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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Revelation 19

 

 


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Verses 1-3

Revelation 19:1-3. And after these things — After this affecting representation of the certain destruction of Babylon, as the seat of the antichristian kingdom; I heard a great voice of much people in heaven — A great chorus, who, with united voices, began to praise God on the occasion, saying, Alleluia — That is, Praise ye Jehovah, or, He that is, and was, and is to come; a title which, of all others, is the most peculiar to the everlasting God. Salvation, glory, honour, and power be ascribed unto the Lord our God — To whom only they belong. The salvation spoken of is opposed to the destruction which the great whore had brought upon the earth: his power and his glory appear from the judgment executed on her, and from the setting up of his kingdom to endure through all ages. For true and righteous are his judgments — His judgments show him to be righteous, true, and faithful; for he hath judged the great whore — His punishment of mystical Babylon, for her pride, superstition, and idolatry, declares his righteousness; and his truth and faithfulness to his promises are illustriously manifested in his avenging the blood of his servants on her, who so cruelly put them to death for their faith in his word and constancy in his religion. And again they said, Alleluia — With their hearts inflamed with gratitude and joy. And her smoke rose up αναβαινει, rises up, for they seem to be the words of the same heavenly chorus which praised in the preceding language. As if they had said, Let our God be glorified, who in this last judgment hath put an end to this persecuting power for ever. It shall not henceforth, as formerly, rise up again to afflict his saints. This city shall lie waste from generation to generation, never to be restored. Mr. Daubuz observes: “The two alleluias in this part of the hymn correspond to the messages of the two angels, one of which proclaims the fall of Babylon, and the other shows its destruction to be perpetual.” The expression, her smoke rose up, &c., intimated that Rome should be made as signal a monument of divine vengeance as Sodom and Gomorrah had been. It is taken from Isaiah 34:9-10, where by Edom the Jews understand Rome; and in the genuine editions of the Chaldee paraphrase it is, And the rivers of Rome shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch: — it shall not be quenched night nor day: the smoke shall go up for ever. And this tradition of the rabbins may receive some confirmation from this verse. Indeed, such an event must appear the more probable, when we consider that the adjacent countries are known to be of a sulphurous and bituminous soil: and that even at Rome there have been eruptions of subterraneous fire, which have consumed several buildings, according to Dion, (lib. 66.,) on one occasion, even a considerable part of Rome; so that the fuel seems to be prepared, and to wait only for the breath of the Lord to kindle it.


Verse 4-5

Revelation 19:4-5. The four and twenty elders and the four living creatures — After the preceding chorus had ended their hymn, the representatives of the Jewish and Christian Churches prostrated themselves before Jehovah, saying, Amen — So be it: let God be ever praised for the displays now made of his infinite perfections. And a voice came out of the throne — From the glory, or the oracle; this shows the great authority and solemnity with which this order was published; saying, Praise our God, &c. — The occasion and matter of this song of praise seem to be somewhat different from those of the foregoing hymn: that hymn was to celebrate the praises of God principally on account of his faithfulness and justice manifested in the punishment of a persecuting power, that had long oppressed Christ’s faithful servants. But this, as appears by what follows, is principally to praise God for the happy and glorious state of his church, about to take place in consequence of this punishment of its enemies; even that state of it, as appears, wherein it is said to live and reign with Christ a thousand years, and which is more particularly spoken of in the following chapter: for which wonderful display of the divine goodness all the truly pious are prepared by this hymn for solemnly and devoutly praising God.


Verses 6-8

Revelation 19:6-8. And I heard, &c. — Upon this order from the oracle, the whole church, in obedience to it, began to praise God with loud voices; which might be compared to the sound of many waters, or of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent — The Almighty Maker and Upholder of universal nature; reigneth — Among men, more eminently and gloriously than ever before. Let us be glad, &c. — χαιρωμεν και αγαλλιωμεθα, let us rejoice and exult with transport, and ascribe to him the glory which is so justly due; for the marriage of the Lamb is come — Is near at hand, and will be speedily solemnized. His true church, his faithful servants, are now about to receive public and peculiar marks of his affection in a state of happiness and dignity suitable to their relation to him. The ancient prophets frequently express the favour of God to his people by the affection of a bridegroom to his spouse. See Isaiah 62:5; Hosea 2:19-20; Zephaniah 3:17. And the Church of Christ in the New Testament is often represented under the same similitude of a bride. See Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25, &c. And as marriages used to be celebrated with great joy, this is a proper emblem to show the state of prosperity and happiness to which God will raise his church, after all its sufferings for the sake of truth and righteousness. And his wife hath made herself ready — Even while upon earth, being acquitted from all guilt, purified from all pollution, and adorned with all those graces and virtues which are most excellent in themselves, and most agreeable to him. As if he had said, She is not a harlot tainted with idolatry, but a spouse prepared for her heavenly husband. And to her was granted — By God, from whom all her good qualities proceed; that she should be arrayed in fine linen — Expressive of her purity and holiness; for the fine linen is an emblem of the righteousness of the saints — Including both their justification and sanctification. Thus St. Paul, (Ephesians 5.,) Christ gave himself for his church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, and present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.


