Rejoicing in heaven

Revelation 19:1-5

The build-up to Jesus' return now gains momentum. At last, we are very clearly seeing the fulfilment of all that our loving Father has promised us with the inevitable outcome for the Enemy, which is also imminent. Firstly, John records a number of songs of praise as heaven approves God's judgement of 'Babylon', which leaves Him as the one and only King of kings. The first three songs combine to form a tumultuous 'Hallelujah Chorus' in heaven, as all the saints praise God for His salvation, glory and power! The word "Hallelujah" comes from Hebrew: "Hallelu" (meaning 'give praise to') and "Jah", the shortened form of "Jahweh" - the name of God revealed to Moses. (Exodus 3:13-14) We usually translate it into English as 'Praise the Lord!' Interestingly, although the word ('Hallelujah') is used several times in the Old Testament, this is its only occurrence in the whole of the New Testament. It is used here as a heartfelt response to outright victory. The fall of 'Babylon' marks the end of organised evil that has plagued the earth for so long. It clearly shows that those in heaven can see and are intimately aware of all that occurs on the earth during this time.

Finally, "a voice from the throne" (probably that of an angel) calls on all God's servants and all who fear Him, small and great, to continue the song of praise to God. As we have worked through our study of Revelation, we have certainly received the blessing which was promised at the outset. (Revelation 1:3) Of course, no study is exhaustive, since no one has total knowledge – only God! However, we have seen through this book what trouble is caused when humans attempt to usurp God’s will and the chaos this has caused right from the beginning. Through His word to us, God has chosen to reveal only limited knowledge, which is such a blessing and protection for us. We might not wish to see or understand everything that is going to happen in our future! But He has given us a general, working knowledge, which we need both to encourage and enable us to share our experiences and all that we know about Jesus. Our 'mission field' includes everyone within our circle of influence and the goal is to pluck as many as possible from the 'cliff edge' of hell. What an awesome responsibility!

God is not mocked. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. It is He, who has created the heavens and the earth. It is in His hands that they rest. All others who set themselves up in His place are impostors and liars. We need to know in our hearts, that He is the One to whom we owe our lives, our salvation and our eternal life. This joyous celebration comes from a vast crowd of people who are praising and worshipping God, because of His just judgements. This multitude comprises all the promised descendants of Abraham, who believed God for them and is watching, even as God’s promise to him is fulfilled. Previously, Abraham only saw by faith; now he is seeing it take place before his eyes!

Encouragement here and now

John's revelation is an encouragement for all believers throughout history, but what about us, right here and now? What has God promised us? What are we seeing by faith? Or have we given up on something because it has taken too long? At this point in history, it sometimes feels as if God does not care that evil is multiplying; corruption exhibits itself everywhere, even among our children. Doesn’t it sometimes feel as if Jesus is never coming back? These doubting thoughts can be compared to those of the "foolish virgins" - and look what happened to them! (Matthew 25:1-13) God always acts in His time, which is perfect, so let's be encouraged! Thankfully, we also have His promise: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Romans 5:20)

Abraham experienced doubts too, but because it was God who gave the promise (and He is faithful), the promise came to pass. So, if God can do this for Abraham, what will He do for us? All Abraham did was to believe God and put his faith into action, so his ‘faith-in-action’ was credited as righteousness! That’s all we have to do – to believe God’s word. God’s judgements are true and just and we know that He is bringing all things together. He will shake the heavens and the earth once again. The outcome will soon be evident and those who love God will see it with their own eyes!

Not only will Satan attempting to corrupt the earth by bringing in his own demonic, 'beast system', he will also try to reinforce that with his organization of satanic worship. It will begin – indeed it has already begun – with people emulating churches by creating various cults. They may have some similarities and the differences may be subtle, but the focus of their worship is not God, but usually particular individuals and intricate systems of ritual or belief that elevate anything (or anyone) but God! Who or what do we worship? Who or what is the focus of our attention, adoration and thoughts?

As we have seen in our study of 'Babylon', the corrupt system of worship that our Enemy is building all the time is personified by John as the "great harlot" (or prostitute). The earth is full, even now, of blatant attempts to seduce us from a faithful relationship with our husband (Jesus) and to give ourselves up to a fantasy world of immorality and corruption. The songs of praise at the beginning of this chapter show that God will judge her and bring the Enemy's efforts to nothing. So, by faith, we can rejoice with all those in heaven today. Indeed, it is our duty as believers to praise and thank God at every opportunity. It was never intended that we should be ‘closet Christians’. On the contrary, we must openly declare the wonderful deeds of the Lord at every opportunity. (Romans 8:18-19)

  • Praise is one of the most powerful weapons we have because it silences the Enemy. (Psalm 8:2)
  • It declares our faith in God’s word rather than our own circumstances. (Ezekiel 37:3-4; 37:7; 37:10)
  • It lifts our hearts to see things from His perspective. (Psalm 103:1-5)
  • We know that God "inhabits the praises of His people". (Psalm 22:3 - King James version)

The wedding of the Lamb

Revelation 19:6-10

Yet again, heaven resounds to the roar of a huge crowd of angels as they praise the victorious Lord of all the earth. Satan has lost. He is about to be defeated, judged and found guilty. Jesus has won. He is coming to reign as the undisputed King of kings and Lord of lords. He is also coming as a bridegroom to celebrate His marriage. His bride will be the church - all those who have been 'born again' through faith in Him. A Jewish wedding took place in three stages:

  1. The engagement (or betrothal). The parents choose a bride for their son and a contract of declaration is drawn up. Although the marriage is not consummated at this stage, the two are considered husband and wife, regardless of their age (even if they are still children). The husband then leaves his betrothed wife presents with which to beautify and prepare herself for the future wedding ceremony.
  2. The presentation. When the time comes, the husband goes to collect his bride from her home. The marriage contact is presented and, accompanied by relatives and friends, they all make their way back to his home, where the marriage ceremony takes place.
  3. The reception. The husband has prepared a feast at his home and a place for his new bride. All those who have been invited - usually friends and family - are royally entertained for several days!

Through John's eyes, we now see this taking place in heaven between Jesus and His bride. The Holy Spirit has been choosing people throughout history to be part of the 'body' of the bride as they are "born again". (The presence of the Holy Spirit in a person's life can be considered as an 'engagement ring' - a promise of what is to take place in due course.) Through the course of history, the bride has time to prepare herself for the groom's arrival, but doesn't know exactly when that may be. (The gifts of the Holy Spirit to the church are to be used to help the bride prepare herself for marriage.) At some point, Jesus (the 'Lamb') will come to take His bride to be with Him in heaven. (We have referred to this as the "rapture" when all believers, past and present, are caught up to meet Jesus "in the air".) Now the time is coming for the wedding feast. The focus is very much on the joy and excitement in heaven, as the vast throng of saved people shout their acclamation of the one, true God! Satan has been silenced and the Lord God - the omnipotent - reigns supreme. No wonder such a glorious, deafening chorus rises up!

This is the moment for which every believer has waited. In this case, the celebration and display of the bride will last a thousand years! She is dressed in "fine linen, bright and clean" and will look radiant, holy and blameless, without stain, wrinkle or any blemish. (Ephesians 5:27) The angel who is explaining things to John, then pronounces a blessing on all those who have been invited to the marriage supper of the 'Lamb'. This is an encouragement to all believers to hold firm to their commitment throughout their lives. It also appears to be a reference to the fact that friends of the bridegroom will also be present. If the 'bride' is the body of all believers who have been "born again" through faith in Christ, these 'friends' may well include the 'Jewish evangelists' and others who responded to their message during the "tribulation". They may also include saints and prophets from the days of the Old Testament who have responded to the Father's wedding invitation. (Matthew 22:1-14)

All John could do was to fall prostrate in wonder before this angel, but the angel was quick to correct him! Angels, like men and women, are created beings and, whilst they may represent God and speak His words to us on His behalf, should not be treated as though they themselves were divine. This angel gently reminds John not to worship him. His last sentence is somewhat ambiguous but seems to be saying that he, like John, accepts and believes that Jesus is from God and, even as Jesus spoke only what He heard from His Father, so authentic prophecy must always come from God alone and glorify God alone. THe angel has spoken the "true words of God" but is not himself a being to be worshipped. (What a stark contrast he makes with Satan who was quick to seek worship for himself!)

Jesus Christ returns

Revelation 19:11-21

The time has now come for God to settle accounts with the godless millions who have seized the earth as their own kingdom: the dragon, the beast and the false prophet with all their followers, demonic and human. We see heaven opened and Jesus appearing on a white horse. This time He is coming with His church to deal with His enemies and to establish His reign over the earth. What a beautiful description of Jesus: "Faithful" and "True" or, as the Amplified Bible says: “Trustworthy, loyal, incorruptible and steady”. After all this horror, there can be no name more worthy for Jesus than "King"! People have never been able to dispute His faithfulness to His people or to His Father and they now see clearly that all He did and said was indeed true. He will openly be seen as "the way, the truth and the life".

