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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 19

 

 


Other Authors
Verse 1

5. Song of triumph over the destruction of the harlot, (Revelation 19:1-5;) and the coming of the pure bride, (Revelation 19:6-10;) Revelation 19:1-10.

1. And after these things—We are carefully to note here, as at Revelation 18:1, these explicit declarations of consecutiveness. The jubilations of this coming paragraph are not to be confused with those of the last chapter, which are closed. The last chapter celebrates the overthrow of the city; this paragraph the destruction of the great whore. Hence we must not (as Dusterdieck) literally identify the harlot with secular and material Rome upon the Tiber.

Much people—Much multitude of saints and angels.

Alleluia—Greek form of the Hebrew hallelujah, praise Jehovah. Its euphony in English, together with its sublime import, has made it a vocal favourite with joyous Christians.

Salvation… God—A rapturous exclamation; rightly translated by Stuart, “Hallelujah! the salvation, and glory, and power, of our God.” A trinal ascription to the Triune.


Verse 2

2. Hath avenged—In accordance with the prediction of Revelation 17:16-17, that she should be destroyed by the ten horns; her flesh be eaten, and her body burned. That was prophecy; this is jubilant history.

At her hand—Quoted from 2 Kings 9:7. “That I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel.” Jezebel is type of this harlot. Note, Revelation 2:20. The preposition at, here, is in the Greek from. Alford well explains it: “The vengeance is considered as a penalty forced out of the reluctant hand.” This is preferable to Stuart’s rendering, “Hath avenged the blood of his servants [shed] by her hand.”


Verse 3

3. Again—A new outburst of praise after a pause.

Rose up… ever—”The original imagery,” says Stuart, “is taken from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As they had already become a perpetual desolation, so should spiritual Babylon be.” We may note that the past tense, rose, makes it seem as if the for ever and ever had passed. The real meaning seems to be, that the smoke rose up with a for ever and ever, that is, a fixed perpetuity to it.


Verse 4

4. To the song in heaven there now comes a profound response. It is from the twenty-four elders and from the four living ones, who commenced their session at chapter 6. The elders rise from their seats and prostrate themselves before the throne. They give their responsive amen, and a third utterance, to the alleluias of the great voice in heaven.


Verse 5

5. Voice came out of the throne—Commentators differ as to whose was this voice, the throne. Stuart thinks it was the Messiah; and for the words our God, as from him, Stuart quotes as precedents John 20:17; Hebrews 2:11, and Revelation 18:4. Against this view Alford protests. We venture to ask, Why was it not the voice of the throne itself? In Revelation 7:13, we have, “A voice from the four horns of the altar;” and in Revelation 16:7 there is a voice from the altar, which Alford rightly interprets as the altar itself becoming vocal. This would add plausibility to Wordsworth’s attributing the words in Revelation 11:1, to the “reed,” which the literal wording of the Greek requires.


Verse 6

6. The responsive song has now come to a climax. First, there was a great voice from heaven; then, a repeat; third, a response from the elders; fourth, a response from the throne; and last, this universal voice as of waters and thunderings, in which the seer is drowned.

Reigneth—Aorist, has reigned. That is, has acted the king—has decisively ruled in destroying the harlot; for that is the theme of all these responsive chants.


Verse 7

7. The marriage of the Lamb—By the association of contrast the thought turns from the harlot to the pure and holy wife. Nevertheless, the immediacy of the time-words here is no proof that the marriage of Revelation 21:9 (and so the second advent) is literally close at hand.

Even in our Lord’s day on earth (Matthew 21:1-10) that marriage was “ready,” and the invitations were sent forth. That is, men are now invited to the New Jerusalem, irrespective of time. And so the justification of the believer is a marriage supper, Revelation 2:20. And so, in different stages, both the sanctification of the Church and her glorification is a divine marriage.