Verse 9-10

Revelation 19:9-10. And he (the angel) saith unto me, Write — Record this as an important truth, in which all that read this book in future ages will be greatly concerned; Blessed ΄ακαριοι, happy; are they which are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb — Who shall be living at this time, and shall obey the invitation to this marriage-feast, and partake of all the privileges and blessings belonging to it. And he saith unto me, after a little pause, These are the true sayings of God — They are to be regarded by thee, and all that read them, as declarations infallibly true, and infinitely momentous. And — While he was speaking to me in this kind and condescending manner, being overawed by his majestic appearance, and in such a rapture and ecstasy at these discoveries that I knew not, or did not consider, what I did; I fell at his feet — Prostrated myself before him; to worship him — Or to do him homage, as though I had owed all these discoveries to him. And he said, See thou do it not — Greek, ωρα μη, See not, with a beautiful abruptness. It does not appear that St. John intended to pay religious worship to this angel; for he could not but know that he was only a creature, and that religiously to worship any creature, however exalted, would be flat idolatry. He seems only to have intended such civil respect and reverence as the Asiatics were wont to pay to superiors, and especially to persons in high rank; which indeed is frequently all that is meant by the word προσκυνεω, here rendered to worship. Thus Ruth complimented Boaz with this kind of honour, when she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, Ruth 2:10. Thus Abigail also showed her respect for David: she fell before him on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, 1 Samuel 25:23. Indeed, the reason for which the angel forbids this high act of respect, seems to intimate that he did not understand it as an act of religious honour, for he mentions nothing concerning the sin or danger of idolatry, as implied in it: he only shows that it was improper the apostle should pay such respect to him, which he does, not by showing that it was unlawful to give such respect to any created being whatsoever, but because he was only a fellow-servant with the apostle, and a servant of his brethren, that had the testimony of Jesus. As if he had said, I am now employed as your fellow-servant, to testify of the Lord Jesus by the same Spirit which inspired the prophets of old. Worship God — Pay thine homage, in such expressions of it, to God alone, to whom alone thou owest these revelations. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy — That is, the spirit of prophecy serves, in a glorious manner, to confirm Jesus’s divine mission, to all that know and duly observe the circumstances of it; and that which I now reveal to thee makes a considerable article of the proof: or, this ability of foretelling things to come is an argument or evidence of Christ’s speaking in and by me, as he does by thee.


Verses 11-16

Revelation 19:11-16. And I saw heaven opened — This is a new and peculiar opening of it, in order to show the magnificent expedition of Christ and his attendants against his great adversary; and behold a white horse — Many paid little regard to Christ when he came meek and lowly, riding upon an ass: but what will they say or think, when he comes forth upon his white horse, with the sharp sword of his mouth? The white horse, on which Christ is represented as riding, was intended to denote his justice and holiness, and also that victory and triumph should mark his progress. And he that sat on him was called Faithful — In performing all his promises; and True — In executing all his threatenings; and in righteousness — With the utmost justice and equity; he doth judge and make war — Often the sentence and execution go together. His eyes were as a flame of fire — Gloriously bright and piercing. He is described in such characters as are appropriated to him in this book, and in the ancient prophets; and on his head were many crowns — In token of his numerous conquests, and the many countries now become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ. And he had a name written upon them that no man knew but himself

