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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 19

 

 


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Verses 1-3

‘After these things I heard as it were a great sound of a vast crowd in Heaven, saying, “Halleluyah. The salvation and glory and power are of our God, for true and righteous are his judgments, for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged the blood of his servants at her hand”. And a second time they say “Halleluyah”.’

These appear to be the voices of the heavenly beings for they are impersonal, ‘the blood of his servants’ rather than ‘our blood’. They declare the rightness and glory of what God has done. He has passed judgment on the great prostitute, the defiled woman, Babylon the Great. The rise of Babel has been reversed, the centres of sin have been destroyed, the great prostitute is dead, the martyrdoms of His servants have been avenged, the time for mercy is past, judgment has been exacted on her, the time for final judgment has come.

The fall of Great Babylon, symbol of corruption and sexual misbehaviour and greed, will shortly be followed by the manifestation of the Bride in her glory (Revelation 19:7) and of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2), home of honour, purity and unselfish love. They have battled through the ages, the depraved scarlet woman against the pure Bride, Great Babylon against the heavenly Jerusalem, the world against the people of God, and now the Bride and the new Jerusalem have triumphed.

That these are the voices of heavenly beings is confirmed by the fact that ‘great voices’ are always heavenly (Revelation 1:10; Revelation 11:12; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 16:1; Revelation 16:17). But then in contrast in Revelation 19:5 ‘you His servants’, referring back to the reference to His servants in Revelation 19:2, are also commanded to give praise, and do so in Revelation 19:6, as ‘the voice of a great multitude’ (compare Revelation 7:9) and ‘the voice of many waters’ (compare Revelation 14:2) and ‘the voice of mighty thunders’ (compare Revelation 14:2). These phrases are previously used of the redeemed. Thus here the voices are of the mighty company of the redeemed. Note the contrast of ‘great sound of a vast crowd’ (‘great voice of a great multitude’) (Revelation 19:1) with ‘voice of a great multitude’ (Revelation 19:6). The heavenly cry is a ‘great voice’ while the earthly is a ‘voice’.

The worship of the heavenly beings is threefold, (‘salvation, and glory and power’), signifying its completeness, as in Revelation 4:9, ‘glory, honour and thanks’ (the living creatures) and Revelation 4:11, ‘the glory and the honour and the power’ (the twenty four elders), and in contrast with Revelation 5:12 and Revelation 7:12 (sevenfold from the angels) and Revelation 5:13 (fourfold from the creatures of earth). It almost parallels Revelation 4:11 except that ‘salvation’ replaces ‘honour’. In Revelation 4:9; Revelation 4:11 ‘glory’ came first, for all eyes were on the One on the throne, but here ‘salvation’ comes first because all eyes are on the fact that the final deliverance is here. The threefoldness therefore also serves to confirm that the great multitude of Revelation 19:1 includes the living creatures and the elders.

This is the first use of the term ‘hallel-u-yah’ (‘praise you Yahweh’) in the New Testament. It is used twenty four times in the psalms. Its first use there parallels its use here, ‘let sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, Oh my soul. Halleluyah’ (Psalms 104:35). Here the cry arises because sinners have been consumed out of the earth in the form of the demise of Babylon the Great. Justice has been obtained and God’s servants have been avenged. Note that here it is then repeated, something which is stressed. And again it is connected with the fall of Babylon the Great. Her smoke goes up for ever and ever’.


Verses 1-10

The Seventh Vision - The Coming of Christ, the Last Battle, the Final Judgment (Revelation 19:1 to Revelation 20:15).

The Scarlet Woman and the Pure Bride (Revelation 19:1-10).

This scene parallels, although more briefly, the scenes in chapters 4 & 5, with the participation in worship and praise of living creatures, elders and the heavenly multitude. In chapters 4 & 5 they worshipped as the seals were being prepared for opening, in order to introduce God’s working out of salvation history. Here they worship because the seals have now been carried into effect. There is also a deliberate contrast between the demise of the scarlet woman and the marriage of the bride. That which represented all that was unholy has been destroyed, that which has been made holy is co-joined to the Lamb.


Verse 3-4

‘And her smoke goes up for ever and ever, and the twenty four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God who sits on the throne, saying, “Amen. Halleluyah”.’

