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THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB AND THE JUDGMENT OF THE REBELLIOUS NATIONS.
HEAVEN REJOICES OVER THE JUDGMENT OF BABYLON.
Revelation 19:1-4 . “ After these things I heard as it were a loud voice of a great multitude in the Heaven, saying, Hallelujah: the salvation, and the glory, and the power of our God. For true and righteous (are) His judgments; for He has judged the great harlot which corrupted the earth with her fornication, and has avenged the blood of His bondmen at her hand. And a second time they said, Hallelujah. And her smoke goes up to the ages of ages. And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God Who sits upon the throne, saying, Amen, Hallelujah. ” “After these things.” We have had two separate visions of Babylon in which her character, guilt, and relations to the empire and Christendom, and her awful and overwhelming judgment are unfolded. Chapters 17 and 18 record a distinct vision each, which is really the filling up of the details of the historical place which Babylon occupies in Revelation 14:8 ; Revelation 16:19 . In a vision everything is present to the mind of the Seer. The scenes shift and change, and pass successively before the mental gaze. There is no past nor future, but all is present. Other Scriptures, however, enable us to apportion the various visions and their separate parts as well to their chronological place in the history or prophecy, as the case may be.
Now it is plain that so long as Babylon remained unjudged the true bride could not be brought out and displayed in her beauty and coronation robes. She is hid in Heaven till the usurper on earth is destroyed and removed out of sight. The whore and the bride cannot co-exist. “After these things,” an apocalyptic formula (Revelation 4:1 ; Revelation 18:1 ), refers to the fall (Revelation 17:1-18 ) and total destruction of Babylon (Revelation 18:1-24 ). The same event is viewed very differently in Heaven and on earth. On earth the dirge of sorrow is heard. In Heaven the paean of praise . That which leads to general lamentation and mourning on earth calls forth the full rejoicing of Heaven. The cry of triumph immediately follows the destruction of Babylon. Her presence on earth had ever proved the chief hindrance to the manifestation of the glory of God, and an offence to Heaven besides. Now, however, by the total extinction of Babylon room is prepared, and the way open for the Lord God to be publicly owned on His throne, and for the Lamb to take His bride the two great subjects of praise.
1. The call to rejoice (Revelation 18:20 ) is here taken up by the heavenly hosts. “ I heard as it were a loud voice. ” The words “ as it were ” inserted in the Revised Version (see also v. 6) are omitted in the Authorised Version. There is a certain purposed vagueness in the passage which is lost in the Authorised Version by the omission of the words. Who are the “great multitude” who loudly and joyously proclaim the triumph of God over the judgment of Babylon? We read of another, a Gentile company, termed a “great multitude” in Revelation 7:9 , but, as we have seen, those are on earth, whereas the company before us is in Heaven. Nor can the “great multitude” of our text be identified with angels, but rather with the twenty-four elders, the mystic representatives of the redeemed translated at the Coming into the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17 ). *See remarks on the term elders on page 122, (Revelation 4:4 ) and footnote. The various martyred companies, that is, those of the coming crisis, are viewed as distinct from the elders. Hence, we gather that the “great multitude” is that of all saints then in Heaven.
1. “ Hallelujah ,” * Alleluia in our version is from the Greek spelling of the Hebrew word Hallelujah. Why drop the H? they say. This beautiful Hebrew word occurs four times in these celebrations of praise (vv. 1, 3, 4, 6), but in no other part of the New Testament. It is a word of frequent occurrence in the book of Psalms. It is the opening and closing word of each of the last five psalms psalms which as a whole and in their united character express the millennial praise of Israel. Hallelujah means, “Praise ye Jehovah,” or “Jah,” an abbreviated form of Jehovah.
1. “ The salvation and the glory and the power of our God. ” *The Rev. W. F. Wilkinson, in his useful work, “Personal Names in the Bible,” considers that Jehovah in its etymological signification is derived from the Hebrew verb to be , and that its meaning to English readers is found in God’s own declaration of His Name and Being to Moses, I AM THAT I AM (Exodus 3:14 ), and further, that I AM answers to Jah , while the larger and fuller title is the expression of Jehovah. Without doubt the dread and sacred name, Jehovah , which is never used of, nor applied to, any created being, signifies, “The necessary, continuous, eternal, personal existence of God.” On this hallowed and ineffable Name of names, see pages 24, 31 (Revelation 1:4 ; Revelation 1:8 ) of our “Exposition.” See footnote on pages 142 and 170 (Revelation 5:11-14 ; Revelation 7:11-12 ). The article before each of the three nouns makes the subject of specific application. The first of the three terms signifies deliverance , the second God’s moral glory in judgment, and the third His might displayed in the execution of the judgment upon the harlot. This ascription of praise is to “our God.” Angels in their place and station say “our God” (Revelation 7:12 ). Here however, it is the language of a redeemed and heavenly company, not that of angels.
Revelation 19:2 . The ground of their triumph is next stated. “ For true and righteous (are) His judgments. “ In chapter 15: 3 the harpers on the sea of glass sing “ Righteous and true are Thy ways;” while in Revelation 16:7 the altar says “ True and righteous are Thy judgments.” In the former the ways of God are in view; in the latter, as also in our text, the judgment of God on His enemies is in question. It is a fundamental truth of the Scriptures, and one to be firmly maintained, that all God’s dealings with His creatures, whether in grace or judgment, are characterised by truth and righteousness. Now these essential attributes of the divine Being have been conspicuously displayed in the judgment of the “great harlot,” whose two great sins are once again, and for the last time, named: “which has corrupted the earth with her fornication,” morally blighted and ruined the whole scene, where once the truth was known and God worshipped, “And has avenged the blood of His bondmen at her hand.” The cry of the martyred band, from Abel downward, calling for judgment is heard, and God in righteous judgment pours out the indignation of His nature upon that system of harlotry and blood which had so long been a curse on the earth.
