Monday, November 29, 2021

66. The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:1-21) - Part 1


As that long-awaited time of Jesus Christ’s appearance approaches, the scene in Revelation shifts from earth, where it has been since chapter 6, to heaven. The praise seen in heaven throughout Revelation reaches a crescendo in this text. The heavenly rejoicing is not over those who reject God, but because Christ will soon remove sinners from the world. God will then be properly honored, Christ enthroned, and the earth restored to its lost glory. Heaven rejoices because history is finally going to reach its culmination as the true King establishes His kingdom on earth.

As the text unfolds, two major sections emerge. First, five reasons are provided in support of heaven’s joy (19:1–10). Second, Christ’s glorious return is revealed for John and his readers (verses 11–21).


Five reasons for heaven’s joy become evident in the first ten verses.

1. Full Salvation Has Come

"After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.." (Rev. 19:1)

As it does throughout Revelation, the phrase “after these things” marks the beginning of a new vision. This new vision takes place after the destruction of Babylon (chapters 17–18) and before the triumphant return of Jesus Christ (19:11–21) to establish the millennial kingdom (20:1–10).

In his vision John heard “something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven.” The text does not identify those voices John heard, but they are likely angels. This great multitude does not appear to include the redeemed saints, since they are encouraged to join in the praise later (verses 5–8). The uncounted millions of holy angels make up a majestic choir.

The angelic chorus opens with an exclamation of praise: “Hallelujah!” The Greek word is a transliteration of a Hebrew phrase combining the verb for “to praise” and the noun “God.” It appears only in this chapter in the New Testament (verses 3–4, 6). In its first Old Testament appearance, Hallelujah also expresses praise for God’s judgment on the wicked oppressors of His people (Psalm 104:35).

Heaven rejoices specifically because salvation has come for God’s people, and the glory and power that belong to God have been put on display. The word “salvation” celebrates the final aspect of salvation history, the glorification of the saints in Christ’s kingdom. The imminent coming of Christ prompts this praise as the angels anticipate the glory of His kingdom.

2. Justice Is Provided

“...because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her.” (Rev. 19:2)

Heaven also rejoices because God’s judgments are “true and righteous,” as evidenced by the destruction of wicked Babylon. Babylon is identified as “the great harlot” (17:1, 15–16), Satan and Antichrist’s system that seduced the unbelieving world to believe Satan’s lies.

A further reason for Babylon’s judgment was her mistreatment of God’s people (18:24). As a result, God has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her. That God will exact vengeance for His people is clearly taught in Scripture (e.g., Deuteronomy 32:42–43).

3. Rebellion Is Ended

"And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.” (Rev. 19:3)

Babylon’s judgment provoked the first outburst of heavenly rejoicing. The aftermath of her destruction prompts the heavenly chorus to again say, “Hallelujah!” At the climax of her judgment, Babylon was “burned up with fire” (18:8), and sinners mourned as they watched the pall of smoke rise into the sky (18:9, 18). That the smoke “rises up forever and ever” indicates that this judgment is final and irreversible. The language is similar to that used of God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:28), and Edom (Isaiah 34:10).

The destruction of the last and most powerful empire in human history marks the end of human rule. The rebellion that began in the garden of Eden is finally ended (apart from the revolt at the end of the millennium (20:7–10). There will be no more false religion or injustice.

4. God Is in Control

"And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” (Rev. 19:4–6)

Hallelujahs also ring out from other heavenly residents. The twenty-four elders are best seen as representatives of the church. The four living creatures are cherubim, a high-ranking order of angels. Prostrate before God’s throne, the two new additions to the heavenly chorus cried out, “Amen. Hallelujah!” That phrase comes from Psalm 106:48 and indicates their solemn agreement with the heavenly rejoicing over Babylon’s downfall.

The text does not identify the owner of the voice from the throne, but it is likely an angel, since he refers to God as “our God.” The voice authoritatively calls another group to join in the praise, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” The redeemed believers in heaven are described as God’s bond-servants (verse 2; cf. 1:1; 2:20). The all-inclusive phrase “the small and the great” transcends all human categories to embrace everyone. All the redeemed are called to praise God.

