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Chapter 15: Marriage of the Lamb
Revelation 19:1-21 is full, with two tremendous events:
1. The marriage of the Lamb celebrated in heaven; and the marriage supper in heaven.
2. The advent of the Lord in the Great Day of Wrath, as King of kings; and the slaughter on earth, and the frightful "supper" connected therewith.
As the Day of Wrath at Armageddon is the most fearful, so is the marriage of the Lamb the most blessed and happy of all events that have occurred so far in creation.
Introduction-The Four Hallelujahs-(Revelation 19:1; Revelation 19:3-4; Revelation 19:6)
Hallelujah is the Hebrew expression frequently occurring in the later Psalms and meaning "praise to Jehovah." The last five Psalms 146:1-10; Psalms 147:1-20; Psalms 148:1-14; Psalms 149:1-9; Psalms 150:1-6 (R. V.) begin and end with this wonderful word, hallelujah. Others, like Psalms 106:1-48, set forth the spirit of millennial anticipation and praise, as does the shortest- Psalms 117:1-2. Only in these four verses of Revelation 19:1-21 does this mighty praise-word occurs in the New Testament.
But this is what we would expect; for there is no place today (except in the life of individual saints who rejoice in the assembly, under the movement of the Holy Spirit) for this great word of high exultation unto God.
Because the Messiah when He came to Israel, although received by the wise men with exceeding joy, and gladdening the hearts of the poor shepherds, was rejected by Israel, and crucified; victory was postponed, and hallelujah can be uttered only by faith when the Church is filled with the Holy Spirit and becomes a prophetic testimony of grace. Personal hallelujahs can be given to God, but the triumph that brings the universal hallelujah to all holy things is yet in the future! Indeed, mercy and grace were too soon forgotten, and papal bondage entered into by the Church itself. The harlot Babylon rises-the woman drunken with the blood of the saints (Revelation 17:1-18). It is not the time for hallelujahs.
Not until Babylon, the harlot, is completely overthrown, swallowed up in divine indignation, as we see in Revelation 17:1-18; and not until literal Babylon (Chapter 18) is completely gone, and all Babylonian things have disappeared forever, does hallelujah burst forth from all holy hearts.
Notice that the first two hallelujahs are drawn forth by Babylon's judgment:
After these things I heard as it were a great voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, Hallelujah; Salvation, and glory, and power, belong to our God: for true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great harlot, her that corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And a second time they say, Hallelujah. And her smoke goeth up for ever and ever.
Indeed, Revelation 19:4, including the third hallelujah, with the word "Amen" preceding it, may well be joined with the hallelujahs of Revelation 19:1-3, as expressing the utter consent of those most intimately connected with the divine throne-the twenty-four elders and the four living beings.
And the four and twenty elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God that sitteth on the throne, saying, Amen; Hallelujah.
There is now a call from the throne itself, for universal jubilant praise, such as it seems has never been issued before:
And a voice came forth from the throne, saying, Give praise to our God, all ye his servants, ye that fear him, the small and the great.
Notice that this call is given to all whose warfare is over, for it is a heavenly scene. [It is, we believe, evident that at the moment this great call comes for praise on the part of all God's servants and those that fear Him, the small and the great, there are still on earth, in great trouble, those whose warfare is not yet accomplished. Hear Luke 18:8, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on earth?" There will be those on earth who are really God's elect, but have not yet received faith. It will not be given until the first three verses of Isaiah 60:1-22 are fulfilled "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon theeâ€¦ and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the nations shall come to thy light." This is not until the Lord Himself is revealed in Jerusalem unto beleaguered Israel, until they "look unto him whom they have pierced." "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven," which is His pierced Person, and they shall at last, like Thomas, believe because they have seen. Moreover the whole scene of Revelation 19:1-10 is heavenly, not earthly, and it precedes the coming of the Lord with His heavenly armies to destroy His enemies.]
We now come to the mightiest verse of response to God in all Scripture:
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth. While all preceding hallelujahs have risen from relief at the overthrow of Babylon, this fourth hallelujah is a limitless expression of ecstasy at the reign of "the Lord our God the Almighty."
In our poor feeble spiritual experiences and aspirations, it is most difficult even to imagine the delight in God heard now in heaven. A great multitude-many waters-like mighty thunders: such is the voice!
The Marriage of the Lamb
Now, at last, we are coming to that inexpressible climax, that glorious event awaited by God the Father, and the Bridegroom, His Son; and the Blessed Spirit. Yes, and all holy beings, who like John (the Bridegroom's friend) can say, "this my joy therefore is made full." And so we read:
Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
Let us reflect that this "marriage of the Lamb" has been the longed-for and looked-for event of age upon age. It is not necessary that this great event of blessing should have been continually referred to in Scripture to make it important. The virgin birth of our Lord is not frequently referred to, but of how vast eternal consequence! And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are true words of God. And I fell down before his feet to worship him. And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Certain questions arise immediately concerning this great revelation of the marriage of the Lamb and the marriage supper.
