The Great Supper of God, follows the Coming of the Divine Warrior to deal with all rebellion against Him and persecution of His people. These folks destroyed are hardcore opponents of God and His people.
I agree with one pastor who said, “It is the most unnecessary thing in the world that a soul should go to hell.” Jesus says hell was never intended for people. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41 ESV.) God reveals His existence in nature, so none can claim they weren’t told about the existence of God—Romans 1:18-20.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,g in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Matthew 23:37-39 underscores Jesus’ willingness to receive those who respond to His message, the Gospel—
37 “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Many bring up the question, why not give the lost a second chance after they die? Wouldn’t they want to leave hell and go to heaven?
People in Hell would not chose to leave and go to Heaven
[In The Great Divorce] “C. S. Lewis presents [the fictional] concept about the damned having a [vacation], some kind of rest for a moment of time. A bus from heaven comes down to hell and picks up passengers who want on to go and check out heaven to see if they want in or not. As we see, going into the larger space of heaven, when they go on, it is a scary place and much bigger than they expected. They feel naked and very, very insubstantial.”
In the end the “vacationers” board the bus to return to hell. “You will discover in the book, and here is the bottom line, that virtually all of them decide to head back to hell because they really do not like what they see. They are not even in heaven, they are only on the outskirts and the sun has not yet risen. Nowhere in hell is the sun fully dark. It is a twilight.”
Lewis concludes, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.” (See Boa, below)
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (II Corinthians 6:2 ESV)
The theme of Revelation 19:17-21 is
The Judgment of God will come at last upon those who have actively rebelled against God’s laws and ways and who have persecuted His people.
I. The end time battle includes the destruction of all classes of rebellious and unrepentant combatants on the earth. vss. 17-18
vs. 17-18 17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.”
[Prior to the pouring out of the wrath of God in the seven bowls, Christ removes His people to heaven (Rev. 14:1 144,000 symbol of the full complement of God’s people safe and secure).]
The imagery of Revelation 19:17-21 is drawn from Ezekiel 39:17-20—
17 “As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord God: Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field: ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. 18 You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth—of rams, of lambs, and of he-goats, of bulls, all of them fat beasts of Bashan. 19 And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. 20 And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors,’ declares the Lord God. (Illustration left: Siege of Tyre 333 B.C. by Andre Castaigne (1898-1899) Public Domain
Armageddon is a macabre scene indeed for opponents of Christ and His people! “This is not…the “supper” of verse 9, but rather a contrast to it; it is that supper which is reserved for the ungodly, at which they form the prey.” (see Plummer, below.)
As Christians we live between two suppers.
The first supper is the Last Supper of the Lord John 13 (by Giotto c.1304 – c.1306 public domain)
The Second is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (photo of a treasured wedding present that has hung in our different dinning rooms over the years).
Armageddon stands in marked contrast to the marriage feast of the Lamb mentioned earlier. The birds summoned to the supper are the orneon—”the vultures,” carrion birds of prey.
When I was a boy, I heard my Appalachian forebears talking of something smelling like “kyarn” (click on word for audio pronunciation if you’ve never heard it before). It is an eliding of letters from “carrion.” It is a “de-comp” “road-kill” odor (to be polite) [see “The Blind Pig and the Acorn” Blog, below]. Can you imagine the stench of this carrion battlefield when the birds are drawn in to clean it up.
“Supper” is the same word as “feast”—deipnon (a formal banquet). Instead of a banquet spread for people, the people are spread for the vultures. “This is a bold and powerful picture of the battlefield after the victory of the Messiah, ‘a sacrificial feast spread on God’s table for all the vultures of the sky.’ The evil spirits, watching over fallen Rome like night-birds or harpies that wait for their prey, build their aeries [nesting places] in the broken towers which rise from the ashes of the city” (see H. B. Swete below). This was true long ago of Babylon; Nineveh, and Tyre; it was true of Rome, and will be true in the future city of the end-time Babylon.