Mr. Glasgow, however, calls attention to the fact that the marriage and the marriage supper are two entirely different things. He avers that in every instance in the New Testament the word γαμος, wedding, refers, not to the marriage ceremony but to the feast, which was often some days after. The marriage at Cana was the marriage feast, not the actual wedding. Jesus, by his incarnation, became the bridegroom, (since John was the friend of the bridegroom,) as appears by John 3:29. So that while the marriage is on earth, the feast is in heaven. And so here the word is not bride, but wife; and in Revelation 21:9, the word “bride” is explained by “wife,” as if the marriage had passed, and the feast was to come.

Is come—The union of the pure Church with Christ is frequently imaged as a marriage. Thus, to the Jewish Church Jehovah says: “I am married unto you.” Jeremiah 3:14. And in Isaiah 50:1, there is divorce in consequence of unfaithfulness. Yet the completion of the marriage of the Lamb, in its fullest sense, is after the great white throne of Revelation 20:11. For the actual final wife is the New Jerusalem, as shown by Revelation 21:9. And at Revelation 21:2, this New Jerusalem comes “down out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” And that is very decisive proof that, as the bride is the pure Church, so the harlot is an impure Church.


Verse 9

9. He—Who? The last-mentioned antecedent is, Revelation 17:1, “one of the seven angels that had the seven vials.” And in Revelation 17:7, the same “angel said” all the rest of that chapter. And the same angel reappears after the millennium and after the final judgment, (Revelation 21:9,) and shows the bride the Lamb’s wife, namely, the New Jerusalem, the description extends to the end of that chapter. And the next and final Revelation 22:1, commences with, “And he showed me,” etc., referring to the same angel. Then, in Revelation 19:6 of that chapter, he evidently refers to the same angel-guide. Two remarkable points here present themselves. First, this same angel-guide crosses, officially, over the thousand years of chapter 20. Of course, in the panorama visible to the seer, the thousand years could not be optically presented, and could only be narrated. The continuity of the angel is, therefore, only the convenient continuity of the panorama. And as the seven-vial angels were contents of the seventh trumpet, so the proper inference is, that the peal of the seventh trumpet continues from the beginning of the twelfth chapter to the end of the Apocalypse; that is, from the first advent to the end of the millennium, and the opening of eternity. Second, the parallelism shown in our note on Revelation 17:3, between Revelation 17:1; Revelation 17:3, and Revelation 21:9-10, shows not only that there is an intended contrast between the harlot, or old Babylon, and the wife, or New Jerusalem, but indicates that the immediacy of the marriage of the Lamb, indicated in Revelation 19:7 of this nineteenth chapter, is also very much a panoramic immediacy, and that it crosses over the millennium and reaches to the descending of the celestial city, which is the true wife. Hence it clearly follows, that the said immediacy does not prove a real nearness of the second advent and judgment. That is, the scene of Revelation 19:11-21 of this chapter is not Christ’s personal, literal, judgment-advent.

Write, Blessed—Here is a blessedness, as in Revelation 14:13, worthy of record while the world stands.

Called—A call resulting from the justifying faith of the invited guest. The same hand that seals the pardon of the sinner writes his name in the book of life, and calls him to share at the marriage supper. Stuart supposes it to be a great difficulty that the saints of last verse, who really constitute the bride, are here only invited guests. But while collectively the body of saints is the bride, yet individually each saint may be viewed as guest.

True—Both genuine, as being truly God’s sayings, and true as uttering what is truth.


Verse 10

10. Fell… to worship him—Compare the parallel passage, Revelation 22:8-9. Our seer probably supposed his apocalypse closed, and would return worship for so great a boon.

Thy fellow-servant—Fellow testifier to Jesus. He supplies the visible testimony, and John publishes it to the world.

Thy brethren—Properly, the apostles who were the chosen witnesses of Christ. Note, Luke 1:2.

Testimony of Jesus—Both Jesus’s testimony and the apostles’ testimony of Jesus. More the latter than the former.

The testimony of Jesus—Possessed and delivered by the apostles.

