Read Revelation 19. I would like to review, briefly, the last half of the book of Revelation so that we can look at chapter 19 in context. In Revelation 12, 13, and 14, we were presented with five great enemies of God's people. The first one introduced was Satan himself and then, in succession, we saw four instruments of Satan presented. We saw the beast coming out of the sea, we saw the beast coming up out of the land, we saw those who wear the mark of beast, and then we saw Babylon, later identified as the great harlot.
Beginning with chapter 15 and 16, we saw the final outpouring of the wrath of God on those who wore the mark of the beast. Then, in chapters 17 and 18, we saw the doom of Babylon, the great harlot. Now, as we come to chapter 19, we see the doom of the beast that came out of the sea and the beast that came out of the land, which is identified here as the false prophet, as it is elsewhere. Finally, in chapter 20, we will see the doom of Satan himself. This leaves the last two chapters of Revelation to see that glorious vision of the triumph of the redeemed and their eternal enjoyment of the presence of God.
We have previously made identifications as best we know how in the context of the scripture of these various agents of Satan. The dragon is identified for us as Satan. The beast that comes out of the sea, we identified as being those persecuting governmental powers throughout the Christian life. We saw the beast that comes out of the land as representing false religion, counterfeit Christianity. We saw those who bear the mark of the beast as simply meaning all those whose allegiance is to Satan rather than to Christ, and we saw Babylon, as representing the seductive allure of the world, the lusts of the world.
I sometimes think it is difficult for us to get hold of these very bizarre and unusual symbols so that we can handle them. I think that what God is doing in the book of Revelation is something like what the political cartoonist attempts to do in his work. I believe there is an analogy here that could help us appreciate what we are dealing with. From time to time, you see political cartoons on the editorial pages of the newspaper with various things represented. For example, you might see a
partial view of the globe and a great bear looming up over the edge of the earth with one great paw placed on another nation. Another paw may be reaching over to still another nation and out of a blackish looking pool, his paw is scooping up liquid and he is drinking it. On the bear there is a symbol of a hammer and sickle. As you look at that, you get the picture.
This is all done in very rich symbolism. The bear represents Russia coming down from the north. Russia is trampling the first nation underneath its foot and is reaching over into the other nation to get some of that precious oil. The hammer and sickle represents Communism.
In another political cartoon, you may see a donkey and an elephant tugging on a rope. The donkey is a symbol of the Democratic party, the elephant represents the Republican party and the tugging on the rope symbolizes the struggle for dominance by the two parties. Now, we see these kinds of things, and we very quickly catch the picture and get the point of these political cartoons. They are not necessarily intended to be funny, either.
They usually have a very serious message. I believe that what we have in the book of Revelation is something like this. But, instead of it being done visually, it is done verbally. Pictures are painted with words and the pictures are representations of things. For example, we have identified the strange looking beast that comes up out of the sea as representing governments that persecute God's people. Now, that beast is simply a representation of that, just as the elephant in a political cartoon may be a representation of a political institution. If you wee the animal being destroyed, you are to understand that that portrays the destruction of the political power it represents.
Now, as we come to Revelation 19, we are going to be seeing at the end of it the destruction of the beast out of the sea and the false prophet, the beast of the earth. And, as we look at these, we have to understand that when we see warfare taking place, we should not necessarily be thinking in terms of an actual military battle taking place here on earth with guns and this kind of thing. But, what you are seeing is the struggle that those symbols are suggesting, the struggle between God and Satan, between God's people and those people who are antago–
nistic to Him. When we see the beast of the sea destroyed, we learn that oppressive political and governmental powers are going to come to an end. God's people will be relieved finally of that kind of oppression. When we see the false prophet being destroyed, being cast alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone, we are seeing that what that represents, false religion, finally meets its doom.
Look at Revelation 19:1–2: “After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power 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.’ ” I believe that this reflects that which is found in Revelation 18:20 which says, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets. ...”