When the redeemed obeyed the command from the heavenly voice and added their voices to the heavenly chorus, John “heard something like the voice of a great multitude.” The loud chorus of praise rose to a deafening level. The apostle likened it to “the sound of many waters and … the sound of mighty peals of thunder.” The fitting finale to the heavenly oratorio of praise is a fourth “Hallelujah!” followed by the motive for it—“For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” The evil world system has been destroyed. God’s kingdom has come in its fullness.

5. The Marriage of the Lamb Is Completed

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ ” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:7–10)

The heavenly praise continues rejoicing and giving God glory for the marriage of the Lamb. A marriage was the single greatest celebration and social event of the biblical world. Wedding preparations and celebrations in ancient times were even more elaborate and involved than those of today. They consisted of three distinct stages. First was the betrothal, or engagement. This was an arrangement by both sets of parents contracting the marriage of their children. It was legally binding and could only be broken by a divorce (Matthew 1:18–19). The second stage of a wedding was the presentation, a time of festivities just before the actual ceremony. Those festivities could last up to a week or more, depending on the economic and social status of the bride and groom. The third and most significant stage was the actual ceremony, during which the vows were exchanged. At the end of the presentation festivities, the groom and his attendants would go to the bride’s house and take her and her bridesmaids to the ceremony. After the ceremony would come a final meal, followed by the consummation of the marriage.

The entire heavenly chorus is encouraged to “rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him” because all the preparation is complete and the marriage of the Lamb has come. Betrothed in eternity past, presented in the Father’s house since the rapture, the church is now ready for the wedding ceremony to begin. It will coincide with the start of the millennial kingdom and stretch throughout that thousand-year period, finally consummated in the new heavens and the new earth (21:1–2). In the new heavens and the new earth, the bride concept will be expanded to include not only the church, but also all the redeemed of all ages as the New Jerusalem becomes the bridal city (21:1–2).

In preparation for her marriage to the Lamb, “His bride has made herself ready.” That was not by her own works, but rather by God’s gracious working. The bride has made herself ready in the power of God, by the grace of God, through the work of the Spirit of God (Philippians 2:12–13; Colossians 1:29). Purged from all sin and impurity (1 Corinthians 3:12–15), she is a flawless, blameless virgin.

Having been presented glorified and spotless before God’s throne, the church is able to “clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean.” Fine linen was expensive and beautiful cloth, like that worn by Joseph (Genesis 41:42). “Bright” in Greek means “glistening” or “radiant.” Such dazzling garments were worn earlier in Revelation by angels (15:6), and will be the clothing of those in heaven when Christ returns (verse 14).

Then the angel who had been speaking with John told him, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ ” This is the fourth of seven beatitudes in Revelation (see page 23), all introduced by the word “blessed.” The recipients of this blessing are “those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” That they are invited guests marks them as a distinct group from the church, since a bride would hardly be invited to her own wedding. These guests represent Old Testament believers. Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:28 both refer to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as being in the kingdom. Luke 13:28 also mentions the prophets. All the heroes of the faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 will be among the invited guests, as will John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11). All the tribulation saints, glorified and still alive on earth and entering the millennial kingdom, will be guests.

Some may question why the church-age believers should be granted the honor of being the bride, while believers from other ages are merely guests. But one may equally ask why God singled out Israel to be the covenant people. The only answer to both questions is that God sovereignly purposed that it be so (cf. Deuteronomy 7:7–8). It must be remembered that the wedding imagery pictures God’s intimate union with His people. There will be no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom, just as all the participants in a wedding enjoy the celebration. And in the new heavens and the new earth, all believers of all ages will enjoy the full glories of eternity.

The blessed truth that God will be in personal fellowship forever with all the redeemed saints of all the ages is so significant that the angel solemnly affirmed to John, “These are true words of God.” So great was John’s astonishment at the angel’s message that he involuntarily and thoughtlessly fell at his feet to worship him. Calling him back to his senses, the angel said, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God.” (cf. 22:8–9). Like John, the angel was a servant of God. He reminds John that he is to worship God only.

The angel’s final word to John is a reminder that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”