Revelation Chapter Nineteen
The camera now swings away from chapter eighteen and the fall of Babylon and will later focus on the binding of Satan and reign of the martyrs. Yet here in chapter nineteen John hears the voices of a multitude, this informing us of a new vision being given. In chapters nineteen and twenty we have the climax of the conflict that began in Revelation chapter twelve, when Michael and other angels cast Satan (the dragon) from heaven to Earth.
As we begin to engage with this chapter, we do so by first looking at worship and the word ‘Hallelujah’ (19:1,3,4,6). We then direct our attention to God’s desire for fellowship with man, seen in the parable of a banquet and comment on the wedding supper mentioned in Rev 19:9. In doing so, we also contrast the intimacy, fellowship and acceptance that God desires all believers to experience, with the pain, separation and heartache that our fallen world often suffers through sin and darkness. We then move on to look at the King who comes in power and glory to restore harmony and unite Earth and heaven - the Lord Jesus Christ. The whole of Revelation is about focusing on who God is and all that He has done, is doing, and will do.
“True prophecy is identified by its witness to Jesus and its call to worship God 19:10, 22:9. When Revelation moves people to faith in God and the Lamb, it brings them to the End for which the book was written.”
C. Koester, Revelation and the End of All Things, page 172
The word ‘Hallelujah’.
In Revelation chapter nineteen we see worship being given by a great multitude worshipping because the wedding of the Lamb has come. We also see the King of Kings going forth to bring about the final judgement on Earth. As we enter into the chapter we find a word that, in the New Testament, is only used in chapter nineteen - “Hallelujah” (19:1,3,4,6).
The word ‘Hallelujah’ is actually from the Hebrew origin of two words (halluw & Yaah) that, when combined, mean ‘praise the Lord’. This meaning carries with it the idea of the worshipper letting go of self in total surrender and openness to God in a deeply personal way. Yet there is more to the word ‘Hallelujah’; it is a call to recognise God’s goodness and a command to worship with a grateful heart.
In the multitude’s thunderous call like the sound of a mighty waterfall, we have (in the truest meaning of the word) ‘hallelujah’ - a clear call to praise the Lord.
“The Hebrew term for gratitude is hikarat hatov, which means, literally, “Recognising the good.” That’s what sustains your soul that’s what lifts you beyond yourself and into God’s presence.”
J. Ortoberg in, ‘Soul Keeping’ page 184.
The multitude in Revelation (Rev 19:1) praises the eternal One to whom belongs salvation, glory, honour and power and who triumphs over the enemy. The enemy has been condemned, the blood of the servants avenged and the Lord God Almighty reigns. The wedding of the Lamb has come and the bride has made herself ready. In Him and Him alone we find our true hope and security.
“Hope challenges earthly powers and principalities, and she places earthly powers under the critique of heaven… Her birthplace is not the palaces of the privileged, nor the high-steeple, stained-glass-windowed sanctuaries of power and customised religiosity. Rather her birthplace is under the bush in the wilderness where Ishmael lay dying; under the broom tree, where Elijah wishes for death; in the flames of yet another bush, from which Yahweh speaks hope and life and liberation to Moses and his people with words of inextinguishable fire. …when Hope speaks, she speaks not with the arrogance of certitude but with the eloquence of faith.”
A. Boesak in, Dare we speak of hope? Pages 71-72
The Roar of the Multitude.
In Scripture, rejoicing is almost like spiritual adrenalin coursing through our lives as our minds and hearts are uplifted by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to participate in all that He has done. The fruit of the Spirit includes joy (Gal 5:22) and speaks of the empowered inner attitude of mind that comes through the presence of another.
“Jesus is the heart of the new covenant: His voice calls us, His death redeems us, His word emboldens us, His life inspires us, His Spirit empowers us, His resurrection revives us, His wounded hands heal us, His grace remakes us, His peace surrounds us, His presence overcomes us and His love sustains us. So His name is praised, today, now and forever.”
A. Boesak in, ‘The Fire Within’ page 51.
Through God’s grace and mercy we are known, accepted, understood and loved and have a future - His future. In knowing the One who provides all things for us, we can be uplifted no matter our circumstances; “For the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10) and the God of hope fills us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him (Rom 15:13). Therefore, in all ways we need to engage with God through open hearts and minds rather than just seeking to understand Him with simply head knowledge.
“Imagine what would happen if during Holy Communion I participated in the communal celebration of the Lamb of God, now seated at the right hand of the Holy One, who both suffered with all those who suffer and removed the guilt of their transgressors! Imagine what would happen if I celebrated the presence of this Christ in the life of the community and in my own life!”
