CHAPTER NINETEEN - THE GREAT ARMY
(1) After these things (2) I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, (3) "Hallelujah! (4) Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; (5) because His judgments are true and righteous; (6) for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and (7) He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her."
1. After these things = indicates the final vision unit in the Revelation. This vision concludes the eschatological judgment of God and moves through the millennial kingdom of the Son of Man to the final eternal kingdom of God on a new earth.
2. I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven = introduces the first group to proclaim a hallelujah chorus in response to God’s final phase of eschatological judgment. John hears "something like a loud voice." One would normally expect John to hear voices, but he hears a voice. This suggests that the voices speak as one--unison. A great multitude is the exact same phrase that occurs in Revelation 7:9. This group is probably the redeemed of the ages.
3. Hallelujah = begins the praise chorus of the great multitude. Hallelujah is an English transliteration of hallalouia, which is a Greek transliteration (not translation) of a Hebrew term, which means, "praise Jehovah." The reader is called to praise the Lord.
4. Salvation and glory and power belong to our God = ascribes to God attributes, which He alone has. This is the content of the call to praise the Lord.
5. Because His judgments are true and righteous = gives the reason for God to receive praise. Those who look to God can depend on His judgments to be true and righteous. There is never doubt.
6. For He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality = is the second of two reasons to praise the Lord. God’s judgment of the great harlot evidences that His judgments are true and righteous. The judgment of the great harlot/city is past as evidenced by the verb judged. God judged the harlot/city because she led the charge to get the world to worship composite dragon/beast. Her devotion and public commitment caused the world to copy her conduct. For this, she was condemned and punished.
7. He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her = is the second reasons for God’s judgment of the harlot/city. She caused the death of many of God’s apostles, prophets and saints. In fulfillment of God’s promise to the fifth seal martyrs who requested God’s judgment of the living earth-dwellers who were responsible for their deaths (Rev 6:10), God judged the harlot/city. God promised the martyrs that He would avenge their deaths and He has.
(1) And a second time they said, "Hallelujah! (2) Her smoke rises up forever and ever."
1. And a second time they said, Hallelujah = indicates that the great multitude is still speaking.
2. Her smoke rises up forever and ever = is another reason the great multitude praises the Lord. The harlot/city destruction is still evident by the smoke rising up from her ruins. However, the reader must understand this figure of speech. The smoke of this burning city does not last for all eternity. Rather, forever and ever is a figure of speech meaning the destruction is total and irrevocable.
(1) And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, (2) "Amen. Hallelujah!"
1. And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne = indicates the second group of praise and worshipers. This worship group has been seen throughout the Revelation, particularly in hymnodic sections. Apparently, whenever praise and worship breakout in heaven, one can expect the elders and creatures to join in.
2. Amen! Hallelujah = echoes Revelation 5:14, amen concludes a hymnodic section by the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures. The elders and the creatures are of the same opinion as the great multitude.
(1) And a voice came from the throne, saying, (2) "Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great."
1. And a voice came from the throne = is not explicitly identified. The voice includes himself among those who claim God as our God.
2. Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants = is the action the voice calls upon his audience to take. The "bond-servants" are called upon to praise God as the great multitude and the elders and creatures. The location of the bond-servants is not clear. They can either be in heaven or on the earth. There is no doubt that the great multitude is in heaven as are the elders, living creatures and the voice. At this point in the narration of the book of Revelation, God’s bond-servants are either in heaven or in hiding on the earth. Therefore, it is more than likely that the bond-servants called up on to praise the Lord are in heaven. Small and great refers to one’s status (Louw-Nida, § 87.22, 58). Given that this event occurs after the rewarding of the saints (Rev 11:18), status will be reflected among the saints (Matt 25:14-30).
(1) Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, (2) "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
1. Then I heard = begins three metaphors that John will use to describe the loudness of the chorus heard in heaven. This last group of praise and worshipers must include the three groups mentioned above because of the emphasis on the loudness of this group.
2. Hallelujah, for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns = expresses the motive of the praise chorus at this point—God reigns. God physically reigns upon the earth (Rev 11:18). This is a praise-worthy event because while it was promised through the ages, God is now physically reigning upon the earth. Praise the Lord!
(1) Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, (2) for the marriage of the Lamb has come and (3) His bride has made herself ready."
1. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him = begins the second reason for exaltation. These three actions are warranted in light of God the Father’s next agenda item.
2. For the marriage of the Lamb has come = is the reason for the call to rejoice, be glad and the giving of glory. The wedding of the Lamb is announced. This, of course, is metaphorical. There will be no literal wedding.
3. His bride (wife) has made herself ready = completes the metaphor of a wedding. One would expect the text to refer to a bride (numpha) at this point, but the Greek uses the term guna (wife). "Wife" suggests the wedding is completed. However, in Jewish marriage customs, the betrothed virgin was bond to her husband. The marriage ceremony was a consummation of the legal process begun months and sometime years before.
The apostle Paul on two separate occasions spoke of a church relationship to Christ in terms of the bridegroom/bride metaphor. 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5:25-32 both develops different aspects of this concept.
It is clear in the Old Testament that Israel is the bride of God (Hos 2:19-20; Ezek 16:8-14; Isa 54:1-6). The emphasis here is on the collective whole—the nation of Israel. One is a part of the bride of God by physical birth—the physical seed of Abraham. However, the bride of Christ is formed by faith—the spiritual seed of Abraham.
(1) It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; (2) for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
1. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean = continues the marital metaphor with regards to the clothing. The symbolical garments are appropriate for the wife of the Lamb.
2. For the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints = makes the symbolical significance of the garments clear. The fine linen is the righteous deeds of the people of God.
Those who attempt to limit the bride of Christ to those saved after the cross misunderstand Paul’s intent. The metaphor of a bridegroom/bride emphasizes the relationship between Christ and the saints. Paul never says the church is the bride of Christ. Rather, he compares the relationship between Christ and the church to that of a bride and her bridegroom. Therefore, one commits an error when he attempts to make a distinction between Old Testament saints and New Testament saints on the basis of this metaphor. The "righteous deeds" of the Old Testament saints are qualitatively no different from the "righteous deeds" of New Testament saints.
(1) Then he said to me, (2) "Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’" (3) And he said to me, "These are true words of God."
1. Then he said to me = begins the fourth of seven beatitudes in the Revelation. In light of verse 10, this speaker must be the same angel who begun the explanation of God’s judgment of the harlot/city in Revelation 17:1.
2. Write, "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb" = continues the metaphor marital ritual. After the formal wedding ceremony follows the banquet. Since the bride (faithful believers) is mentioned in Revelation 19:7, this invitation must involve friends and family, but such a conclusion has a problem. If the bride constitutes the believers, then who could be the invited guests? Since the wedding of the Lamb occurs just prior to His return at Armageddon, the bride must consist of those resurrected, glorified and rewarded in heaven. The marriage supper of the Lamb occurs on earth (Isaiah 25:6; Mark 14:25 and Luke 12:36, 22:28-30). The invited quests must involve those on earth that are saved, but not glorified. They participate in the kingdom of God on earth as saved, but not glorified individuals who assist in the re-population of the earth during the millennial kingdom (Isaiah 65:17-24).
3. And he said to me, "These are true words of God." = is not explicitly defined. How much of what has preceded is covered by this declaration cannot be asserted.
(1) Then I fell at his feet to worship him. (2) But he said to me, "Do not do that; (3) I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. (4) For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
1. Then I fell at his feet to worship him = echoes the tradition of pure worship in ancient times. To fall before a person and offer worship evidences true commitment or great fear. That John would do such a thing at this point is interesting. Having been in the presence of many angels throughout the book, why fall down and worship this particular angel?
2. But he said to me, "Do not do that; = indicates a rebuke to John for his actions.
3. I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus = identifies the speaker as angelic. As a fellow servant, he cannot receive worship. That is God’s prerogative alone. He, like John, is a propagator of the truth concerning Jesus -– He is Lord.
4. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy = express concretely the point just made. The testimony about Jesus (that He is Lord, alone) is the spirit (at the heart) of prophecy. Jesus as much stated the same idea in John 5:39-47. "For if you (the Jews) believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me." "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me." These are the Lord’s words, which evidence that He is at the heart of all Scripture.
(1) And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and (2) He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and (3) in righteousness He judges and wages war.
1. And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse = introduces a new vision originating in heaven. John sees a white horse. This immediately recalls Revelation 6:2. However, this rider comes to fight against the beasts introduced in Revelation 13.