A second time, as marking the greatness of the triumph, they say “ Hallelujah ,” or Praise ye Jehovah . “And her smoke goes up to the ages of ages” is a striking and impressive figure of the finality and perpetuity of the divinely-executed judgment. The doom of the mystical Babylon is an everlasting witness to the righteous judgment of God (compare with Isaiah 34:10 ).
But the volume of praise rolls on through the vault of Heaven. The elders, the representatives of the redeemed and enthroned saints, and the living creatures, the symbols of God’s government in creation, *See notes on Revelation 4:1-11 . “fell down and worshipped God.” How profound the worship! How fitting the action! It is God, not Christ, Who is the object of their homage. It is God Who has judged Babylon, and hence to Him the worship is rendered. Besides, Christ has not at this juncture taken up the government of the earth. God is the Judge of Babylon. Christ is the Judge of the Beast; this judgment is an event subsequent to the former, and the first public act of the Coming Christ (vv. 11-21). The elders and living ones say “Amen, Hallelujah.” They put their seal to the truth of what has been announced, and themselves join and joy in the triumph of all in Heaven over the everlasting doom of the harlot. In Revelation 5:8 the living ones take precedence of the elders; here the elders are first named as being more directly concerned in the judgment of the harlot.
THE THRONE SPEAKS.
Revelation 19:5 . “ And a voice came out of the throne saying, Praise our God, all ye His bondmen, (and) ye that fear Him, small and great. ” In a former vision we had the cry of the altar (Revelation 16:7 , R.V.); here the throne itself speaks. In some of the past scenes, where a body of witnessing and suffering saints were in view, the altar came into prominence, but here it is direct judgment upon evil on the earth, for God is upon His throne, as Christ is about to sit on His. The very throne is moved to speech (symbolic, of course); thus from the centre and source of government the terror of the wicked, the joy of the saints goes forth a call to “praise.” All who serve and all who fear Him, small and great, are invited to join in the glad song, which is a relief after the dark picture unfolded on earth. Here the terms are sufficiently wide to embrace every soul in Heaven angels, servants, and every redeemed one. Nor is it a call addressed to an unwilling congregation. All are ready, but a new cause of joy is to be furnished, a new ground of praise. THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB is about to be announced.
THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB.
Revelation 19:6-10 . “ And I heard as it were a voice of a great multitude, and as it were a voice of many waters, and as it were a voice of strong thunders, saying, Hallelujah, for (the) Lord our God the Almighty has taken to Himself kingly power. Let us rejoice and exult, and give Him glory; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready. And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen, bright (and) pure; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints. And he says to me, Write, Blessed (are) they who are called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. And he says to me, These are the true words of God. And I fell before his feet to worship him. And he says to me, See (thou do it) not. I am thy fellow-bondman and (the fellow-bondman) of thy brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God. For the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. ” We have transcribed in full this passage of surpassing interest. There are two main subjects: God manifestly assuming His kingly power, and the Lamb taking to Himself His bride the Church of the New Testament. The moment has not yet arrived for the Lord Jesus Christ, Who suffered as none ever did, to mount His throne. But all is getting ready for that grand event. O blessed moment for which creation groans and waits, for which the Church hopes and prays, and for which the wearied tribes of Israel long with eager expectation! The Nazarene is God’s appointed King. But two events must necessarily take place before the throne of the world is occupied by Christ: Babylon must be judged on earth, and the marriage of the Lamb be celebrated in Heaven. We have had the one; we are now about to witness the other.
THE GRAND HALLELUJAH.
The call of the throne (v. 5) meets with a magnificent and immediate response. The praise is loud, deep, and full, and characterised by strength and grandeur. The “great multitude” (v. 6) here probably embraces all the redeemed in Heaven, save the bride. If this is so, as a careful study of the whole passage would seem to indicate, then the “great multitude” must be a larger and more comprehensive company than that mentioned in verse 1. In the former passage (v. 1) the “great multitude” is not distinguished from the elders, the representatives of the redeemed of past and present ages; while in the latter (v. 6) the “great multitude” is evidently a company apart from the bride (v. 7). The voice heard by the Seer is likened to the sound of “many waters” and “strong thunders,” that is, majesty and power combined. *In various parts of the Apocalypse the symbols of waters and thunders are separately noted, but here, as also in Revelation 14:2 , they are united. Waters have a double signification. First, when in motion is conveyed the idea of MAJESTY and GREATNESS; when still the symbolic reference is to NATIONS and PEOPLES; for rivers, sea, etc., see page 190. Having had the summons from the throne, the mighty choir takes up the strain in a voice of majesty and power not voices, for the mind of Heaven is one . We now hear what fell upon the enraptured soul of the Seer; the last “Hallelujah” is sounded. It is not now Christ the object of praise, but God on the throne in holy and righteous action. The titles under which He is worshipped gather up all the various manifestations of God to His people of old. Separately they set forth distinctive relations and glories; when combined they form a tower of strength; when seen as united in Him the grandeur of the whole is beyond all telling. We have already remarked on the meaning and force of these various titles in a former part of our exposition. *See page 240, Revelation 11:15 . “He now reigned as the Lord God Omnipotent that character, or those characters in which He dealt with the earth, whether as God, Creator, Promiser, and Shield of His people while strangers, or the everlasting Accomplisher of all He had promised, Jehovah, Elohim, Shaddai. All these He took now in power and reigned.” Darby .