This is John’s description of the effects of Armageddon (further described in Revelation 20). Remember, last time I pointed out that in Revelation 12-21 John introduces God’s people and their reward; and then He introduces the evil figures in one order, and then records their destruction in reverse order. I post the chart below as an aid to memory. The literary structure gives us the flow of visions, but does not necessarily give us the indication of chronological fulfillment. The first century Church would have viewed these visions as true of Rome. Each generation has its own “Babylon,” controlled by Satan and dominating people for selfish gain; for example: Examples in the past include: Napoleon’s empire; the Ottoman empire; the Prussian empire; Kaiser Willem’s attempt at empire during WWI; Hitler’s and Mussolini’s imperial aspirations during WWII; Stalin’s imperial pretensions during the “cold war,” etc.
II. The end time battle includes the destruction of Antichrist. vs. 19
vs. 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army.
This is the latest incarnation of “Antichrist” and his coalition arrayed against Christ at the battle of Armageddon. I say latest because different anti-Christian figures have been put into place over the ages. The same spirit that animates Antichrist in the end inhabits the different anti-Christian figures throughout time.
III. The end time battle includes the destruction of the False Prophet—false religion with its perverse culture. vs. 20
vs. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.
Here we have the beast from the sea of chapter 13 further identified. The first is antichrist and the second beast is called “the false prophet.” The False Prophet is heretical religion and culture that aids antichrist in his dominion. They are both seized—piazō.” The word “deluded” is planaō from which we derive the English word “planet” (wandering heavenly bodies in the sky)—“to cause to wander from something (the truth)—which means to “deceive. The lake of fire” is a reference to hell—gehenna. Literally, it means “Land of Hinnom”—a reference to the “garbage dump” of Jerusalem where fires burned dead carcasses and garbage constantly. So, Hell is the garbage dump of lost angels and humanity. It lies outside the dimension of our Cosmos. (And does not lie at the center of the earth.)
Ancient topography of First Century Jerusalem. (https://www.israel-a-history-of.com/jerusalem-history.html)
IV. The end time battle includes the destruction of all non-combatants who formed Antichrist’s support services. vs. 21
vs. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.
Some might think, “I’m not rich, and I am not in a high position. I am not a soldier in the army arrayed against God an His people. This won’t apply to me.” After the leaders are cleared from the battlefield in verses 17-18, “all the rest” are destroyed in verse 21. Many do not take an active role in fighting, but they are a part of Antichrist’s support system behind the scenes.
In Nazi Germany, the Gestapo numbered 16,000 and the population numbered 66 million. You may ask how could 10,000 policeman control the entire country. (see McDonough, below.) They did it by using informants and fear of being caught imprisoned and tortured.
How about the Holocaust? The SS did the killing, but civilians also were complicit. See the short film clip (1 min. 6 secs.) below for the range of civilians it took to operate the killing machine. (Of course, I am not disparaging the German people today.)
Christ does not need to use force against His foes (unlike Antichrist). He merely speaks the Word and his enemies are destroyed. “The contrast between the assembling of the beast’s might with his kings and their soldiers and the ease with which he is overthrown and captured highlight the beast’s powerlessness before his mighty Conqueror.” (see Johnson, A. F., below) Although the force is arrayed, no real battle is fought as we conceive of battles. Christ slays them with the words from his mouth just like he created the world with His spoken word (Genesis 1).
Next time we will begin Chapter 20.
(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.
Blind Pig and Acorn. (2014). “Something Smells Bad.” Blog. Accessed 24 April 2021 at https://blindpigandtheacorn.com/something-smells-bad/
Boa, K. (2021). The Great Doivorce. A book review. Accessed 30 April 2021 from https://bible.org/article/great-divorce
Collaboration. (n.d.). “German collaboration and complicity.” Accessed 1 May 2021 from https://www.theholocaustexplained.org/resistance-responses-collaboration/german-collaboration-and-complicity/informants/
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.
McDonough, F. (2015). “Careless whispers: how the German public used and abused the Gestapo.” Accessed 1 May 2021 from https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/careless-whispers-how-the-german-public-used-and-abused-the-gestapo-1.2369837
Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Plummer, A. (1909). Exposition of Revelation in the Pulpit Commentary series (New York: NY: Funk and Wagnells Co.
Swete, H. B. (1917). The Apocalypse of St. John: the Greek Text with Introduction, Notes and Indices. (London, UK: MacMillian & Co. Ltd.
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