M. Volf in, “The End of Memory.” Page 127
The Wedding of the Lamb.
In Revelation nineteen we read of the wedding supper of the Lamb (v9) and in the gospels we have Jesus telling parables of both a banquet (Luke 14:15-23) and a wedding feast (Mat 22). In pausing to look at these and contrast them with the isolation and suffering that many go through, we are reminded of God’s desire to bless all people in stark contrast to man’s inhumanity to fellow man.
The Offer of Friendship and Fellowship
During the Olympics this year (2016), there have been many television pictures of the huge statue that stands over Rio de Janeiro on the top of Corcovado Mountain. The statue is of Christ the Redeemer and construction on it began in the early 1920s, using stone from Sweden. The statue was finally finished in 1931 and officially opened on the 12th of October of that year. It is 98ft high and stands on a 26ft high pedestal, weighing 635 tonnes. In July 2007, it became one of the new ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. The outstretched arms symbolise God’s love for the world and willingness to embrace all who come to Him.
“Jesus came to an orphaned planet to reveal the Father. That was something that neither the Law nor the Prophets could do. Everything changed in that one revelation of Jesus – Jesus revealed the Father. For the first time, people were able to see both an accurate and a complete picture of God’s heart toward them. What was seen in type and shadow under the Old Covenant is now seen clearly through Jesus Christ…Jesus started His ministry with a statement that would completely define our lives: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). In other words, change the way you think, for I brought My world with Me. And unless you change your perspective on life, you can live within reach of all that you long for, but never taste of its reality.”
B. Johnson and R. Clark in, ‘The Essential Guide to Healing’ pages 124 &126.
Many years ago, I knew a homeless alcoholic called John. He was in his mid-fifties and, for whatever reason, had become a very vitriolic and bitter man. John used to call into the church I pastored in London at least twice a week for a coffee and a chat, and sometimes a sandwich. On one occasion a new member of staff came to me and said, “A man has just told me that he wished he was a tank so that he could then run it over my head”. I told him that this man was John and that he was just one of the many men and women we were trying to show the love of Christ to.
One day John told me that he was painting an oil painting for me and over the next few weeks he often told me about how he was getting on with it. I didn’t take too much notice of what John said, knowing he often lied, but a few weeks later he turned up with the oil-painting and gave it to me. I was more than a little impressed at his work and asked him to sign it, which he subsequently did. A few days later, a local priest came into the church and asked if anyone had come across one of his oil paintings which had been stolen. I returned his painting, now signed by John. That is the sort of thing John did, but he kept coming back to the church, dishevelled, dirty, often quite rude and other times mildly obnoxious. Then came the day when John met my eldest daughter for the first time.
I brought my wife and Rosie, my now twenty-five year old daughter, home from hospital for the first all those years ago. On our journey home I saw John sitting with some fellow alcoholics on a hot afternoon in late May. I stopped, got out of the car with my new-born daughter, and placed her in John’s dirty hands. John froze and looked at both myself and my baby daughter in utter surprise that I would do such a thing. I looked into his eyes and, through the act of allowing him to hold my daughter; it was as if all the rubbish and filth disappeared from his life for a few brief seconds. I saw John as he could be – I saw his humanity, I saw a man trapped through wrong decisions but a man made in the image of God non-the-less; a man who was precious to God peering out of the carnage of the existence that he had found himself living.
In Christ we have a Son given to a rebellious world by a loving Father so that we can find forgiveness; so that we can find our true humanity in Him through His gift of love – the love of a Father who continues to reach out and who wants us to feast with Him in His kingdom.
In Luke’s gospel, just before Jesus’ parable about a banquet, we read of an unnamed man responding to His call to live as servants in saying, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15) after which Jesus tells the parable of the banquet (Luke 14:15-23). Before looking at this parable, which reveals God’s love and generosity, we answer the question, “What did the unnamed man mean by the feast in the kingdom of God?” In all likelihood, the man was referring to Isaiah.
As a nation, Israel was aware of God’s desire for friendship and fellowship. Isaiah 25:6-8 reads…
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine — the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.” Isa 25:6-8
In these verses, the shroud that covers people refers to the fruit of outside-covenant living, of death and ignorance concerning spiritual truth. The feast on earth that Isaiah speaks of pictures the old creation totally renewed and filled with the presence of God, with strong fellowship between God and man as at a family meal. Ultimately this renewal comes about because of the grace and mercy of God who, in Christ, removes the veil of sin and death – the ‘party-wall’ between man and God. There will be no more death and no more suffering. There will be no more sin and no isolated, depersonalised or abused people.
