. This horse tells of royalty, judgment, and war. His white colour tells of righteousness and justice. Light is the robe of divine majesty, and white is the colour that most attaches to Christ in all these judgment scenes. When the first seal broke he rode a white horse; when the great harvest is reaped he sits upon a white cloud; and at the end of the thousand years he sits upon a white throne; and so here he is seated on the white steed of battle, for "in righteousness doth he make war." In the day of his humiliation he rode but once-when he came to the Jewish nation as its anointed king. But he then rode upon an ass, a colt, the foal of an ass. Then he was the meek and lowly one; but here the little domestic animal is exchanged for the martial charger, for this is another and mightier coming as the King of the World, "just and having salvation." In his majesty he rides prosperously, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness.

He is Faithful and True. This presents him in sharp contrast with those whom he cometh to judge and destroy. The Dragon is the deceiver; the Beast is the False Christ; his companion is the False Prophet, and the great confederacy is made up of false worshippers. These are to be handled now, and it is the embodiment of all faithfulness and truth that comes to deal with them. There is then no hope for them, for if justice be done them they have no show whatever. The worst thing that can happen to some is to give them what they deserve. But greatly do these attributes exalt this Hero. They lift him far above the level of humanity. They bespeak almightiness and essential Godhead. (Comp. Revelation 3:7; Revelation 6:10; Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:7.) They cannot be predicated of any mere man. "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man." There is too much deceit and treachery in human nature for it to be always and implicitly trusted. (Com. Psalms 72:9; Psalms 116:11; Psalms 118:8; Jeremiah 17:5.) But here is one who is absolutely true and faithful. It is not in him to be or to prove unreliable. Though all men be liars, he is true, and cannot disappoint.

In righteousness he judgeth and warreth. In the letter to the Laodiceans he was "the Faithful and True Witness," reproving and instructing his friends; here he is the Faithful and True Warrior and Judge, for the punishment of his enemies. Heaven cannot be at peace with iniquity, and justice cannot be at amity with falsehood and rebellion. When sin is once incorrigible, and incurable by remedial measures, it must be put down by force of arms. Mercy slighted and abused brings the executioner. The world banded together in arms against its true Sovereign brings against it the sword of insulted majesty. Not as human kings and nations war,-out of covetousness, pride, and an ambition for selfish greatness and dominion,-but in absolute justice and right, and in strictest accord with every holy principle and every holy interest he now unsheaths and wields the sword of infinite power. Dreadful is the carnage which follows, but no one can ever say that it is not precisely what was merited and demanded. The powers of judging and making war are often separated in earthly sovereignties, but it is only a conventional separation. They necessarily go together after all. Wherever there is war there is first a judgment made or entertained against those upon whom it is made, or in behalf of those whom it is to benefit. The general in the field is simply the sheriff and hangman of the court. And Christ is both judge and executioner, all powers in one, and all exercised in righteousness. To the Church he is the High Priest, with girdle and ephod, stars and lamps, the minister of righteousness unto salvation. To the world in armed rebellion he is the mounted Warrior, the minister of righteousness unto destruction; but in both and always "Jesus Christ The Righteous."

His eyes flame of fire. To judge rightly he must see through and through, search all depths, look beneath all masks, penetrate all darkness, and try everything to its ultimate residuum. Hence this flaming vision, which likewise tells of the fierceness of his wrath against his enemies. There is often something wonderfully luminous, penetrating, overawing, in the human eye. Men have been killed by the look of kings. It is like the living intellect made visible, which seems to read all secrets at a glance, and before which the beholder cowers. It is this infinitely intensified, flashing like a sword of fire from the visual orbs, that the holy apostle here beheld in this Warrior Judge. It is an eye-flame of Omniscient perception and out-breaking indignation and wrath, which seizes and unmans the foe before he feels the sword.