The Messiah comes now to judge and His judgements are righteousness! John has been allowed a preview of what these judgements will be and has faithfully reported the breaking of the seals, the blowing of the trumpets and the pouring out of the bowls. For His followers now, it may be hard to see Jesus choosing to "wage war", but we need to grasp the complete picture of God, not a false image that we may have built to suit our own needs. Jesus has shown that our God is certainly a God of unfailing love, but He is also a God of fierce, righteous indignation and jealousy. He does not allow the wicked to get away with their evil acts, especially if they set themselves against His children. He is a God of holy vengeance. Our contemporary world has never seen Him in quite this light before! It has never quite believed in His absolute authority. It still does not believe in His sovereignty! God delights in being our father and friend, so isn’t it much better to meet Him in His love, rather than in His anger?

But now, the Father has decided that human sin has reached such a staggering depth of depravity that the time has come for Jesus to deal with it. Humanity has always sought to settle its differences through overwhelming physical strength and power and now the Enemy seems to be under the illusion that a military show of force will prevent God from bringing justice to the earth. How interesting then to note that the "armies of heaven" are "dressed in white, clean linen" but, apparently have no armour or weapons. The reason for this is that they will not need to fight. Jesus alone has a weapon. He is described as "the Word of God" which the apostle, Paul, called "the sword of the Spirit". (Ephesians 6:17) This is why a "sharp sword" is depicted as coming out of His mouth. There will not be much fighting when He joins the battle; it will all be over in a flash!

A triumphant procession

The scene is laid out by John for his readers in terms that they would recognise and understand. A Roman triumphal procession was the highest honour that could be bestowed on a victorious general. It was both public and triumphant! It processed, with the general to be honoured seated on a white horse, from the Forum up the Via Sacra (Rome’s main thoroughfare) to the temple of Jupiter that was on the Capitoline Hill. First came the spoils of war, which would eventually be given to the general’s army and friends. Next came the captives, who had been defeated and captured in battle, disarmed and in chains. Then came the general on his horse, followed by his family, friends and his army. Later, the prisoners were often executed by the soldiers, often one-on-one until they were all dead.

Paul saw this in his time and used it as an illustration of Jesus' victory in death: “Disarming the rulers and authorities, He has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross”. (Colossians 2:15) At the cross, Jesus warned the devil of his impending punishment. We need to fully appreciate that, through Christ, we are the victorious ones. We should not be deceived by the defeated power of Satan and his demons. One word from God is all we need to be overcomers in all situations, not just for some of our problems, but all of them!

Jesus rides out in full and complete authority to deal with Satan and his followers. John describes Him as both judge and warrior, but also as a king in regal majesty, focused and intent on what lies ahead. This "King of kings", who lives in eternal light, now rides out into the darkness. Heaven is opened and, everywhere He goes, there is light. Satan can no longer hide. When Jesus came into the world the first time, He came as a helpless baby; full of grace and truth, certainly, but dependent on his human parents for all His needs. Now He rides as the just and all-powerful judge, who is waging a war that He alone can win!

His name, says John, is known only to Himself. Of course, we know Jesus by many names and one is given here: "King of kings and Lord of lords", but names, as we've seen earlier, are used in the Bible as more than simply a label to distinguish one person from another. They say something about the essential nature and character of a person. What John may be saying, therefore, is that there is still more that we can learn about who Jesus is and how He relates to His Father, the Spirit and to the human race at large. Also, in John's day, there was a superstitious belief that knowing a person's name could give you power over that person. Consequently, because Jesus' name was unknown, nobody could have any power over Him. We can only begin to imagine what this "unknown name" might be but, one day, we shall discover its full extent; we shall no longer see "as in a glass, darkly, but rather face to face". (1 Corinthians 13:12) What an amazing day for all believers!

The great banquet of God

Now another invitation is given out to an entirely different feast. This is not an invitation to a wedding feast, but a military disaster. It is not sent to happy friends and families but to the birds of the air – vultures and other carrion-eating birds. (Revelation 19:17-18) The kings of the earth and the armies of the world, led by the beast and the false prophet, will gather together to wage war, initially against each other. However, when they realised that they are both facing the same arch-enemy, Jesus Christ, they will quickly decide to overcome their differences and join forces in a battle against the rider on the horse and his armies. Suddenly, the two prime architects of evil will be removed from the rebellion. The opposing armies will immediately be challenged by the one whom they see as their arch-enemy. This will mark the swift end to the much-vaunted battle of Armageddon and the beginning of an earthly reign by the Messiah for one thousand years.

The antichrist and the false prophet, who had deceived so many by their sorcery, will be thrown alive into the lake of fire, that burns eternally. All those who followed them and received the mark of the beast will be killed by the sword - the sharp, two-edged sword of the word of God. This is a fitting end for all who, throughout their lives, despised the truth of the word! All the carrion-eating birds of the air will sit down to gorge themselves and to clear up!

In the next chapter, we shall see "the first resurrection" - the millennium reign of Christ - followed by the judgement of Satan and the judgement of the dead. Thank God that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life!

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