Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/Revelation/Chapter 19
- 1 A Great Multitude Praises God
- 2 The Marriage of the Lamb
- 3 The Heavenly Army
- 4 The Beast and His Army Are Defeated
A Great Multitude Praises God
It is in this chapter of Revelation that most of the words used in Handel's Hallelujah! Chorus are found.
- 1After these things I heard a great voice of many people in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation, glory, honour, and power to the Lord our God, 2for true and righteous are his judgments, for he has judged the great whore which corrupted the earth with her fornication, and has avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.” 3And again they said, “Alleluia!” And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.
Commentary: Alleluia literally means “praise Yhwh” and is used only in the Old Testament, with the exception of this chapter of Revelation. This is one of several signs throughout the book that John was a Jewish Christian. The following verses present those worshipping God, beginning with the 4 creatures and 24 elders we first met in chapter 4. Beyond this inner group is the multitude, most likely referring to the inhabitants of earth. While it may seem strange to the modern reader to follow such dramatic violence with songs, God is being praised and worshipped for the righteous judgment he exacted on Rome. Judgment and worship go together. 
- 4And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God who sat on the throne, saying, “Amen. Alleluia.”
Commentary: These 24 elders and 4 creatures is a second group of praise and worship. This group has appeared throughout Revelation. They appear whenever hymnody is involved--if there is worshipping to be done, they are there to do it. “Amen! Hallelujah!” is seen in Chapter 5 verse 14 by the same group.
- 5And a voice came out of the throne, saying, “Praise our God, all of you his servants and you that fear him, both small and great.”
Commentary: This voice’s true identity is not known. But the voice must be a worshiper of God as it indicates “our God”. The voice calls the servants to action. But where these servants are, heaven or earth is not known; they could be hiding on earth, but it is more likely that they are in heaven. Many believe that they are in heaven. The terms small and great refer to the status of the servants. (See also Chapter 11:18 and Matthew 25:14-30)
- 6And I heard the sound of a great multitude, and the sound of many waters, and the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigns!"
Commentary: People are rejoicing because God reigns. The sound of this rejoicement sounds like great rushing waters. This shows the power of God and how he ultimately wins in the end and the people who are saved rejoice! The people are rejoicing because God has demonstrated his power by destroying the great harlot and the beast. His fulfillment of his promises have left his followers to give endless praise and this praise will last for eternity.
The Marriage of the Lamb
- 7"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready.” 8To her it was granted that she should be clothed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
Commentary: Paul grouped the coming of Christ together with the Resurrection and the Rapture[1 Thess 4:16-17] (see commentary on 20:4-5). After Christ meets his followers “in the air,” the marriage of the Lamb takes place. There is clear symbolism here. Christ is represented throughout Revelation as “the Lamb,” symbolizing the giving of his life as an atoning sacrifice for the people of the world, just as lambs were sacrificed on the altar for the sins of Israel. Jesus' wife is the holy Christian church and the Communion of Saints, the people who remained faithful to Christ throughout the many plagues and trials. The linens in which the bride is clothed in are clean and white representing purity, this could be symbolizing salvation. Without Christ's salvation, we are clothed in rags.
This marriage is worthy of celebration and praise because it is during this marriage that God's people will become united for eternity. The people will wear the linens of salvation and be saved and never tempted by the devil again because they will be in the Lord's embrace in Heaven.
- 9And he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
Commentary: This is one of seven blessings in the book of Revelation. This is a forewshadowing or an introduction to the next chapter of the book, which is about the Great Supper of God. This shows the true bliss of this section. This is interesting because it is referring to the guest of the marriage. God is saying that this event is also by invitation only. The Lamb refers to Jesus and this wedding imagergy and the marriage supper has strong ties to the Jewish Wedding traditions.During the wedding customs a marriage contract was signed by the bride's parents and the bridegroom. The bride's parents would also give a dowry to the groom and/or his parents, in a period familiar to us: engagement. The second phase of this tradition would occur approximately a calendar year later. The groom would go to the house of the bride, accompanied by groom's men in a parade-like ceremony. The bride, cognizant of this event, would be ready along with the bride's maids and the bridal party would venture to the groom's household. The last phase was the marriage supper that could continue on for several days. John's vision speaks of the third phase. Symbolically the first phase may have been the church's faith in Christ and the acknowledgement of Jesus being their Lord and Savior. The Lamb or groom is Jesus and His bride is the church. The second phase or dowry may be symbolic of Jesus's blood shed on the cross at Calvary. The preparatory state and expectance of the Bridgegroom arriving could be symbolic of Christ's Second Coming and the Rapture of the Church going to Heaven. This invitation only event not only includes the Church, but also the martyred saints during the tribulation and the saints mentioned in the Old Testament. The celebration is a joyous occasion of all those who have placed their faith in Christ.
- 10And I fell at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “See that you do not do that. I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
, Commentary: John, awestruck, by what the angel revealed to him fell at the angel's feet to worship him. This verse emphasizes an important point: that no one and nothing other than God should be worshiped. However, John himself makes the same mistake that many have made which points to the idea that most of the people previously punished for worshiping the Beast could have easily been forgiven by God had they repented. This could also mean that John recognized the worship of angels by fellow Christians during his time and wished to prevent the practice from happening further. The beast demanded the worship, but the angels in Heaven would not permit anyone worshipping them, but the worship was redirected to God.