On His head many diadems. He is not only Judge and General, but at the same time the King himself. When David conquered the Ammonites, he put the crown of the vanquished king on his own head, in addition to the crown he already had. (2 Samuel 12:30.) When Ptolemy entered Antioch, he set two crowns upon his head, the crown of Asia and the crown of Egypt. (1 Macc. 11:13.) The Popes wear a triple crown, emblematic of three sovereignties united in one. The Dragon has seven diadems on his seven heads, as the possessor of the seven great world-powers (Revelation 12:3). The Beast has ten diadems on his ten horns, as combining ten sovereignties. (Revelation 13:1.) In all these cases, the accumulation of crowns expresses accumulated victory and dominion. It is the same in this case. Christ comes against the Beast and his confederates as the conqueror on many fields, the winner of many mighty battles, the holder of many sovereignties secured by his prowess and power. He comes as the One anointed and endowed of heaven with all the sovereignties of the earth as his rightful due and possession. When he came as the mighty Angel, with the little book in his hand as his title to the earth, the rainbow was on his head (chap. 10); but he then came in mercy and promise to his own. He comes now as the Warrior, Judge, and King against combined usurpers in arms, against those who dispute his right to the dominion purchased with his blood, and he puts on all his royal rights.

He has an unknowable Name. John saw it written, and was awed with its splendour; but it was too much for him, or any other man, to understand or know. Jesus once said, "No man knoweth the Son but the Father" (Matthew 11:27); and here he appears in all those unrevealed and unknowable wonders, which connect him with incomprehensible Godhead. The Beast is full of names, great, high, and awful names; but they are false names-"names of blasphemy." This Warrior, Judge, and King has a name ineffable and unknowable, but it is a true and rightful name,-a name of reality, "which is above every name." We do not yet know all the majesty of attributes or being which belong to our sublime Saviour; and when he comes forth out of heaven for the war upon the Beast, he will come in vast unknowableness of greatness,-in heights of majesty and glory, "which no one knoweth but himself." (Comp. Judges 13:18; Revelation 2:17.)

Clothed in vesture dipped or stained with blood. Some are embarrassed, that the blood should here appear upon Christ's garments before the engagement begins, and so talk of anticipation. It is a needless perplexity, although these bloodstains are certainly not from his own blood. They have no reference whatever to his having died upon the cross. They are stains from the blood of enemies slain,-enemies previously vanquished,-and so the marks of a veteran in battle. This conquering Hero is not now for the first time to try his capacities for war. Who but he was it that "cut Rahab and wounded the Dragon?" Who but he was it that fought for Israel "in the days of Joshua, when opposing kings with kings were put to the sword and all their armies?" Who but he was it that "fought from heaven" against the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo, when "the stars in their courses fought against Sisera?" Who but he was the vanquisher of the six great blasphemous world-powers already dead and gone? And as the seventh, and last, and worst of all is now to be overwhelmed, and the same almighty Conqueror comes forth to execute the doom, he properly comes in the same garments worn and stained on so many battlefields, indicating that he comes in the same capacity, for the same ends, and with the same invincible power, as in other judgments upon his enemies. That red apparel, and those garments like one that treadeth the vinefat, are at once the memorials of the past, and the prophecies of what is now to be consummated upon these last confederates against his kingdom.

His Name is called The Word of God. This is one of the preeminent designations of the Son of God, who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made." (Psalms 33:6.) "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1-14.) He is the Word of God-the Logos-as the true and only expression of the eternal Godhead, as the great subject and substance of the written Word, as the accomplishment and fulfiller of the written Word, and the very expression and revelation of the Father, the same as words express the thoughts of the heart.

Out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it he may smite the nations. Some take this as "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God;" but that is an instrument of mercy and salvation; this is an instrument of wrath and destruction. It is "sharp" like the sickle, and fulfils the same office. It is the word of almighty justice. It proceeds out of his mouth. So Isaiah (Isaiah 11:4) said, "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked." This shows the ease with which he accomplishes his purpose. He speaks, and it is done. He commands, and it is accomplished. Something of this was preintimated when the armed mob came forth against him in Gethsemane. "When Jesus spake to them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground." (John 18:5.) If so mild an utterance prostrated his enemies then, what will it be when he girds and crowns himself for the "battle of the great day of God Almighty"-when he comes with all the cavalcade of heaven to tread the winepress of the fierceness of Jehovah's anger? "The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow" (Hebrews 4:12); and when that Word goes forth in execution of Almighty wrath upon those in arms against his throne, what a flow of blood, and wilting of life, and tornado of deadly disaster must it work!