2. He who sat on it is called Faithful and True = identifies the rider as Jesus (Rev 3:14). Unlike the rider of Revelation 6:2, this reader is true or genuine.
3. In righteousness He judges and wages war = indicates the moral foundation upon which the Lord stands as He deals with both the people of God and the wicked earth-dwellers on the earth.
(1) His eyes are a flame of fire, and (2) on His head are many diadems; and (3) He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. (4) He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and (5) His name is called The Word of God.
1. His eyes are a flame of fire = repeated twice as (Rev 1:14 and 2:18) a description of Jesus Christ.
2. On His head are many diadems = in contradistinction to the dragon and the beast that wears diadems on multiple heads, this rider has a single head with multiple diadems. He is the true "King of kings and Lord of lords."
3. He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself = offers a little insight as to the identity of the rider on the white horse. We know who the rider is, but we do not know his name. Christ is a title as is Lord. Jesus is a name. Obviously, John must see the name in order to know that it is, in fact, written on Him. It is also clear that those who accompany the rider must also see the name. Perhaps, the meaning of the name is also unknown to those who see it on the rider.
4. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood = continues the description of the rider. The image of a blood-stained deliverer is not new to the Old Testament (Isa 63:1-3). However, here the rider is coming for battle, but the garments have already been stained. This indicates previous contact with warfare.
5. His name is called the Word of God = is another name for the rider on the white horse. The phrase the Word of God occurs five times in the Revelation (1:2, 9; 6:9; 19:13; 20:4) and refers to the revealed will of God. The return of Christ to fight the enemies of God is God’s revealed will. Long prophesied and anticipated, now fulfilled as God determined before the foundation of the world. This is the eternal gospel.
(1) And the armies which are in heaven, (2) clothed in fine linen, white and clean, (3) were following Him on white horses.
1. And the armies which are in heaven = refers to a group that will accompany the Lord at His return to fight the enemies of God. The exact identity of the heavenly armies is not clear. It could refer to the angelic host, the rewarded faithful followers of Jesus Christ or both. There is a significant Old Testament basis to argue that the heavenly armies are angelic beings. Zechariah 14:5 explicitly states angelic accompaniment at the Lord’s return for the salvation of Israel. Matthew 16:27 declares that an angelic accompaniment will be present at the Lord’s return to judge the world. A debatable text in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 probably refers to angelic accompaniment at the Lord’s return. There is no explicit New Testament text that indicates the saints will return with the Lord to punish the wicked. Therefore, one can argue that the heavenly armies that accompany the Lord at His return is angelic for sure and possibly human.
2. Clothed in fine linen, white and clean = describes the attire of the accompanying armies of the Lord. Revelation 15:6 describes the seven bowl carrying angels as wearing pure and bright linen. The clothing symbolize the righteousness of this group as throughout the Revelation.
(1) From His mouth comes a sharp sword, (2) so that with it He may strike down the nations, and (3) He will rule them with a rod of iron; and (4) He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
1. From His mouth comes a sharp sword = continues the description of the rider on the white horse. However, having introduced the heavenly armies who will accompany the Lord, John will now explain that the rider will execute judgment alone. Hebrews 4:12 depicts the Word of God as a sword. Since Jesus is the Word of God, what He speaks is also the Word of God. The words and actions of Jesus accomplish with speed the will of God. Therefore, His words accomplish their task as a sword does, thus the comparison.
2. So that with it He may strike down the nations = indicates the purpose of the sword from the mouth of the rider. He will strike down the nations. The angelic accompaniment from heaven will have no part in the destruction of the nations. Rather, the rider will strike them with His words (the sword) and they will fall.
3. He will rule them with a rod of iron = continues the identification of the rider by explaining his role in the fulfillment of God’s revealed will. Revelation 12:5 indicates that the male child of the woman was "to rule all the nations with a rod of iron." With this same role, John identifies the rider. Therefore, the male child and rider must be the same individual. This indicates that the rider will strike the nations, but He will not destroy all of them. There must be something left for Him to rule over.
4. He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty = echoes Isaiah 63:1-3 where the winepress is God’s judgment. Here, the rider executes God’s wrath against the nations. It is important to understand that John is ascribing the above stated description to the rider. In other words, John recognizes the rider and describes the rider to the reader with knowledge he (John) has had prior to the moment of the vision.
