"The Day of the Lord"
The Seventh Vision "in Heaven."
H7. Chap. 19:1-16.
We now come to the last of the seven Visions seen "in Heaven," which is the subject of chap. 19:1-16, giving us the final heavenly Utterances and Actions which lead up to, explain, and introduce the five concluding judgments which close up the things of Time, and pass on to what we call the Eternal State.
This last Vision "in Heaven" is divided into two parts, each having its own independent construction. The first contains the words of the heavenly voices; and the second describes the actions of the heavenly beings.
These must be expanded in turn, in order to see the beauty and the scope of each.
We have already called attention to the seventeen Heavenly Utterances in these seven Visions "in Heaven"; and pointed out that ten of them occur in the first and last together, viz., six in the first (chaps. 4 and v.), and four in the last (chap. 19:1-10). All heaven seems to be moved at the first announcement and opening of these final judgments, which end in the ejection of the Usurper from the earth: and all heaven is stirred when we come to the final scenes of these judgments.
It is only in the first and last of these Visions "in Heaven," that we have the utterances of the four Zoa. Only in the first announcement do they praise God that the time has at length come for Him to interfere in the affairs of this world, and wind up His great controversy with it and Satan. And again in chap. 19, when that great controversy shall have closed.
Only on these two occasions, and in these two Visions do we hear their voices and listen to their significant utterances. In all the other Visions in Heaven they are silent.
This shows us that we are approaching the end; and prepares us for the final Heavenly actions (19:11-16).
The structure does not appear to be governed here by the utterances themselves. The heavenly excitement is not reduced to the order of literary form. Yet the structure, as a whole, is perfect, and the utterances are significantly marked by being alternated with prostration and worship: first, of the Elders; and then of John. This seems very marked, as does also the voice of the "great multitude." (See the Structure below).
In A and A we have the first and fourth utterances, while in B and B we have the Harlot and the Wife set in strong and severe contrast; the smoke of the one in B, and the array and blessedness of the other in B.
In C and C we have the prostration of the worshippers. In C that of the Elders; and in C that of John. This is combined with an exhortation in each case: addressed in C to the servants; and in C to John the fellow-servant.
The four utterances themselves are arranged so that in the 1st and 4th we have the voices of many concerning the two symbolic womenthe harlot and the wife; while in the 2nd and 3rd we have the voices from the Throne concerning God.
It will be seen that in the two centre members we have the Throne and God for their subject. In the former we have the worship of God (verse 4); and in the latter the praise of God (verse 5). In the former, the Elders and Zoa fall down before the Throne; in the latter, the Voice comes out of the Throne.
In the first and fourth members (for these last four utterances are arranged as in Introversion) we have the correspondence of the "much people" of verse 1; and the "great multitude" of verse 6. We have also the vivid contrast between the destruction of the Harlot and the Blessedness of the Wife.
This beautiful Structure shows us the importance of the subject which is to be set before us in this chapter; and the final Heavenly Utterances we are about to hear reveal to us the solemnity of the final judgments which are afterwards to be described.
All is perfect; for all is Divine. The utterances close up the Divine communications; and the five concluding judgments close up the great Conflict, which began in Gen. 3:15, and ends in Rev. 20.
The following is the structure of the whole of the member P, 19:1-10, containing the last four Heavenly Utterances:
a. 19:1-. The Voice of the great Multitude.
1-. *After these things I heard as it were** a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,] This puts us on sure ground by notifying us that the Vision has returned again to, and is seen for the seventh and last time, "in Heaven." The voices which we are to listen to, and the words which we are to hear will prepare us for, and explain to us, all that is about to take place. Babylon had been destroyed, and the injunction had just gone forth, "Rejoice over her, O heaven" (18:20). Here we have the obedience to the command, and all heaven rejoices. Babylon's inhabitants had cried "Alas! alas!" "Woe! woe!" Her merchants wailed and mourned because their market was gone. Now all heaven rejoices because deliverance had come; and they cry "Hallelujah... Hallelujah."
b. 19:-1. The First Utterance.
The ascription is threefold, and not fourfold, if we omit "and the honour" with all the best and oldest manuscripts. The utterance is elliptical, for there is no verb. A verb, therefore, must be supplied. The RV and Alford supply "belong to," but this hardly agrees with their revised reading; otherwise we might supply be ascribed to. It seems almost better to leave the words as they stand above, and add, at the end, "are come." For this is what the utterance of the great multitude celebrates, in the reason, which is immediately added.
