Revelation 19 – Jesus Returns as Conquering Lord
A. Praise in heaven.
1. (1-5) Praise for the judgment of Babylon.
After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.” Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, “Amen! Alleluia!” Then a voice came from the throne, saying, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!”
a. A great multitude in heaven: Back in Revelation 7:9-14, we saw a great multitude saved out of the Great Tribulation, ready for the end of the world system and the Antichrist’s reign on earth. Here, this great multitude, the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures all join in celebrating the fall of the Antichrist and the world system that supported him.
i. A part of this great multitude – those martyred saints who fell at the hand of Antichrist during the Great Tribulation – cried out for God’s righteous judgment in Revelation 6:10. Here, finally, their prayer is answered.
b. Alleluia… Alleluia… Alleluia: This wonderful word, borrowed from Hebrew, occurs four times in Revelation 19, but nowhere else in the New Testament. It belongs here – because God’s people rejoice without restraint at His victory over Babylon.
i. Alleluia is Hebrew for “Praise the Lord,” saying it in the imperative sense. It is an encouragement and an exhortation to Praise the Lord!
ii. Some seem afraid of saying Alleluia, but we’ll all be saying it in heaven. It’s such a wonderful word that we should never use it without thinking.
iii. “Anselm of Canterbury, considers it an angelic word, which cannot be fully reproduced in any language of man, and concurs with Augustine that the feeling and saying of it embodies all the blessedness of heaven.” (Seiss)
c. For true and righteous are His judgments: This section is really the climax of Revelation 18. In Revelation 18, Babylon’s friends mourned her fall; but here, God’s people celebrate it.
d. He has judged the great harlot… He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her: Here, the focus of worship is on the great works of God, specifically, His work of righteous judgment.
e. Then a voice came from the throne: This voice from the throne of God might be Jesus, but more likely it is the voice of one of the angels that serve at the throne of God.
2. (6-9) Praise for the marriage of the Lamb.
And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then 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.”
a. The voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings: The height of praise on earth is only a dim shadow of what these verses describe. At this point, Revelation approaches the consummation of God’s plan for all history, so we also come to a summit of praise.
i. This is obviously loud, enthusiastic praise. While it is certainly possible to make praise and worship a self-indulgent focus on our feelings or a disorderly expression of the flesh, there is nothing wrong with loud, enthusiastic praise. And while there is something precious and irreplaceable about quiet times alone with God, there is also something absolutely thrilling about a large number of Christians worshipping God with sincere enthusiasm.
ii. “We ought not to worship God in a half-hearted sort of way; as if it were now our duty to bless God, but we felt it to be a weary business, and we would get it through as quickly as we could, and have done with it; and the sooner the better. No, no; ‘All that is within me, bless his holy name.’ Come, my heart, wake up, and summon all the powers which wait upon thee! Mechanical worship is easy, but worthless. Come rouse yourself, my brother! Rouse thyself, O my own soul!” (Spurgeon)
iii. “All Christian duties should be done joyfully; but especially the work of praising the Lord. I have been in congregations where the tune was dolorous to the very last degree; where the time was so dreadfully slow that one wondered whether they would ever be able to sing through the 119 Psalm; whether, to use Watt’s expression, eternity would not be too short from them to get through it; and altogether, the spirit of the people has seemed to be so damp, so heavy, so dead, that we might have supposed that they were met to prepare their minds for a hanging rather than for blessing the ever-gracious God.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “Heaven is always heaven, and unspeakably full of blessedness; but even heaven has its holidays, even bliss has its overflowings; and on that day when the springtide of the infinite ocean of joy shall have come, what a measureless flood of delight shall overflow the souls of all glorified spirits… We do not know yet, beloved, of what happiness we are capable.” (Spurgeon)
b. The marriage of the Lamb has come: One reason this great multitude is so filled with praise is because the time has come for the Lamb of God to be joined unto His people, in a union so close it can only be compared to the marriage of a man and a woman.
