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Note here, That the first which sing this song of thanksgiving for Babylon's destruction are glorified saints, called here much people in heaven; and they are said to sing with a great voice, expressing thereby their united zeal and fervent affection in this duty of thanksgiving, and they begin their song with an Hebrew word, Alleluia, which is a word of excitation, and signifies, laud ye in the Lord.
Some think that hereby the Christian church do invite the Jews or Hebrews to join with them in praising God, and that after Babylon's overthrow Christ shall be solemnly praised, as by the Gentile so by the Jewish church; the tenor of their song is much the same with that which we had before, Revelation 7:10 to wit,
Salvation, or deliverance from all evils, spiritual and temporal, (particularly from those which the church suffered under Babylon's tyranny,) and glory, honour, and power, be ascribed unto the Lord our God, and to him alone, who is the author of all good, and hath manifested his great power in destroying our enemies.
Learn hence, 1. That the church's salvation is entirely from God, and the special effect of his divine power.
2. That to him, upon that account, all possible honour and glory is due, as having shown himself his people's God: Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, be unto the Lord our God.
Observe here, 1. The cause assigned and set down for this their doxology and solemn thanksgivings, namely, the truth and faithfulness, as also the justice and righteousness, of God in the execution of his judgments upon Babylon; his truth appeared in performing the threatening which Babylon despised, and his righteousness in suiting his judgments inflicted upon her, to the sins of idolatry and bloodshed committed by her.
Observe, 2. The title here given to Babylon, she is called the whore, because of her idolatry, which is often in scripture styled spiritual whoredom; and the great whore, because of her universal corrupting the whole earth: she made others to sin, and cruelly murdered those who would not sin.
Hence learn, That idolatry and persecution constantly go together. Babylon's idolatrous practices were accompanied with bloody cruelties.
Observe, 3. An intimation given of the irreparable ruin and irrecoverable destruction of Babylon,--her smoke rose up for ever and ever, that is, God followed her with a succession of plagues and judgments until she was ruined past recovery.
Observe, 4 That the word Alleluia, as it begins the song, so does it also close the same; to show thereby the raisedness of the church's affections, and their unweariedness in praising God for this deliverance of Babylon's destruction.
Note here, 1. How the whole heavenly choir praise God on the fore- mentioned account, acknowledging the justice of his proceeding against Babylon; and,
2. An invitation is here given to all the saints upon earth, both small and great, to fear upon earth, both small and great, to fear and praise him.
Whence note, How the church triumphant and militant, the saints in heaven and Christians on earth, jointly give praise to God, and glorify him for this great work, adoring his divine justice in destroying Babylon, the mother of idolatry, the nest of luxury, the seat of oppression and cruelty; it is a duty well becoming the saints, both small and great, to celebrate the praises of God for the equity of his judgments upon his church's incorrigible and unreclaimable enemies; and here God himself, and his ministers, call upon the whole church to join in this solemn work of praise and thanksgiving: A voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, and the four and twenty elders, and the four beasts fell down and worshipped.
In the former verses an exhortation was given to all the saints to abound in the duty of thanksgiving; here we find them unanimously addressing themselves to the practice and peformance of that duty; and accordingly they are called here a great multitiude, their voice like many waters for unity, and like mighty thunderings, denoting that zeal and fervour which is in their thanksgivings.
Where note, How exceedingly the church doth rejoice and triumph, not so much in Babylon's ruin, as in the glory of God advanced, and as his own kingdom is promoted by it.
Observe, 2. A superadded ground and reason for this extraordinary joy and rejoicing, For the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
By the marriage of the Lamb, Mr. Mede and Dr. More do understand the conversion of the Jews; by the Lamb's wife, the nation of the Jews, so called in regard of that relation which they stand in to God, by virtue of the covenant; and she is said to have made herself ready, namely, by the wedding-garment of faith, to accept of her formerly despised Bridegroom.