We gather that this is the moment anticipated in Revelation 11:15 . The kingdom has now come, and kingly power is assumed. This is the first great subject of praise by the heavenly host. What a relief to creation, burdened with six thousand years of sin and sorrow! But ere the second theme is announced, calling for the adoration of the redeemed, we read, “Let us rejoice and exult, and give Him glory.”
In the revelation of God on His throne as Jehovah and the Almighty the whole being is bowed before Him. The soul is awed, not in fear, but in profoundest depth, and surely that is right and proper as we contemplate Him in the greatness of His Being.
But in the subject now to be introduced the affections are deeply stirred and the heart moved to its very centre. Hence the prefatory call to rejoice and give God glory, for the “marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
Revelation 19:7 . This great and grand event is the consummation of joy to Christ as man. It is not said the marriage of the bride , but the marriage of the Lamb . It is His joy that is specially in view; not ours. The marriage, of which no details are given, takes place in Heaven, and on the eve of the Lord’s Return in power, or the Appearing, several years at least subsequent to the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:1-18 ; John 14:3 ). The marriage is the disclosed secret of Ephesians 5:32 . Not Israel, nor a remnant thereof, but the Church of the New Testament is the bride. Israel in her land was the wife of Jehovah (Jeremiah 3:14-20 ; Isaiah 54:1 ), but the wife was divorced because of her iniquity. Israel, however, is to be reinstated in Jehovah’s favour. But a divorced wife can never again be a virgin, and it is not a divorced wife but a virgin whom the Lord marries (Leviticus 21:14 : compare v. 13 with 2 Corinthians 11:2 ). Israel, moreover, has her place and blessing on the earth ; the marriage of the Lamb is in Heaven , the Church’s proper home. The exclusively heavenly character of the scene forbids the application of it to Israel. *See remarks on Revelation 12:1-2 ; on Revelation 17:2 and footnotes in latter page.
Of whom is the bride composed? We answer unhesitatingly, all saints embraced between these two epochs, i.e. , Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47 ) and the Translation (1 Thessalonians 4:17 ). These events respectively mark the commencement and the termination of the Church’s sojourn on earth.
The twenty-four elders, the mystic representatives of the redeemed seen in Heaven immediately after the Translation (Revelation 4:1-11 ), are named for the last time in verse four of our chapter. We gather, therefore, that the moment has now arrived when the distinct body, the Church, the bride, first comes into view. The elders divide, so to speak, and the bride and guests take their respective places in the economy of Heaven. All up till now had one place. There are special blessings to the saints of this Dispensation (Matthew 11:11 ; Hebrews 11:40 ), and there are others common to all believers. Now in the course of the apocalyptic visions (Revelation 4:1-11 19: 4) no differences or distinctions of any kind appear amongst the elders. The term elders disappears as the various companies of saints take their allotted place in relation to the Lamb. The Church is the bride. The Church is imperishable because founded on the glory and dignity of Christ as Son of God (Matthew 16:18 ). His body, too, is the nearest of all to Him (Ephesians 1:23 ), as the bride is the dearest object to His heart and eye. He has loved the Church with a deathless and unchangeable love, a love ever active, and knowing no cessation till He presents her in glory to Himself (Ephesians 5:25-27 ). The Church has weathered many a storm, has longed for her heavenly Bridegroom through cloud and sunshine, has in conjunction with the Spirit on earth ofttimes cried to Him, the Bright and Morning Star, “Come” (Revelation 22:16-17 ). We who have had our place in the Father’s house, according to John 14:3 , are about to be displayed in the kingdom as the bride and wife of the Lamb. What a moment of joy! His glory and joy exceedeth. *The presentation of the Church in glory to Himself (Ephesians 5:27 ) is a private matter, and precedes the public event, the marriage of the Lamb. The one is the corollary of the other. More of the oil of gladness is poured upon His head than upon ours (Hebrews 1:9 ). Our place, our blessing, our gladness are wrapped up in His. “The marriage of the Lamb is come.” Then shall He Who died see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.
THE LAMB’S WIFE MAKES HERSELF READY.
7. “ His wife has made herself ready. ” In this connection the term bride would not be an appropriate one. Now there are two sorts of fitness, and the Church is the subject of both. First, God in the exercise of His sovereign grace makes one fit for heavenly glory, as we read, “Giving thanks unto the Father which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12 ). Second, believers have to make themselves ready ere they enter on their eternal glory. That is, the story of earth has to be gone over again in the presence of Him Who is light. Our lives have to be reviewed at the bema of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10 ). The light of the throne will be cast over and upon every moment of our lives, discovering the hidden, and bringing out the true character of act, word, and service. The enigmas of life will be explained, unsolved problems cleared up, and all mistakes and misunderstandings rectified. This, and more, is the application of the judgment seat of Christ to the heavenly saints, and precedes the marriage. “His wife has made herself ready.” The light of the throne has done its blessed work, bringing out into bold relief the whole story of her history on earth. What would it be if in glory we remembered one incident of a painful kind which had not been set right? The thought would be intolerable. But all will come out at the judgment seat as a matter between each saint and God. It will not be a public exposure before others. Nor must this be understood as signifying judicial judgment. All that has been settled on the Cross. We appear before the bema of Christ crowned and glorified , “raised in glory” (1 Corinthians 15:43 ), to have the light of the throne cast upon the past. What a mercy that it is so. We shall then pass from the bema with its searching light into the loved presence of the Lamb as His bride and wife for ever.
Revelation 19:8 . “ It was given to her to be clothed in fine linen, bright (and) pure; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints. ” The harlot was gorgeously arrayed, but her pomp, splendour, and ornaments were claimed as a matter of right . With the bride it is different; she is arrayed as a matter of grace . “It was given to her.” Undoubtedly there are rewards for service done, as Matthew 25:14-23 clearly show. “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love” (Hebrews 6:10 ). But it might be well for us to forget. He never will.
There is, however, another side to this question which should ever be borne in mind, namely, the sovereignty of God. His right it is to give or withhold. Many an eminent servant of God has made shipwreck of true life and service by neglect of the great balancing truth God is sovereign. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:1-46 shows the grace of God in rewards; whilst the parable of the householder in Matthew 20:1-34 is a demonstration of the sovereignty of God in giving to all alike, irrespective of toil or length of service.
The garment of pure linen in which the Vial angels are arrayed (Revelation 15:6 ) expresses the righteous character of their mission, which is one of judgment. *Both in the case of the angels and of the bride the clothing is linen; but of the latter it is added “ fine linen.” See remarks on Revelation 7:14 , and on Revelation 15:5 , with footnotes on both pages. The fine linen, pure and lustrous, of the bride is her righteousness, or “righteous acts” (R.V.), done on earth. But she claims no merit, for these righteous acts were wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost in her. Later on we have the bride covered with the glory of God (Revelation 21:11 ); here her own righteousness, not God’s, is in question. The gaudy colours in which the harlot is arrayed present a sharp contrast to the pure, white, and bright linen of the bride. Her garments bespeak her practical character. She can now enter on the enjoyment of eternal companionship and union of the closest nature (that of wife) with her husband, the Lamb. Her deeds on earth have been appraised at their true value in Heaven . She is arrayed in them, or in the expressive words of our text, “has made herself ready.” She passes from the bema to the marriage, and from thence to the kingdom.
GUESTS AT THE MARRIAGE SUPPER.
Revelation 19:9 . “ Write, Blessed are they who are called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. ” The bride and guests are clearly distinguished. The former is, of course, in more immediate relation to the Lamb. The bride is wed; the guests sup.
The angel, addressing the Seer, says, “Write.” This command, frequently repeated during the progress of the visions, marks the importance and speciality of the communication. “Blessed” are those called to the supper. This is not said of the bride. Her blessing, which is that of the highest order and character, is expressed in the simple words, bride and wife . What unspeakable joy is conveyed in these terms! But the guests are pronounced blessed . Who are they? We answer, the friends of the Bridegroom. But as the friends of the Bridegroom they enjoy a higher and dearer character of blessedness than they would if merely the friends of the bride. John the Baptist expressly tells us that he is a friend of the Bridegroom (John 3:29 ). The Baptist was martyred before the Church was formed, hence he comes in as perhaps the most honoured of the guests at the marriage supper. Old Testament saints constitute the large company of called guests, each one being a friend of the Bridegroom, and rejoicing in His presence and voice. The apocalyptic martyrs are not raised till after the marriage, hence cannot be numbered amongst the guests. Angels may be spectators of the scene, but guests they cannot be. Angels are never spoken of in the way that these are. It is called a supper, perhaps in contrast to the subsequent supper of judgment (v. 17). The former is in connection with the Lamb and His joy; the latter is in relation to God and the judgment He executes on the ungodly administratively by the Lamb and His heavenly saints.
9. These divine communications, whether spoken by an angel or seen in vision by John, have attached to them all the weight and authority of God Himself. “ These are the true words of God. ” *“Are the very truth of God, and shall veritably come to pass.” Alford . The basis of our faith is not conjecture, but the certainty that God has spoken. The truths thus divinely authenticated are those stated within the first nine verses of the chapter. Absolute certainty is of prime importance in these days when the dogmatism of belief in a divine revelation is considered to savour of a narrow and illiberal spirit. In old times God spake in the prophets; in New Testament times God has spoken in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2 , R.V.). How blessed, therefore, to have the confirmation of these grand and heart-gladdening truths from God Himself!
ANGELS AND SAINTS FELLOW-BONDMEN.
Revelation 19:10 . Evidently the Seer was overwhelmed by the exalted character of the communications vouchsafed to him; probably, too, the angel who appeared to him in vision was a too glorious object for mortal gaze. “ He fell before his feet to worship him ,” not “ at his feet” as in the Authorised Version. But angels are jealous for the glory and rights of God. Homage may be rendered to a creature in superior position, but worship is the due of the Creator alone. The movement on the part of John was instantly checked, “See (thou do it) not.” To worship even the most exalted of God’s creatures is idolatry. Both angels and saints worship God and Christ, as this book abundantly testifies. On a second and subsequent occasion (Revelation 22:8-9 ) John was about to do so, and again prohibited by the angel.