1. When does this event occur? Evidently directly upon the overthrow of Babylon on earth; for the celebration of that judgment-event in Revelation 19:1-5 was immediately succeeded in Revelation 19:6-7 by the mighty praise attending the reigning of the "Lord our God the Almighty," which brings in the marriage.
2. Where is the marriage, with its attending marriage supper, celebrated? The answer can only be-in heaven; for the scene is wholly heavenly. No one can read Revelation 19:6 without coming to this conclusion.
3. What saints constitute "the bride, the wife of the Lamb"? The Church! See Ephesians 5:22-32.
In Israel as a nation the high priest was expressly forbidden to marry a "divorced woman" or "a widow" (Leviticus 21:10; Leviticus 21:13-14). Israel is spoken of both as divorced (Jeremiah 3:8) and as a widow (Lamentations 1:1; Isaiah 54:4). When Jehovah returns to Israel in millennium blessings, Isaiah 62:4-5 will be fulfilled, as will Isaiah 54:4-5, etc., but it will be "Jehovah delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married," for, "as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee; and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." This is an earthly scene, and must be contrasted with the marriage of the heavenly Bride, the wife of the Lamb.
In Revelation 21:10, the angel reveals the wife of the Lamb to John, thus:
"He carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God." We read concerning the patriarchs, that they desired a better country, that is a heavenly; therefore, "God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God," for He prepared for them a city. Also, that Abraham "looked for the city," with the foundations, whose architect and maker is God. And in Galatians 4:26 Paul declares concerning Church saints that "the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother."
This heavenly Jerusalem is seen in Revelation 21:24-27 to have come down to the new earth (upon a great and high mountain), with the "nations" walking amid the light thereof, and the kings of the earth bringing their glory into it-the gates never being closed, and admitting the holy inhabitants of earth freely. [Those who teach that Revelation 21:1-27; Revelation 9:1-21, ff, goes back to the millennial order, before the last judgment and the new creation, claim that "nations" will not exist in the new earth. But these seem to forget Isaiah 65:17-18 as well as 66:22, where the creation of the new heavens and the new earth is connected with the perpetuation of the seed and the name of Israel. There are many prophecies setting forth the eternal perpetuity of that elect nation. And if of Israel, the elect nation, then also of other nations. Also, as seen in Revelation 21:26, "And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it." We know that the formation of nations arose out of a judgment-at Babel. But the establishment of Israel as a kingdom under David arose from the judgment upon Israel's rejection of Jehovah as their king! Our Lord's royal title lies in the covenant with David, the king, His father. The idea that nations will cease to exist does not seem to be borne out in Scripture. (See notes on Chapter 21.)]
That Abraham, the patriarchs, and all who were given by God a heavenly hope, will share in the bliss of the New Jerusalem, appears scriptural.
But that Abraham or any other Old Testament saint will form part of the Body of Christ, we cannot for a moment believe! The great mystery of the Church, His Body, committed to Paul in such a sense that he called himself minister thereof (Colossians 1:24-27), a ministry so very distinct, definite and exclusive as to call for the great passage of Ephesians 5:23, cannot be merely an opening up to Old Testament saints of a calling, character and privileges which they possessed and of which they did not know! That is unthinkable. No one was "baptized" into that one Body until Pentecost. When that Body, the Church, is presented by Christ to Himself "a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing," it will be composed only of the saints from Pentecost to the rapture.
4. Are the marriage and the marriage supper distinct? It certainly appears so, for in Revelation 19:9, you have those that are "bidden" to the marriage supper of the Lamb. These guests most certainly do not constitute the Bride. No bride needs an invitation to her own wedding!
In John 3:29, John the Baptist says, "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, that standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice; this my joy therefore is made full." Now, here is a saint concerning whom the Lord Jesus testified: "Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater." And yet he is not of the Bride. Nevertheless, he is at the marriage supper, for he is the friend of the bridegroom-a place of singular honor! In divine, sovereign arrangement, he is not of the Bride.
5. Who will be the guests at the marriage supper? Evidently not all the saints; otherwise, why the special blessing pronounced (Revelation 19:9) upon those that are bidden to the marriage supper?
I. The Prime Importance of This Marriage Scene
1. This event is the great delight of God, to which He has looked forward from all ages. It is a fulfilment of our Lord's words of Matthew 22:1-46, "A certain king â€¦ who made a marriage feast for his son." The relationship of the Father and the Son is one of infinite, eternal tenderness. All marriage joys of earth were planned by God and given to mankind in love that they might understand somewhat of heaven's feeling at this marriage; for, "love is of God."