This is the first occurrence of the word Hallelujah in the New Testament. It is a compound Hebrew word (...) (hallelu-jah) praise-ye Jah. It occurs altogether twenty-eight times in the Old and New Testaments,* vix., 24 in the Old Testament, and four in the New Testament.
The Greek spelling in the New Testament is (...) allelouia; and the word is left untranslated. In the Old Testament the word is always translated "praise ye the Lord." S9 times it is given in the margin, as in the Hebrew, Hallelujah (Ps. 111:1; 112:1; 113:1; 146:1; 148:1; 150:1). In the RV it is translated "praise ye the Lord," and given always as Hallelujah in the margin, except once (135:3). In the New Testament the Revisers do not translate it, but give it in the Text with the Hebrew spelling, "Hallelujah."
The first occurrence of the word Hallelujah in the Old Testament corresponds in a marked manner with its first occurrence in the New Testament. We first find it in Ps. 104:35.
So here, in Rev. 19:1. The utterance begins and ends with the word "Hallelujah"; and Jah is praised for a similar reason, for at length is come the salvation and the glory and the power of God, manifested in the judgment of chap. 18., and in 19:11-16, when the sinners will be consumed out of the earth, and the wicked will be no more; and when God's people will be avenged.
The utterance, beginning (verse 1) and ending (verse 3) with the same words, is the Figure Epanadiplosis, which emphasises the statement, marking it off as being as complete as it is important.
Yes! it will have at length come. Salvation, with complete and final deliverance from Satan's usurpation in the earth.
What the peoples of the earth lament over, the great multitude in heaven rejoice over. While they said "Alas! alas!" or "Woe! woe!" these say "Hallelujah!... Hallelujah!" So opposite is Heaven's estimate of the things of this world. It is thanksgiving for vengeance and avengement. It belongs, therefore, to the coming dispensation of judgment, and not to the present dispensation of grace.
The church says "Hallelujah" now on earth (though, alas! it has become a common, not to say an almost unmeaning expletive, just as we say "hear, hear," to the words of mere mortals). Here, and in the Bible the word is associated with the most terrible judgments of God on the enemies of Himself and His people; and it is the shout of praise for complete avengement.
e. 19:2, 3-. The Reason.
3. And a second time they say (Greek, have said),
So that the special subject which moves all heaven to praise is that, judgment on Babylon is at length accomplished, and the blood of all the saints of God avenged.
The reference here is to the "song of Moses" (Deut. 32:43).
The cry had been (Rev. 6:10): "How long, doest thou not, O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, judge and avenge our blood on the dwellers on the earth?"
The Songs, and Praises, and Rejoicing are well uttered because at length this cry has been answered, and this judgment has come.
B, 19:-3. The Smoke, and Destruction of the Great Harlot.
-3. And her smoke goeth up for ever and ever.] The destruction of the Great Harlot is set in contrast (by the structure) with verses 8 and 9, where (in B) we have the array and blessedness of the wife). It is like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which suffered "the vengeance of eternal fire." There are eternal fires which are unquenchable. This is the fire which will destroy Babylon as last. It is indicated in chap. 14:11 (see 18:9).
f. 19:4. The Prostration of the Elders: and Second Utterance.
4. And the four and twenty elders and the four Zoa fell down and worshipped God, who sitteth upon the throne, saying,
The elders now appear again. We have seen, above (on chap. 5:9, 10), that they are not the church, nor are they men, nor are they redeemed; though they speak of redemption. This is the last time they are mentioned. They come before us when the Throne is set for judgment. They appear no more after that judgment has been accomplished. They merely but significantly say "Amen," acquiescing in all that has been done; "Hallelujah" praising Jehovah that avengement is at length completed. Their prostration is set in correspondence with the prostration of John in "f," verse 10; and, as an exhortation is there given to John the fellow-servant, so here, to the servants of God, is given the
g. 19:5. Exhortation to Praise.
5. And a voice came forth from the throne, saying,
Here we have two distinct references to the Psalms, which show that the interpretation to be put on these words must be in connection with God's earthly People; for this is the People and the Time to which the Psalm refers. God's judgments are still the subjects of praise. We are not told from whom the Voice comes; only that it comes from the place of authority. Of the coming King, when in His humiliation, it was prophesied (Ps. 22:22, 23, 25);
The reason is given in verses 27, 28:
Now will have come the moment of the fulfilment of Matt. 5:10, 12. "Blessed are those which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." "Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven."