“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:18.
In the parable of the Banquet in Luke’s gospel (Luke 14:15-24), Jesus reveals the generosity of the host (God) who wants His house filled (v24) as well as the shallow excuses of those who reject this offer. Elsewhere, in Matthew’s gospel, we read of a wedding banquet (Mat 22:1-5) where those who reject the gospel kill the servants sent out to invite them. In this we have a portrayal of how many rejected God’s offer and killed the prophets of old. Ultimately, the full harvest of this rebellion is seen in the death of Christ, the Lamb who was slain. Yet still God reaches out in grace and mercy.
In Revelation nineteen we read of rejoicing because many have responded to the invitation to the wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:7). Those who responded have made themselves ready, having come through all manner of trials and tribulations in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The enemy has done his worst, yet God’s people prevail in God’s strength; rebellion and the pain of loneliness and all manner of abuse have been overcome; the end of suffering is in sight.
Isolation and Pain.
In the Roman world that the book of Revelation initially speaks into, there were many thousands of marginalised, suffering and dehumanised men and women who came to find meaning, purpose, hope and love in the gospel message. Yet all across history there are those who have continued to suffer, sometimes at their own hands and sometimes at the hands of others.
Today we live in a world where pain, loneliness, isolation and suffering are often high on the agenda. The two following stories reveal these sufferings which, amongst other things, clearly reveal the gulf between man’s inhumanity to man and God’s willingness to renew and restore. The first is the story of a young girl called Daya and is recorded in Daniel Walker’s book, God in a Brothel.
Daniel Walker worked as an undercover investigator for a number of non-profit organisations which work to free women and children from sex trafficking in various countries across the world. On one occasion he was in the slums of Munpur, India, and writes about a young girl called Daya. This is what he has to say:
“In one such slum community on the northeast side of Munpur, a girl runs a brothel. She runs it because she is the only occupant. The brothel is a small concrete dwelling with a tin roof. The building has a concrete floor and a sturdy wooden door but is otherwise no different from the many thousands of small dwellings that surround it. It has no address, no name, no amenities and no advertising. The furniture inside consists of one bed.
It is a thriving business none-the-less and each day a man comes to collect the daily take and delivers food and water to the girl. The only other visitors the girl has are the stream of customers who pass in and out of her bed at all times of the day and night, paying her less than one U.S. dollar for the use of her small body. And small it is because the girl is only twelve years old.”
The raid: “As we stepped into the darkness from the bright sunshine, the slim form of a young girl slowly came into focus. Standing barefoot beside her bed she wore a dirty white cotton dress. Her straight black hair was pulled back in a ponytail from her face. She was beautiful with striking eyes and a clear complexion. She was alone. She was confused. She was scared. Leading her from the darkness of her tiny hovel into the bright sunlight, safety and freedom, I felt overwhelmed by a send of gratitude, joy and protectiveness. Gratitude that everything had so far gone according to plan and that the girl had been found. Joy that she would now be cared for and that I had the honour of participating in her rescue. As if she were my own little sister, I walked by her side her affording her the protection of a bodyguard.”
D.Walker in, ‘God in a Brothel’ page 12.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), we read of a scribe and a priest contributing to the plight of an unknown man who had been beaten, robbed, stripped and left for dead. They contributed to his suffering by doing nothing, as did so many who lived in the slums where Daya was forced to work. Men and women, fathers and mothers, would have walked past her doorway every day and felt either powerless to do anything or were so desensitised to human need that they ignored her or assumed that it was her lot in life in the so-called law of Karma. Yet through a man who loved and served God, this young girl is now safe. You and I are called to be like Jesus and reach out to the lost and the lonely, the hurt, the marginalised, and the abused.
A second story illustrating man’s inhumanity in a world where power should be used to support, encourage and uplift, is that of Vladimir Bukovsky.