Let us seek to enter, if we may, into the contemplation of that delight of the Father-"from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Ephesians 3:14), when the time at last has come for His Son to "present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing"; for God the Father gave the Church to Christ. Read John 17:1-26 : "I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me." There is no meditation so exalting as that upon the relationship and affections of the Persons of the Godhead, one to another.
2. This marriage is the great anticipation of Christ. Paul tells us the story in Ephesians 5:1-33 -"Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself up for it." His love for the Church is immeasurable, unchanging, and infinite. It is in the very nature of the case, peculiar love. Christ wept over Jerusalem, for there was, and is, a special tenderness of our God toward those to whom He was the Messiah, and over whom He will be King on David's throne. He had "compassion on the multitude" as He does today. He gave Himself a ransom for all. But His love for His Bride, the Church, is, as it must be, and that, eternally, a peculiar, particular, husband's affection, and that without measure!
3. This heavenly wedding is the great prospect of all holy beings. (We mean, of course, of all those in heaven; for this marvelous scene is wholly heavenly, as is evident.)
From the time in Revelation 5:1-14, when the Lamb takes the seven-sealed book of the kingdom, His actions as well as His Person have been the constant jubilant delight of heaven (Revelation 5:8-14; Revelation 7:9-17; Revelation 11:15). But now the climax has been reached. In an earthly wedding, especially a wedding of the favorite one of the house, how all the relatives and also the servants of the household are stirred! Now Jehovah God appointed and directed the first wedding, in Genesis 2:1-25, and our Lord's first miracle at Cana of Galilee celebrated with "the best wine" another wedding. But Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 5:31-32 proclaims that every marriage sets forth anew the relationship of Christ and the Church! It is, therefore, the height of holy joy to every heavenly being, this marriage of the Lamb!
4. To bring in this festal day in heaven, Satan's earthly system was overthrown.
This marriage could not be celebrated while the harlot Babylon, the false church, who pretended infamously to be the Bride of Christ, remained unjudged.
a. For the heavenly wedding must have peace and joy unmixed-all gladness, unmingled with jealousy or conflict.
b. Judgment of that which pretended to be Christ's Bride was absolutely necessary for such peace and joy.
c. Just as the triumph of holiness over iniquity is necessary for public peace, so indignation must give place to satisfaction of heart for such an occasion as the heavenly wedding.
d. Participation in God's holiness and holy judgment must be prior and preliminary to participation in His day of love toward His Son, and to that Son's absolute delight. Therefore, we read concerning the judgment of Babylon: "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye saints, and ye apostles, and ye prophets; for God hath judged your judgment on her." The very beings who are now to enter into the festal joys of the marriage of the Lamb, whether they are guests or servants, are those who pronounced the judgment which God executed upon the shameless, earthly, Satanic bride-pretender. You remember that David's mighty wars had to precede Solomon's reign of peace and the Song of Songs of marriage joy.
5. Review the expressions of rapture with which all holy, heavenly beings celebrate this wedding.
First, "The voice of a great multitude saying, Hallelujah!" (Revelation 19:1). Then you have the four and twenty elders, and the four living creatures of verse 4, with "Amen, Hallelujah." Then comes the call from the throne: "Give praise to our God, all ye his servants, ye that fear him, the small and the great." Then follows the most mighty voice of heavenly acclamation in the whole Bible: "The voice of a great multitude" rises like "many waters" and "mighty thunders," saying, "Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reign-eth. Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready." Through age on age, the heavenly hosts have burned with ever-increasing expectancy toward this culminating day of divine joy!
II. Identifying the Church as the Bride of Christ
1. The Church is the Bride-"The wife"-as seen in:
a. Ephesians 5:23-32. This passage compels this belief. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul writes, "I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ."
b. The scene of Revelation 19:1-21 of the marriage of the Lamb is wholly heavenly; the Bride could not be, therefore, the earthly nation Israel.
c. Israel is both divorced and widowed. She will be Jehovah's restored wife in the thousand years; but not the heavenly Bride of Christ, the Song of Solomon 2:1-17. Fix in mind the difference between the marriage of the Lamb and the marriage supper of the Lamb. One is the occasion itself, the other the celebration by others than the Bride of the occasion. In the marriage, it is the wife; in the supper, the guests, that are in view.
III. The Marriage Bliss of the Lamb and His Wife
The bliss of the marriage of the Lamb is without limit. It is the Personal Delight of Him who created all things! No other love has the person-toward-person character of marital love. Parents love their children because they are their children. Brothers and sisters alike have a love of natural relationship. Friendships are based on common interests. But the love of bridegroom and bride is a delight each in the person of the other. This is why marital love is so often so wholly unexplainable! We say, "What did he see in her?" or, "Why did she choose him?" There is no answer but one-love. This love of Christ's for His Bride is the love that is "strong as death â€¦ a very flame of Jah," that "many waters cannot quench," of the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon 8:6-7 - margin).