It can hardly be the voice of Christ, for He does not associate Himself with us in this relationship. On the contrary, He distinguished Himself from His people, and says, "My Father and your Father; my God and your God" (John 20:17). See Heb. 2:11.
a, 19:6, 7. The Voice of the great Multitude and the Fourth Utterance.
6, 7. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as it were the voice of many waters, and as it were the voice of many thunders, saying,
We can never have a clear understanding of this heavenly utterance if we introduce the Church of the Pauline Epistles, i.e., the Great Mystery, here.
One would have though it quite unnecessary to make this statement, considering that we have so many references to Israel, or Israel's elect remnant, in the Old Testament. And these, quite irrespective of the Church of God which is the subject of subsequent revelation.
As to the relationship of God with Israel, it is the resumption of a former relationship. The Old Testament Scriptures speak of the marriage between the Lord and His People again and again. As to the Church of God, the New Testament Scriptures state, as clearly as possible, that it was "hid in God." Mark, it does not say, hid in the Scriptures, but "hid in God," Himself. It is impossible, therefore, that the Mystery, of the Church of God, can be spoken of or revealed in the Old Testament.
Did pious Jews think of the Church of God when they read in Isa. 54:5-8?
Did they understand the Church when they read in Isa. 62:4, 5?
What did they understand, as they read Hosea 2:16, and Jer. 3:14?
This marriage is referred to in Isa. 4:5. When Jehovah shall have purged away the filth of the daughters of Zion, it is added: "beyond all this glory there shall be the Chuppah": i.e., the marriage or bridal canopy mentioned elsewhere only in Ps. 19:5, and Joel 2:16; and referring to Isa. 62. (quoted above). The chuppah is the bridal canopy beneath which Jewish nuptial ceremonies are performed to this day.
Why are we to do away with all these references by interpreting them in a way in which the original readers could never have understood them? Either they must have been wrong in understanding them of Israel, or we must be wrong in interpreting them of the Church of God. Both cannot be right.
The "wife" is earthly (19.): the "Bride" is heavenly (21.).
The marriage of the one is on earth (though rejoiced over in heaven beforehand), and is consummated on earth for 1,000 years. All earthly or mortal relationships must run out by expiration along with the earth, before the other, the heavenly relationships, are entered upon. Thus, understanding Rev. 19:of Israel, and 21 of the Elect Remnant, there is neither Polygamy on the one hand, nor Divorce on the other.
It is important to observe the various callings.
(1) There is the "earthly calling," which all Israel shares the Wife, (...) (gune), Rev. 19 ("The sand," of Gen. 13:16);
(2) there is the "heavenly calling" of an elect remnant of Israel the Bride, (...) (numphe), Rev. 21:9 ("The stars," of Gen. 15:5); and
(3) there is the distinct calling of the Church of God which is "The Christ" (i.e., the Mystery).
These three distinct callings have their separate standings; their different hopes, different promises, and different destinies.
We must rightly divide these "callings," or we shall get only confusion.
How, for example, can it be said of the Church that she "hath made herself ready." As members of the Body of Christ we are already "made meet" (Col. 1:12); God Himself hath made us meet: and even now we are "complete in Him" (Col. 2:10); and are "perfect in Christ Jesus" (Col. 1:28); "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:6).
We can never be more "ready" than He Himself hath made us. The language in Rev. 19:7 is wholly foreign to the perfect standing of the church, which is in grace.
The next verse also shows this very clearly, where we have
B, 19:8, 9. The array and Blessedness of the Wife.
8. And it was given to her that she should be arrayed in fine linen raiment, bright and pure: for the fine linen raiment is the righteous awards of the saints.] The word rendered "righteousness" is not (...) (dikaiosune), the state or quality or condition of righteousness; but it is (...) (dikaioma); a righteous act.
It is in the plural here, and denotes the righteousness of the things indicated by the context.