As a student, Bukovsky was prominent in the Soviet dissident movement in the 1960s and 70s. He was eventually exiled from Russia; having spent twelve years in prisons, labour camps and psychiatric hospitals, and on one occasion was sentenced without trial. In the 1960s and 70s, psychiatric treatment was used as a form of punishment to deter free-thinking people who stood up against the system. This treatment included placing them amongst mentally ill and often dangerous patients and forcing them to take psychotropic drugs as well as placing them in prisons under the control of the KGB (the main security agency for the Soviet Union from 1954-1991)
In solitary confinement, Bukovsky would spend his time drawing castles on scraps of newspaper or directly onto the floor – constructing every detail as intricately as possible and, in his imagination, filling it with people and travelling around his castle, climbing stairs, entering the library and walking around gardens. In his book, To Build a Castle, he writes about many of his experiences…
“I can’t say that prison hunger was particularly agonising – it wasn’t a biting hunger but, rather, a prolonged process of chronic undernourishment. You very quickly stopped feeling it badly and were left with a kind of gnawing pain, rather like a quietly throbbing toothache. You even lost awareness that it was hunger, and only after several months did you notice that it hurt to sit on a wooden bench, and at night, no matter which way you turned, something hard seemed to be pressing into you or against you – you would get up several times in the night and shake the mattress, toss and turn from side to side, and still it hut. Only then did you realise that your bones were sticking out. But by then you didn’t care any longer.
The most unpleasant thing of all was the sensation of having lost your personality. It was as if your soul, with all its intricacies, convolutions, hidden nooks and crannies, had been pressed by a giant flat iron, so that it was now as smooth and flat as a starched shirt-front. Prison makes you anonymous. As a result, every man strives to stand out from the crowd, to stress his individuality, to appear superior and better than the rest.”
Vladimir Bukovsky in, ‘To Build a Castle – My Life as a Dissenter’ pages 17-18.
In Bukovsky’s story we see the inhumanity of a godless regime and the loneliness, isolation and abuse of one man amidst countless thousands of political prisoners in the former USSR. In complete contrast to this we see Jesus, the All-Powerful One, coming not to destroy the rebel but offer forgiveness and reconciliation.
Fallen man so often seeks to destroy all that opposes him, yet during this time of grace, God seeks to transform broken and rebellious lives with offers friendship and fellowship. God has done all He can to restore man to the fullness of what it means to be made in the image of God. In love, He has warned the world, judging parts of it at various times in history and allowing it to reap its own harvest to varying degrees as a means of revealing to us that man cannot live on bread alone. In sending His own son, we then see the full extent of God’s love (1 John 4:8-9) and that even in judgement, he gives the opportunity for us to repent. Yet, as Revelation clearly reveals, this will not continue forever and those who cry out “how long?” (Rev 6:9) find their answer as Revelation unfolds. There will be an end to all suffering and there will be a rejoicing in heaven. There will be a wedding feast, yet many who had the opportunity to attend it never will because they chose instead to pursue their own lifestyle. God continually offers a welcome but many reject His offer; they see Jesus, but they don’t see Him or refuse to see Him.
“Jesus is not merely a super-human being with an intellect keener than ours and a capacity for loving greater than ours. In the most literal sense of the word, he is unique. Uncreated, infinite, totally other, he surpasses and transcends all human concepts, considerations, and expectations. He is beyond anything we can intellectualise or imagine. Thus, Jesus is a scandal to men and women everywhere, because he cannot be comprehended by the rational, finite mind.”
Brennan Manning in, ‘Above All’ page 37.
In the parable of the banquet recorded by Luke (14), we find the first invited guest saying that he has just bought a field and needs to go and see it. In the Ancient Near East this excuse would be utterly transparent. If you bought a field, you would already know everything about the field before the purchase - even to the extent of how many trees were in it, how stony the field was and what sort of crops it had produced in previous years.
The second excuse is just as transparent for at least two reasons. Firstly, anyone buying Oxen would have already seen them in action – there would be no need to go and try them out after purchase. Secondly, anyone who purchases five pairs of oxen is wealthy and would have servants who worked the fields for him who would do the job.
The third excuse can appear valid at first glance on the basis that a newly married man would be exempt from going to war during the first year of marriage. However this is not the case here, as it is a long-standing invitation to a feast. He would have known where and when the feast was and would have made adequate arrangements.
In the transparency and weakness of the excuses that are made, we see the attitude of those who rejected grace and mercy in Jesus’ day and it was often the most religious!
“Many avoid showing any kind of emotion in response to God and are satisfied with studying God in a purely intellectual manner through Bible reading. We console ourselves with the idea that this is the “mature” approach and look down on those who are full of passion for a Jesus they claim to know. But a man who claimed to love a girl he had never met, but had only read letters she had written, would earn our pity. We were not promised a relationship with a book but with a person. Paul was not immature, and he wasn’t foolish. He was passionate for his books (see 2 Timothy 4:13), but more so for his relationship with Jesus… what exactly did Jesus mean when he promised, “I am with you always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)? … We must learn to value Jesus and to love him. This should affect our emotions and give rise to at least some level of experience. This might be very limited, however,, and if we claim that everybody has received everything that is available at conversion, we will settle for a very meagre experience indeed.”