10. “ I am thy fellow-bondman. ” *Servants and slaves (bondmen) are distinguished. See Revelation 2:20 ; Matthew 22:13 ; for the latter see Romans 6:20 ; Revelation 1:1 . The angel and the apostle were fellow-servants, rather bondmen . As a slave is bound for life to the service of his master, so angels and saints are bound to the everlasting service of the blessed God His glad and willing slaves. All intelligent creatures really stand on this ground. In the case of angels the right is founded on their creation and place; in that of saints on the ground of purchase and redemption (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ). Had the passage stopped with the angel’s declaration that he was a fellow-servant, or slave, with the apostle it might have been supposed that the highest in the Church *“ First apostles” (1 Corinthians 12:28 ; Ephesians 4:11 : Revelation 21:14 ; Matthew 19:28 ). could alone be so regarded. But angels who delight to serve are also fellow-bondmen with the brethren of John, who have, or keep, “the testimony of Jesus.” The testimony of Jesus in the Apocalypse is of a prophetic character, referring to His public assumption of governmental power to be displayed in the kingdom (see Revelation 1:2 ). If this passage, which has needlessly perplexed students, were read in connection with Revelation 12:17 , where the same words occur, the difficulty would disappear. The godly remnant of Judah in the coming crisis “have the testimony of Jesus,” and surely we cannot fail, with the Psalter in our hands, to understand the character of that testimony, which in their circumstances is prophetic; they long, and sigh, and pray for the open and direct intervention of God on their behalf. The presence of the Messiah, His Advent for their deliverance, is the goal of hope. The direct address of the angel to John ends with the authoritative declaration, “Worship God,” a truth ever in season for Heaven and earth, for angels and men.
(Revelation 19:11-21 ).
11-16. “ And I saw the Heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and One sitting on it (called) Faithful and True, and He judges, and makes war in righteousness. And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head many diadems, having a Name written, which no one knows but Himself. And (He is) clothed with a garment dipped in blood; and His Name is called the Word of God. And the armies which (are) in the Heaven followed Him upon white horses, clad in white, pure, fine linen. And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He might smite the nations; and He shall rule them with an iron rod; and He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. And He has upon His garment and upon His thigh a Name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords. ” The remaining portion of the chapter to which we have given the general title, Heaven Opened , naturally divides into three parts: (1) the mighty Monarch and His victorious armies (vv. 11-16); (2) the call to the ravenous birds of prey to feed upon the slain, to partake of “the great supper of God” (vv. 17, 18); (3) the complete overthrow and destruction of the opposing army, the leaders consigned alive to the lake of fire, and their followers slain (vv. 19-21).
The special scene before us (vv. 11-16) is one of surpassing interest. We have had many and varied displays of Christ, for the whole book is more or less about Him , while all for us “upon whom the ends of the ages are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11 , R.V.). But the present vision in its character and far-reaching results is second to none. It is unique. We have not here the Lamb enthroned as in Revelation 5:1-14 , but the Warrior-King great in victorious, all-conquering power. Before Christ, as here described, the hosts of earth shall quail, and the stout hearts of the mighty stand appalled; but that sight of sights is a gladdening one to saints, for they know Him. The King and Judge is their everlasting Friend.
THE HEAVEN OPENED, AND A DOOR OPENED IN HEAVEN.
11. “ I saw the Heaven opened. ” This book is full of heavenly action. The scenes in Heaven as witnessed by the Seer are numerous and diversified. Voices heard, songs sung, angels and glorified saints seen, elders and the living creatures bowed in worship, thrones, crowns, robes, harps, books, and more, tell of the happiness and ceaseless activity of Heaven’s inhabitants. Glimpses into Heaven we have had, but Heaven itself opened is a grand and overpowering sight. In the opening of the heavenly section of the book (Revelation 4:1-11 ) we read, “I saw, and behold, a door opened in Heaven.” How much greater the astonishment of the Seer as he beholds, of course, in vision Heaven itself opened, not simply an opened door for admission. This action is in keeping with the magnificent pageant the triumphal procession out of Heaven. A door opened in Heaven was for the Seer to pass in . Heaven opened was for the heavenly armies to pass out . Four times do we read in the New Testament of the heavens being opened (Matthew 3:16 ; John 1:51 ; Acts 7:56 ; Revelation 19:11 ), and on each occasion in connection with Christ. Two of these instances are past, two are future. His moral glory in humiliation called for it. His manifested glory above demands it. The holy Jerusalem is seen in a subsequent vision descending out of Heaven (Revelation 21:9 ), but it is not said Heaven is then opened for egress; it is opened once, and that is enough.
DESCRIPTION OF THE CONQUEROR AND HIS VICTORIOUS ARMY.
11. The first part of the description beheld by the Seer was “ a white horse ,” the symbol of victorious power. *See notes on Revelation 6:2 , page 148, and footnote. The horseman who guides and controls bears the mystic name of “Faithful and True.” Others may in measure be characterised by these qualities, but Christ alone can be so designated without qualification. He is in His Person and ways the perfect embodiment of these attributes. *See notes on Revelation 15:3 , and on Revelation 21:5 . Faithful in the performance of every promise and every threat, while every word and act bears the stamp of absolute truth.
11. “ He judges and makes war in righteousness. ” He comes to settle the destinies of the world for a thousand years. He is not only the mighty Warrior, but He judges the world as well as conquers it. God “hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man Whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31 ). The appointed day is about to dawn, and the ordained Man is before us as the Commander of the hosts of Heaven. This is no iniquitous war; it is not one undertaken for love of conquest, nor for enlargement of territory. The judging is named before the warring, because all is done intelligently. The war and its issues are wisely directed. Righteousness is characteristic of Him as Judge and as Warrior.
Revelation 19:12 . “ His eyes are a flame of fire. ” In Revelation 1:14 and Revelation 2:18 , of Christ it is said His eyes are “ as a flame of fire,” but here the “ as ” of comparison is omitted (R.V. and other authorities). “His eyes are a flame of fire;” that is the divine omniscience which observes all and searches out every hidden evil, and the piercing judgments which He executes are characteristic attributes of Him in the earlier notices, whereas in our text they are in exercise. The action is here more intense.
12. “ Upon His head many diadems. ” Crowns and diadems are distinguished. *See remarks on Revelation 12:3 , and on Revelation 13:1 . The saints in Heaven have crowns (Revelation 4:4 ; Revelation 4:10 ), the expression of their royal dignity, but on the head of Christ rest diadems, denoting His absolute and supreme authority. The dragon has on his seven heads diadems (Revelation 12:3 ), and the Beast has diadems on his ten horns (Revelation 13:1 ). Thus both the dragon and the Beast affect supreme authority. There is but One Who can be entrusted with the exercise of absolute authority and dominion, and He is the Son of Man (Psalms 8:1-9 ). Seven diadems on the dragon, and ten on the Beast; but “ many ” upon the head of the conqueror Christ denote that every form and kind of government is vested in Him. The Authorised Version fails to distinguish between the symbols “crown” and “diadem;” the Revised Version, however, supplies the omission.
12. “ Having a Name written which no one knows but Himself. ” There are certain divine names as God, Jehovah, Jesus, Christ, Lord, etc., which severally express the divine Being in a certain relation to His creatures. But here is a name not revealed. There is that in Christ ever was and ever will be which no name can express. The Son in the fulness of His divine nature can alone be known by the Father (Matthew 11:27 ). Christ ever carries in Himself the knowledge of who and what He was and is.
Revelation 19:13 . “ Clothed with a garment dipped in blood. ” *It seems absurd to apply the “garment dipped in blood” to the blood of the Cross, as many do. The Lord is here viewed on a mission of judgment, not one of grace. The blood is not His own, but that of His enemies. The context clearly determines the sense. This striking and impressive figure proclaims His vengeance in judicial dealing with the opposing hosts of apostate Europe who have come out to do battle with the Lamb. In Isaiah 63:1-4 we witness the triumphant return from the land of Edom, and from its capital city Bozrah, of the Lord with vengeance in His heart and His garments and vesture stained with the blood of His enemies, but here His garment dipped in blood is witnessed ere He enters on the conflict, a sure token that righteous vengeance shall be meted out to the full upon the gathered hosts under their two great chiefs, the Beast and the False Prophet,
13. “ His Name is called the Word of God. ” Of the eight sacred writers of the New Testament, John is the only one who applies this title to Christ. As the Word He represents and expresses God in His Being, character, and works. He is ”The Word of Life ” (1 John 1:1 ), as being in His Person and ways its living embodiment. He is termed “The Word of God ,” as perfectly expressing Him in judgment. As the WORD He has personal, independent, eternal existence (John 1:1-2 ); and as the WORD He is the maker of all things (v. 3). He is the Revealer of God, the ONE Who makes Him known. Our words ought to be the exact expression of what we are ; the words of Christ were the absolute expression of what He ever is (John 8:25 ). As the WORD He reveals God in His essential nature as light and love, and as the “ only begotten Son” He declares the Father. The first without the second would have left a huge blank, for the heart craves for a known and enjoyed relationship. God is our Father .
The title here used of Christ has peculiar significance in this connection. It is God Who is here seen roused to action. His very nature demands the judgment of those who on earth madly attempt to thwart His purpose to set His Son as King on Mount Zion and put into His hands earth’s government. Christ, “The Word of God,” is the absolute expression of God in the scene of judgment about to take place.
THE TRIUMPHANT ARMIES.
Revelation 19:14 . “ The armies ” in Heaven follow their renowned Leader on “white horses,” for His victory is their victory, and His triumph their triumph. These armies represent the heavenly saints, those of Old Testament times and those comprising the bride. Each one is arrayed in robes which bespeak personal righteousness, which tell of personal struggle here in doing right, in maintaining the rights of God in the midst of a scene of contrariety and opposition to God and Christ. The clothing of the bride (v. 8) is the clothing of each of the militant hosts (v. 14). The armies in Heaven which triumphantly follow Christ and swell His train are not angels, but saints. What a military spectacle is here presented! These armies of saints in Heaven follow their Captain. He goes first, and heads the triumphing hosts. We have here the fulfilment of Enoch’s prophecy uttered more than five thousand years ago, but alone recorded in Jude’s epistle, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints” (v. 14). Zechariah (Zechariah 14:5 ) writes of the same Coming, but to deal with the powers opposed to the Jews, whereas the apocalyptic scripture reveals as the first object of judgment the nations opposed to the Lamb. Angels, too, follow in the train and swell the triumph of the Lord (Matthew 16:27 ; Matthew 25:31 ; Hebrews 1:6 ). Triumphant power (white horses) is put forth on the day when the wrath of the Lamb is so awfully expressed. The statement of the armies in Heaven following Christ in His career of righteous war is an interruption to the general description of Christ which is now resumed. The war itself is merely mentioned (v. 19), but the personal description of the great Captain of our salvation is lengthily dwelt upon. We delight to hear Him well and much spoken of. *“The description of the battle is as remarkable for its brevity as that of Christ is for its length; quite naturally, as there can properly be no sustained conflict against Him who slays with the breath of His mouth.” Hengstenberg .
CHRIST IN JUDICIAL ACTION.
Revelation 19:15 . Next we hear of the only offensive weapon amongst the militant, heavenly hosts, “ a sharp sword .” The armies have no weapons, they need them not, for the battle is the Lord’s. “Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He might smite the nations.” *In Revelation 1:16 and Revelation 2:12 , the sword is said to be not only sharp, but “two-edged.” Many authorities insert the word in the text of Revelation 19:15 , but it is a doubtful reading. The reference is to Isaiah 11:4 . He speaks as He did in the garden when His enemies fell to the ground (John 18:5-6 ). His Word at once smites and slays. The power is irresistible. No carnal weapon is in question, but a destructive power more terrible in its effects than any weapon forged by human skill the spoken Word of the Lord.