i. The marriage of the Lamb, who is the Messiah, is a picture used frequently throughout the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, Israel is presented as God’s wife, who is often unfaithful (Hosea 2:19-20, Isaiah 54:5, Ezekiel 16). In the New Testament, the church is presented as the fiancé of Jesus, waiting for this day of marriage (2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:25-32).
ii. “In Biblical times a marriage involved two major events, the betrothal and the wedding. These were normally separated by a period of time during which the two individuals were considered husband and wife and as such were under the obligations of faithfulness. The wedding began with a procession to the bride’s house, which was followed by a return to the house of the groom for the marriage feast. By analogy, the church, espoused to Christ by faith, now awaits the parousia when the heavenly groom will come for his bride and return to heaven for the marriage feast which lasts throughout eternity.” (Mounce)
c. And His wife has made herself ready: What do we do to make ourselves ready for this wedding? There is much for us to do, but it is ultimately a work God does in us (Ephesians 5:25-27). This point is emphasized when John notes, to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright.
i. In this perfect union with Jesus, His people will be clean and bright before Him. “Clean (katharos) reflects purity, loyalty and faithfulness, the character of the New Jerusalem… Bright (lampros) is the color of radiant whiteness that depicts glorification.” (Johnson)
ii. For the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints: Believers are created for divinely prepared good works. These “righteousnesses” (righteous acts) are what fill the “hope chest” of the bride of Jesus.
iii. Paul spoke of his desire that Christians would be presented before the Lord pure: For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2) This should be the desire of every Christian worker.
d. Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! Blessed indeed; Jesus Himself eagerly anticipated this marriage supper. He spoke longingly of the day when He will drink of the fruit of the vine again, with His disciples in the kingdom (Matthew 26:29).
i. In Jewish culture, the marriage supper was the best banquet or party anyone knew; it always was an occasion of tremendous joy. According to Rabbinical teaching, obedience to the commandments was suspended during a wedding celebration if obeying a commandment might lessen the joy of the occasion.
ii. On that day, everyone will see the church for what she really is: the precious bride of Jesus. “The Bride of Christ is a sort of Cinderella now, sitting among the ashes. She is like her Lord, ‘despised and rejected of men’; the watchmen smite her, and take away her veil from her; for they know her not, even as they knew not her Lord. But when he shall appear, then shall she appear also, and in his glorious manifestation she also shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father.” (Spurgeon)
e. These are the true sayings of God: This is a necessary note of assurance for us. This anticipated consummation will take place, and though it seems too good to be true, it will happen.
3. (10) John worships an angel, and is corrected.
And 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.”
a. I fell at his feet to worship him: Why would such a godly man like John make such a blunder as this? “John either felt that the angel represented God or he was beside himself with excitement over the glorious consummation.” (Robertson)
b. See that you do not do that! No created being should be worshipped. This is in contrast to Jesus, who receives the worship of angels (Hebrews 1:6) and of men (Matthew 8:2, Matthew 14:33, John 9:38).
c. I am your fellow servant: There are important differences between humans and angels, but both are servants of the same Lord.
d. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy: The true spirit of prophecy always shows itself in bearing witness to Jesus. “Any teaching of prophecy that takes our minds and hearts away from Him is not being properly communicated.” (Hocking)
i. “This means that prophecy at its very heart is designed to unfold the beauty and loveliness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Walvoord)
B. Jesus Christ returns to a hostile earth.
1. (11-16) Jesus returns to earth with an army from heaven.