And her smoke goes up for ever and ever.’ This refers to the demise of Babylon the Great (Revelation 19:2). That too contributes to the worship of God, as it testifies to His eternal judgment. It is open to question whether the phrase should be connected to the Haleluyah of the living creatures, or to the Halleluyah of the twenty four elders.

The only other time when the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down together and worshipped was in Revelation 5:8, where they honoured the Lamb. Note the reverse order. There the living creatures led the way, for they celebrated the opening of the seals, stressing the holiness of God, for they are guardians of His holiness.. Here the twenty four elders lead the way for they represent the people of God and the celebration is of the deliverance of God’s people and the destruction of their enemies.

‘Amen, Halleluyah.’ The promises and purposes of the Amen are now in process of final fulfilment (see on Revelation 3:14; also Revelation 1:6-7; 1 Corinthians 1:20; see also Isaiah 65:16 in the Hebrew; Psalms 106:48). And God is to be praised. The threefold use of Halleluyah by the heavenly beings represents the completeness of their praise.

‘Her smoke goes up for ever and ever.’ Great Babylon’s judgment is everlasting. There can be no revival of her power. The symbols of judgment are regularly described as everlasting for they are a guarantee of the finality of the judgment and of its completeness (see Isaiah 34:10; Revelation 14:11 and compare Isaiah 66:24). The judgment of God is unquenchable. We can also compare the end of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:28). These words are introduced as a contrast to the marriage of the Bride.


Verses 5-7

‘And a voice came out from the throne, saying, “Give praise to God, all you his servants (Psalms 113:1; Psalms 134:1), you who fear him, the small and the great (Psalms 115:13)”. And I heard as it were the voice of a vast crowd, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, “Halleluyah, for the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be abundantly glad, and let us give the glory to him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready.’

The voice from the throne is the voice of one of the living creatures ever mindful of the need for all to recognise the holiness of God, and to give praise to Him. And his cry is to ‘all you His servants’. By comparison with Revelation 19:2 where ‘the blood of His servants’ is mentioned, this means the redeemed people of God. This is confirmed by the descriptions used which have previously referred to the people of God (Revelation 7:9; Revelation 14:2).

On the other hand ‘the Bride’ is mentioned in the third person, which might be seen as suggesting that the words are those of heavenly beings, for they are our ‘fellow-servants’ (Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:9). But it is not uncommon in such chants and responses for people to speak of themselves in the third person. Thus ‘the Bride has made herself ready’ can be seen as such a response, the people of God confirming that they are now ready, having prepared themselves for the moment they have awaited through the ages.

Alternately the idea may be that the whole of Heaven responds in a thunderous voice, with the people of God joining in, as they consider what all history has waited for, the marriage of the Lamb and His bride, celebrating the finalising of the Reign of God. The Kingly Rule of God had reached its fruition. The picture is vivid as it depicts the excitement about the wedding and the desire to see the beautiful bride.

‘The Bride has made herself ready’. It has taken many long centuries but at last the bride is presented to Christ, holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). The picture of Christ as the bridegroom is regular in the Gospels (Matthew 9:15; Matthew 25:1; Matthew 25:5-6; Matthew 25:10; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35; John 3:29). For the church as the bride see 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27. For the true Israel as God’s bride see Hosea 2:19-20; Isaiah 54:1-8; and Ezekiel 16:8-14 where God Himself prepares the bride. Then all focus was on the bridegroom but now focus can be turned on the bride for she has been fully prepared for this day. The bride is, of course, righteous Israel, comprising the totality of God’s resurrected people of the Old and New Testaments. (See on Revelation 7:4-8).

But it is noteworthy here that emphasis is placed on the bride having made herself ready. God is at work in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure, but we in our turn are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13). So in contrast with the scarlet woman the bride is revealed by the path she chose, revealed by her righteous behaviour. She had responded to the call of the Bridegroom, and that had resulted in a life transformed which had set her apart from the people who dwell on earth. Those who have not prepared themselves are not the bride.


Verse 8

‘And it was given to her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure. For the fine linen is the righteous behaviour of God’s people.’

It is the privilege of God’s people that they can array themselves in beauty, because God has made them beautiful. We must ever be mindful that we are preparing ourselves to be the bride of Christ. Elsewhere the emphasis is rightly on Christ’s provision for His bride (Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:14) but here all emphasis is on the bride’s own preparations. She loves the Bridegroom and has striven to make herself pleasing in His eyes. Although of course an important part of her preparation lay in ‘making them (her clothes) white in the blood of the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:14).


Verse 9

‘And he says to me, “These are the true words of God”.’

The angel emphasises the truth of all that John has seen. The seven visions have been given and now they receive heavenly ratification. This is introduced now so that no attention is taken from the final Coming of the Word of God (Revelation 19:11 on).


Verse 10

‘For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’

The focus is to be on Jesus. He is the One Who sums up all that prophecy in both Old and New Testaments have spoken about. He is the One to Whom the Spirit of prophecy points. Therefore John, and we, must look only to Him.


Verses 11-13

‘And I saw Heaven opened and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it called Faithful and True, and he judges and makes war in righteousness. And his eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written which no one knows but himself. And he is clothed in a garment sprinkled with blood, and his name is called The Word of God.’

In Revelation 4:1 a door was opened in Heaven for John to have access to heavenly things but now the Heaven itself is opened and the world sees the glory of Christ. In the words of Revelation 1:7, ‘behold He comes with the clouds and every eye will see Him’.

Jesus elsewhere connects this moment with the rapture of the people of God, ‘they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and he will send out his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other’ (Matthew 24:30-31). They are transformed in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52). They meet the Lord ‘in the air’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17). And He then proceeds onward to judge the world. The judgment of the nations in Matthew 25:31-46 pictures this in another way. All such descriptions are using earthly illustrations to depict heavenly realities, the taking of His people to be with Himself and the final judgment of mankind and of Satan.

‘A white horse.’ Whiteness represents righteousness. The horse here is in contrast with the white horse of Revelation 6:2 where it represented a false profession of righteousness and messiahship by the one who went out. This rider has a sharp two-edged sword coming from His mouth, that rider had a bow, this rider has many diadems, that one had a single crown, this rider’s aim is to judge and fight wickedness, He ‘makes war’ in righteousness, that rider’s aim was only to conquer. This is the true Messiah, that one represented the false. The only thing in common is the white horse.

‘Called faithful and true.’ The combination, taken from Revelation 3:14 (which see - compare Revelation 1:5 for faithful and Revelation 3:7 for true), emphasises truth against falsehood and reliability against unfaithfulness. He is the supreme One in whose mouth is no lie (Revelation 14:5), the One Who can be fully trusted both for rightness of teaching and honesty of purpose. He is the truth (John 14:6), very much in contrast with the ‘father of lies’ (John 8:11). In both the earlier references to ‘faithful’ it connects with ‘witness’ and we must therefore see here also that He Who comes was the One Who Himself suffered unto death, the faithful Witness.

‘He judges and makes war in righteousness.’ Again we have the contrast with others who ‘make war’ but in their case it was not in righteousness. He is a new visible authority on the scene of earth and the contrast of what He is, is emphatically brought out. This is expanded in v. 15 where it is noted that He fights with a sharp sword that comes from His mouth (compare Revelation 1:16). He does not fight with weapons but with His eyes of fire and with His word of power, for none can resist Him. This brings out again that the warfare which is such a common feature of Revelation is largely a war of ‘words’, of truth against falsehood, of right against wrong, although those whose power is less, often have to enforce them by physical means.

‘His eyes are as a flame of fire’ (compare Revelation 1:14; Revelation 2:18). Fire reveals the ‘otherness’ and holiness of God (Exodus 19:18; Exodus 24:17; Ezekiel 1:27; Hebrews 12:29), it reveals the purity and effectiveness of His judgments (Deuteronomy 4:24; Isaiah 66:15-16; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 12:29), it tests for and removes impurities (Zechariah 13:9). His fire burns up His adversaries in the context of righteousness and justice (Psalms 97:3). So He is the Holy One, tearing away the refuge of lies (Isaiah 28:17), revealing falsehood, searching the heart and mind, and in the end, where He cannot save, judging and destroying.

‘And on his head are many diadems.’ He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16) and thus His crowns are numberless. This contrasts with the seven heads and the ten horns of Satan whose power and jurisdiction is limited. It contrasts even more with earthly rulers who have even fewer crowns and are even more limited.