Is the spirit of prophecy—The same inspiration as revealed the truths of the ancient prophecy. Hence apostles and prophets are on a level, and the revealing angel was their fellow-servant.


Verse 11

III. THIRD AND LAST OVERTHROW—OF THE ARMIES OF ANTICHRIST, Revelation 19:11 to Revelation 20:3.

This last sublime victory is now to be achieved. The capital of antichrist was taken, 14-16; his harlot was destroyed, xvii; and now comes the final destruction of all the forces and champions opposed to truth and righteousness, preparatory to the introduction of the universal reign of holy peace. That these three great successive phases of historical progress evolve through centuries, is required by the whole structure of the apocalypse, based, as that is, on the imageries of Daniel’s visions. The three phases succeed in the order given, yet, no doubt, each preceding phase laps into its successor. This last—”the great moral battle of the world”—doubtless in a measure includes the preceding two, and carries the whole process of advancing knowledge, truth, and righteousness to the millennial culmination.

On this important passage we may note, 1. We do not agree with Alford in identifying the rider of the white horse here with that in Revelation 6:2. But it conclusively follows, that if that is symbolical, so is this. There is no more reason for supposing the personage is corporeally “present” in one case than in the other. 2. Nor is there any more reason for supposing a corporeal riding out of heaven on a literal live horse here, than to suppose a corporeal dragon in chap. 12, flung by Michael from the sky to the ground. That downfall is, no doubt, allusively drawn from the pre-terrene fall of the angels; just as this is drawn allusively from the real post-terrene second advent yet to come. The dragon is a real person, namely, Satan; yet this, his phenomenal apparition, is a symbol; just so the Messiah is a real person, while this, his phenomenal presentation, is a symbol. And so fallacious is Gebhardt’s argument, that the man-child’s ascension was real, and so, therefore, this descent of the same must be literal. The man-child was real, but his infantile snatching up, in chapter 12, was symbolical, based on his real ascension. See notes chap. 12. 3. The phantasy that this is a picture of Christ’s real coming to “judge the quick and dead,” is contradicted on the entire face of the passage, and by every detail of its particulars. It is not a judicial scene, but a military. It is not a court, but a battle. The leader is not here a judge in the judiciary sense, but a general and a conqueror. Can it be for one moment seriously believed that there will be literal horses in heaven, on which Christ and his saints will sit astride, and ride down to the earth? 4. What confirms this view is, that it is the last battle in a serial emblematic war; the last third of a regular symbolic campaign. The enemy’s capital has been captured, his harlot has been exposed and destroyed. But the chief leaders—the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet—with their armies, are yet in the field. This is simply a clear narrative, under due symbol guise, of their overthrow, arrest, and consignment to durance vile. 5. What settles this view finally and conclusively is, the fact that at the close of the battle and the imprisonment of the last great rebel, (Revelation 20:3-6,) we have the trophies of victory and the repose and full enjoyment of conquest. The world is cleared of rebels and devils; the imparadised martyr “souls” are enthroned with Christ in exaltation, and rule over its broad area; and for a symbolic thousand years not a traitor dares lift a warlike head. When, at the close of that period, the ancient rebel re-rebels, the world’s status is fixed forever.

The grand judicature takes place, and the portals of eternity are opened. 6. This picture is, then, symbolical. The horses and the riders on horseback are the impersonations of the cause, and of the champions of truth, righteousness, and human happiness, headed by Him who is the Word of God, the Truth itself. His enemies are the agencies of evil, the obstructive forces to the Gospel, to human progress, to universal Christianization, peace, and civilization. But the leader in the advance is divine; heavenly auxiliaries form his retinue; the enemies are paralyzed, and victory crowns the day. If any one doubts whether this battle of right against wrong, of the true against the false, of Christ against antichrist, is really in hopeful progress, let him consider a few facts.