A. Warnock in, ‘Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything” pages 196-197; 208.
Marriage and the Wedding Supper.
In Revelation nineteen, praise is given to God because the time for the wedding supper of the Lamb has arrived; despite persecution and untold suffering, the church has made herself ready in the power of the Spirit (19:7).
In a Jewish community, a marriage would come about after formal betrothal arrangements had been made between the bridegroom’s family and the bride’s family. Within the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there was a decision made at the foundation of the world to enter our world with the offer of grace, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and love. God chose to enter into a relationship with man, at great cost to Himself (Rom 5:8).
In a Jewish community, after the formal arrangements had been made, the bridegroom would give gifts to the bride before returning to his parent’s house to prepare a room for them both to live in after their marriage. Jesus gave His life, rose from the dead and then left this world to prepare a place for His followers (John 14:1-2). He sent the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15; Rom 8:15-16, Rom 14:17, Gal 5:22) to strengthen us and lead us into all truth which includes an increasing knowledge of God’s love for us (Eph 3:14-21).
In keeping with Jewish tradition, when the room was ready, the bridegroom (along with the bridal party) would collect his bride and on approaching her house, would blow a ram’s horn to alert her of his impending arrival. The marriage would be consummated and the next day there would be a wedding feast where family and friends celebrated their union. At the return of Christ, there will be the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God (1 Cor 15:52, 1 Thess 4:16). There will be a wedding banquet and celebration in the renewed Earth where there is no veil between Earth and heaven.
God’s Offer of Friendship.
One of the issues that many religious people in Jesus’ day had was that he revealed the love, care and compassion of a God who does not reject sinners. He revealed the love of a God who did not disassociate with tax collectors or prostitutes and did not disassociate with so-called ethnic minorities that many looked down on. In Jesus’ ministry, He continuously showed the love of His Father who was willing to be pictured as a wronged Father running out to a failed son whom so many would never have spoken to again. That’s the sort of God He is and because He is this sort of loving, generous, compassionate and merciful God, He is totally against sin because He loves the sinner.
“…But Jesus is not a director of church projects to sinners. He does not behave and act like one, for he brings church to them. He makes sure that if they cannot come to the church; the church must come to them. This should not sound strange, measured by our theological understanding of the relation between Jesus and church. We believe, do we not, that Jesus is the church par excellence. Do we not then have to affirm, starting from such belief, that wherever Jesus associates himself with sinners and works with them, there the church is?”
Choan-Seng Song in, ‘The Compassionate God’ page 119
In the Israel of Jesus’ day, there was a peace manufactured by man and so it had to be protected by man and woe-betide anything or anyone who disturbed this peace. But then along comes Jesus and upsets the whole system. He is the true Prince of Peace – the consumer of evil and restorer of relationships. He is the life-breather in the flesh. He is the One who sees all humanity as made in the image of God, viewing each and every life as precious and important no matter how much it was damaged and covered in the mud and refuse of wrong-decisions.
No wonder people did not like Jesus; they did not like Him doing the unacceptable in their eyes - talking to outcasts, giving people second chances, going and having a meal (a sign of acceptance and friendship) with so many.
Inviting someone for a meal was to be afforded a high honour; it spoke of peace, of trust, of equality, of acceptance and of honour. So many people that he ate with had no merit whatsoever in the eyes of the majority, but Jesus saw them as of great value; sheep without a Shepherd. There is no one who should ever believe that they have no value, as Jesus saw value in all people. He saw them as human beings. Yes, they may be distorted and corrupted and rebellious, but they are human beings who are made in the image of God. They are not first of all a prostitute, a Samaritan, a tax collector, a thief, because that speaks of imagery imposed on them or things that have happened to them. None of these things alter the truth - they are made in the image of God and Jesus reaches out to them.
No wonder so many did not like Jesus – even to the extent of wanting to kill Him for raising someone from the dead. They did not like Him because He went to a feast that Matthew the Tax collector threw for all His friends, and He went to eat with Zacchaeus. What we see in all of this is very important for us to note – it speaks of the heart and power of the kingdom of God. In Jesus’ willingness to sit with all manner of people from hugely diverse backgrounds, we have a prophetic sign and a foretaste of the world that is to come as what we are seeing are not just social events. These things are a clear indication of the all-embracing power and blessing of the kingdom of God - clearly showing God’s compassion, grace, mercy and love and His deep desire for fellowship. So surely this is the greatest sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst? One of the greatest signs of our relationship with God is our relationship with others; others who may be nothing like us and who may let us down and fail us at times, as indeed we will them. God’s call to us is fellowship with Him and to something which goes much deeper than behaviour. Behaviour can fool us and not come from the heart – I can obey to avoid trouble for example, and not because of the love of God. We are called, in a real sense, to go way beyond behaviour to a particular type of character: to be Christ-like in all that we do. This can only come about through a heart yielded to God and transformed by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. In living this, we experience what is means to be fully human (in relationship with Him) as the ways of the world fall away from our lives. The invitation to come home and undergo this transformation is there for everybody and the judgement that ensues for those who do not is not a threat, but the consequence of our refusal to seek forgiveness and come home. As the Psalmist said of the great Shepherd, “He restores my soul”, that is he brings me back to my true self in Him. Outside of this, there is nothing but judgement as I live with the consequences of my own choices.
Clothed in His Work.
In returning to Revelation nineteen, we read of fine linen being given to the church to wear - this speaking of the righteous acts of the saints (Rev 19:8). Fine linen directs our attention to the clothing of the priest (Ex 28:5, Lev 16:4) and therefore to the role of all believers as the priesthood of God (1 Pet 2:9).
The priestly role is not about our good works but the fruit of His work (and therefore our position in Him) which is captured in Ezekiel 44:17-18. In this passage, priests were told to wear linen and no other material that could make them perspire and in so doing speak of their own efforts (Gen 3:19). From this, we see that the righteous acts of the saints in Revelation nineteen are about His work being attributed to us and are not something we achieve in our own strength or ability. An example of His work being attributed to us, albeit in a slightly different way, is seen in how Jesus speaks to Peter at the Sea of Tiberius (John 21).
When Jesus’ appeared on the sea shore in the early morning, the disciples had already been fishing all night and caught nothing. Jesus tells them where to fish and upon following His instructions, their nets were full. They brought the fish to the shore and found that Jesus had already made a fire and was cooking fish. He then said to the disciples, “Bring some of the fish you (emphasis mine) have just caught” (John 21:9-10). If we think about it, the only reason they had been able to catch the fish was because Jesus told them where to let the nets down and in this sense, they were very much His fish. Yet He speaks of them as “the fish you have just caught” as if all the work were theirs.
It is God’s work in Christ and by the Spirit that enables us to do anything and therefore, all righteous acts point to Him and not self. For example, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (James 2:23), yet the only reason Abraham could choose to believe in God in the first place was because God made Himself known, and also provided the sacrifice for sin. In light of this, the priestly robes in Rev 19 speak of an obedient church that is blessed in the Lord for that which only God could ultimately enable them to do.
A priest received blessing from God and was able in turn to bless others because of what had been freely received in the first place. Like the priesthood of old, yet at a much deeper level, we have been given life in Christ and we live that life in the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Because we belong to Christ, we are able to do good works (His works) and are clothed in our right mind, with the fullness of this coming about as the veil is completely removed forever.
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." 1 Cor 15:54
19:11-16: The Final Invasion
The camera swings round yet again and we now find our focus on a second vision in Revelation 19:11-16. On entering into this vision, we see that the focus is now on Jesus as the Warrior-King.
Jesus is the heavenly King, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and in Him we see truth riding forth as the One who sees the hearts and minds of all people. Jesus appears as the legitimate Ruler, the One who was slain now risen in power and glory. Jesus is called faithful and true (19:11); the true judge of all and in this description, we capture a glimpse of his deity. Yet there is much about the Son of God that only He knows (Rev 19:12).
The heavenly King of kings (the ‘many-crowned one’ v12) rides forth with the armies of heaven accompanying Him. The army is present, yet all conquest is through the Living Word of God, pictured with the Sword of Justice coming from His mouth and being the One who completely destroys the enemy (Rev 19:21).
All judgements prior to this one are, in a sense, God’s megaphone, saying “Everything is not alright” as man reaps some of the consequences of sin. Now, in the marching forth of the King of Kings, we have the final call on evil as He rides out on a white horse.
White Horses and the King who rode a donkey.
Rome’s military rulers often rode white horses in victory parades and the rulers and armies of her most feared enemy (the Parthians) were expert horsemen with a fully-paid up cavalry also riding white horses. Yet here in Revelation, out of the womb of life eternal, comes the King of Kings before whom every knee will bow (Phil 2:10) - the Servant King, the Lamb who was slain to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Many lifetimes ago, this Servant King entered into Jerusalem on a donkey at the time of Passover, yet whilst coming to celebrate the Passover, the real heart of the matter is that He was coming to be the Passover – to become forgiveness and reconciliation through His death and resurrection.
At the time Jesus came into Jerusalem, Rome was flexing her military muscles in sending a column of Imperial Calvary and soldiers from Caesarea to Jerusalem, as was the case during every Passover. As they travelled, the light would glint off of well-polished helmets and shields as Rome’s soldiers entered the Fortress Antonia with their presence being a veiled warning to any who would challenge her power and the political peace of Pax Romana. Yet Jesus was not in Jerusalem to deal with Rome, He was In Jerusalem to deal with the sins of all mankind, making it His personal responsibility. At His death in the weakness of the flesh, He took victory over all the power of darkness.
Here in Revelation nineteen, we now see His glory as He comes as the true King of Kings, with fire in His eyes and many crowns on His head. He also has a name that no-one but Himself knows (Rev 19:12; Phil 2:9), this underlying the truth that although in many respects He is known, in another respect He is completely beyond our ability to comprehend.
Elsewhere in Revelation, Jesus is spoken of as having a head and hair that were white like wool and eyes like blazing fire, with both pictures symbolising purity. The symbols are descriptive of His nature and character and do not mean that Jesus will return to earth looking like this, as indeed (as we have already said) He will not literally have a sword extending from His mouth (Revelation 1:14-16). The ‘eyes like blazing fire’ in Rev 19:12 speak of His holiness, with fire being a sign of both God’s redeeming grace (Mal 3:2) and His judgement. In Heb 12:28-29, we read “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is consuming fire.”
As we move into Rev 19:13, we then see that the divine warrior is dressed in a robe dipped in blood. This refers to His atoning death, the atoning death of the One whose journey to the cross began before the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1:20) and who was betrayed (Mt 26:47-9) in a Garden whose name means ‘Oil Press’ (Gethsemane). Jesus was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities with the punishment that brought us peace falling on Him (Isaiah 53:5).
In the Warrior-King, with a robe dipped in blood, we see a King who is far above and beyond all kings and kingdoms, who has done everything possible to redeem fallen mankind (Rom 5:9). Outside of Him, all that remains is judgement. He is the ‘blood-robed’ One (Rev 19:13), the very Word of God (Rev 19:13, John 1:1), the heart of God expressed in space and time in sacrificial love. Yet He is also the Holy One who will tread the winepress of the wrath of God, the One who will vindicate His people and crush all the power of darkness. Judgement will fall on all who stand against God but all who have been abused, imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith will find justice. Meanwhile, even amidst the greatest of harships, believers still continue to stand in their faith. One such person is a man called Dmitri whose story was recorded by Dr Nik Ripken in his book, The Insanity of God.
Dr Nik Ripken was a missionary who worked in Somalia where his faith took a major battering. He started to wonder if faith could survive under persecution and began travelling to many countries in order to collate testimonies from Christians who had suffered varying forms of hardship. One of those testimonies is Dmitri’s story.
Dmitri lived in a village four hours north of Moscow. He had been raised in a Christian family but, over the decades, communism had destroyed many churches and places of worship, with pastors being imprisoned or killed. As an adult with a young family, Dmitri found himself a three-day walk from the nearest church which made it virtually impossible for him to attend more than twice a year. One night a week he would do a small Bible study with his boys who grew spiritually and asked to sing songs as well. It was a small village and neighbours began to hear them singing and many asked if they could come along. The gathering grew to over fifty in a few short weeks and came to the attention of a communist official. Dmitri was fired from his job and his wife lost her teaching post, with their boys being expelled from school. Dmitri was eventually arrested and spent seventeen years in a prison over seven-hundred miles from his home. Every morning at daybreak he would stand at attention by his bed, face the east and raise his arms in praise to God and sing a HeartSong to Jesus. The other prisoners laughed at him, cursed him and sometimes threw human waste at him to shut him up – but every morning he sang. He would also try to find scraps of paper and write down bible verses. Whenever his jailors saw them they would confiscate them. He was told that if he signed a confession denying Christ and saying he was a paid agent of a western government, he would be released.
One day, after many years in prison, the authorities came and told him that his wife had been murdered and his children taken away by the state. They said, “We have ruined your home and your family is gone.” Dmitri’s resolve broke and he told God that he was giving up, saying to the guards that he would sign the confession which they then went away to prepare. He was told that he would need to sign it the following morning.