Here, in Revelation 19:1–2, we see precisely that occurring. Heaven is rejoicing over the fall of Babylon. Those seductive influences in the world that would draw peoples' minds away from allegiance to God and would entice them with the lust of the flesh has finally come to an end. There will come a time when we will be freed from the temptations that trouble us in this lifetime. But, verses 3–4 says: “Again they said, ‘Alleluia! And 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!’ ”
Incidentally, the word, “Alleluia” occurs four times in Revelation 19 and it is the only place in the New Testament where it occurs. The word, “Alleluia” means “praise God” or “praise the Lord.” It strikes me as strange that that expression is used so frequently among many people while it is used in the New Testament only at the throne of God in heaven. But, there in the final moment of judgment, when God's righteousness is vindicated, we hear the heavenly hosts singing, “Alleluia, praise the Lord.”
Look at verses 5–9: “Then a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!’ 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.’ ”
We have come now to that exciting day when the people of God shall gather together rejoicing at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Verse 7 begins with the statement: “Let us be glad and rejoice. ...” There is only one other place in the New Testament where that expression is found and I think it is significant. It is in Matthew 5:12 where Jesus said, as he concluded the beatitudes: “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” That is the ultimate reason for the rejoicing of God's people—there is a reward in heaven. But, that is not all. The reason that is the cause of such rejoicing is the next statement of Jesus: “... for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
God's people will always be persecuted in one way or another. All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. So it is the source of great joy to know that when we enter heaven, it is the reward, among other things, of no longer having to experience persecution. We should rejoice, and be exceedingly glad because great is our reward in heaven, for then we shall sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
I believe there is tremendous symbolism here in this passage where the marriage supper of the Lamb is come and his wife has made herself ready. The Jewish marriage custom was different from ours today. There was, first of all, the betrothed which was a more decisive pact than our engagement which we might break off. The betrothal was the legal ceremony of marriage. The betrothed were considered legally husband and wife and yet they were not allowed at that point to live together as husband and wife. That was the circumstance that Joseph and Mary were in when Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit. Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but they were not living together as husband and wife, although legally and technically,
she could be referred to as his wife. This is the relationship between Christ and the church.
In II Corinthians 11:2, Paul said to the church, to Christians, “For I am jealous of you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Here is the picture of the betrothal. The church is espoused to Christ, but the church is to remain a virgin until that time when, finally, the church is presented to Christ.
The point is that now, in this lifetime, we, as we enter into Christ, are betrothed to Him, so that in some sense it can be said that we are the bride of Christ. That kind of thought is suggested in Ephesians 5 where there is that beautiful picture of the husband–wife relationship and where, finally, in verse 32, Paul says: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” This is the husband–wife relationship. It is as though the church is the wife of Christ, but, in view of Revelation 19, we are only in a technical and legal sense the wife of Christ.
As the Jews carried out these things, the consummation, the actual time when they lived together as husband and wife, began at the marriage feast and during that period between the betrothal and the marriage feast there is a period of preparation. We are not yet fully joined to Christ. Yes, we are His. We are united with Christ in baptism, but He is not here in the same sense that one day He will be when we stand in His presence in the life that is to come. There will be a great reunion there with Him.
That is suggested to us in this picture in Revelation 19. Now is the time for us to prepare for the great marriage feast when we will begin our life in eternity with our husband, with Jesus Christ. Verse 8 says, “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.”
Remember, Ephesians 5:25–27: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word that He might present it to Himself a glorious church,
not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
That is what God wants of His people. He wants a holy people, a people without spot or blemish, a people who have been preparing themselves, arraying themselves in fine linen that is bright and pure, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. We are to adorn our lives with good deeds. We are to put on the wedding garments, the garments of a pure life.
I believe we have the suggestion of one's failure to do that in a picture of a marriage feast in Matthew 22:11–13 where Jesus said, “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”
It is obvious that Jesus is using this as a picture of the final judgment when men come unprepared. They come without having been adorned with the pure garments that are appropriate to the marriage feast. Consequently, because they have not been preparing in this life, they shall be cast into outer darkness where there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth. But, God's people who come to Him prepared, pure and ready, shall enjoy that marvelous occasion of the marriage of the Lamb.
Notice Revelation 19:10: “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.’ ” Here, John falls down to worship before what is, apparently, an angel. At least it was not God, and the being says to John, “Do not do that.” He said, “Worship God. I am your fellow servant.”
God is the only one who is to be worshiped. That is expressed throughout the scriptures. Jesus said to Satan, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10). God is the one to be worshiped.
That suggests to us, indirectly, something about Jesus, because Jesus, throughout His earthly ministry, continually accepted the worship of many people. And, when we read Hebrews 1:6, we have the Father saying of Jesus, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” Jesus is worthy of worship. This means that since the only one who is to be worshiped is God, that Jesus is God. The rich young ruler saw Jesus as only a good teacher. But, Jesus was not merely good. Jesus was God.
Jesus was God in the flesh, as John tells us more vividly in John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Now, there is the strange expression at the close of Revelation 19:10, “... For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” What does that mean? I think it means one of two things, which may be the same thing. The message concerning Jesus is what prophecy is all about. Or, another way to put it is that the true spirit of prophecy is always concerned about Jesus. I think there are two verses of scripture that say essentially what is meant by that phrase.
One of these is in Luke 24:44, where Jesus is recorded by Luke as having said, “The He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ ”
Jesus said the entire Old Testament is a message concerning me. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. In John 5:46, Jesus said, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.” Jesus is the essential content of prophecy. That is what prophecy, which has been given of God and which has been delivered in the form of scripture, is all about. The theme of the Bible is Jesus. He is the heart of the whole matter.
We have been presented with the picture of the marriage feast and we have seen the wife or the bride and now we are prepared to see the groom or the husband come in, but, instead, we see a warrior. So, verses 11–16 present a new scene: “Then 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.”
We read of the same thing in II Thessalonians 1:7–10 when it says, “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.”
And so, we see Jesus who is leading from heaven armies which apparently are the angels. But, I want you to notice that He does not really need the angels in this warfare. In the Greek text of 19:15, the pronoun “He” is emphasized. I want to read it with that emphasis. Notice what happens after the armies are mentioned. It says: “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.”
Jesus is the one who does this. The armies are the retinue that follows Him, but He alone is sufficient and adequate for this task. We are told that He is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood. That is before the battle. I take it, then, that that garment sprinkled with blood represents the garment that is the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins because in that act, in that great sacrificial act in which the blood flowed on Calvary, the victory was won. There Satan was defeated.
There is where the battle was actually won and so He comes now arrayed in a garment that is sprinkled with blood and His weapon is a sharp sword which proceeded out of His mouth.
This reminds us of the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, because it is the word of God that is both the power to save and the power to destroy. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. And, notice He is that before He ever goes to battle against those forces. Jesus now is King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus reigns now and its for us to submit to His reign so that we might enter His kingdom now and be prepared for entrance into the everlasting kingdom.
Now, read verses 17–18: “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat of 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.’ ” Here he cries out to the birds of the heavens to gather and to consume the enemy.
It reminds us of a passage in Ezekiel 39:4 where we have described for us the battle with God and God says, “You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you: I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.”
I think that is significant because in the very next chapter of Revelation, in Revelation 20:8, we have the battle described again, the final climatic battle in which the forces of evil are finally and ultimately destroyed, the battle that is described several times as we go through Revelation because as we move through Revelation, we see again and again the scene of judgment.
We simply see the application of judgment in different groups as we go through Revelation. We see the judgment of those who wear the mark of the beast. Later, we see the judgment of Babylon. Later, we see the effect of God's judgment in other applications. We are seeing the same period of time and the same struggle between God and Satan and God's people and
those who are followers of Satan. We see the judgment depicted in Ezekiel in terms of the birds of the heavens coming. We see in Revelation 19 the same kind of terminology.
Now, we see the climax of Revelation 19:19: “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.”
The devastation and the destruction is total. The enemies of God's people are destroyed. There is only one enemy yet to be described for us as having been conquered and that is Satan himself. But, that victory has already been assured with Jesus having died on the cross, having been raised from the dead. He broke the power of Satan, and ascended to the throne of God to reign with him until every enemy is put under His feet. The last enemy is death, at which time, according to I Corinthians 15:24–26, Jesus shall deliver the kingdom up to the Father.
Are you in that kingdom that Jesus will deliver up to the Father, that you might be able to sit down finally with all the saints at the marriage supper of the Lamb to enjoy the fellowship of God, freed from the temptations and struggles and persecution and the deceptions and seduction of this life and to enjoy fully and freely God's presence and His blessings forever and ever?
That is the essential message of Revelation for us. If you are not a Christian, why not be born again into the kingdom of God, born of the water and the Spirit? Why not believe in Jesus and repent of your sins and confess your faith in Him and be baptized into Him?