Note, That it is probably conjectured by some, that the conversion of the Jews shall soon follow the destruction of antichrist, for his idolatry and persecution are great scandals to the Jews, and mighty stumbling-blocks in the way of their conversion.
And whereas it is added, That it was granted to her to be arrayed in fine linen, the words do seem to import, that the Jews shall in due time be brought in to be clothed with it, and that an holy emulation shall be found between the Gentiles and them, which shall most and best adorn the profession of the gospel.
From the whole note, How the church is called Christ's wife. Christ and she are here betrothed to each other, but at the great day the marriage will be consummated.
Note farther, The church's spiritual nakedness in herself considered, It was granted to her to be arrayed in fine linen; she had it not of herself, but it was put on by Christ; he decks and dresses his own bride with the ornaments of grace here, and glory hereafter, that he may present it to himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, holy, and without blemish.
Blessed are they which are called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb; that is, (say they, who understand, by the marriage of the Lamb, the conversion of the Jews,) who shall live in the happy time, when the Jews being converted shall with the Gentiles make up one glorious gospel church. But the marriage is one thing, and the marriage-supper another; the marriage-supper follows the marriage; so that the kingdom of glory rather seems here intended: blessed are they which are called to it, being made meet and prepared for it, by grace here, and glory hereafter: we must be made meet for heaven before we can be admitted into heaven. Blessed are they which are called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb.
Observe next, That St. John being overjoyed at the good news of his countrymen's (the Jews') conversion, fell down at the angel's feet to worship him, as Cornelius did at St. Peter's, when he heard of the conversion of the Gentiles, And I fell at his feet to worship him. Acts 10:25. The holiest and best of saints are not wholly free from passionate infirmities: he would now have worshipped this angel, yet we read not of any attempt made to worship any of the former angels which conversed with him. This makes it probable that he apprehended it to be an uncreated angel, even the Son of God, which now talked with him.
Observe next, With what indignation this holy angel rejected the offer of religious adoration, and how peremptorily he forbids it: Ora mey By no means, upon no terms do it, See thou do it not.
The church of Rome asks us, Why we reprove them for worshipping the angels, when St. John himself did it? Our answer is ready, That St. John himself was reproved for it: the angel rejected it as none of his due.
O the presumption of those men, who dare do that which the angel expressly forbids to be done! Yet, after all, Bellarmine says, That St. John did well to worship the angel; then, say we, the angel did ill to reprove St. John; but whether we shall believe a cardinal at Rome, or an angel of God, judge ye.
Observe lastly, The reasons assigned by the angel who forbade it.
1. Because God, and God alone, is the sole and proper object of religious worship: Worship thou God.
2. Because the angel was St. John's equal in office, though not in nature: I am thy fellow-servant.
As if he had said, "Those who serve and worship God together with you, must not be worshipped by you: those who are fellow-servants to one master, should not give to one another that worship which is only due to their Lord and Master. But we are fellow-servants; how doth that appear? Thus: you have the testimony of Jesus, and I have the spirit of prophecy.
Now the spirit of prophecy, and the work of the ministry in testifying of Jesus, being of the same nature and kind of service, therefore from those that are employed in one of them, religious worship is not due to the other. It is Christ that employs us both, and therefore he alone is to be worshipped, and neither I nor thou: Worship God, to whom religious worship is justly and peculiarly due."
Here we have a new and fresh vision, in which St. John saw heaven opened, and Christ represented as a great and victorious general, marching forth with a glorious army for his church's enemies' full and final destruction. This great general is first described from the place whence he comes, namely, from heaven; he is no earthly prince or potentate, but an heavenly monarch.
Next he is said to sit on a white horse, denoting victory, prosperity, and success; He is called faithful, and true, and righteous, because faithful in all his promises, true in his threatenings, righteous in all his dispensations towards his enemies; he will do them no wrong.