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
a. Now I saw heaven opened, and behold: There is a sense in which everything before this in the Book of Revelation is an introduction to this revelation (unveiling) of Jesus Christ. Now He returns to earth in power and glory.
i. According to Zechariah 14:3-4, when Jesus returns He will come first to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The plea of Isaiah 64:1-2 is now fulfilled: Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence; as fire burns brushwood, as fire causes water to boil; to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence!
ii. This prayer for deliverance will be on the lips of the Jewish people surviving through the Great Tribulation. Unlikely as it may seem now, they will cry out to Jesus their Messiah for deliverance, and as a whole, they will embrace Him as their Savior. As Jesus said in Matthew 23:39: I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” Hard pressed by the terrible persecution of the Antichrist, Israel as a whole will turn their hearts towards Jesus, and He will deliver them at this late hour.
iii. When Jesus comes, He comes on a white horse. In Biblical times – especially among Israel – most soldiers were foot soldiers. To have a horse in battle was a significant advantage. A horse spoke of honor, of power, and of speed; the color of this horse speaks of victory.
b. Faithful and True: This glorious title shows Jesus is the keeper of promises, including His promises of judgment.
c. In righteousness He judges and makes war: Jesus comes as a judge and a general to make war. The world that rejected Him before rejects Him again, but this time Jesus judges those who reject Him.
i. “The world likes a complacent, reasonable religion, and so it is always ready to revere some pale Galilean image of Jesus, some meager anemic Messiah, and to give Him a moderate rational homage.” (Torrance)
ii. “Any view of God which eliminates judgment and his hatred of sin in the interest of an emasculated doctrine of sentimental affection finds no support in the strong and virile realism of the Apocalypse.” (Mounce)
iii. This is a Jesus we can’t control. Here we see Jesus as someone who demands not only our attention, but also our submission.
iv. It’s good for us to remember that this dramatic display of judgment comes only at the end of a long time of grace, patience, and mercy. This is no “rush to judgment.” Jesus has amply displayed His nature of mercy, forgiveness and grace to this fallen world. He comes now to judge a world hardened and totally given over to their rebellion against Him.
v. “All of these passages point to the sad conclusion that in the day of judgment it is too late for men to expect the mercy of God. There is nothing more inflexible than divine judgment where grace has been spurned. The scene of awful judgment which comes from this background is in flat contradiction of the modern point of view that God is dominated entirely by His attribute of love.” (Walvoord)
vi. Remember that He does it all in righteousness. “The wars which he wages are from no principle of ambition, lust of power, or extension of conquest and dominion; they are righteous in their principle and in their object. And this is perhaps what no earthly potentate could ever say.” (Clarke)
vii. “Jesus is the only king who always wars in this fashion. There have been brilliant exceptions to the general rule, but war is usually as deceitful as it is bloody, and the words of diplomatists are a mass of lies. It seems impossible that men should deliberate about peace and war without straightway forgetting the meaning of words and the bonds of honesty: War still seems to be a piece of business in which truth would be out of place; it is a matter so accursed that falsehood is there most at home, and righteousness quits the plain. But as for our King, it is in righteousness that he doth judge and make war. Christ’s kingdom needs no deception: the plainest speech and the clearest truth – these are the weapons of our warfare.” (Spurgeon)
d. His eyes were like a flame of fire: “Why are they like flames of fire? Why, first, to discern the secrets of all hearts. There are no secrets here that Christ does not see. There is no lewd thought, there is no unbelieving scepticism, that Christ does not read. There is no hypocrisy, no formalism, no deceit, that he does not scan as easily as a man reads a page in a book. His eyes are like a flame of fire to read us through and through, and know us to our inmost soul.” (Spurgeon)
e. On His head were many crowns: The last time this earth saw Jesus He wore a crown of thorns, but not in Revelation 19. Now, He wears many crowns. The ancient Greek word used for crowns here is the diadema, the crown of royalty and authority, not the stephanos, the crown of achievement.
i. The fact that there are many crowns means that Jesus is the ultimate in royal authority and power. It is a visible manifestation of what we mean when we say KING OF KINGS. It is an expression of unlimited sovereignty.
f. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood: His robe is dipped (or sprinkled) in blood. Bible students debate whether this is His own blood (reminding us of the cross) or the blood of His enemies. Either is quite possible.
g. The armies in heaven: These are God’s people (Revelation 17:14, Jude 14-15). There is little doubt that angels will also accompany Jesus and His people, but the main idea is that the Son of God leads the people of God from heaven against earth.
