REVELATION - CHAPTER 19
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
19:1. “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God:”
19:2. “For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.”
This is the response of heaven to the command given in Re 18:20, “Rejoice over her (the evil harlot system), thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.” As noted in our study of that chapter, her destruction, which evokes lament on the part of an unbelieving world, causes rejoicing in the hearts of the redeemed in heaven. We are brought here historically to the end of the Tribulation, and coincidentally to the end of the long-extended day of grace. The judgment that will have brought the destruction of the great harlot system, will be followed by the destruction of every earthly rebel, and the inauguration of Christ’s millennial kingdom.
19:3. “And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.”
When it is remembered that the harlot church, like every other organization, good or bad, is made up of people, this emphasis upon the eternal character of her torment refutes the false doctrine that the punishment of the unbeliever is not eternal. It is!.
19:4. “And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.”
In earlier studies it has been noted that these elders represent the Church-age believers, while the four beasts appear to represent those angels who are themselves the agents of the Lord Jesus Christ in all that pertains to the upholding of the holiness of God’s throne. This, then, is the worship of the Church, and of the angels, either a select group, or of the whole angelic company.
The Amen confirms that this is the worship given at the end of the Tribulation and the completion of God’s program for the judgment of a rebel earth, just prior to the establishment of the millennial kingdom.
19:5. “And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.
19:6. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
The worship thus far appears to have been that of heaven (see v.1, “I heard a great voice of much people in heaven”), but now earth is called upon to add her part to this great Alleluia chorus. (Note, not only the omission of any reference to heaven, but also the reference to the voice of many waters. Waters represent earth’s multitudes, e.g., Ch 17:1,15. Small and great would also indicate that the scene is earthly, for while our individual rewards will vary according to the faithfulness of our earthly stewardship, this is not the language descriptive of that variety).
19:7. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”
Dr. Pentecost has pointed out that the word “translated is come, signifies a completed act, showing us that the marriage has been consummated.” This appears to be confirmed by the following verse.
19:8. “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
Some insist that righteousness should be plural righteousnesses, but that is disputed, and is not essential to the argument that the marriage takes place in heaven between the Bema and the return of Christ to the earth with His Bride to judge the nations and set up His millennial kingdom. As Pentecost also points out, everything indicates that the marriage takes place in heaven, and is followed by the marriage supper, which takes place on earth, the guests including the living believers who will have survived the Tribulation judgments.
19:9. “And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.”
Since the resurrection of the OT saints will not occur until the end of the Tribulation, it is clear that they will be among the blessed who will constitute the guests at the marriage supper; and since their resurrection will complete the resurrection of life (believers will not die in the Millennium), the conclusion is that the guests will be the redeemed from Adam to the end of the Tribulation. Some believe that the marriage supper will continue for the duration of the Millennium, which, if correct, would mean that the guests will be the redeemed of all the ages, Church age believers being the exception - they are the Bride.
Their blessedness will consist in the fact that their celebration of the marriage supper of the Lamb will be synonymous with the possession of eternal life. Only the redeemed will celebrate that great event.
19:10. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
This identifies the one who commanded John to write (v.9): he was an angel. His declaring himself to be “thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren,” does not imply kinship between men and angels, but rather reminds us that the common bond is that of service to Christ. The purpose of all creation is to be a testimony to Him, as is also the written Word, for “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” means simply that the ultimate purpose of Scripture is to bear testimony to Him.
19:11. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.”
The narrative now reverts to an event that will precede the marriage supper of the Lamb: the coming of Christ to end the Tribulation. Having come two thousand years ago to fulfill those prophecies which foretold His coming as the Lamb of God, the event here described is that which will fulfill the other line of prophecy: His coming as the Lion of Judah, to crush His foes, and establish His millennial kingdom.
The language is symbolic, for it is not to be presumed that He will come out of heaven riding on a literal horse, but since the horse is the Biblical symbol of strength; and white, the Biblical color of righteousness, the announcement being made is that He Who is yet to come as God’s anointed King is the One Who combines in Himself absolute power, and perfect holiness. And the further description “Faithful and True” can be applied to no one except Christ. Only He has been faithful and true.
In total contrast with His first advent, in which He appeared in the guise of a servant, the coming here revealed is that in which He will come forth to “judge and make war,” the judgment being that of the nations; and the war, undoubtedly, the final great battle of Armageddon. That war will end with the utter destruction of the beast and his armies, while the judgment will result in the banishment into hell of all the unbelievers found on the earth when that great battle is ended; and the gracious invitation to the believers then found alive on the earth, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34).
19:12. “His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.”
In Ps 11:4 it is written, “His eyes behold, his eyelids try (test or judge), the children of men.” Since fire is one of the Biblical symbols of divine holiness, and since the eye is frequently, as here, connected with judgment, the message of His eyes as a flame of fire is easily read. Those eyes which were lifted up to heaven as He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34), will have a very different character at His second coming. They will then be the eyes, not of the Savior, but of the Judge; and His judgment will be according to the perfect discernment of One from Whom nothing can be hidden.