15. “ He shall rule them with an iron rod. ” The second Psalm is evidently before the writer in this glorious description of almighty power. The stern and inflexible rule exercised over the rebellious nations is intimated in the firm unyielding rod of iron. “ He shall rule,” that is, govern (Revelation 12:5 ). Our association with Him in His government of the world (Psalms 149:6-9 ), and judgment of His foes, in no wise clashes with the truth in our text, “He shall rule them with an iron rod.” It is His work, and He is invested with plenitude of power to do it. The determined will of the nations must be broken and their power shivered to atoms.
15. “ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. ” This is not the figure of the harvest in which the good is separated from the bad, but the vintage which is unsparing vengeance on evil, on religious evil developed into apostasy (Revelation 14:17-20 ). *See remarks on the “winepress,” Revelation 14:20 . There are three symbols of judgment in verse 15 of our chapter. (1) A sharp sword for immediate, judicial punishment, probably death. (2) A rod of iron for righteous, inflexible government. (3) The winepress of wrath for the guiltiest of all. This latter is the expression of “extremest wrath.” The Almighty God is roused. “Vengeance is Mine,” saith the Lord. Again, the personal pronoun marks off the judgment as the work of the Lord alone. “ I have trodden the winepress alone ; and of the peoples there was none with Me” (Isaiah 63:3 ). *The armies in Heaven are not said to be associated with Christ when He bathes His sword in Idumea, but they are in His victory over the Beast. In the act of taking vengeance the Lord is alone, whether in Idumea or amongst the gathered European apostate nations, but in sessional judgment His heavenly saints take part, as the promise to the overcomer in Thyatira shows (Revelation 2:26-27 ). On certain powers the Jews take part in the execution of judgment (Zechariah 9:13 ; Zechariah 12:6 ; Zechariah 14:14 ; Isaiah 11:14 ).
Revelation 19:16 . This lengthened description closes with a grand assertion of His glory, “ He has upon His garment and upon His thigh a Name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords. ” *“He is publicly, officially, and intrinsically King of kings and Lord of Lords.” “Synopsis of the Books of the Bible,” vol. 5, p. 635, Morrish ed. His garment, His outward character and ways as beheld by others, bears the title expressive of universal dominion. Instead of the sword on the thigh (Psalms 45:3 ), the Name here mentioned is written on it. The sword is in His mouth; the Name on the thigh. There one would naturally look for the sword, instead of which they read the pre-eminent dignity of Christ as Monarch of all who reign; and Lord of all lesser ruling authorities. In Revelation 17:14 the same titles are applied to the Lord; there, however, stated in inverse order, “Lord of lords” preceding “King of kings.” No pen can do justice in the attempt to set forth the glorious Personage of these verses. In the interpretation of symbol and literal statement care is needed, but there is no real difficulty. Seize upon the circumstance, the occasion, and the reason of war; that actual peoples on earth are found in open, daring, armed rebellion against the authority of God, whether exercised morally or governmentally; further, that the nations on earth and the saints issuing from Heaven are literal armies, and in purpose, aims, and projects opposed. The foregoing considerations may help one out of the vague and uncertain into what is real and about to happen, and in which we all shall have our part.
THE GREAT SUPPER OF GOD.
Revelation 19:17-18 . We have had the joyous marriage supper of the Lamb; here we have the great supper of God. The epithet great is attached to the supper (R.V.), not to God (A.V.).
17. “ I saw an angel standing in the sun. ” He stands in the very centre, so to speak, of governmental authority. He stands where he can be seen by all, and from whence he can survey the whole scene of conflict. The supper to which he invites the ravenous birds of prey comes after the battle. But the birds are summoned in vision before the fight. The great supper is of the dead . Kings, captains, mighty men, horses and their riders, free and bond, small and great, lie in the silence of death, their bodies a prey to the fowls of Heaven. They have been slain by the one sharp sword in the heavenly army. Christ speaks, and at once judgment overtakes the gathered opposing hosts. We would again repeat this is a true and most awful literal scene. The issue of the war is anticipated, and its result disclosed. These slain rise again to meet once more their Lord, not on the horse of victorious conquering power, but on the throne where condemnation immediately follows judgment (Revelation 20:11-15 ). Their resurrection takes place one thousand years after their punishment on earth.
Revelation 19:18 . Five times do we read of “ flesh ” as the food of the fowls of Heaven. Ah, what a humiliating end to the pride, pomp, strength, and chivalry of Europe! The vulture, eagle, and other birds of prey feeding upon the great and mighty whose very names may be enshrined in the pages of the history of this time (compare with Ezekiel 39:4 ; Ezekiel 39:17-20 ). “ All the birds were filled with their flesh ” (v. 21), gorged to repletion. How awful the slaughter! How immense the number of the slain!
TOTAL OVERTHROW OF THE BEAST AND CONFEDERATE KINGS AND ARMIES.