Let us dwell upon the words, "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for it." He values His Bride as Himself. And upon her, He lavishes His personal affection, without limit, constantly, and for evermore! For we read in Revelation 21:1-27, after the thousand years have passed, that she is still "as a wife adorned for her husband."
Here then is a marital love, a tenderness, an appreciation, and a delight, that will grow for ever and for ever. Oh, wonder of wonders, that such a record can be written! Christ will never change in His affections! What must the ages hold for the wife of the lamb!
And the love of that Bride, the wife of the Lamb, will correspond to that of her husband-unceasing, increasing, for ever and for ever!
Have you known a husband and wife whose love deepened as the years went by, whose satisfaction with each other was such as to keep them together constantly, of their own mutual will; whom neither "society" nor "business," nor outside pleasures could separate? Let such a happy marital existence be a whisper to you of what Christ and the Church will enjoy more and yet more for evermore!
We no longer marvel at the effect upon John the Seer, as he views and tastes in the Spirit the ecstasy of this unutterable occasion. It is a sign of the overwhelming blessedness of the marriage of the Lamb and the festal supper thereafter, that this apostle, who had been on the transfiguration mountain; and had been filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; and had seen the glorious Son of God, and the heavenly throne itself; and all the wonders of the seals, the trumpets, and the vials; and who had heard the thunders of the heavenly hallelujahs-that he is now at last suddenly so enraptured by the bliss of the Church's coming marriage day that he falls to worship at the feet of the revealing angel!
IV. The Marriage Supper
In Psalms 45:1-5 we have a marvelous description of Christ's second coming as King. He is called "King of kings" in Revelation 19:1-21, and here in this Psalm, He is "the King"-"fairer than the children of men." His triumphant advent and victory over His enemies is portrayed, and His personal majesty and beauty make a glorious and thrilling picture. God the Father is, in verses 6 and 7, speaking to Christ (compare Hebrews 1:8-9), "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever â€¦ God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows." (Here the Bridegroom's companions are seen and then the Bridegroom's personal presence: "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia." Then the gladness and joy of the day to the Lord Himself: "Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made thee glad. Kings' daughters are among thy honorable women." (This is a scene, of course, after the Lord and His Bride, the Church, have come down to earth and inaugurated the millennial reign.)
"At thy right hand doth stand the queen in gold of Ophir."
And then this divine word to her in that glad day:
"Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house" (the things of the first creation are left behind forever!).
"So will the king desire thy beauty." ("The king," here, is Christ, the Husband.)
"For he is thy lord; and reverence thou him."
"And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift"-earthly gifts.
"The rich among the people (Israel) shall entreat thy favor"
-that is, of the Queen, the Church, in the New Jerusalem, her home (Revelation 21:1-27).
"The king's daughter within the palace is all glorious": that is, in the New Jerusalem which will be tabernacling above the earthly Jerusalem in the 1000 years; and afterward upon the new earth.
"She shall be led unto the king upon broidered work.
"The virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee.
"With gladness and rejoicing shall they be led:
"They shall enter into the king's palace."
The virgins, her companions, may be represented by the five wise virgins in Matthew 25:1-46. We see them again in the Song of Solomon, where the "daughters of Jerusalem" delight in the bride. But those "daughters" are not the bride. The beloved Shulamite, espoused by King Solomon, is the type of the Church as the Bride of Christ in that coming day (Song of Solomon 3:11; Song of Solomon 6:8-9). Here we find several companies: First, the Bride; next, the "guests" at the high festival in heaven; then, the "virgins" who enter the marriage feast of Matthew 25:10; again, those ready and looking for their Lord "when He shall return from the (heavenly) marriage feast," an evidently earthly scene. See the passage in Luke 12:35-40.
We know that some insist the five wise virgins represent the real saints, who are raptured up to the heavenly marriage feast; that the "foolish virgins" are not "known" by Christ, and so represent unsaved professors; and that this marriage feast the five wise enter (inasmuch as but one marriage feast seems to be described), may be the heavenly feast; and that the "ten virgins" parable is surely meant to instruct and warn all who profess to belong to Christ.
However, the festivities of our Lord's coming back to earth, described in Psalms 45:1-17 as following the Great Day of Wrath, certainly constitute a celebration as well as a prolongation of marriage bliss and joy, consequent upon the marriage of the King. The earthly and Jewish character of Matthew's gospel, together with the fact that the "ten virgins" scene is evidently connected with our Lord's return to earth and as "Son of man" (Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39; Matthew 24:44, and the opening word of Matthew 25:1-46, tote-"at that time"); considered in connection with the feast and the marriage of Revelation 19:1-21, which is not directly connected with Christ's coming, all make me believe that the "ten virgins" enter the celebration after the heavenly marriage and are thus connected with Psalms 45:1-17.