‘And he has a name written which no one knows but himself.’ We can compare the secret name given to the overcomer (Revelation 2:17) and His new name (Revelation 3:12). The ‘name’ in the Old Testament revealed the personality and/or importance of the bearer. Thus the fact that He has an unrevealed name declares that He is not yet fully known because such knowledge awaits the future. He has yet more wonders in store for His people. It is the prerogative of the overcomer that he will come to know that new name, to fully know Christ in all the wonder of His being. It may, however, be that we are to see that ‘hidden’ name as ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’, the name written on His clothes and on His thigh (Revelation 19:16), previously hidden but now revealed in all its fullness at His coming (compare Philippians 2:11).

‘And he is clothed in a garment dipped (some authorities have ‘sprinkled’) in blood.’ In Isaiah 63, when God carries out His judgment on Edom He appears as a figure ‘glorious in his apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength’ (Isaiah 63:1). He is One Who is pictured as having trodden the winepress of His wrath with the result that His clothes are sprinkled with men’s blood (Isaiah 63:3). Thus the picture here is primarily one of judgment. His clothes are blood sprinkled because He is coming as the judge, carrying out the judgments of God.

Yet His clothes appear to have been ‘dipped in blood’ even before He comes, and He has come directly from Heaven. There is no suggestion anywhere of previous conflict. And the only blood in Heaven is that of the slain Lamb. This would therefore suggest that we are to see here One Who Himself has been in the winepress of God’s wrath as He bore the sins of others. He is the Lamb as it had been slain (Revelation 5:6), with blood sprinkled on its fleece. He Who carries out the judgments of God has Himself experienced that judgment, for He has borne it on behalf of the redeemed. We can compare how the coat of Joseph was dipped in blood to signify his death (in that case falsely) (Genesis 37:31). Thus the blood speaks both of redemption and of judgment.

‘And His name is called the Word of God.’ This is one of John’s favourite names for Christ. He is the Word Who was with God before time began, and indeed was Himself of the nature of Godhood (John 1:1); He is the Word through Whom God created the world (John 1:3 compare Hebrews 1:1-3); He is the Word as the revelation of God to man and giver of life (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1). But He is also the Word made flesh (John 1:14). Now He comes as God’s Word in judgment. By Him, the perfect man, will all men be tested and measured, and by Him those who rejected Him as the Word will be condemned. He comes not only as the Creator God, and the God of revelation and judgment, but also as perfect Man, as God’s revelation of Himself to man.


Verses 11-21

The Great Last Battle (Revelation 19:11-21).

The purpose behind this narrative is to exalt Him Who is the Word of God and to demonstrate the total defeat of the forces of evil. As with much in Revelation it is not to be taken literally. But the scene is magnificent. The last judgment is described in many ways. This is but one of them. It is depicted in terms of vivid climactic events (Revelation 6:12-17); it is depicted as a huge earthquake and great hail (Revelation 11:19; Revelation 16:18-21); it is depicted in terms of the reaping of harvest, intermingled with the idea of a great battle (Revelation 14:14-20); it is depicted as a great white throne of judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). Here it is depicted in terms of a great battlefield.


Verse 12

‘And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and the books were opened, and another book was opened which is the book of life. And the dead were judged out of the things that were written in the books, according to their works.’

All who die must give account, as indeed must those who are alive at His coming. But it is the dead that are in mind here for the lesson is that death is not the end. After death comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). John has especially in mind the dead described throughout the book (Revelation 6:4; Revelation 6:8; Revelation 9:15; Revelation 9:18; Revelation 11:13; Revelation 13:15; Revelation 19:21). Reference to ‘the dead’ in Revelation is twofold. There are the dead who die in the Lord and for them death is the gateway to wondrous things (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 14:13), but there are also the dead who die in their sins and for them there is only hopelessness (Revelation 11:18). Here both are in mind for all come under God’s scrutiny.

‘The books were opened.’ Had John lived today there would have been a computer to consult. The point is not that there are books in Heaven but that in one way or another all men’s doings to the last detail are known to God. ‘All things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do’ (Hebrews 4:13). There is nowhere to hide. God can call up the whole of the past in an instant.

But it signifies more than that for it signifies the righteousness of the judgment. The judgment is based on facts, pure and unadulterated facts. No one will demur or deny their guilt, for the facts will be there before them The stress is on the fact that God can produce a complete record (although He does not actually need to consult books. It is men who need to do that) and complete proof of guilt presented to them in a way that they cannot dispute. Every charge will be genuine and will stick.