Three or four centuries ago this our American continent was covered with the howling forests, inhabited by savage pagans, with their horrid Satanic rites and diabolical cruelties. It is now being overspread with churches, schools, and universities. At that time the sea was navigated by a feeble craft, and liable to be overrun with piracies. Europe was wrapped in ignorance, the press was uninvented, Christendom was ruled by the absolute pope, and yet the Turks were threatening Vienna, with a great possibility of establishing Mohammedanism as the religion of the western world. Asia was ruled by pagan or Mohammedan, and locked against all Christian missions, had there been life enough in Christianity to send one.

Africa was an unexplored pagan blackness. And thus two or three centuries ago the four quarters of the globe were covered with a solid midnight, save a few rays of twilight dawn in Europe. Picture as great a change for the better through our next three centuries, and say if the heavenly battle is not in progress! Thus is our Apocalypse the book of hope and triumph.


Verse 11

11. Heaven opened—The seer, expecting the apocalyptic exhibition closed at Revelation 19:9, is magnificently surprised as he looks upwards and beholds the visible firmament opening, and through its portals the divine array descending to the earth.

White horse—Note on Revelation 6:2.

Faithful and True—Being the faithful impersonation of truth.

In righteousness—Thus he is living truth and righteousness. And in that cause does he judge and make war. Yes, he does judge, and is judge, in the broad Scripture sense of king; but this is not his judicial action. That appears in Revelation 20:11.

Make war—He so overrules the wars of the world as to bring out the ultimate triumph of right.


Verse 12

12. Eyes… fire—Note on Revelation 1:14. Dazzling to the view, searching and omniscient in their glance. No enemy can deceive him, no secret lurk from him, no fugitive escape him.

Many crowns—In correspondence with his being (Revelation 19:16) king of kings and Lord of lords.

Name… no man knew—So the Jewish high priest wore on his forehead the name of Jehovah, which none but the high priest might utter. Perhaps the present words mean that Christ is Jehovah. Otherwise the meaning may be, that there are depths—there is a secret—in the nature of Christ, which none can fathom save his self-conscious self.


Verse 13

13. A vesture dipped in blood—The allusion may be to Isaiah 63:1-2, where a warrior comes from Bozrah, with garments “dyed,” that is, “sprinkled,” with blood. But here the word dipt, βεβαμμενον, suggests that there may be an allusion to his own atoning blood. This view lies in close connexion with his gospel name next given, and with the white raiment of the armies, next verse.

His name—Known to the world as his gospel name.

Word of God—The incarnate expression to men of the divine nature. Hence a name of truth, of revelation, and of salvation. And so our John says in his Gospel, Revelation 1:14, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us… full of grace and truth.”

The armies— Namely, of martyred, disembodied spirits; the souls once under the altar, Revelation 6:9-11; then, on Mount Zion, with the Lamb, Revelation 14:1-5 : next, here; and finally, as the souls of Revelation 20:4.

Fine linen—The righteousness of the saints, Revelation 19:18.

White—The leader is arrayed in red; the armies are in white. They are whitened by his crimson. They bear no carnal armour; they are the white warriors for purity and peace.


Verse 15

15. There is but one sword in the armies, and that belongs to the leader. And it brandishes not from his hand, but from his mouth. The image blends the double thought of conversion and destruction. See note on Revelation 1:16.

Here is verified the truth of our note on St. Paul’s (2 Thessalonians 2:8) “whom the Lord shall destroy with the spirit of his mouth.” Here it is the spiritual power going forth from the lips of the Word of God that overthrows the power of antichrist. At Revelation 20:9-10, that same antichrist will be not only overthrown but destroyed “by the brightness of his coming.”

Smite the nations—But not destroy. On the extent of these nations see note, Revelation 17:16.

Rule them—Literally, shall shepherd them. He guards and controls them as the sheep of his pasture.

But his crook is a powerful, or benevolently despotic, one. It is a rod (or sceptre) of iron—It rules with exactness, and those unyielding to its sway receive its destroying stroke.

Treadeth the wine-press—The ruddy image of carnage and destruction.