In Luke 1:6 it is righteous ordinance.
and here in Rev. 19:8, it denotes the righteous awards. The RV and Rotherham put "righteous acts." But "acts" are not "given." Whatever the word refers to, here, is said to be "given to her." And what was given was given by way of reward, or better, as awards. Alford and Tregellis render it "righteousness," as in the AV. Alford says "it is their own,* inherent, not imputed." The Scripture here declares it was theirs because it was "given." They would say, we are sure in the words of Isa. 64:6: "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." This is, and ever will be, the common confession of all justified ones. It cannot be, as many hold, that it is their own inherent righteousness in men of any dispensation; for the universal verdict was, and is, "there is none righteous, no not one."
The same angel goes on to describe, not merely the array of the Bride, but the blessedness of those who shall be called to the marriage.
9-. And he saith to me, Write, "Blessed are they that are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb."] Thus we not only have the Wife; but as in Ps. 45:14, "the virgins, her companions"; and also those who are the invited guests. As "star differeth from another star in glory" (1 Cor. 15:41), so the people in glory differ in ranks and orders and degrees; but all, all-glorious, in the "many mansions."
Just as in an earthly family there are the Husband, the Wife, the Children, the Relatives, the Friends, the Visitors, and the Servants, yet all in the same mansion and all one household; so in the glory there will be the Christ and the Church which is His Body; the Lamb and the Lamb's wife; the "friends of the Bridegroom" (John 3:29); the "virgins" that be the Bride's "companions" (Ps. 45:14); those who are "called" to the marriage supper; the "servants"; the great multitude of Rev. 7.; the 144,000 of sealed ones; and of all, it is true, that they are "blessed." For the angel goes on at once to announce this in the most solemn and formal manner, which calls forth the adoration of John.
f., 19:-9-10-. The Prostration of John.
-9. And he saith to me, "These are the true words of God."] The angel is the speaker of 17:1. Thrice is the assurance given (19:10; 21:5; 22:6), showing that it refers to the immediate context.
10-. And I fell down before his feet to worship him.] Twenty-four times is the word (...) (proskuneo) used in the Apocalypse, and we ought, before this, to have pointed out that when followed by the Accusative case it means merely to do homage or obeisance to another, as from man to man. When used with the Dative case it means to worship with Divine honour.* This shows that John, here, was going to give the angel Divine worship, which was, of course, at once forbidden, as it is also in 22:8.
g., 19:-10. Exhortation of the Angel to John.
-10. And he saith to me "See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee, and with thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus: Worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."] What the angel says is, I am a servant as well as thou, and therefore I cannot receive the worship which is due only to God. Both the angel and John are sent on the same business, are engaged in the same matters, and are witnesses of the same truth: the one, therefore, cannot worship the other. Both were fellow-servants of John's brethren. Both were engaged in the same work. The angel was explaining and John was writing, so that John's brethren might learn and know these true sayings of God. We cannot determine whether "the testimony of Jesus" should be taken objectively as testimony concerning Jesus; or subjectively of testimony borne or sent by Him: as in 1:1. Probably both are true, and it is often better to take the inclusive meaning. All prophecy concerns in some way the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the spirit of it: yea, the sum and the substance of it. He Himself is the prophet. He bore His prophetic testimony concerning these things when on earth, in the Parables of the Kingdom, the Marriage Supper, and in the last great Prophetic discourse concerning the Great Tribulation: and now it is given to Him to show unto His servants the things which are yet to come to pass.
The Seventh (and last) Vision in heaven is divided, as we have seen into two parts, the former consisting of Utterances only; and the latter of Actions. In 19:1-16 we have the Utterances, which we have been considering. In 19:11-16 we have the Actions described. They are arranged as follows:
C. 19:11. The White Horse and his Rider.
11. And I saw the heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat thereon was called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He doth judge and make war] Here, at length, we have the actual Apocalypse of the Messiah. We see him coming forth in all His power and glory. He is not named, but He is described by those attributes which suit His action. He is "Faithful" to all the promises He has made; "True" to execute all the judgments He has threatened. The "war" which He will make is righteous. The similarity of this white horse and his rider has led many interpreters to identify him with one mentioned in chap. 6:2. But there is no necessity for this. There is a likeness; but there is a contrast, also. That was the false Christ; this is the true Christ. The former was neither faithful nor true; the latter is both. The one will go forth in order to conquer and subdue all to himself; the other will go forth to judge and make war upon the former in righteousness. There is neither judgment nor making war in the rider of 6:2: his object is simply to overcome, conquer and subdue. But here it is judgment; and an aggressive war which shall accomplish that judgment.