And he hath upon his vesture, even upon his thigh a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Thus the Psalmist in anticipation sung, "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most Mighty." (Psalms 45:3.) It is on his thigh that the warrior carries his sword; but here the sword proceeds from the mouth, and hence in its place is a name representing it; for the Psalmist defines the sword in this case as his glory and majesty. The sword stands for authority and the right to punish rebels and evildoers. It tells of the majesty and dominion of him who bears it. And the authority, majesty and dominion of Christ is this, that he is "King of kings and Lord of lords," now no longer in mere theory or appointment, but in present assertion, armed to enforce his rights. For ages the government of the world had been in other hands. Beasts held the sword and reigned. They have ever abused it against him and his people. And now they have confederated with Hell to hold it even against the forces of Omnipotence. Dreadful miscalculation! The Lion of the tribe of Judah comes to meet them. He comes in the claim and majesty of the sharp sword of the King over all these kings and Lord over all these lordly ones. On his thigh is the name of his authority-the sword name of his sovereignty. And woe to the powers that now think to withstand him. "The Lord shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them." (Psalms 21:9.) Such, then, is the mighty Hero who comes forth from the opened heavens to fight this "battle of the great day of God Almighty." Let us look next at the Hosts which follow him.


When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven, in flaming fire taking vengeance upon them that know not God and that obey not the Gospel, he does not come alone. He is married now, and his Bride is with him. Even before the flood, Enoch prophesied of this epiphany of the promised One, and said, "Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment upon all." (Jude 1:14-15.) They are with him now, therefore they must have been taken before. John saw, and writes, "The armies, the ones in the heaven, were following him." Christ is the Head and Leader, and he goes before; his saints follow in his train. The promise from the beginning was, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, and here it is emphasized that "He himself treadeth the winepress of the wine of the anger of the wrath of the God, the All-Ruler." He himself is the Great Hero and Conqueror in this battle. But he is "Jehovah of hosts." He has many under his command. The armies of the sky are his, and he brings them with him, even "the called and chosen, and faithful." (Revelation 17:14.)

On white horses. The great Captain is mounted, and they are mounted too. He comes as the Warrior, Judge, and King, and they share with him in the same character. They are warrior judges and kings with him. In chapter 9, we were introduced to cavalry from the under world, of spirit horses from beneath; why not then celestial horses also? Horses and chariots of fire protected Elisha at Dothan. Horses of fire took up Elijah into heaven. And heavenly horses bring the saints from heaven when they come with their great Leader for the final subjugation of the world to his authority. It is up to the bridle-bits of these horses that the blood in that battle is to flow. (Revelation 14:20.) These horses are all white, the same as the Great Captain rides. Everything is in harmony. The riders all are royal and righteous ones, and the same is expressed in the colour of their horses.

Whether literal horses are to be understood, it is not necessary to inquire. Power is an abstract quality, incapable of being seen with the eye. It must put on shape in order to become visible. It is best shown in living forms. So we had to do with symbolic horses in chapter eleven. But here the whole character of the showing is different. This opening of the heaven, the coming forth of Christ with his heavenly armies to the battle which ensues, the destruction which is wrought, the victory which is won, and the kingdom which is set up, is so essentially literal in each particular, that it is hard to find room in the record for any other conclusion than that the horses are as literal as the sitters on them. They are at least the pictures of holy power bearing the King and his hosts to battle and victory over literal armies. There was reality in the powers which carried up Elijah, and there is reality in the powers on which these heavenly armies ride forth to the battle of the great day; and I know not why these powers should not be in the form of real horses, of the character of the world to which they belong. "The four Spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth," were shown to Zechariah (Zechariah 6:8) as horses, drawing four chariots; and I know not why we may not here understand the same or similar "spirits of the heavens," put forth in similar forms. Habakkuk 3:8, referring to this very scene, addresses the Lord, and says, "Thou didst ride upon thine horses, thy chariots of salvation." There are "chariots of God;" and so there must be horses of God. It is never safe to explain away what may have in it a momentous literal reality, even though it may be very different from anything we know of. At any rate, the armies of heaven, as they here appear, are all cavalry.

"Clothed in fine linen, white, pure." The fine linen was explained in the verses preceding. It is "the righteousness of the saints." Therefore these armies are saints, and not angels, as some have supposed. Those who share the kingdom with Christ are everywhere called "the righteous," and these have the apparel of the righteous, even that with which it was given the Bride to be clothed. Long ago, referring to this very scene, the Psalmist (Psalms 58:10-11) sung, "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked; so that a man shall say, verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth." They reign with the mighty Conqueror after the battle; and so they share in the battle and triumph which bring the Kingdom. "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" (1 Corinthians 6:2.)