Next, his eyes are said to be as a flame of fire: denoting his clear and piercing knowledge, and also his terror as a judge, his eyes being in wrath as a flame of fire, ready to consume his enemies.
And farther, to show his royal dignity, it is added, on his head were many crowns, which also denoted his many victories over his many and mighty enemies. And by the name which no man knew but himself, some understand the nature and essence, which is so incomprehensible and unsearchable, as that none but he who is true God is able to comprehend it fully, or reveal it perfectly. Others by his name understand his judgments and ways, by which he is known, as a man by his name.
Observe next, This great and mighty general is described from his vesture dipped in blood, which denotes the mighty overthrow of his enemies: the cruellest and proudest of them can expect nothing in the end from him, but extremity of wrath and deserved destruction, for they must all become his footstool.
And his name being called the word of God, speaks dread and terror to antichrist, who slanders, opposes, corrupts, and suppresses, and offers all manner of indignities to the word of God; exercises the utmost cruelties against the preachers and professors of it.
Observe farther, That after the description of this great and mighty general, follows next the description of his armies, his attendants and followers, namely, the holy angels and glorified saints, Revelation 19:14. these also ride upon white horses, as their general before them, and are clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
Behold the comely conformity, and purity, and holiness, between the general and his soldiers, between Christ and his followers; they both appear on white horses, suitable to one another. Christ will admit none to be his followers that are not like him.
Next we have the weapon described, Revelation 19:15. which Christ makes use of for the destruction of antichrist, and all his church's enemies; and that is, a sword, a sharp sword, the holy scriptures, particularly the threatenings of the word, with which he will smite all the wicked nations that side with antichrist against him and his kingdom; dealing with his enemies as men do with grapes gathered into a wine-press, which they can easily crush.
Lastly, He is described by a new name of royal dignity and supreme power, being called King of kings and Lord of lords. And this name is said to be written on his vesture and on his thigh, partly for perspicuity, that all might take notice of it; and partly for permanency, to show that as long as himself lasts, which is for ever, so long shall his kingdom and dominion over all endure.
After the description of the general and his army, follows next the event and success of the battle, which is a prodigious slaughter of the church's enemies: and as eagles and vultures, and other birds of prey, do attend an army, and flock where the slain lie, in like manner Almighty God here invites the fowls of the air to sup upon the carcasses of his slain enemies. Antichrist would not suffer the dead bodies of the witnesses to be buried, but to be cast out, and lie in the streets; and here God metes to him the same measure; their carcasses also shall be a supper for the birds and fowls of the air. Come to the supper of the great God, to the slaughter of antichrist and his adherents.
Where note, That by calling it a supper, two things may be probably intended.
1. The facility and easiness of the victory: that Christ's and his church's enemies will not put him hard to it to overcome them; as we proverbially say, they will be but a supper to him, or a breakfast for him. The word supper seems to import, that this shall be the last effort, the last great opposition, that antichrist and the church's enemies shall ever make against Christ to the end of the world, as the supper is the last meal of the day.
Observe here, 1. The final issue of this great battle, namely, The total ruin of all the enemies of the church: the beast and false prophet were taken, and cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. Behold the punishment of idolaters and idolatry; the false prophet had cheated credulous princes and peoples, with his pretended miracles, into idolatry; he had cast others into a bed of fornication, and God casts him into a bed of flames.
Lastly, It is added concerning the remnant, that they were slain with the sword of his mouth: that is, by Christ's judicial sentence they were righteously adjudged to be slain, and, when they were so, all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
Where note, That these persons were not excused because they followed their leaders, and did what they bade them; Christ commands, for all that, that they also should be slain.
Lord! how vain will the plea of many sinners be at the great day; we followed our guides, we did as we saw others do before us; Remember we, that God has given us a rule to walk by, the infallible and inflexible rule of his word; and neither the example of the most, nor of the best, must influence us to act contrary thereunto; for if we will do as the most do, we must be contented to go where the most go, even into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 19". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18