The many crowns upon His head mark Him as the One Who is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is being presented as the One Who has been invested with absolute authority.
In our study of chapter two we noted that a belief entertained by the pagan world was that for a man to know the secret name of the god he worshiped, was to have special influence in securing favorable answers to his prayers. It would appear that this secret name, which only He Himself knew, may be the name of His Father, and may be a symbolic way of declaring that His relationship with His Father was such that His every request would be granted, see for example Ps 2:8-9, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
The scene being described here in Re 19:12 is the fulfillment of that promise.
If however, the name is something other than that of the Father, I regret being unable to read the meaning of this sign, for it is difficult to see what significance is to be attached to Christ’s knowing a special name that was His own.
19:13. “And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.”
The context would indicate that the blood upon His vesture is not His own shed at Calvary, but rather that of those who will be the objects of His wrath when He comes to end the Tribulation, and establish His millennial kingdom. Isa 63:1-4 appears to confirm this view, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.”
“... and his name is called The Word of God.” This is the same title by which He is introduced in the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, etc.”
19:14. “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.”
The identity of those comprising this army is settled by the announcement that they are clothed in fine linen, for verse 8 declares that fine linen is the righteousness of saints. These are the redeemed, specifically the saved of this Church age, for the resurrection of the OT and the Tribulation age believers will not occur until after the Tribulation, and clearly that will not have taken place until the rebel armies led by the beast are destroyed by the Lord following His emergence from heaven as described in the verses we are now studying.
The white horses upon which they are seen riding portray the same truth as the one upon which Christ Himself sits: His righteousness and power are shared with His redeemed. It is to be noted however, that these who ride in His train do not appear to take any part in the battle, for, as is made clear by the passage from Isaiah mentioned above, He alone destroys the rebels. Omnipotence needs no assistants. They are simply to witness the destruction of His enemies and theirs.
19:15. “And 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: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”
Heb 4:12 and Jn 12:48 interpret the symbol of the sharp sword proceeding out of His mouth: it is the written Word, which is itself the revelation of Him Who is the Living Word. It is by the Word of God in the mouth of the Son of God that every unbeliever will be judged. By that Word the rebel nations will be banished into hell at the end of the Tribulation, where they will remain during the Millennium, after which they will be raised for their final judgment at the great white throne, from which they will be cast into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.
“... and he shall rule them with a rod of iron” describes the character of His rule in the Millennium. Unlike other ages, rebellion will not be permitted during those thousand years.
The reference to His treading “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God,” assures us that the purpose of the coming described here, is the execution of judgment; and the impossibility of escaping that judgment is declared by the description of God as Almighty.
19:16. “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
The vesture is to the body what habits are to the life, and since garments are the symbol of righteousness (either the filthy rags of our own self-righteousness, or the spotless righteousness of Christ which clothes the believer), this vesture or robe inscribed with His title KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS, would remind us that He is what He is because of His perfect righteousness.
Since the thigh is one of the Biblical symbols of personal strength, as it is also the place where the sword is usually worn, the inscription of the title upon His thigh would remind us that His absolute righteousness, manifested in His perfect obedience (even unto death), is also the foundation of His power to rule as God’s anointed King. The consistent message of Scripture, in fact, is that obedience is the prerequisite of power.
19:17. “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;”
While certainly the angelic summons may be to literal fowls to come and eat the carcasses of the slain at the end of the battle of Armageddon, we cannot dismiss the possibility that the language may be also symbolic. If so, then the command is to the evil spirits of the air, for Scripture makes it clear that the fowls represent these unclean spirits, see e.g., Mt 13:4,19. This however, precludes any idea of literal eating of literal flesh, for it is apparent that spirits (good or bad) do not eat and drink as men do. The explanation, then, would appear to be that just as eating is the taking into oneself of what is eaten, so here is being declared that the evil spirit population is now to receive into it the spirits of the rebels slain by the Lord at Armageddon. And as the ultimate end of all evil spirits is to be tormented for ever in the lake of fire, so also will earth’s rebels share the same fate.
19:18. “That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.”
Whether the rebel be a king or a slave, he must perish who will not have his sins blotted out through faith in Christ as his Savior.
19:20. “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”
Every good has an evil counterpart. As there will be a generation of believers who will enter heaven without dying, so will the beast and the false prophet be cast alive into the lake of fire; and following the judgment of the nations so will the unbelievers be banished bodily into hell, to await their consignment to the eternal torment of the lake of fire following the judgment of the great white throne.
Ritchie’s comments are worth noting, “... the Beast and the False Prophet ... are taken alive and are cast into the lake of fire, its first tenants from earth, to endure its torments a thousand years before any other human being. Thus as two men from earth, Enoch and Elijah, eminent for their faithfulness, went to heaven without tasting death, so here the two greatest enemies of God ... are consigned alive to the burning lake....”
19:21. “And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
In the presence of God the might of man is revealed for the puny thing it is. By the breath of His nostrils He Who is King of kings and Lord of lords, will simply blow earth’s rebels away as the wind blows chaff.
He is the greatest of all fools who refuses to obey the word of the Psalmist, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Ps 2:12).