They wear no armour. They are immortal, and cannot be hurt; and they are not the executors of this vengeance. It is Christ's own personal victory, in accordance with the Apostolic declaration, that "for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil." (1 John 3:8.) He bears the only sword, and he alone uses it. He treadeth the wine press alone. Those who accompany him in the scene of conflict therefore need no weapons. The sword of the great Captain is enough. Their defence is in him, and their victory is in him. They follow up the achievements of his sword. They ride through the blood it causes to flow. They "wash their feet in" it, for it is up to the horses' bridles. But it is David who slays Goliath, and the hosts of God's Israel have only to follow up the mighty triumph, shouting their songs along the path of the victory. When the wicked are cut off, they shall see it; they shall diligently consider the place of the wicked, and it shall not be; but the meek shall inherit the earth, and delight themselves in the abundance of peace. (Psalms 37:10-11; Psalms 37:34.) But who are the armies encountered?


Here we are left in no doubt. John says, "I saw the Beast, and the kings of the earth, and his armies, gathered together to make the battle with the Sitter upon the horse, and with his army." How they were gathered, we were told in what occurred under the pouring out of the sixth bowl of wrath (Revelation 16:12-16.) Devil agents working devil miracles, were brought into requisition. They went forth "unto the kings of the earth, even of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." It was through these devil oracles that they learned of Christ's coming to unseat and destroy them; and by these devil miracles they were led to believe themselves competent to withstand all the armies of the heaven. Therefore they agreed to try it, and to defeat all these Jehovah purposes of ill to their usurped dominion and blasphemous pretensions. Had they not a supernatural and immortal leader in the Beast, that was not but is again present? Had they not with him a great supernatural and equally immortal Prophet, who knew everything, who had power over the forces of nature, who could even command fire from heaven and give spirit to a metallic image? Would not these additional miracle-working spirits be their efficient helpers? If they made no effort, no resistance, what hope was there for them? Was not the Beast God, "above all that is called God?" Had eternity anything that could harm or vanquish such powers? Had not every soldier in their armies learned how to strengthen and sustain himself by spirit influences far above unaided human ability?

Let the Rider on the white horse come;-let him be supported by myriads of his white-robed cavalry on their white horses;--if he did work miracles in his lifetime, neither he nor his followers ever wrought such as those which the potencies now urging them to armed resistance had shown. The struggle might be a hard one, but a combined and energetic effort would surely be successful. So they were taught; so they reasoned; so they believed. "Strong delusion" was upon them "that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned." (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.) So they all with one accord, went zealously into a great hell-indited and hell-sealed compact and confederation, to make battle with the Lamb, the Sitter on the horse, and his army.

We may wonder how rational men could be carried with one impulse into an attempt so daring and so absurd; but when people put the truth from them, and submit themselves to the Devil's lead, what is there of delusion and absurdity into which they are not liable to be carried? How many among us comfort and assure themselves in their selfishness and sins with the belief that either there is no God, or that he is too good and merciful to fulfil his threatenings upon transgressors? To this there needs to be added only one step more, to defy his judgments, and with that goes pledge of battle and declaration of war with his Omnipotence. And the final outcome of this world's wisdom, unbelief, and repudiation of the rule and government of Jesus Christ, is the assembly of all the kings and armies, and captains of thousands, and mighty men, and men of all ranks and classes, upon the hills and valleys of Palestine, from Idumea to Esdraelon, equipped, resolved, eager, and confident of success, to meet the Son of God and his army in hostile collision, to decide by dreadful battle whether they or he shall have the sovereignty in the earth. Every one that denies Christ, is on the way to defy Christ, and to take up arms for the Usurper to conquer Christ. Every one who refuses to be baptized into Christ, and objects to the oath of allegiance to Christ, is a fit subject for the branding irons and infamous mark of the Antichrist; and when that is once impressed, there is no more recession from this gathering together to fight Christ, and to be dashed to destruction against his invincible throne. And when Hell's emissaries come, with all their marvel of word and deed to encourage the enemies of God to join, assemble, strike, and have the world forever to themselves, deluded mortals are persuaded, and march their armies to that field of blood from which there is no more return. "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." (Psalms 2:1-3.) Never was there a more wicked or more disastrous madness. But when men cut loose from the bonds of obligation to their Maker, there is no limit to the delusions to which they expose themselves, and no enormity of daring or wickedness into which they are not liable to be betrayed, thinking it the true wisdom. And thus the kings of the earth and their armies gather toward Jerusalem, to conquer the Son of God, and to crush out his rule and Kingdom for ever. What, then, is the result?