There is also the book of life. And how important that is. It records the names of those who are written in Heaven (Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23), those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8). This will be the final proof of acceptance or rejection, based on whether men have responded to the call of God’s grace and found cleansing and justification in His name through believing in Jesus Christ. When those who are His are called forward they advance without fear, for their sins have been laid on another, the slain Lamb Who is now the Judge, and they know that they are free from sin and clothed in His righteousness because of what He has done on their behalf,.


Verse 14

‘And the armies which are in Heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure.’

In the Old Testament one of the names of God was ‘the Lord of Hosts’. Here we may well therefore see His ‘hosts’. Angels are regularly seen as clad in white and He Himself told us that He would come with the angels when He comes to judge (Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31). This could therefore be intended simply to refer to Christ coming with His angels, an event He regularly described (Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; compare Matthew 13:41; Matthew 13:49; Matthew 24:31; see also Revelation 12:7).

In Revelation 19:8 we have a similar description, that of His church the Bride, ‘dressed in fine linen, bright and pure’. But there the clothing is not white for the bride is dressed in her finery, and white for a bride was a later innovation. On the other hand she would, of course, appear before God dressed in white (Revelation 7:14). And certainly in 1 Thessalonians 4:14 there is the suggestion that God will bring His resurrected people ‘with Him’, and that He will meet those who are ‘raptured’ in the air. Thus it may well be that we are to see in His following both angels and redeemed men.

But what is being stressed is the total purity of these followers, whether men or angels. There is no suggestion of their being armed. They come as spectators and to carry out various functions in the mopping up after the defeat. They will not be required to fight. For all their posturing the enemy are a defeated foe.


Verse 15

‘And out of his mouth proceeds a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations. And he will rule them with a rod of iron, and he treads the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God Almighty.’

The sword here is ‘romphaia’ as in Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:12; Revelation 2:16; Revelation 6:8. Only elsewhere used in Luke 2:35. But this last reference shows that the difference between this and machaira is not to be pressed. If anything it means a longer, more powerful sword.

In Revelation 1:16 the sword is a sharp two-edged sword. It cuts both ways and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart (see Hebrews 4:11 where it is connected with the word of God, compare also Ephesians 6:17 where the sword (machaira) of the Spirit is the word of God). Nothing can evade it. That it comes from His mouth stresses firmly that it is not to be taken literally but refers to His powerful word (Hebrews 1:3). With it He will smite the nations, bringing them into judgment and meting out to them their fate. He will smite the earth with the rod of His mouth and by the breath of His lips He will slay the Wicked One (Isaiah 11:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8).

‘He will rule (or judge, or destroy) them with a rod of iron.’ The rod of iron (compare Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5), when defined, is a rod of punishment and refers to expressing rule in judgment, not to a continual reign. In Isaiah 11:4 His words are such a rod. Psalms 2:9 describes Him as breaking with a rod of iron and dashing in pieces like a potter’s vessel and Revelation 2:27 also has this in mind. He expresses His Rule by judgment. The word translated ‘rule’ here is regularly used in LXX (the Greek Old Testament) for ‘destroy’, which suggests we should translate in that way here. This meaning is confirmed by the next words, ‘He treads the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God Almighty’. The Bible never tries to hide from the fact of God’s wrath. It is never uncontrolled but always a determined attitude taken towards sin and sinners. It is never excessive. He gives only what they have earned and deserve.


Verse 16

‘And he has on his garment and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.’

We may read ‘on his garment, even on his thigh’ showing precisely where the name is portrayed. It is necessarily here, for to be on hand or forehead would be to mark Him as one of the redeemed, and He is the Redeemer. The name may be on the thigh because that is where oaths were once confirmed (Genesis 24:2; Genesis 24:9), thus emphasising His faithfulness to His covenant with His own. Alternately it may be because the sword was girded there (Psalms 45:3; Song of Solomon 3:8) and His name is another sword. His name speaks for itself. He is Lord of all and sovereign over all creation.


Verse 17-18

‘And I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice saying to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, “Come and be gathered together to the great feast of God, that you might eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and of the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, and small and great”.’