(1) And on His robe and on His thigh (2) He has a name written, "King of kings and Lord of lords."
1. And on His robe and on His thigh = is not altogether clear. One could suppose that since the rider is descending from heaven on a horse that his thigh would be seen. Many have seen a contradiction here in light of Revelation 19:12, which indicated that the name on the rider was unknown. However, this conclusion assumes that there is only one name under discussion. Since the rider has many crowns, he must also have many names in contradistinction to the harlot/city.
2. He has a name written, "King of kings and Lord of lords," = is the third title or name ascribed to the rider. This title is usually reserved for God, but here has christological significance. This rider has both the authority of God and supremacy of man as backdrops to his reign.
(1) Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and (2)he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, (3) "Come, assemble for the great supper of God, (4) so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great."
1. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun = introduces a new vision scene here. This angel takes a stand "in the sun." Whether this angel is the same angel connected with the fourth bowl angel is not clear. Both deal with the sun. Whether the angel is standing in the rays of the sun or standing on/in the sun itself cannot be determined.
2. He cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven = introduces the audience of the loud voice. The birds of the heavens are called. With the exception of an eagle (Rev 8:13) this is the first major role birds play in the Revelation.
3. Come, assemble for the great supper of God = states the command given to the birds. The great supper of God does not have a parallel in Scripture. In Ezekiel 39:17, God instructs the prophet to call the birds and beast to His sacrifice. In both cases, obviously a figure of speech is used.
4. So that you may eat = is the purpose of the gathering of the birds. They will eat. Since birds are the only invited guest to this supper, it is safe to assume that this supper depicts the battle of Armageddon as anything but a war or battle. The menu contains an assortment of humanity.
a. The flesh of kings
b. The flesh of commanders
c. The flesh of mighty men
d. The flesh of horses
e. The flesh of riders
f. The flesh of all men (free and slave, small and great)
Clearly, the purpose of this list is to indicate that no segment of society will be left out. When the nations gather for the war of the great day of God, they will represent every people group and every segment of society. However, every single individual will not be present at this battle/supper.
(1) And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled (2) to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
1. And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled = outlines the list of those who gather for the war. Which beast is not explicitly identified at this point. This is clearly the fulfillment of the sixth bowl. With the arrival of the rider on the white horse, the stage is set.
2. To make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army = indicates the purpose of the gathering from a human perspective.
(1) And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; (2) these two were thrown alive in to the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
1. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet = clarifies who is captured—both beasts. It is not explicitly stated who seized the two, but it is probably that the rider does Himself.
2. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone = indicates the outcome of the two earthly beasts. That they are thrown alive into the fires cannot be debated. The Greek is emphatic. Also, the fact that they are not eaten by birds indicates a different outcome for them unlike the rest who will be eaten.
The lake of fire, which burns with brimstone occurs with variation six times thoroughout Revelation 20-21. While the eternal punishment of the wicked is associated with fire on several occasions in Scripture, the notion that it will be a lake of fire is not. Isaiah 66:24b explicitly states, "their (transgressors against God) fire will not be quenched." Jesus explicitly stated, "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire," (Mark 9:43).
Revelation 20:14 indicates that the lake of fire is the eternal destiny of the wicked who have been judged. Once one is thrown into the lake of fire there is no escape or second chance. This is very important. The beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire in conjunction with the battle at Armageddon. Their judgment is final. This occurs before the millennial reign of Christ on the earth. Therefore, the lake of fire must exist before the millennial reign of Christ.
This accords with Matthew 25:41, which indicates that the "goats" of the sheep and goat judgment are cast alive into the eternal fire. Matthew states, "then He (Jesus) will say to those on His left (the goats), ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.’" Once in the lake (the eternal fire) these people will not be resurrected because they did not die, but were cast alive into the fire as the beast and the false prophet. They have been judged, sentenced and the execution completed.
(1) And the rest were killed (2) with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and (3) all the birds were filled with their flesh.
1. And the rest were killed = explains what happened to the armies of the beast. They were killed.
2. With the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse = explains how the kings and their armies died. As John indicated, the rider spoke and armies died. Unlike the beast and false prophet who were cast alive into the lake of fire, the rest were killed and thus must await a future final judgment. This judgment is detailed in Revelation 20:11-15.
3. All the birds were filled with their flesh = as God promised when He gathered them.