i. There is no mention of any kind of armor or weapon for any soldier in the great army that follows Jesus. The only armor or weapon they have is the only one they need: clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
h. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword: The idea isn’t that Jesus holds a sword in his mouth like a buccaneer, or that He is “spitting swords.” This is a dramatic way of referring to the power of His Word. “Christ conquers by the power of His Word” (Johnson). Five times in the Book Revelation, John emphasizes that Jesus’ sword comes out of His mouth.
i. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron: Jesus comes to rule and to reign in triumph, to rule the nations with a rod of iron as predicted in Psalm 2. He comes as KING OF KINGS to displace every king reigning on this earth.
i. “It does not mean the leavening of existing governments with Christian principles, the spiritual conversion of countries and empires, leaving them in existence, and simply Christianizing them so as to exhibit something of Christ’s spirit in their administrations; but the total displacement of all this world’s sovereigns and governments, the taking of all dominion and authority out of their hands and putting it in the hands of Christ, as the true and only King of the world.” (Seiss)
j. He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS: The name is on His thigh for prominence, being easily visible when seated on a horse. At the same time, no one knew [the name] except Himself – that is, no one can comprehend Him perfectly.
i. Clarke is among those who believe that the name written that no one knew except Himself is actually the tetragrammaton, the four letters YHWH that make up the name Yahweh, the sacred and secret name of God.
2. (17-18) Invitation to the great supper.
Then 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 heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”
a. An angel standing in the sun: This shows how bright this angels shines with the glory of God. The angel can be seen, even though it stands before the sun. “The angel is standing in the light of the sun with the angel himself possibly shining with even greater brilliance.” (Walvoord)
b. Saying to all the birds that fly: This is a preparation for a great slaughter of Armageddon, “presented in a picture of almost repellent realism.” (Erdman)
c. The flesh of kings, the flesh of captains: The repetition of flesh (5 times) is revealing. “The race has walked in carnal enmity against God, living after the flesh, and now the day of His patience is at an end.” (Barnhouse)
i. It also shows that men of all stations are judged. The high and the low together, if they remain hardened in their rejection of Jesus, will be judged. “The divine judgment upon the wicked is no respecter of persons or station, and is the great equalizer of all.” (Walvoord)
d. Gather together for the supper of the great God: Newell points to four different suppers described in the Bible.
· The supper of salvation, alluded to in Jesus’ parable (Luke 14:16-24).
· The Lord’s supper, a commemoration of Jesus’ sacrifice.
· The marriage supper of the Lamb.
· The supper of the great God.
i. If you reject the first supper, the second supper will mean nothing to you. Then you will not be present at the third supper, but will be present at the fourth supper. Everybody gets to attend at least one of these suppers, but some will eat and others are eaten at the suppers.
3. (19-21) War and the victory of Jesus Christ.
And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.
a. Armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the throne: Some find it hard to understand how man could be so foolish to try and keep Jesus and this heavenly army off the earth in a pitched battle. They suggest that these armies initially gather to battle against each other, and then turn their fury on the returning Jesus. This may be the case, but we should never underestimate man’s folly and hatred of God.
i. “This is the incurable insanity of sin, which wars away in spite of defeat after defeat, against a holy God.” (Newell)
ii. To make war against Him: This is just the logical extension of man’s constant war against God since the fall. It is no more unbelievable than the idea that God came to earth and men murdered Him.
b. To make war: John wrote no description about a battle. This is an entirely one-sided affair, more of a simple act of judgment than a prolonged battle or war. “The battle of Armageddon is the laughter of God against the climax of man’s arrogance.” (Barnhouse)
c. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet: The beast and the false prophet receive special treatment. They are cast alive into the lake of fire before the Great White Throne of judgment holds court (Revelation 20:11-15).
i. “A lake of burning brimstone would not only be intensely hot, but malodorous and fetid as well.” (Mounce)
ii. The lake of fire is what we normally consider hell. It is real, and there is nothing more important than avoiding it.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission