Revelation 19: Heaven’s rejoicing in anticipation of Christ’s Coming

Revelation 19:1-5

Image above is from Pinterest. “Babylon’s Fall” by John Martin 1789–1854. Public Domain.

Chapter 19 as a Whole

Verses 1-5 seem to close chapter 18 rather than begin chapter 19. They are a thanksgiving for the destruction of Babylon—the trans-temporal symbol of Satan’s dominion in this world and Antichrist’s end time evil empire that engulfs the entire globe.

“John hears the response of heaven’s residents to the invitation in Revelation 18:20“—Rejoice over her, O heaven,
and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her! (see Johnson, D. E. below.)

There are three major events in chapter 19—
1. The Invitation to the Marriage-Feast of the Lamb
2. The Second Coming of Christ
3. The Battle of Armageddon/Carrion-Feast of the Birds

The theme of Revelation 19:1-5 is—God’s people will see His righteous vengeance displayed at the end.

I. Our God is a God of deliverance of His people from danger and threats to their safety and well-being.

vs. 1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…


John Paton (1824-1907; pictured left) was a [Scottish] missionary in the New Hebrides Islands [South Pacific]. One night hostile natives surrounded the mission station, intent on burning out the Patons and killing them. Paton and his wife prayed during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see their attackers leave.

A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men with you there?” Paton knew no men were present, but the chief said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords circling the mission station. (see Today in the Word, below.)


Vagrants might be persons without any means of support, but God’s people are beloved people of God who gives them invisible means of support! See II Kings 6—

15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

“After this” is literally “after these things” (the same phrase that occurs in Rev. 1:19 meta tauta). This phrase indicates movement in the visions, but not necessarily movement in time of fulfillment.

This is important in interpreting chapters 16-19. Some of the visions are not chronological. There are sections that retrace past events for the purpose of explanation. The “multitude” is not identified. It seems to be, however, a multitude of angels. “Hallelujah” is a Hebrew word that has been transliterated into English. It means “praise Yahweh” or “praise the Lord.” This is the only occurrence of the word in the New Testament. The three attributes mentioned are said to “belong to God.” They are demonstrated in all that he does to save his people—in the physical and spiritual sense of “salvation.”

“Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven”
by de Gustave Doré; Public Domain

Salvation is “God’s rescue which delivers believers out of destruction and into His safety. It has multiple ideas such as: welfare, prosperity, deliverance, preservation, salvation, safety.” (see sōtēria, below.)

Glory is doxa—from which we derive our English word doxology. Doxa means honor, renown; glory, an especially divine quality, the unspoken manifestation of God, splendor. (see doxa, below.)

Power is dunamis from which we derive the English word dynamite. (see dunamis, below.)

This paean of praise brings to mind the Lord’s Prayer given in the Gospels. (see Ellicott, below.) For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matthew 6:13). Our Lord is at the center of Heaven’s praise, and this should move us to do the same here on earth.

II. Our God’s judgment involves righteous vengeance for evil done to His people.

vs. 2 …for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Amusement Park in Pripyat before (1980s) and 34 years after the Chernobyl disaster
from https://www.bcd-urbex.com/pripyat-then-and-now/

The photographs above show how quickly a city once vibrant with 50,000 persons can fall into disuse after 34 years. This is certainly true of Imperial Cities all through history. 

“Judgment” in Greek is krisis. The –sis ending on the word indicates that the act of final judgment is in view, not simply a temporal pronouncement in a human court.

The great prostitute is John’s symbol for Dragon’s trans-temporal empire and its ungodly culture and religion. At this point in Revelation, Babylon has already fallen. The word “who” is the indefinite relative pronoun in Greek. Its use is qualitative—”this is the very one who corrupted the earth… . ”

vs. 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

Isaiah 34:8-10 seems to be the basis for John’s image here—

8 For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
9 And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into sulfur; her land shall become burning pitch.
10  Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it forever and ever.

III. Angels validate God’s righteous judgment in their praises.

vs. 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”

At this point, the 24 elders mentioned in chapter 4 join in the praise of the Lord. They are an order of angels.

IV. Our God calls upon all His people to praise Him for His righteous judgment.

vs. 5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”

Everyone is included in this call to worship. Alan F. Johnson says that “all socioeconomic distinctions are transcended in the united worship of the church… .” They will be in the great day of Christ’s Second Coming, for sure. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, once had a dream. She said she saw people rising from earth to enter into heaven. Only as they rose all man-made labels fell off.

However, we might add, that such distinctions ought to be transcended now, also. This entire passage with its hallelujahs seems to be based upon Psalm 113-118 known as the Great Hallel.

(1) God’s servants (doulos—literally “slaves”) Psalm 113:1—Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord!

(2) God-fearers (phobeomai) Psalm 115:12-13—12 The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; 13 he will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great.

(3) Small ones (mikros)

God’s judgment doesn’t always come quickly, but it certainly does come!

Next time, we will look at the marriage feast of the lamb.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Doxa. (2021). Bible Hub. Accessed 8 April 2021 from https://biblehub.com/greek/1391.htm

Dunamis. (2021). Bible Hub. Accessed 8 April 2021 from https://biblehub.com/greek/1411.htm

Ellicott, J. C. (1878). Commentary for English Readers. Accessed 8 April 2021 from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/revelation/19-1.htm

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Sōtēria. (2021). Bible Hub; Accessed 8 April 2021 from https://biblehub.com/greek/4991.htm

Today in the Word. (1991). “Missionary Story.” Accessed 7 April 2021 from https://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-illustrations/1534/missionary-story/

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 18: Rejoicing over Babylon’s Fall

Revelation 18:20-24

Image above: “Fall of the Tower of Babel,” by Cornelis Anthonisz, 1547 public domain.

Chapter 18 contains rejoicing by various groups over the destruction
which has already occurred in the seventh bowl of wrath.  

  • Inhabitants of Heaven (Angels and the Righteous Dead?)
  • Saints
  • Apostles
  • Prophets

This call to rejoice in Revelation seems to have Jeremiah 51:48 as its background. “Then heaven and earth and all that is in them will shout for joy over Babylon” (see Fee, G. D. p. 259, below).

Revelation 18:20-24 gives believers reasons to rejoice over the destruction of Satan’s empire that rules the earth. 

I. God has answered the prayers of His people for vengeance by judging Babylon. vs. 20

vs. 20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!”

Note that the earth-dwellers mourn over the city’s destruction, but those in the heavens are told to rejoice over her destruction. It depends upon one’s attitude toward the Lord and his people whether one rejoices or mourns over the destruction of Babylon.

“Ancient Babylon fell in one night after having been “weighed in the balance and found wanting.” [Daniel 5:30]. Can modern empires fall just as quickly? History and the Bible provide an answer. The nations may “rage” and the rulers “take counsel together” (Psalm 2:1-2), but unless their actions are in accord with the counsel of God, in the end they will pass from the world scene.” (see McNeely, blow.) 

https://rickbarbarebiblestudies.files.wordpress.com/2021/04/159a8-1_eklkkgw222knxjhgkff7q.jpeg

Mystery, Babylon the Great, Part 1 blog post by Colin MacIntyre

II. God will erase Babylon’s dominion once and for all. vs 21.

vs. 21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more;

Jeremiah 51:60-64 seems to be the background to John’s vision in verse 21.

60 Jeremiah wrote in a book all the disaster that should come upon Babylon, all these words that are written concerning Babylon.
61 And Jeremiah said to Seraiah: “When you come to Babylon, see that you read all these words,
62 and say, ‘O Lord, you have said concerning this place that you will cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it, neither man nor beast, and it shall be desolate forever.’
63 When you finish reading this book, tie a stone to it and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates,
64 and say, ‘Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disaster that I am bringing upon her, and they shall become exhausted.’”

This verse records a parable. “One quick gesture becomes a parable of the whole judgment on Babylon the Great! Suddenly she is gone forever… .” (See Johnson A. F., p.752 below.)

A millstone is 4 to 5 feet in diameter, one foot thick and hundreds of pounds in weight. The city seemed to be permanent, but at the end it proves to be easy for the Lord to overthrow it. John uses the double negative (ou me literally—”not never,” or more correctly—”by no means”) to demonstrate the finality of Babylon’s ruin.

III. God’s Judgment means there Babylon will no longer have economic incentives to draw people from God.

candle, Burning, Fire, Light, Smoke, HQ Photo

 

vs. 22 and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more…

John again uses the double negative (ou mē) three times in this verse—”the sound of the harpists … will by no means ever be heard in you again; workmen will by no means ever be found in you again; the sound of a millstone will by no means ever be heard in you again.”

vs. 23 …and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.

Note the use of trade with Babylon as the means of drawing men into her web of deceit. How could we in the 21st Century get further into the morass of Babylon through trade than we are? Alexandr Solzhenitsyn offers a profound insight into our world which is so interwoven into Babylon’s agenda. Whether this is the last manifestation of Babylon, only God knows.

Alexandr Solzenhenitsyn“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child (born 1 December 1918), I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

“Only once in [the 20th century] did the West gather strength — for the battle against Hitler. But the fruits of that victory have long since been lost. Faced with cannibalism, our godless age has discovered the perfect anesthetic — trade! Such is the pathetic pinnacle of contemporary wisdom… .

“To the ill-considered hopes of the last two centuries, which have reduced us to insignificance and brought us to the brink of nuclear and non-nuclear death, we can propose only a determined quest for the warm hand of God, which we have so rashly and self-confidently spurned. Only in this way can our eyes be opened to the errors of this unfortunate 20th century and our hands be directed to setting them right. There is nothing else to cling to in the landslide: the combined vision of all the thinkers of the Enlightenment amounts to nothing.” (see Solzhenitsyn, below).

Fantasy witch wizard woman using enchanting magical elixir potion bottle for love spell, witchcraft and divination. magic illustration and alchemy Premium Photo

Fantasy witch wizard woman using enchanting magical
elixir potion bottle
for love spell, witchcraft
and divination. Freepik photo

“Which is the dragon’s more dangerous weapon as he assaults the church in our time and place: Is it the beast, symbolic of [1] the state’s power to intimidate through violent persecution and even martyrdom? Or the beauty, the harlot, portrait of [2] the culture’s power to seduce through the intoxicating idolatry of prosperity and the alluring invitation to adulterous compromise?” (see Johnson, D. E., below).

John uses the double negative (ou mē) twice in this verse. This is the picture of desolation. “The melancholy recollection of the pulsing life that once filled this great city with the joy of life sounds through these verses ‘like footsteps dying away in the distance in a desolate city which lies in ruins.'” (see Johnson, A. F., below) The word “sorcery” is the Greek word pharmakeia—the use of drugs to cast spells. Empires have always used mind altering substances/thinking to content the masses. It isn’t religion that is the opiate of the people!


Richard Cory
By Edwin Arlington Robinson (1897)

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.


Babylon is an illusion and one who pins his hope on its charms and allurements will be quickly disillusioned.

IV. God remembers righteous blood shed and forgotten by men. vs. 24

vs. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”

The life of God’s people is not always stress free. It is always blessed by God, however.

The word “slain” (sphazō) is the word which means “to slaughter or murder.” It fits in with the idea of martyrdom that is implied in this verse.

It’s a question of what works with Babylon’s power—the carrot or the stick?

Next time, we will move into chapter 19!

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Fee, G. D. (2010). Revelation (New Covenant Commentary). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock publishers.

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

McNeely, D. (2010). “The Decline and Fall of Nations: A Prophetic Perspective.” accessed 2 April 2020 from https://www.ucg.org/world-news-and-prophecy/the-decline-and-fall-of-nations-a-prophetic-perspective

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Solzhenitsyn, A. (1983). “Men Have Forgotten God.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1983 Templeton Address. Accessed 3 April 2021 from https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/12/aleksandr-solzhenitsyn-men-have-forgotten-god-speech/

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved