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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Revelation 19

 

 

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Verses 1-21

HOW DELIGHTFUL IS the contrast as we pass into chapter 19! As before remarked, a word that characterizes Revelation 17:1-18 and Revelation 18:1-24 is “earth.” The Christian faith, which is centred in a heavenly Christ, has been debased into an earthly religion—a scheme for producing an earthly paradise where men may have their fill of earthly joys. That kind of religion very well suits “the kings of the earth,” and “the inhabitants of the earth,” and “the great men of the earth,” and “the merchants of the earth;” though it may involve “abominations of the earth,” and lead to saints being

“slain upon the earth.” Now, “after these things,” says John, “I heard a great voice of much people in heaven.” Consequently we step into a scene of purity and praise. The characteristic word is “Alleluia.”

Let us note that while Babylon is being judged on earth there is “much people,” or, a “crowd,” in heaven. All the saints, who gathered to Christ at the rapture, are there. They understand the significance of what has taken place. They see that, God having dealt with the seat of earthly corruption; He will swiftly deal with earth’s violence. They ascribe the salvation to God, and give Him the glory, the honour and the power. However evil men may be in this day of salvation, it hardly becomes the saint to shout “Alleluia” if he sees judgment fall upon any. But here we are contemplating the day of judgment, and God’s acts of judgment are to be praised then as much as His acts of grace now.

Men’s judgments are never absolutely true and intrinsically righteous, for selfish elements can never be wholly excluded from them. What men’s judgments are not, God’s judgments are. The great whore had corrupted the earth, and heaven’s pure and holy judgment had fallen upon her. The smoke of it should rise up for ever and ever. A memorial this of God’s judgment against corruption, which should utter its warning voice to the ages of eternity.

Heavenly scenes again being before us, the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures appear once more. God is on the throne in judgment, and in the light of this they fall down in worship. They say “Amen” to His destruction of Babylon, and join in the “Alleluia” of praise. The praise and worship described in Revelation 5:1-14, started with the elders and the living creatures, and spread out to angels and all creation. Similarly here, their praise being uttered, a voice from the throne calls upon all the servants of God to follow suit, and the thunders of praise reverberate through heaven. God is manifestly on the throne in His omnipotence. God is equally on the throne today, but it is to us a matter of faith. We can sing,

“God is still on the throne,

And He will remember His own.” though the fact is not displayed at present as it will be then.

The false, harlot “church” being judged and destroyed on earth, the moment has come for the true church to be acknowledged as the “wife” of the Lamb in heaven. There is a peculiar majesty about the language of verses Revelation 19:6-7. A terrible drama of unspeakable corruption and violent judgment has passed before us, and far above the evil and turmoil the Lord God omnipotent has sat upon the throne. All things have served His might and nothing has diverted Him from His purpose. He has been working behind the scenes that the One, who here is called the Lamb, may see fully the fruit of the travail of His soul, and secure for Himself the “bride,” for whom He died. His purpose as to this is now accomplished, the saints are in glory, and moreover, “His wife hath made herself ready.”

Our meetness for glory is of course altogether the fruit of Divine workmanship; but there is also a readiness of an experimental and practical nature, and it is this which is mentioned here. On the day when the church is acknowledged as the wife of the Lamb, she will be arrayed in the “fine linen, clean and white,” which is interpreted for us as “the righteousnesses of the saints” (New Trans.). Every act of righteousness, wrought out in the lives of saints composing the church, will be woven, as it were into the robe, which will adorn the wife of the Lamb in that day.

In this there is immense encouragement for us today. If we look around us at that which professes to be the church, there is nothing but discouragement. Nor are we much relieved if we confine our attention to those we can recognize as true Christians—including ourselves. We might easily become obsessed with the delinquencies of saints—their worldliness, their follies, their errors. But all the time there has been the working of the Spirit of God in them and amongst them; there have been all those right things, often unnoticed by man but ever before the eye of God, and these things will be brought to light at the judgment seat of Christ, and be for the adorning of the church when her relationship to the Lamb is publicly acknowledged in heaven. If our eyes were as quick to discern the right as to detect the wrong, we should get the encouragement of this today.

The elders together with the living creatures appear for the last time in verse Revelation 19:4. They were first mentioned in Revelation 4:4. In Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22 Revelation we have the seven churches of Asia—local churches—and they are mentioned once more in Revelation 22:16. The word, “church,” is not used in the Revelation as referring to the whole body of Christians. Immediately we commence “the things which shall be hereafter,” in Revelation 4:1-11, the churches disappear, and the elders in heaven take their place. But in our chapter the church is acknowledged as the wife of the Lamb, and in the glory of this relationship the “elders” disappear. Henceforward it is “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” and only when at the end we are brought down again to the testimony to be rendered on earth, while we wait for the Lord, do the “churches” again appear. Observing these changes, we find confirmation of the thought that the elders represent the saints raptured to glory.

But besides the Lamb’s wife, there are “they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” These, we judge, are the glorified saints of Old Testament days. Though these were never baptized by the one Spirit into the one body, which is the church, they were raised at the same time as the saints composing the church, for they were Christ’s, purchased by His blood, and the Scripture says, “they that are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23). Risen and glorified, they enjoy a rich heavenly portion, far beyond the blessedness that may be enjoyed upon the millennial earth. They are called in their heavenly seats to participate in the joys of the marriage supper of the Lamb. In them too the Lamb will see some of the fruits of the travail of His soul. So great is the blessing they enjoy that John is particularly instructed to write it down. It is delightful to us to know how rich is the reward of the beloved servants of God of whom we get a glimpse in Hebrews 11:1-40, and of many less known saints like them.

In a small way we have surveyed and contemplated these things. We have seen the false and corrupt church system judged and destroyed. We have seen the true church acknowledged in heaven, and the once suffering Lamb thus finding His abundant recompense in having the object of His love with Himself for ever. We have heard all heaven filled with praise and worship like the voice of mighty thunderings. What has been the effect upon our spirits? Are we not all saying in our hearts—This is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! But is it not too good to be true? This was doubtless the effect upon John; so the angel assured him, “These are the true sayings of God.” We may rest assured that all is true, and to come to pass in its season.

Assured of its truth, John was moved to worship, though his worship was misplaced, since he fell at the feet of the angel who was showing him these things. Being a holy angel, he repudiated it instantly. Only the fallen angel, Satan, aspires to divine honours, indeed it was in aspiring to such that he fell. The angel acknowledged himself to be but a servant, or “bondman,” and therefore a fellow to John, and a fellow to all John’s brethren who had the testimony of Jesus. As originally created man belongs to an order in creation a little lower than the angels, yet both men and angels are but servants, and thus fellows in that respect. God alone is worthy of worship. The fact that our Lord Jesus accepted the worship of men is a tribute to His Deity.

In his closing words the angel gave the key that unlocks all the prophetic scriptures. It is, “the testimony of Jesus.” All Old Testament prophecy looked forward to the coming of Jesus—Jehovah, appearing as Saviour. All New Testament prophecy is the testimony of Jesus, coming in power and glory, that His work of redemption by blood may be crowned by His work of redemption in power. This key to prophecy is also the test of men’s prophetic systems. Any system which makes prophecy a testimony to Israel or to the British people, imagined to be Israel, or to millennial conditions on earth and schemes for attaining to them, stands condemned.

Everything in heaven has now reached a climax of Divine order, and nothing remains but to deal with the rebellious earth. So in verse Revelation 19:11 the heavens are opened for the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. We know it to be He, though symbolic language is still used. Judgment will be in absolute righteousness at last, and His name—Faithful and True—is the guarantee of this. At last the long period of man’s unrighteousness and sin is to reach its end.

All the symbols used speak of purity, of searching discernment, of all authority and power being vested in Him, yet of there being that in Him that defies all creature investigation. He has a name that no man knows but He Himself. In His manifestation all other power, all the might and majesty of the creature, shrivels into nothingness.

The Divine Names are full of significance. In His glorious appearing the Lord Jesus is presented to us with a fourfold Name. Seeing that He appears for judgment, His Name as “Faithful and True” stands first, securing the absolute rectitude of His every judgment act. Next comes the Name that no man knows but Himself. This Name, though unknown to us, signifies that there is in Him—true God and yet perfect Man—that which surpasses all creature apprehension. That being so, we are not surprised to read, “How unsearchable are His judgments” (Romans 11:33).

Thirdly, “His Name is called, The Word of God.” This is most significant. We read, “The Word was God... All things were made by Him” (John 1:1-3); so God has been expressed very really in creation. Again, in the same chapter, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” so that there might be a full declaration of the Father in grace and truth to us. But now neither creation nor redemption is involved but rather judgment. That in judging His Name should be called “The Word of God,” signifies that God will also be declared and made known in judgment—particularly in His righteousness and holiness, without a doubt. Thought is expressed in word. The Lord Jesus is the expression of the Divine thought in all three connections.

Lastly, His Name, “King of kings and Lord of lords,” is written on His vesture; that is, externally, where every eye may see it. It is also on His thigh; internally, in the place of His secret strength. It is hardly an eternal designation like the others, for it could hardly be assumed until kings and lords came into existence as created by Him. Still it will be of the first importance in His glorious appearing. Kings are earthly potentates, whereas “lords,” we think, would-cover heavenly as well as earthly dignitaries. In His appearing the Lord Jesus comes forth “to subdue all things unto Himself” (Philippians 3:21). The many crowns, of which verse Revelation 19:12 speaks, being kingly diadems, are in keeping with this.