That evening, his wife, children and brother were touched by the Holy Spirit to pray for Dmitri who they sensed was at a particular low. They did so and as they did, God allowed Dmitri to hear their prayers over seven-hundred miles away. With renewed strength, the next day he told the guards what had happened and that he would no longer sign the confession. He was later beaten and threatened with execution. This is what happened next:
“As he was dragged down the corridor in the centre of the prison, the strangest thing happened. Before they reached the door leading to the courtyard – before stepping out into the place of execution – fifteen hundred hardened criminals stood at attention by their beds. They faced the east and they began to sing. Dmitri told me that it sounded to him like the greatest choir in all of human history. Fifteen hundred criminals raised their arms and began to sing the HeartSong that they had heard Dmitri sing to Jesus every morning for all of those years.
Dmitri’s jailers instantly released their hold on his arms and stepped away from him in terror. One of the demanded to know, “Who are you?” Dmitri straightened his back and stood as tall and as proud as he could. He responded: “I am a son of the Living God and Jesus is His name.”
The guards returned him to his cell. Sometime later, Dmitri was released and he returned to his family.”
Dr Nik Ripkin with Gregg Lewis in, ‘The Insanity of God’ pages 158
The March of History
In the march of history down through the centuries, there have been multitudes of godly men and women crying out for justice as they suffer persecution, see the death of innocents, abuse of individuals and ridiculing of all that is good and true. Yet this cry for justice is but a whisper compared to the wrath of God that will come against all evil as the King of kings treads the winepress of man’s labours. The fruit of man’s evil ways will be removed as all judgements across history find their end as the Servant king marches out with the army of heaven behind Him. Judgement has already come, it is present right now and will come when time itself will be rid of all that is evil and the full quality and quantity of eternal life will be experienced by all who stand in Christ.
The Hand of Judgement as Time Marches On.
In the flood, a corrupt world is consumed whilst a man and his family are surrounded by God’s protection and raised up out of the waters of judgement. Time marches on.
Time marches on and in the Exodus of Israelite slaves from Egypt, Pharaoh’s magicians have their power consumed (Exodus 7:12, 8:19) by the One who hears the cry of the marginalised. The illegitimate earthly king is stripped of power and abused slaves are released into the care of a heavenly Father. Time marches on.
Upon Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land, the waters of the Jordan part (Joshua 3:15f) and Joshua finds Himself before the Commander of the Lord’s Army who tells him that he is standing on holy ground (Josh 5:13-15). Later, the walls of Jericho fall at the shout of faith from men who marched round the military outpost, following the instructions of the One true God. Time marches on.
Centuries later, Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful king in the ancient world of Babylon and her neighbours, is brought to his knees (Dan 4:31-34). The pages of time quickly turn and another king who mocks all but his own gods finds the judgement of heaven being written on his dream-wall (Belshazzar Daniel 5:25). A few hours later, the unheard of has already happened as Babylon falls into the hands of the enemy who lose no lives in their conquest.
God is always about His business and in the same era, we read of a vision of the legitimate King of Glory being given to the exiled Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3ff) whilst he stands by the river Kebar in the land of captivity (Babylon). When God moves, nothing ever remains the same and God is always about His business of bringing redemption to a fallen world. Outside of redemption is nothing but judgement. Time moves on as judgement increases in both depth and breadth whilst grace remains, an offer of life that even the most rebellious and damaged of people can lay hold of, if they would but open their lives.
The heavenly King rides forth and His army follows, dressed in white linen (19:14) and speaking of a priesthood of believers - of all believers who are cleansed and clothed in the work of Christ. They march forth, yet their fight is not as one might first imagine, as if they were to physically destroy the enemy. Instead their work, as always, is to remain faithful as they stand against all that is evil in the strength and power of the ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ One. Ultimately, it is the Word of God – the Messiah – who conquers the armies of the enemy (Rev 19:21).
The camera continues to whirr and the vision continues as we then see an angel standing in the sun. Elsewhere in Scripture the sun speaks of God’s favour (Psalm 84:11) and Christ’s coming (Mal 4:2). The angel gives a loud cry and in what happens next, we have a complete contrast to the call to come to the marriage feast. In imagery taken from Ezek 39:17 (after the final battle with Gog), the birds of the air are called to eat the flesh of kings, generals and mighty men, and all who have stood against God. The beast and false prophet are then cast into the lake of fire, a fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Mat 25:41). All who choose to ignore God face the same eternal separation as the consequence of their actions and judgement from the One who had offered them life through the death of His Son (Rev 20:14-15). There is no middle ground.