One of the most awful expressions in the Word of God, is that which the Psalmist utters with regard to these enraged and deluded kings, and this their expedition, where he says, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision." (Psalms 2:4.) That laugh of God, who shall fathom it! How shall we even begin to tell its dread significance! From the depths of his eternal being, he so loved the world, as to give his coeternal and only begotten Son for it. No gift was too precious in his sight, no sacrifice too great, to be made for its redemption. For six thousand years he has been ordering bis gracious Providence in heaven and earth for its recovery from sin and death. His prophets and his Son have laboured, wept and died, and the ministries of his sublimest servants have been unceasingly employed, to bring it to salvation. But now he laughs! What failure of love, what exhaustion of grace, what emptying of the sea of his infinite mercies, what decay and withdrawal of all kindly interest and affection must have occurred that there should be this laugh! The demonstrations of these confederates with the Beast are tremendous. The whole world moves with one heart, one aim, with all its genius and power concentrated on one end, and with all the potencies of Hell to nerve and help and guide it. Never before was there such a combination of forces, natural and supernatural, directed with such skill, or animated with so daring and resolved a spirit. Yet, Jehovah laughs! What an infinitude of majesty and sovereign contempt does he thus express? The rebels are confident. They believe their leader invincible. They are sure of powers to handle all nature's forces. They have no question about being able to cope with mortals or immortals, with men or gods. They despise alike the names and the sword of Him who rides the white horse, and all his heavenly cavalry. They deem themselves ready and equal for any emergency of battle even with him who calls himself Almighty. But God laughs! Oh, the disappointment and destruction which that laugh portends!

An angel stationed in the sun anticipates the coming result. With a great voice he cries to all the birds of prey that fly in mid-heaven to come to a supper on the flesh of kings, captains, mighty men, horses and their riders, free and bond, small and great. This tells already an awful story. It tells of the greatest of men made food for the vultures;-of kings and leaders, strong and confident, devoured on the field, with no one to bury them;-of those who thought to conquer Heaven's anointed King rendered helpless even against the timid birds;-of vaunting gods of nature turned into its cast off and most dishonoured dregs. And what is thus foreintimated soon becomes reality. The Great Conqueror bows the heavens and comes down. He rides upon the cherub horse, and flies upon the wings of the wind. Smoke goes up from his nostrils, and devouring fire out of bis mouth. He moves amid storms and darkness, from which the lightnings hurl their bolts, and hailstones mingle with the fire. He roars out of Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, till the heavens and the earth shake. He dashes forth in the fury of his incensed greatness amid clouds, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun frowns. The day is neither light nor dark. The mountains melt and cleave asunder at his presence. The hills bound from their seats and skip like lambs. The waters are dislodged from their channels. The sea rolls back with howling trepidation. The sky is rent and folds upon itself like a collapsed tent. It is the day for executing an armed world,-a world in covenant with Hell to overthrow the authority and throne of God,-and everything in terrified Nature joins to signalize the deserved vengeance. So the Scriptures everywhere represent. John saw it, but does not describe it. He only tells the result he beheld.

And the Beast was taken. The great Judgment strikes the head and leader first. He is not a system; or he would not fall till the myriads of bis supporters fall. He is a person, as truly as his Captor is a person. He is distinct from his armies, as Christ is distinct from his; or he could not be taken in advance of his armies. He is the living god and confidence of all his hosts, and all this war is for his glory; therefore the assault is first made upon him. He is a supernatural being, a man resurrected from the dead by the Devil's power, and seemingly incapable of corporeal death; for he is not slain. No sword smites him. He does not die. In contradistinction from all save his companion, the False Prophet, it is specifically stated that he is simply "taken"-taken "alive," and "cast alive into the lake of fire." His worshippers held him to be invincible. They asked in the utmost confidence and triumph, Who is like unto the Beast? Who can war with him? But, without the striking of a blow, and with all his worshippers in arms around him, he is "taken," captured as a lion seizes his prey, dragged away from the field as a helpless prisoner. With all his power, greatness, and resurrection-vigour and immunity from death, he is "taken." With greater ease than the Jewish mob took the unresisting Jesus, the Sitter on the white horse catches him away from the very centre of his hosts. All the resistance he makes is the same as if it were not. He cannot help himself, and all his armies cannot help him. He must go whither his mighty Captor would take him. Tophet gets its own. And into the lake of fire he sinks to rise no more.

And with him the False Prophet who wrought the miracles in his presence. This is no warrior; but still a main author of this culminated wickedness of the nations. From him, together with the Dragon and the first Beast, went forth the miracle-working spirits who wrought this terrible deception, and stirred up the world to this war. By his instigations were these armies equipped and gathered to the dread attempt to vanquish the Son of God. He caused men to adore the Beast, and he shares the Beast's fate. He is no system, no abstraction, no succession, no mere ideal figure, but a person. He is not slain; he does not die; he seems like the Antichrist incapable of death. But he is "taken," as the Beast was taken, made a captive, and hurried away to the same seething prison. All his miraculous power cannot save him. All his boasted wisdom cannot help him. All the armies of the world cannot rescue him from the grasp of the Sitter on the white horse.

The two great leaders gone, short work is made with their followers. A few awful words tell the story. They are mortals all, and there is no salvation for them. In terrible brevity, the Seer records what came to pass. "And the rest were slain with the sword of the Sitter on the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth; and the fowls were filled from their flesh." Such a feast of death was, perhaps, never before seen.

Long ago had the holy prophets sung of this Mighty One, and this his triumph. As the Psalmist foresaw, his arrows are sharp in the heart of the King's enemies, whereby the people fall under him. (Psalms 45:5.) He sends out his arrows, and scattereth them; and shoots out lightnings, and discomfits them. (Psalms 18:14.) He marches through the land in indignation; he threshes the heathen in anger. (Habakkuk 3:12.) All the strength of the nations is dashed to fragments before him, like pottery struck with an iron rod. (Psalms 2:9.) The stone from the eternal mountain falls on the great statue of this world's power, and it is ground to powder, never again to be regathered. (Daniel 2:35; Matthew 22:44.) The victory of the Sitter on the white horse is complete!

And He shall rule or shepherdize them with an iron rod. With many a severe judgment on the survivors of that day, the Conqueror now assumes the dominion. With their heads and armies destroyed in the winepress of the wine of the anger of the wrath of the God the All-Ruler, he now sends forth the new law from Jerusalem. After the sword of destruction, comes the rod of correction and reorganization. The world now gets a new Master, a King whose eternal right it is to reign, and whom they must at once obey or die. The shepherdizing rod of iron, is the administration which follows up the battle, gathers the populations of the earth into their proper flocks, assigns them their laws and rulers, and allows of no more disobedience.

Thus ends this present world. Thus comes in the final reign and kingdom of the Prince of Peace. It only remains to tell the Devil's fate, and then come the glorious pictures of the other side of this "great and terrible day of the Lord."

I only add, that our contemplations tonight will fail of their end, if they do not serve to teach us, and to write it indelibly upon our hearts, that rebellion against God is death;-that no weapon formed against Jehovah can prosper;-that those who will not have Christ to rule over them must perish! Though the wicked should wield the power of archangels, they cannot withstand the punitive majesty of the Warrior Judge and King who rides upon the white horse. His sword is mightier than Satan, mightier than the Beast deemed invincible, mightier than the command of infernal miracle over nature's laws, mightier than all the forces of earth and hell combined. And that sword is pledged to drink the life-blood of all who neglect his mercy, despise his laws, and stand out against his authority. All may seem well and promising now. People may indulge their unbelief and passions during these days of forbearance and grace, and see no disadvantages growing out of it. They may get angry at our earnestness, and account us croakers and fools when we put before them the demands and threatenings of the Almighty. But "woe to him that striveth with his Maker!" There is a deluge of bottled fury yet to be poured out on them that refuse to know God, and on the families that call not on his name, from which there is no escape, and from whose burning and tempestuous surges there is no deliverance. God help us to be wise, that we come not into that sea of death!

Righteous Judge of retribution,
Grant thy gift of absolution,
Ere that day's dread execution!

Bibliographical Information
Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Revelation 19". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sei/revelation-19.html.
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