We have before us, then, “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). In our passage we have “the armies which were in heaven,” representing the saints in a symbolic way. They ride upon white horses too, for the time is being ushered in when “the saints shall judge the world.” Their “fine linen” raiment, “white and clean,” identifies them with “the wife” of the Lamb, who was similarly adorned. The righteousnesses of the saints will be their adorning in the inside place when the marriage of the Lamb is celebrated. It will adorn them in the outside place also, when they are displayed to a wondering world with Christ in His glory.

It will be good at this point to read again Revelation 16:13-16. At Armageddon the kings of the earth and of the whole world are gathered together to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. The armies of the earth gather to battle, but the armies of heaven have not to inflict one stroke. The decisive blow proceeds out of the mouth of their glorious Leader, like the stroke of a sharp sword. No man can stand before the incisive word that proceeds from the mouth of the Word of God. By the might of His word all creation came into being. By the might of His word this warrior judgment will be inflicted. But redemption, which lies between these two, was not thus accomplished. No wonder-working word brought this to pass; nothing short of His own death and resurrection achieved it.

He was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood. But this, we judge, does not allude to the blood of His cross, but rather to what is predicted in Isaiah 63:1-6, where His work of judgment is foreseen. When reading in the synagogue at Nazareth, the Lord Jesus closed the book before reaching “the day of vengeance of our God.” In chapter 63 we have the words, “the day of vengeance is in Mine heart,” and blood—that of His foes—is sprinkled upon His garments, when He treads the winepress alone. This is a work of judgment, as we saw when considering the end of Revelation 16:1-21. The overthrow of men in their pride is to inaugurate a period when the nations are to be ruled with a rod of iron.

The eyes of John are now directed to an angel, who stands in the sun, a symbol setting forth supreme power. The clash between the might of proud men and the Christ, appearing in His glory, is about to take place. There is no doubt as to the issue. The call of the angel to the fowls of heaven declares it in no uncertain terms. There may be kings and captains and mighty men and horses, but all of them will be but food for vultures. We may adopt the words of one of our poets, and give them a meaning beyond his thoughts.

“The tumult and the shouting dies,

The captains and the kings depart.”

Human pride and violence rise to their climax and are brought low. The leaders, who looked so imposing, depart to their doom.

In vision John sees the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together under the beast for the express purpose of making war against God, as represented by the heavenly Christ and His army. That mortal men, even in combination, should for one moment contemplate fighting against God might have seemed to us incredible not so long ago. We have lived however to see a day when the marvellous discoveries and inventions of men have so inflated them and turned their heads that not a few are imbued with just that spirit. Some years ago a Russian revolutionary leader boasted that, having disposed of Tsar and earthly authorities, they would deal with the Lord God in due time. So far had he travelled on the mental road which belittles God and glorifies man.

Verse Revelation 19:19, then, gives us the climax of this spirit. Verses Revelation 19:20-21 indicate the completeness of its overthrow. The two men in whom it had found its fullest expression are singled out for condign punishment of a most extraordinary kind. In the “Babylon” of Revelation 17:1-18 and Revelation 18:1-24 full-blown corruption was seen. In the beast, described in Revelation 13:1-18, violence comes to a head. The “times of the Gentiles” finish with him, even as they began with the tyrant, Nebuchadnezzar. The false prophet we identify with the one our Lord predicted, saying, “I am come in My Father’s Name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye shall receive” (John 5:43). He is the false Messiah, the “idol” or “worthless” shepherd, who will be raised up “in the land,” of whom Zechariah 11:15-17 speaks. An apostate Jew himself, he will be eagerly received by apostate Jews. On the political plane he will find it a paying proposition to play a secondary part to the great Gentile monarch, following the example of the Herodians, of whom we read in the Gospels.

Both these men are seized by the irresistible power of the Lord. No future day of judgment awaits them. Taken red-handed as leaders of the most violent, God-defying enterprise ever undertaken, they do not first pass into death—the dissolution of soul and body—but are flung direct into the burning lake. The language here, as throughout the book, is symbolic, no doubt, but it is terribly expressive of God’s judgment in its searching power. The very word translated “brimstone,” has in it the thought of “divine fire.” In Old Testament history two men were taken to heaven without passing through death. Here two men pass alive into hot damnation.

The mighty hosts, that follow the two, are men that have received the mark of the beast and supported his enormous wickedness. They do not immediately share his fate. They die, smitten by the all-conquering word of Him who is the Word of God, that they may await their judgment in the great day of which the next chapter speaks. Their cases will be tried in solemn session. The sin of the two leaders is so outrageous and open that summary judgment can righteously be inflicted. The principle of it is seen in 1 Timothy 5:24.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Revelation 19:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/revelation-19.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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