V. What Is the Bride's "Making Herself Ready"?
We read, "It was given unto her." The preparation for this marriage, "the supreme event for which the ages are waiting," is an absolute bestowal of divine grace. It is not, of course, salvation, since those who constitute the Bride were saved long before, while on earth. But it is a special granting from God to prepare herself for this great climax.
Again, to "array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." The King James Version falls utterly short of the meaning, by translating the Greek plural word dikaiomata, which means "righteous things" or "acts" as if it were dikaiosunee, "righteousness." These bridal saints were declared righteous in Christ when first they believed. The bridal array for the wedding is something absolutely different.
Garments are woven little by little; and thus were woven the materials for her, the Bride of Christ.
The Holy Spirit who indwelt the Church wrought what Paul calls in Philippians 1:11 "the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ"; or, as in Ephesians 2-10, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them."
Now, although for our service each one in the kingdom will "receive his own reward according to his own labor," yet all the works wrought through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit in and by the saints of the Bride will all belong alike to that holy Bride: for the whole Church is the Bride. Linen represents manifested righteousness, and this is "fine linen, bright and pure." It has that same "exceeding white and glistering" appearance as her Lord's raiment had on the transfiguration mount-of glory as well as purity.
In other words, the Church will appear, all of it, in raiment wholly befitting Christ, her glorious Bridegroom. She herself had no righteousness; Christ Himself is her righteousness and her standing. She is one with Him. But now all those blessed Spirit-led works, those "righteous acts" of the saints while on earth, are wrought to produce an array manifestly befitting the Bride, herself, without "spot, blemish or any such thing"-in this unspeakable scene!
VI. Exactly What Is the Marriage?
Is it not Christ's presenting "the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing," described so rapturously by Paul in Ephesians 5:1-33? We constantly read in Scripture (where alone we dare read here) of a man taking a wife unto himself. We get our attention, at an earthly wedding, fixed on the ceremony: forgetting that the real marriage is "this man taking unto him this woman" to be his wedded wife. The "ceremony" only proclaims and pronounces it; as the wedding feast only celebrates it. The perfect picture of Christ's taking the Church as His Bride is seen in Genesis 24, where Abraham would "make a marriage for his son." He sends Eliezer, his steward, to far Mesopotamia, to find and woo Rebekah by showing her the "things" of Abraham and Isaac (as the Holy Spirit shows us "the things of Christ"); and Rebekah says, "I will go." And then, the journey over, "Isaac took Rebekah; and she became his wife; and he loved her."
Lord's royal title lies in the covenant with David, the king, His father. The idea that nations will cease to exist does not seem to be borne out in Scripture. (See notes on Chapter 21.)
Chapter 16: The Great Day of Wrath
I. The Coming to Earth of Christ as KING OF KINGS
And I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True; and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. And his eyes a flame of fire, and upon his head many diadems; and he hath a name written which no one knoweth but he himself. And he is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure. And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty. And he hath on his garment and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
The passage before us, which includes Revelation 19:11-21; Revelation 20:1-3, may be divided as follows:
I. The coming to earth of Christ as King of Kings, and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16).
II. The gathering of the birds to the "supper of God" (Revelation 19:17-18).
III. The overthrow of Antichrist and his armies (Revelation 19:19-21).
IV. Satan bound for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3).
I never heard a sermon on the Great Day of Wrath-did you? Yet the writings of the prophets are full of that very day!
The coming of the Day of Wrath is, as we have found, at the end of the long-suffering of God. For centuries of human sin God had waited. Even after He proceeds to preliminary judgments, He goes with slow steps, as we have seen in the seals, trumpets, and vials. Under these divine strokes, the earth, like Pharaoh of old, hardens itself into utter blasphemy "against God who had the power over these plagues." Now comes the Great Day of God, The Almighty (Revelation 16:14).
We again solemnly urge every believer to study the Scriptures concerning this Great Day of Wrath. It is entirely separate and distinct from the last judgment of the Great White Throne. [Isaiah 2:12-21; Isaiah 8:6-10; Isaiah 24:1-23 entire; Isaiah 30:27-28, Isaiah 30:30; Isa_30:34 entire; Isaiah 63:1-6; Ezekiel 32:5-10; Amos 5:18-20; Obadiah 1:15-16; Micah 5:15; Nahum 1:2; Nahum 1:5-6; Zephaniah 1:7; Zephaniah 1:14-17; Haggai 2:6; Zechariah 14:1-5; Zechariah 14:16; Malachi 4:1-6; Malachi 1:1-14.