Revelation 19:19-21 . “ And I saw the Beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to make war against Him that sat upon the horse, and against His army. And the Beast was taken, and the False Prophet that (was) with him, who wrought the signs before him by which he deceived them that received the mark of the Beast, and those that worshipped his image. Alive were both cast into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which goes out of His mouth: and all the birds were filled with their flesh. ” We are now about to witness the most gigantic confederation of kings and peoples ever beheld. The Beast is first named as being the centre and soul of the movement. All the material strength and resources of the mighty revived empire are embraced in the term the Beast . Then we have mentioned “ the kings of the earth ,” the very kings who wailed over the destruction of Babylon. The political and social authorities of Christendom combine with the Beast in this insensate war. *The ten kings had already given themselves over to the Beast (Revelation 17:17 ). They are of course active in this war, for we read, “ These shall make war with the Lamb” (Revelation 17:14 ), but they are not specifically mentioned in this , the fuller account of the war, their identity being lost, so to speak, in that of the Beast.
Next, “ their armies ,” that is, the armies of the Beast and of the kings.
All are “ gathered together .” It may be supposed that this almost universal assemblage of powers is effected by human agency. But no Caesar or Napoleon could bring about such a vast combination, and for such a purpose as we have here. Satan is behind the movement. In Revelation 16:13-14 ; Revelation 16:16 we have the veil lifted and the true character of it exposed. Three unclean spirits, satanic in source and character, endowed with miraculous power, “go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world to gather them to the battle (war) of that great day of God Almighty.” The gathering place is also named, Armageddon (Revelation 16:16 ). *See remarks on Revelation 16:16 .
After a statement of the forces in opposition by whom they were gathered, and where they were gathered to, we are next directed to the plainly-stated but startling fact that the hosts of earth are assembled “to make war against Him that sat upon the horse, and against His army.” Can history furnish a parallel to this? The nations of Europe, and even of a wider area, enlightened and christianised, so deluded by Satan that they dare to enter the lists with “The King of kings and Lord of lords!” What madness! What folly! The sovereignty of the earth is really the question of that day, and is decided once and for ever by the impending battle. Their hatred is expressed against the Rider upon the white horse, the Lamb and King, the former title sacrificial, the latter regal; for whether as the Lamb slain or the King to reign, Christendom hates Him. Then comes the opposition to those who are His. They make war also “against His army.” We have here the contrast between “their armies” and “His army,” consisting of called, chosen, and faithful followers. One army as having but one mind and purpose with their renowned Leader. No details are furnished, for actual conflict there could not be. The result alone is disclosed; the awful slaughter had been already anticipated (vv. 17, 18).
Revelation 19:20 . “ And the Beast was taken. ” The personal chief of the empire gave to it his character. The empire and its ruling head were really to all intents and purposes one. They can, of course, be distinguished as in Daniel 7:1-28 , but here, and elsewhere in the Apocalypse, the Beast and its last great imperial chief are so vitally connected that the former perishes in the everlasting ruin of its head. The Beast is cast alive into the lake of fire a man, of course, yet spoken of as “ the Beast” the usual designation of the empire.
20. “ And the False Prophet that was with him. ” This is the Antichrist, the embodiment of religious apostasy. His fellow, the Beast, is the distinguished Gentile chief on whom Satan conferred almost boundless political authority. Three times is the title “the False Prophet” used of the Antichrist as descriptive of his seductive teachings in Judea and in Christendom generally.” *See remarks on Revelation 16:13 , on Revelation 19:20 , and on Revelation 20:10 . “Was with him,” i.e. , the Beast, intimates that they were acting together. The Beast supplied the strength, the False Prophet the counsel. The latter is by far the more energetic of the two.
20. “ Who wrought the signs before him ” ( i.e. , the Beast) by which he deceived them that received the mark of the Beast, and those that worship his image. He deceived them by the miraculous signs he wrought, his grand effort being to get world-wide worship for the Beast, his superior in temporal power, although his inferior in craft and malignant satanic influence. The diabolic work of the “False Prophet,” that which had been his special work as the coadjutor of the Beast, is the main subject of Revelation 13:11-17 , there entitled “another Beast,” here “the False Prophet,” but one and the same person.
AN ETERNAL DOOM.
20. “ Alive were both cast into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. ” Who can paint in words the horror of such a doom? Literally, actually this is the predetermined punishment of two individuals, one a Jew and the other a Gentile, and perhaps both on the earth at this moment! These two men are not killed, as their deluded followers are. Physical death in their own persons they will never know, but grasped by the hand of Omnipotence, seized red-handed in their crimes, they are at once cast into the lake of fire a collection of agonies unutterable. They do not proceed, nor are driven onward to their fearful doom, but are cast alive into it, as you would throw aside that which is worthless. A thousand years afterwards Satan joins them in the same awful place, as the next chapter unfolds. The lake of fire is never at rest. Fire and brimstone denote unspeakable torment (Isaiah 30:33 ). The lake, not of water, but of fire, is the eternal place of punishment for the devil and for lost men and fallen angels. It is a place , and not a condition. And is it not significant that the phrase, which has rightly become crystallised in our minds from earliest years as the expression of all that is dark and agonising, should be mentioned here for the first time? Perhaps the first inhabitants of the lake may be those two men.
Revelation 19:21 . “ The rest were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which goes out of His mouth. ” The pride and armies of Europe lie in the silence of death, killed, but not by a literal sword. The angry voice of the King of kings shall strike through the serried ranks, suddenly depriving them of their two great chiefs; then death on the spot, the awful portion of the apostate and rebellious host. It is a terrible story briefly told. Enoch and Elijah were taken up to Heaven without seeing death; the Beast and False Prophet (their names withheld) are cast into the lake of fire without dying. So awful is the slaughter that the fowls of Heaven are filled with the flesh of the dead. The ultimate destiny of the worshippers and adherents of the Beast is unfolded in Revelation 14:9-11 ; Revelation 20:11-15 .
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Scott, Walter. "Commentary on Revelation 19". "Walter Scott's Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29