For a Protestant, this passage is very interesting. As stated above, this passage very clearly demonstrates that God, and God alone is to be worshiped. As the Catholic tradition developed, it became and still is common practice to pray to and venerate the Virgin Mary, saints, and angels. While these actions may not necessarily constitute actual worship, but for many Protestants now, and those who began the reform movements, it is very similar and is not to be tolerated. As a result of these religious tensions, this passage is often pointed to when Protestants are constructing arguments against the veneration of the virgin, saints, or angels.
The Heavenly Army
- 11And I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse, and he who sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
Commentary: We now see Christ, not as a lamb, but as a warrior, ready to make war against the forces of evil. There is a passage in Zechariah —- sometimes called the apocalypse of the Old Testament —- that foretells this event: “I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem. The city will be taken, the houses looted, and the women ravaged. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations… Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with you.”[Zech 14:2-5] In Matthew, Jesus says, "The sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."[Mt 24:30] Isaiah also speaks of such a battle: "The Lord will come with fire and with his chariots, like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword the Lord will judge all flesh, and the slain of the Lord will be many."[Is 66:15-16] Many have speculated about the nature of this fire, whether it is a nuclear holocaust, a huge meteor, something supernatural, or merely symbolic. The image of the sword is used symbolically in Revelation, where the “Lamb” judges by the sword which proceeds from his mouth, i.e., his words are the standard by which people are judged. It may be that the fire and the sword of Isaiah are also symbolic. Regardless, the prophet Zephaniah says ominously, "All the earth will be devoured with the fire of my jealousy."[Zeph 3:8]
- 12His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns, and he had a name written that no one knew, except he himself. 13He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God.
Commentary: Note that Verse 12 states the rider of this white horse is said to wear many crows or diadems. John is likely making a direct contrast to the diadems that the dragon wore (Revelation 12:3). This verse also reveals that no one knows the rider's name except the rider himself. As scholars have discussed, a name stands for a person and knowledge of a name confers power over the person. That his name is known only to himself implies that the rider's power is sovereign and unlimited.
Verse 13 states that the rider' garment is dipped in blood. While there are many ways to interpret this passage, two interpretations are dominant with Biblical scholars. First, this blood is that of Christ's enemies. This interpretation draws from Isaiah 63:1-6 in which the garment is stained with blood from walking in the winepress (i.e., God's judgement). The obvious problem with this interpretation is that Armageddon has not yet been fought. The second dominant interpretation is that this is Jesus' own blood. This interpretation draws off the image of Jesus being the sacrificial lamb.
- 14The armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
Commentary: The army of heaven is described in similar terms as the resurrected and raptured believers. They are clothed in fine linen, white and clean.The army could be angelic hosts or saints. It should be noted that the seven bowl carrying angels from earlier were also clothed this way. It signifies their purity and righteousness as believers of God. It is interesting to think this is an army that never fights, and go into "battle" wearing ceremonial garments rather than armor or gear for battle.
- 15Out of his mouth goes 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 and wrath of Almighty God.
Commentary: The army does not ride through the winepress, but mearly are witnesses as God executes his judgment. We can imagine that the sword in the rider's mouth is not a typical weapon, but the Word of God as weapon. We have seen in many other places in Revelation and the Bible where a sword if symbolically used as the word of God. In any case, it slaughters at least as competently as any other weapon of destruction.
The word is used to "smite the nations" and destroy those who do not follow or believe in God with the "rod of iron", which we have seen in previous chapters of Revelation to he Jesus.
- 16And he has on his robe and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Commentary: For a while, Satan's victory seemed to be complete, but it is short-lived. He barely has time to establish his authority before Christ appears, no longer the sacrificial lamb, but “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” He rides forth to do battle with Satan in a final showdown between the forces of good and evil.
The Beast and His Army Are Defeated
- 17And I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of the sky, “Come and gather yourselves together to the supper of the great God, 18that you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty ones, and the flesh of horses and those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, both free and bond, both small and great.”
Commentary: The call for the carrion to feast on the corpses is, according to Beasley-Murray, a reversal of the sacrificial feast when humans typically feasted on animals.
- 19And 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.
- 20And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that performed miracles in his presence, with which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast, and those who worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Commentary:It's interesting to note that the battle never really happens. Armies are assembled, and conflict presumably occurs, yet none of the actual fighting is shown. This reflects the absolutely overwhelming power that God holds. His might is so great that not even the strongest forces of evil assembled together are a non-threat to him. This reflects that a powerful force of evil isn't just a threat to God, it would be a threat to monotheism. If the forces of evil were really a challenge to God, then perhaps he would by definition not be all powerful. This can be used to explain why the battle isn't shown; if God is all powerful then there would not be a need for a battle because he could bind evil before it could do anything against him.
Just as Christ is described by Paul as “the firstfruits of the resurrection” (1 Cor 15:20), the Antichrist and the false prophet are the firstfruits of the lake of fire, for they are sent there in the first judgment at the end of this age. In Revelation, no one else goes there until the last judgment, at the end of the world. Satan and the followers of the Antichrist do not go there at this time, but are imprisoned in the abyss, or bottomless pit, for a thousand years (the "Millennium"). That the beast and his false prophet are cast living into the fire suggests to Witherington that hell is not a place of annihilation, but of punishment.
- 21The remainder were slain with the sword of him who sat upon the horse, which proceeded out of his mouth, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
Commentary: Witherington suggests that we are to consider this battle not a battle at all, but a judgment on supernatural evil because the armies are not "thrown into the lake of fire." But in this verse we see that the followers of the beast are indeed massacred.
- Witherington, Ben. Revelation. Cambridge University Press, 2003.