These are some of the passages of the prophets that look toward this terrible Day of the Lord, when He comes to tread His enemies under foot, according to the Father's appointment. Remove from your mind the thought of mercy in "that day of vengeance of our God." An evil and adulterous generation today hates the thought of judgment. Sin is sweet to them, therefore is the sword of Jehovah bitter. Like King Agag, its prophets and preachers simper to their scripture-ignorant hearers: "Surely the bitterness of death is past" (Samuel 15:32). But the next verse says, "And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before Jehovah in Gilgal." The false prophets of this hour-all the shallow "advanced" college professors, the wicked well-poisoning modernist horde of lying preachers, the dead denominationalists, content to sit in cushioned pews and pay a fawning puppet to preach inanities that never reach men's consciences: yes-all the false prophets who cry, "Peace, peace," when God warns of the swiftly coming Day of Wrath; arid all the Satan-drugged hosts of Christendom, content to hearken to them and lie down to sleep on the edge of the volcano of destruction: let them read such Scriptures as the above! But they will not. In the present day, Jeremiah 5:30-31 is realized before our eyes: "A wonderful and horrible thing is come to pass in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means: and my people love to have it so: AND WHAT WILL YE DO IN THE END THEREOF?"
The forbearance of God is at last at an end. To prolong it would be to connive at sin! Therefore, God's holy hatred toward sin is unloosed, in all its "fierceness." He will send His dear Son, whom men despised, with the direct commission of utter vengeance! It will be a "winepress"-the bodies of men will be crushed. It is the winepress of wrath: "Who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?" It is the winepress of the fierceness of wrath-the words are terrible! And finally, it is "the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty!" Ah, how feeble are words to portray the unloosed fury of that dreadful day!
I found a great nest of hornets one summer, built upon the cottage porch. I would have been glad to observe their workings from the room within. But no, they challenged my every approach. I had to go in and out of the house by a back door, and even then they were annoying and dangerous. There was no peace; there could be none. After several particularly grievous attacks by these deadly insects, I took a fishing pole, wrapped the tip of it round and round with several yards of muslin, which I tied carefully; then waited night-fall, when the hornets would all be in their nest I soaked the cloth thoroughly with kerosene and lit it. Then I held that flaming pole beneath that hornets' nest with relentless determination. The insects rushed out to burning and death. I left not one! This earth will have become a nest of hideous hornets against God! And God will clear them out! He will leave not one! Not one rebel will be spared (Matthew 13:41-42). And Christ will strike first at Armageddon.
Gathered about Jerusalem will be "all the nations," in a battle line of 200 miles, from Edom to Carmel (Revelation 14:20; Isaiah 63:1-6). And how our Lord will "strike through kings," and tread down their millions, in that day! (Psalms 110:5-6).]
1. The Day of Wrath is a particular and distinct event:
a. It is separated in time from the last judgment by a thousand years and a little more (Revelation 20:3; Revelation 20:7; Revelation 20:11).
b. Its object is entirely distinct and different from the Day of Judgment. The latter is to pronounce final and eternal destiny; "books" are opened; inquiries made; exact, judicial sentence pronounced. But the Day of Wrath, which precedes the thousand years' reign of Christ and His saints, is to get the earth cleared up for that thousand years' kingdom.
c. The last judgment comes on only after the present heavens and earth have passed away; but the Day of Wrath is an event on this earth; the embattled rebels being dealt with in Palestine!
2. The Day of Wrath has specific characteristics:
a. It is the pent-up divine outburst of indignation, of outraged holiness, majesty, love and truth! The earth will be filled with haters of God, blasphemers of His blessed Name, despisers of His Son. "Therefore saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies." His sword shall drink its fill (Isaiah 34:5). "I will also smite and I will cause my wrath to rest."
b. God will thus answer the prayers of all His saints for the coming of His kingdom on earth-that His will may be done here as in heaven, where everything is subject to Him. Their prayers finally bring this answer! All things opposing the establishment of that kingdom must be swept out of the way by the besom of destruction. Let it be understood that no "moral suasion" whatever is connected with the setting up of the kingdom of God upon this earth. It will be a putting of Christ's enemies under His feet by the stupendous instantaneous exercise of power in wrath. The human will must be put down. The Millennium, or thousand years' reign, which follows the Day of Wrath, will be an iron-rod rule. It will be dashing in pieces like a potter's vessel absolutely everything opposed to the will of God on this earth. Rebellion will not be allowed to lift its head. We must conceive of God as long-suffering, full of compassion, merciful, for wrath is His "strange" action. He postpones judgment for that reason; as we read in Isaiah 28:21 : "Jehovah will rise up â€¦ He will be wroth â€¦ that he may do his work, his strange work, and bring to pass his act, his strange act." God is love; that is His name; but His wrath-when mercy is no longer left, when iniquity has filled up its cup-will be all the more terrible. The old proverb, "Beware of the anger of a patient man" illustrates this.
