Revelation 19

Revelation 19  •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 8
“After these things I heard as it were a great voice of a great crowd in heaven, saying, Alleluia, the salvation, and the glory, and the power of our God: for true and righteous [are] his judgments: because he judged the great harlot, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And they said Alleluia a second time; and her smoke goeth up unto the ages of the ages” (Rev. 19 Kelly). The Spirit of God contrasts with the fall of Babylon the marriage of the bride, the Lamb’s wife. Babylon was the spurious church as long as it was a question of the church, and the final corrupter when it could be no question of this longer, and there went forth the closing testimony of God. I do not doubt that there was a corrupt form in connection with Israel in times past. That is, there was first the literal Babylon, of course; but here it is symbolical. A mysterious lawlessness inherits the well-known name of Babylon when Rome is brought forward; and it does not merely embrace Christian times, but the end of the age after the church has gone, when the course of divine judgment comes. Bear this in mind, to leave the last part out is fatal to any accurate understanding of the Revelation.
We find, accordingly, the four and twenty elders and four living creatures here brought before us for the last time. That is to say, the heavenly saints are viewed still as the heads of the glorified priesthood, and also the executive in the administration of God’s judgments. But a voice issues from the throne, saying, “Praise our God, all ye His servants, and ye that fear Him, both small and great. And I heard as it were a voice of a great multitude, and as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of mighty thunders, saying, Alleluia, for the Lord God the Almighty reigneth. Let us be glad and exult, and give the glory to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.” Now we find the symbol of the bride brought before us, and the elders and the living creatures disappear. The bride is in view.
Are we then to understand that the elders and the living creatures are together taken absolutely as the bride now? that those who were meant under the figures of the elders and of the living creatures assume the name and figure of the bride? In my opinion it is not absolutely so. The elders do show us the heavenly heads of priesthood (embracing, as I believe, the Old Testament saints and those of the New); that is, they are not limited to the church, Christ’s body. Then, when the Lamb and His purchase by blood are celebrated in heaven, the four living creatures join the elders, though each is distinct. The glorified saints are to administer power in a way far beyond angels. The living creatures are from chapter 5 coupled with the elders, as we find them in the beginning of Revelation 19.
But now, when those symbols disappear, because of a new action of God (namely, the consummation of the church’s joy), the elders and the living creatures disappear, and we have not the bride alone, but another class of saints, who at once come forward. “And to the bride was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints.” I say “righteousnesses,” not “righteousness.” It is not what Christ puts on them, but a recognition even at this time of whatever has been of God—the working I do not deny of the Spirit of Christ. But it is what each saint has, though the blessed thought here is that the church has it not merely in the way of each person possessing his own; the bride has the whole of it (that is, the church in glory). The individual has his own fruit too. This remains true also in its own place, as we shall find; and when it is a question of reward, this is precisely the grand point; but when it is a question of the bride above, that is the way in which it is presented here, as we may see clearly from verse 8. The Spirit of God implies that it is decidedly not the righteousness here which is by another, and we thereby imputed righteous, but righteousnesses personal and actual. Of course the other is true. Before God we have that which is found only by and in Christ, which is another and a higher character altogether as compared with the righteousnesses of the saints.
Besides the bride thus arrayed, “He saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb.” Here you may see the reason for saying that the four and twenty elders and the four living creatures are not absolutely the church, because when that symbol applies, and the one of the bride comes forward, we have got others too. What judge, then, is that the guests, or those that were called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb, refer clearly to the Old Testament saints. If so, they are there in the quality not of the bride, but of those invited to the marriage of the Lamb; but I do not think them the Apocalyptic saints for the simple reason that, as shown in the next chapter, the Apocalyptic saints are not raised from the dead yet. These remain as yet in the condition of separate spirits. That is not at all the way in which the guests are spoken of. I think, therefore, that the elders and the living creatures comprehend both the Old Testament saints and the church, the bride of Christ, that consequently, when the bride is mentioned, there were these others who had been included in the elders and the living creatures, but who are now seen as a separate body. No doubt all this may seem to some a little difficult, but it is no use evading what is hard. We must face difficulties; we must bow to the word; we must seek to learn through all. We do not mend matters by hasty conclusions, we only complicate the truth. And it appears to me that here we are bound to account for the presence of these others that are at the marriage-supper of the Lamb, but appear as guests, and not at all in the quality of the bride. In general this has been either passed over in the chapter, or some unsatisfactory inference has been flung out, which can only embroil the prophecy. I do not, of course, complain of particular persons, but of the general vagueness in which the passage has been taken—unless, indeed, the more common course be not to ignore it.
Then the prophet falls down to pay homage to the angel; and this gives rise to a weighty admonition. It is not only that the angel corrects the act by asserting that he is a fellow-servant of him and of his brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. On that account it was altogether out of place to pay homage to him instead of to the God who had sent him to serve. But he tells us further that the Spirit of prophecy, who prophesies in this book, is the testimony of Jesus. Thus the divine testimony is not confined to the gospel or the church, but the prophetic Spirit which characterizes the Revelation as a whole, after the church is translated, is equally a testimony of Jesus. This is most important, because it might be (as it has been) forgotten by some who make the gospel and the corresponding presence of the Spirit to be the same at all times; as others have thought, because Revelation 4 and sequel treat of Jew and Gentile, and the state of the world under God’s judgments, that this cannot be a testimony of Jesus at all. But it really is. “The Spirit of prophecy”—and such it is all through the Revelation after the seven churches are done with—“is the testimony of Jesus.” We know the Holy Spirit rather as a spirit of communion with Christ. By and by, after our translation to heaven, He will work, and as vitally in those who bow to God, when it will be the reception of the prophetic testimony which is here owned to be none the less the testimony of Jesus.
Then heaven is opened, and for a sight most solemn. It is not now the temple opened there, and the ark of the covenant seen when Israel’s security is seen, as the object of God’s counsels; nor is it a door opened above, as we saw it when the prophet was giving his introduction to the prophecy of God’s dealings with the world as a whole, though in both cases all manifestly clusters round the Lord Jesus. But now heaven is opened for yet graver facts, and of incalculable moment for man and the universe and the enemy. It is Christ Himself about to be displayed in His rights as King of kings, and Lord of lords; and this in the face of the world. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse.” Victorious power put forth to subdue is the meaning of the white horse, “And He that sat upon him called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war.” It is no longer a question of sustaining His saints in grace, but of sovereign power for judging the earth. “His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many diadems.” There was judicial discernment with the distinct possession of all titles to sovereignty.
“And He had a name written, that no man knew but He Himself.” He is coming forth in indisputable human glory, but the greatest care is taken to let us know that He had that which was above man—above the creature; for “no man knoweth the Son but the Father.” Here it would seem we have just what answers to that: this name none knew but He Himself. He was a divine person, whatever new position He assumes for the world. “And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood.” He comes to execute vengeance, and with a sign of death for rebels. “And his name is called The Word of God.” He was the word of God in the revelation of grace; when known, by and by, it will be as the executor of God’s judgments. He equally expresses what God is. The gospel of John and the Revelation perfectly disclose both, whether in grace or in judgment. “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white, pure.”
Here we learn at once of what His train consists. They are glorified saints, and not angels. And this is entirely confirmed by Revelation 17, where it was told us that they are with Him when He comes. When the beast dares to fight with the Lamb, He shall overcome the beast; and they that are with Him, “called and chosen and faithful”—terms, as a whole, entirely inapplicable to the angels. The angels are never “called,” although they may be “chosen”; and though termed holy, I do not recollect that they are ever spoken of as “faithful.” “Faithful” is what belongs to a man. It supposes the effect and the exercise of faith. “Called” is most evidently inapplicable, because calling supposes that the person is brought out of one condition and raised into another and a better one. This is never the case with an angel. The fallen angels are not called, and the holy angels never need to be—they are kept. Calling is the fruit of active grace on God’s part towards man, and only towards him when fallen. Even man himself when he was innocent in Eden was not called. Directly he had sinned, the word of God came, and he was called. It is very evident, therefore, that the saints in a glorified state are here represented as following the Lord out of heaven. They are not seen here as the bride. This would have been altogether inappropriate for such a progress: when the King comes forth riding to victory in the judgment of wicked men of the world, it is not in the quality of bride, but of armies or hosts, that the saints follow Him; and these include no doubt the guests as well, that is, all the glorified take their place in His train.
At the same time you will mark that these are not said to be executors of judgment as Christ is. It is to Him, that God has given all judgment—not necessarily to us. We may have a special task in it, but this is not the work for us, as it seems to me. Hence there is no sword proceeding out of our mouth; nor are the saints or heavenly hosts said to be arrayed in such a sort as the Lord. It is simply said that the glorified are to follow the Lord in victorious power, and nothing more, “clothed in fine linen, white, pure.” Angels we know from other scriptures will be there, but of this we hear nothing here. But “out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron.” What makes it the more notable is this, that the rod of iron is promised to us—not the sword. Then there is the reigning power, but not the execution of judgment in this awful fashion which is attributed to the Lord Himself. But He “treadeth the winepress of the fury of the wrath of the Almighty God”—another character of judgment never attributed to the saints, that I know of. “And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords.”
Then follows the proclamation of the angel, and the invitation to the supper of the great God, to eat the flesh of all the great ones of the earth. “And 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, gather yourselves together unto the great supper of God; that ye may eat flesh of kings, and flesh of chiliarchs, and flesh of strong [men], and flesh of horses, and of those that sit on them, and flesh of all, both free and bond, both small and great.” And then comes the gathering and the battle. “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army. And the beast was taken” (taken alive), “and with him the false prophet that wrought signs in his presence, with which he deceived those that received the mark of the beast, and those that worshipped his image.” Thus the second beast is no longer seen as an earthly power, but as a prophet—of course a false prophet. All the energy to mislead men in the presence of the first beast was long in his hands, and now nothing more is spoken of. The spiritual power is wholly in the hands of the false prophet. It will be understood when one says “spiritual” that none is meant except of a wicked kind.
“Alive the two were cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” Thus eternal judgment was executed at once. They were caught in flagrant treason and rebellion: what further need of any process of judgment whatsoever?
“And the remnant were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which [sword] proceedeth out of His mouth and all the birds were filled with their flesh.” Their doom was awful, but by no means after the same sort as their two leaders.