Many stumble at the White Horse and his rider here; and ask, in amazement, whether we really believe it? We answer, Yes! We believe it, just as we believe the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, about the coming of that same Blessed One riding upon an ass, and the fulfilment of that prophecy in Matt. 21:4-11.
The Jews probably stumbled at the Prophecy of Zechariah in the same manner, as being improbable. But all is easy to faith.
It is as easy to believe one prophecy as the other, and we believe both.
Then, He came in humiliation. Now, He will come in glory, even as Psalm 45:3-6 testifies.
All this stands in connection with His marriage with His wife as it does here, in Rev. 19.
The prophecy in Zechariah 9 takes in both Comings. The coming to Jerusalem in humility (verse 9), and the judgment which he will execute at His second Coming; for, the next (the 10th) verse goes on to say:
D. 19:12, 13. His Description.
12. And His eyes were as a flame of fire, and upon His head were many diadems: and He had a name written, that no one knew, but He Himself. (13) And He was arrayed with a garment dyed* (or stained) with blood; and his name is called "The Word of God"]. The reference to blood here is clearly to Isa. 63:1-6, where this same mighty conqueror is seen coming up from Edom: his garments being stained with the blood of his enemies. We have two Questions with their Answers:
The whole scene is one of judgment and of vengeance (compare Is. 9:5). How any could ever understand this as referring to, or foretelling, the Redeemer's sufferings in grace, we cannot imagine. No! This is the language of the Gospels, where the Lord, referring to this very judgment scene, exclaims, "Those mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither and slay them before me" (Luke 19:27). The Rider on the white horse is not the Gracious Saviour in His work of saving His people from their sins; but the Righteous Judge who avenges them on their enemies.
His name is called "the Word of God." This connects Him with His attribute of Creator (Ps. 33:6); with the Eternal One (John 1:1, 2); and with the Incarnate One (John 1:14).
He leads the Armies of Heaven, and these, in the Structure above, are set in correspondence with Himself as coming forth from Heaven. (Compare C. and C.).
C. 19:14. His followers. The Armies of Heaven.
14. And the armies which* are in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure] "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints (or holy ones) to execute judgment upon all" (Jude 14, 15). This was the primitive subject of prophecy; and this is the spirit of its testimony concerning Jesus. There is no need to introduce the Church here. It will be with Christ. For ever united to its glorious Head, not separated from Him into "Armies." These are angelic hosts who are accustomed to "make war" (see chap. 12), and fight against Satan and his hosts.
All here is a grand reality. These armies are no mere symbols. Horses and chariots of fire were seen by Elisha's servant at Dothan when his eyes were "opened." Horses of fire took Elijah into heaven. These were real; and what they accomplished was real also. It is neither necessary nor wise to explain away any portion of God's Word. Neither is it safe: for there are many things in heaven and earth which have never entered into man's imagination; and it is childish and absurd to measure and judge of everything by our own limited experience. Things are not unreal, unlikely, or impossible merely because we have never seen them. It is both wiser and safer to believe God. If any ask, "Do you then believe that these are real armies and real horses?" we answer, Most certainly! The Word of God declares it in language that does not admit of Figures of Speech.
For our part, we find it easier and happier to accept those statements in all simplicity; assured that it is much more pleasing in God's sight, than to explain away His revelation merely because some things are different from anything we happen to have heard of before.
These Angelic armies take their place as opposed to the Satanic armies.
The whole kingdom of God opposed to the whole kingdom of Satan.
D, 19:15, 16. Further Description of Messiah.
15. And out of His mouth proceedeth a sharp sword (see 1:16; 2:12, 16), that with it (as invested 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* of the wrath of God the Almighty. (16) And He hath upon His vesture and on His thigh a name written, "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."] All judgment is committed unto Him; and "by the breath of His lips He shall slay the Wicked One." Chap. 16 has already prepared us for the conflict. Chap. 17 has shown us the enemy and his allies. Chap. 18 gave us details of the judgment as regards "Babylon the great." But now we have, at length, the final fulfilment of the second Psalm. The nations rage and are smitten. The treading of this winepress had been foreshown in chap. 14:19, 20. The Gentiles at last have all power taken from them. "The times of the Gentiles" will have reached their end. For, all government will then be at length centred, and settled for ever, in "the Prince of the Kings of the Earth," "the King of Kings and Lord of Lords."