Clearly the sight of this angel temporarily ‘blinded’ John for he was standing in the brightness of the sun. And the angel’s cry goes out to the birds of the air to witness the final judgment of God. A similar cry to this goes out in Ezekiel 39:17-20, compare Ezekiel 39:4. Ezekiel’s vivid picture of the last battle ends with the full restoration of Israel to God and is followed in the succeeding chapters by the description of the descent of the heavenly temple on an unknown high mountain in Israel. It expressed a truth which was beyond his understanding, that that restoration would take place in Heaven, from where the heavenly temple had come, and where the heavenly temple would be central. A future life in resurrection was still something only primitively grasped at that time. That is why the prophets mainly expressed their hopes of God’s triumph in earthly terms.

This cry to the vultures and scavenger birds is a vivid way of describing the awfulness of the judgment and its universal application. It is not to be applied literally. What the angel is really doing is declaring the certainty of total defeat for the forces of evil. (There may be a last battle, but if so it will be between earthly forces as they face the final judgments of God. God does not need to fight with men).


Verse 19

‘And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse and against his army.’

There is no doubt about the aim of the forces of evil. Possibly in some way they still believe that they can prevent the coming of Christ and His final judgment. But probably it is just to indicate their defiance. There is no mention of an actual battle for their Enemy is irresistible. They are just floundering in their folly.

In Revelation 20:9 we are informed how these forces of evil warred against Him Who sat on the horse and against His army. They did it by attacking His people on earth. ‘They went up over the breadth of the earth, and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city’. In other words they turned their vicious attentions on His people (Revelation 12:17). The camp of the saints has in mind God’s people worldwide, depicted as though they were all together in one place. They are in tents because they are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. The beloved city (Psalms 78:68; Psalms 87:2) represents the true, believing Israel who are of course a part of the people of God (compare Revelation 11:1-12; Revelation 12:13; also Revelation 21:12-14).


Verse 20

‘And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet who wrought the signs in his sight, by which he had deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those that worshipped his image. They two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone.’

The deceivers are taken and destroyed. No mention is made of a battle (unless it is between two earthly armies) for there is no battle. If anything it is a rout. They are simply taken and can offer no resistance. For their false signs see Revelation 16:13-14. But those false signs will be of no use to them now. As we have seen earlier the beast and the false prophet are especially satanically inspired. Indeed the beast came out of the abyss.

They are not ordinary men, for ordinary men are but their tools. In so far as they are ‘men’ at all, for they represent ideas and systems, it is because they have taken possession of human beings. Those human beings will die as do the others, but the evil spirits that possess them face torment day and night for ever and ever (Revelation 20:10). What its actual form will take we cannot know, for the ‘fire’ is a spiritual fire for spiritual beings and incomprehensible to human beings. (Fire in Revelation rarely actually means literal fire, but rather spiritual forces of one kind or another). The contrast between their fate and the fate of human beings is stressed. Their beings could not die nor could the birds eat them. In contrast the humans did die and the birds ate them.


Verse 21

‘And the remainder were killed with the sword of him who sat on the horse, even the sword which came out of his mouth, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.’

Those who are human die a shameful death, pictured in terms of being eaten by birds. They do not share the fate of the beast and the false prophet. We are told that they are slain by the sword that came out of the mouth of Him Who sat on the horse. But that sword is spiritual and connected with His words of power. Thus the actual method of their deaths is unknown to us. They are slain by His judgments.

In the Old Testament the last battle is always between earthly forces, and it may well be that even to the end, in the face of God’s judgments, men behave as they have always done and attack each other and do battle, and it may be that their deaths to a large extent result from those battles. But that is not this ‘battle’, for this was no battle at all. It was a vivid description of Jesus Christ arriving to judge the earth and deal finally with Satan and his emissaries. We are to gather the ultimate ideas and not concentrate on the literal descriptions.

It is significant in all this that there is no mention of Satan, even though we might have expected it. Indeed, there has only been one mention of him since chapter 12 (in Revelation 16:13 where he was making his last attempt to deceive mankind). Unlike in Revelation 12:7-9 he is not directly involved in this ‘battle’. It is left to his minions. The foes of the people of God since Revelation 13:1 have been the Beasts representing empires, and Babylon the Great representing idolatry and commercialism The description of Satan’s end will now follow in a new vision, and in it we learn why Satan has been kept out of the way. He has been under close guard.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 19:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/revelation-19.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, August 10th, 2020
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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