c. God would have His wrath shown and His power made known. We know He will do thus forever upon the "vessels of wrath" described in Romans 9:22. Therefore, it should not surprise us that at the inauguration of the reign of His Son upon this earth, the fury and fierceness of the anger of God against the finally obdurate, hateful human rebels, who have allied themselves with God's old enemy, Satan, to oppose His dear Son, to keep Him out of His rights, to resist His taking the throne which He purchased with His Own Blood-will burst forth with unrestrained wrath toward His enemies, until they be utterly swept off the earth or entirely subdued.
d. The vast riddle of permitted evil will thus be resolved. Things will come to such a pass on this earth that only the intervention of God in wrath will satisfy the public conscience of holy beings. Christ and the heavenly armies are themselves the executors in this terrible day of visitation.
3. Mark the four names given to the Lamb on that day:
a. "Faithful and True." By this name He is seen as the Sitter on the white horse, coming from the open heaven. This name reminds us of His earthly life of faithfulness upon which God bases His exaltation-(Psalms 45:1-17 and Philippians 2:1-30). But He is coming now in righteousness, not in grace. Before, He said He came not to judge but to save the world; now, He comes as judge. This great day reveals Him "making war." Note this: later He will judge the nations, ruling them with an iron rod, but this is the war of the great day of God. The struggle will be brief; but remember it is not sessional judgment, but battle. His eyes are now "a flame of fire";-not merely "like a flame of fire" (as in Church days: Revelation 2:18). As over against the ten diadems of Antichrist-how briefly worn!-are "many diadems"-universal dominion-upon His head.
b. The Unknown Name. It is "written," but He alone knows it, for is He not God?
c. "The Word of God." Thus is He arrayed in the blood sprinkled garments of vengeance, according to the prophetic word. His retinue follow on white horses, in fine linen, white and pure. It will include all the angels (Matthew 25:31) and all His saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13). Whatsoever other principalities, powers, thrones, dominions and "glories" may attend, there will be infinitely above all, "his own glory, and the glory of the Father" (Luke 9:26)!
d. The "sharp sword" is His Word, His voice. [Mark the seven occurrences of the words: "voice of Jehovah" in Psalms 29:1-11, with the instantaneous might of the effect-for this Psalm is millennial-when "He shall rule them with a rod of iron." This is "the breath of His lips" that shall slay the wicked (Isaiah 11:4).]
e. Finally, the royal vesture, and the thigh of might,[ The same "mighty One of Jacob," who comes having "King of Kings" written upon His thigh, in that Great Day of Wrath, to establish His kingdom, touched Jacob's thigh on the night He wrestled with him (Genesis 32:1-32), taking away his carnal strength! "For by strength shall no man prevail"-"Power belongeth unto God!"] marked, "King of Kings and Lord of Lords." How all earthly royalty and power collapses and withers at this sight! We shall have occasion to trace further, in looking at the Millennium and its order, the might and glory of the King of Kings!
II. The Gathering of the Birds to the "Supper of God"
And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in midheaven, Come and be gathered together unto the great supper of God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of them that sit thereon, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, and small and great.
Flesh, flesh, flesh, flesh, flesh!-five times over! They chose to walk after the flesh spiritually and now their flesh must be devoured literally!
If you ask me how an angel could stand in the sun and speak to earth, I answer frankly, I do not know,-except that it will be done. I have often felt that men know little of astronomy, for all their vaunted discoveries. I am certain that they know little of the power of angels "the mighty in strength, that do God's commandments."
Now, behold the frightful feast on earth,-the birds feasting on those who despised the invitation on high to the marriage supper of the Lamb; both feasts described in this one chapter! What a lesson!
The balance maintained by God in creation is a marvel. "I have created the waster to destroy," God said. If insect or animal pests increase to the point of danger, other creatures are on hand to devour them, which in turn must themselves be devoured, if necessary for man's preservation.
When our Lord described, in Luke 17:34-35, the snatching away by the angels of those that "caused stumbling and practiced iniquity" in order that those "left" might share His kingdom (Matthew 13:41-43), the disciples inquired about this action, and the scene of it, in the words "Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Where the body is thither will the vultures also be gathered together" (Luke 17:37 R.V. margin).
Now we know that when the Lamb in wrath treads the battle line at Armageddon, absolutely millions upon millions pour out their blood in slaughter-even to the bridles of the horses!
This then, in Revelation 19:1-21, is a literal call to the birds which feed upon flesh, from all over the earth: and they come! It is a literal feast, awful though the scene may be. God's scavengers clean the land completely.