Verse 16

16. On his vesture… thigh—On his vesture overspreading his thigh.

King… lords—Great sovereigns, like those of Persia, who had kings and viceroys for their vassals, were accustomed to display this title. But none but He who here wears it is entitled to its universal extent. The arts and forces of war are now in the hands of our Christian civilization. This began to be the fact when Charlemagne subdued the savage Saxons, and brought the peace and unity upon which the modern civilized system has been based. It was the fact when Charles Martel drove back the tide of Mohammedan invasion. Christian preeminence is now slowly, yet with increasing rapidity, spreading Europeanism over Asia, and invading, from all sides, the “dark continent” of Africa. And the Protestant power is through every decade overmastering the forces of the papacy. Who does not know that a higher Christian civilization, either by war or peace, must overspread America within a century or two more? All this because Messiah shepherds the nations with a rod of iron.


Verse 17

17. And—A sublime taunt now upon the dark and puny enemies of advancing truth and righteousness. There will be, not a battle, but a feast for the birds of the air. The onward wheels of progress towards the millennium will crush all opponents on the track.

Angel standing in the sun—A most splendid image. The sun is a large, luminous orb, in which the angel-form stands like a picture in a radiant circular frame. The sun is a favourite and goodly emblem. Its angel is on the side of the Prince of Light.

Cried… to all the fowls—As lord of the firmament the birds of the air are his subjects, and obey his call; especially a call so welcome as this.

Midst of heaven—The mid-heaven, space between heaven and earth, for all the fowls that fly.

The supper—The principal meal of the day; banquet.


Verse 18

18. Eat the flesh—The enumeration takes in the army ranks, kings, captains, that is, chiliarchs or commanders of a thousand, our colonels: mighty men, powerful fighters, and the entire cavalry, that is, doubtless, the whole army. To these are added all men; the men in italics is not in the Greek. It means all adherents to the side of old darkness.

It is to be noted, very specially, that the living nations are not cut off by this massacre. In Revelation 19:15 it is said that he will smite, but not destroy, the nations; in Revelation 20:3 it is said Satan is shut down that he should not deceive the nations; and in Revelation 20:8, at close of the millennium, Satan does go forth to deceive the nations. It is demonstration then, that through this battle, and through the millennium, and until the great white throne of Revelation 20:11, there is an uninterrupted roll of the successive generations of the nations.

Flesh of kings—To show the rich variety of the supper, flesh is repeated at each enumerated rank; and the word flesh is, in fact, in the Greek, plural; thus taking in the individuals of every rank.

Horses, and of them that sit on them—The cavalry, probably including the whole army, as both armies seem to be on horseback.


Verse 19

19. And—Though the adverse armament and array seem to be fearfully great, the battle seems to be no battle.

Make war—Nobody seems to be slain of the armies of heaven.


Verse 20

20. Capture of the adverse leaders. The beast and the false prophet—The latter the two-horned lamb, and so clearly an ecclesiastical deceiver. In the false prophet the entire pseudo-spiritual body (the image of xiii included) as the corrupt spokesmen of a corrupt Church are individualized as a single person.

Lake… brimstone—Note on Revelation 20:14-15.

Alive— Not slain, like the remnant of next verse. As both these personages are allegorical, we may be at a loss, at first, what can be meant by their being cast into Gehenna. But the thought appears to be, that hell is the final receptacle of all that is essentially evil, whether persons, systems, or principles, whether personal or abstract; just as the bottomless pit, (Revelation 20:9,) is its source. It is not said (Revelation 20:10)

that these two were tormented as the dragon is.


Verse 21

21. The remnant—The non-military adherents of antichrist.

Slain—And so not cast into the lake of fire until after the day of judgment, Revelation 20:11-15.

With the sword—One divine weapon does the whole work.

Fowls… flesh—The great supper is served; the very substance of the enemies of truth and righteousness is borne to the four points of the compass by God’s aerial servitors. Of the triad of leaders the last and greatest remains to be disposed of. That part is, unhappily, severed from this by the wrong division of chapters.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 19:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/revelation-19.html. 1874-1909.

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