The praise of his mediatorial undertaking being ineffable and incomprehensible, and his person mysterious and wonderful, 13:18; Isaiah 9:6. Hence we read, Matthew 11:27, No man knoweth the Son but the Father. And he was clothed with a vesture of pure white, emblematical of his holiness; and dipped in blood — In token of his sufferings; or rather, as some think, of the blood of the enemies already conquered. See Isaiah 63:1, &c. And his name is called, The Word of God — Because he spoke every thing into being, and revealeth his Father and his Father’s will to mankind. In other words, he has this name because he is that glorious and Divine Person, said, John 1:1-2, to have been in the beginning with God, and to be himself God; and who was the great medium of divine revelation in all ages. And the armies which were in heaven — The heavenly hosts; followed him — As being most willingly and entirely under his command; upon white horses — All the inhabitants of heaven being pure and holy. and all in a state of joy and triumph. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword — Signifying that his word is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword; that with it he should smite the nations — That he was now about to use it in a strict execution of justice on his enemies; and he shall rule them — Who are not slain by his sword; with a rod of iron — That is, if they will not submit to his golden sceptre; see on Psalms 2:9; and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness του θυμου, of the indignation; and wrath of Almighty God — Signified, probably, by the blood which stained his garments. The metaphor signifies that he shall subdue the proudest of his enemies with as much ease as men crush grapes by treading them under their feet. And — To the everlasting confusion of his enemies, and the perpetual joy of his friends and followers; he hath on his vesture and on his thigh — Or on the part of the vesture which was upon his thigh; a name written — Different from that mentioned above; KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS — To show that he was really possessed of a just dominion over all the princes and kingdoms of the earth; a dominion which the eastern monarchs, and after them the Roman emperors, unjustly attempted to acquire and establish, and a title which, with great vanity, they assumed to themselves. It was usual of old, for great personages in the eastern countries to have magnificent titles inscribed on, or affixed to, their garments.


Verses 17-19

Revelation 19:17-19. And I saw an angel standing in the sun — And therefore conspicuous to all; and he cried with a loud voice to all the fowls of heaven — To intimate the slaughter and desolation which were soon to come upon the enemies of the church; saying, Come, gather yourselves together to the supper of the great God — To the great feast which his vengeance will soon provide; a strongly figurative expression, taken from Ezekiel 39:17, denoting the vastness of the ensuing slaughter. And I saw the beast — Appearing again, as at the head of the antichristian interest, see Revelation 13:1, &c.; and the kings of the earth — The ten kings mentioned Revelation 17:12, who aided and supported that persecuting power, and had now drawn other kings of the earth to them; and their armies gathered together — All the forces they could collect, all the enemies of truth and righteousness; to make war against him that sat on the horse — To oppose the progress of his gospel, and the enlargement of his kingdom. All beings, good and bad, visible and invisible, will be concerned in this grand contest.


Verse 20-21

Revelation 19:20-21. And — The issue was such as might be expected: Christ and his saints obtained a full and entire victory; a victory as complete as when the generals and all the chief officers of an enemy’s army are made prisoners of war, and the rest are cut to pieces in the field of battle. For the beast — The idolatrous persecuting power represented thereby; and the false prophet, that wrought miracles before him — That, by pretended miracles and false doctrine, had supported the apostacy; that is, the antichristian tyranny, and the corrupt clergy, were taken, were made prisoners, and condemned to suffer the most exemplary punishment by the hands of justice. These both were cast alive — Without undergoing bodily death; into the lake of fire, burning with brimstone — And that, it seems, before the devil himself, chap. Revelation 20:10. Here is the last of the beast and of the false prophet. After several repeated strokes of divine vengeance, they are represented as delivered to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. They are plunged at once into the extremest degree of torment, without being reserved in chains of darkness to the judgment of the great day. Surely none but the beast and false prophet of Rome, the persecutors and deceivers of that antichristian kingdom, could have hardened themselves thus against the God they pretended to adore; or refused to have repented under such dreadful and repeated visitations. And the remnant — Those of inferior rank and power, who had aided and abetted the apostacy, and concurred in opposing the truth and religion of Christ; were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which proceeded out of his mouth — That is, with the word of Christ, like the common soldiers of a conquered army, who fall in the field of battle, and are left there unburied, a prey to the fowls of the air, which feed on them, and are filled with their flesh — Their substance being seized for other persons, and other uses. A most magnificent description this of the final overthrow of the beast and false prophet, and all their adherents. It has, in particular, one exquisite beauty, that, after exhibiting the two opposite armies, and all the apparatus for a battle, (Revelation 19:11-19,) then follows immediately (Revelation 19:20) the account of the victory, without one word of an engagement or fighting. Here is the most exact propriety; for what struggle can there be between Omnipotence and the power of all the creation united against it? Every description must have fallen short of this admirable silence. The intelligent reader will easily observe, that the description is not only incomparably sublime, but strongly figurative; and that, speaking in plain language, its design is to show, in the most expressive manner, the complete downfall of Popery, with all its delusive and destructive abominations, and the triumphs of the pure and genuine religion of Jesus; the true word of God will in the end prevail over every species of superstition and idolatry: all the powers of antichrist shall be completely subdued: and the religion of Rome, as well as Rome itself, be totally destroyed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 19:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/revelation-19.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, August 13th, 2020
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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