No interpretation is possible for this passage but the literal one: anything else is unbelievable, fantastic. And when we accept it as literal we see the necessity of it. God will not allow His Son's kingdom to begin with a plague, caused by the festering carcasses of slain multitudes.
III. The Overthrow of Antichrist and His Armies
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 with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshipped his image: they two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone; and the rest were killed with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, even the sword which came forth out of his mouth; and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
The description of the great supper by the birds precedes that of the slaughter of those upon whom they feed, as the closing words of this passage show.
What an array! "The Beast, (the Antichrist) and the kings of the earth" are "gathered together"-not only the Antichrist's allied ten kings, but, deluded by the three unclean spirits of Revelation 16:13-14 "the kings of the whole world" are gathered together "unto the war of the great day of God, the Almighty." We have already noted that their headquarters will be at the valley of Megiddo, called Armageddon, just southeast of Mt. Carmel in Palestine.
There is evidently on the part of these armies, a knowledge of Him against whom they are fighting. I believe that when the heaven is "opened" and the Lamb upon the white horse and His armies come forth, the scene is visible from this earth. It is a direct warfare of hell against heaven. Satan, cast with his millions of angels out of heaven in his war against Michael and his angels (chapter twelve), has brought up this false Christ with his false prophet and arrayed the millions of earth's mortals against Michael's Lord and all the hosts of heaven! What supreme folly! The dragon could not prevail even against Michael. Now he is trusting the puny arm of flesh to defy the whole host of heaven, led by the Son of God Himself! This is the incurable insanity of sin, which wars away in spite of defeat after defeat, against a holy God!
"The Beast was taken, and with him the false prophet." Against the forward march of the King of Kings there can be no struggle, such as there was when the dragon warred with Michael in chapter 12. How the beast shall be "taken" we are not told: the King gives the order, and immediately occurs the arrest of these hellish leaders, the two men from the lost regions who had been permitted to return to earth to be the accepted leaders of a Christ-rejecting humanity.
"They two" are cast alive into the lake of fire. The word "alive" here signifies existence in a human body. It is not only a state of conscious existence; but life in a human body. (The Greek word translated here "alive" occurs in Acts 1:3; Acts 4:41; Acts 10:42 ("quick"); 20:12; 25:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.) Our Lord's use of the word concerning His own life after resurrection is seen in Revelation 1:18 "I am alive for evermore"; in Revelation 20:4, it is used for coming to life in resurrection, "they lived, and reigned with Christ." (These had spirit-existence before.)
Furthermore, this lake of fire into which the Beast and the false prophet are cast (first mentioned here: compare Revelation 20:10; Revelation 20:14-15; Revelation 21:8) is the same as the Gehenna of which our Lord warned the Jews in Matthew, Mark and Luke and through the apostle James [See Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 18:9; Matthew 23:15; Matthew 23:33; Mark 9:43; Mark 9:45; Mark 9:47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6.]
This is proved by comparing Matthew 25:41 with Revelation 20:10.
It is of immeasurable importance just now, that believers should become established concerning the nature and eternity of future punishment; also as to the distinction of Sheol (Hades) from the lake of fire; and of the literal character of the latter. [J. N. Darby's tract on "Eternal Punishment"; F. W. Grant's book, "Facts and Theories as to a Future State"; Sir Robert Anderson's "Human Destiny" are excellent (although Mr. Grant yields to the common absurd cry that the fire of hell may represent something "more terrible." R. A. Torrey's words on hell, in "What the Bible Teaches," are true and searching. The best thing we have ever seen on the subject is the booklet, "Life and Death" by C. J. Baker, obtainable from Pickering and Inglis, London, England; and Moody Colportage Association, Chicago.
Elliott says, "The resurrection spoken of (here in Revelation 20:4) corresponds in every case to the death out of which it was a revival."
Bengel says, "The first resurrection is a corporeal one. Therefore, the dead â€˜became alive' in that part in which they were dead or mortal, consequently in their body."]
The fearful fact that these two men in human bodies (Mark 9:43-48) are found in the lake of fire after the thousand years (Revelation 20:10) and are to be tormented ceaselessly there forever, should sober all our thoughts. When sin becomes absolute, it will bring absolute punishment, and that eternal.
Note that the "rest" of this vast horde of millions gathered against Jerusalem are slain directly by Christ: "With the breath of his lips shall He slay the wicked" (Isaiah 11:4 -a kingdom passage).
And now, as the closing scene of the present order, behold the millions upon millions of flesh-eating birds clearing away the carcasses of the rebels against God and against Christ! One vulture or two feeding on some fallen creature is a hideous sight to our eyes. What, then, will be this awful line of corpses, of two hundred miles, covered with countless hosts of scavengers! Reflect anew on what sin brings! This scene will come to pass!
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Newell, William. "Commentary on Revelation 19". William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29