Title: The final victory
Aim: To be prepared for the Savior’s return.
Scripture: Revelation 19:1–21
The song of triumph, Revelation 19:1–10
Revelation 18 narrates the diabolical nature of Babylon and the future demise of the sinister world system that Babylon represents. First-century A.D. readers would have associated this entity with Rome.
Imagine how joyous believers would be at the end of the age when the Lord destroys the demonic system of evil that has corrupted humanity since antiquity. Babylon’s demise would be so complete that no person would inhabit her again. Instead, only demonic spirits and unclean birds would make the place their hideout.
The above is a fitting end, for Babylon had intoxicated the world’s rulers with the wine of her idolatry and immorality. The earth’s merchants had grown rich and spiritually complacent from her wealth.
Old Testament prophets (for example, Hosea; Ezek. 16:8-58) often referred to adulterers and prostitutes to represent people who practiced idolatry. Just as an adulteress is unfaithful to her husband (and, by the same token, an adulterer is unfaithful to his wife), so God’s people are unfaithful to Him when they allow their hearts to be divided and they indulge the worship of pagan deities.
Chapter 19 presents a throne room scene that highlights the Messiah’s triumph over the forces of iniquity. Whereas legions on earth would bewail the downfall of Babylon, multitudes in heaven would rejoice when the Savior defeats the wicked (18:20). It would be like a new exodus for the people of God out of pagan society’s tyrannical cesspool.
John remembered hearing a vast crowd in God’s sacred presence shouting “Hallelujah!” (v. 1). This term is a Hebrew transliteration. Put differently, it is a word whose sound has been carried over into English without interpreting its meaning.
To be specific, the term is derived from the Hebrew verb hâlal, which means “to be boastful” or “to praise.” The thought behind the word is to give exuberant praise to God.
Hâlalwas only one of several Hebrew words the Old Testament used to speak about praise. Indeed, there are several distinct terms to express subtle nuances of adoration to the Creator.
For instance, the Tanakh joined the noun, Yah, which is a shortened form of Yahweh (the covenant name of the Lord) to the verb, hâlal. The combined phrase basically meant, “Praise the Lord!”
Some form of the Hebrew phrase, hâlal Yah, appears 33 times in the Psalms alone. Also, every time the phrase appears in the Old Testament, it is translated. For example, Psalms 104:35 and 113:1 render it “Praise the Lord.”
In the New Testament, the interjection, “hallelujah,” occurs only four times, all in the first six verses of Revelation 19. This explains why many have called this passage the New Testament “Hallelujah Chorus.”
The celestial throng John saw praised the Father for His salvation (7:10; 12:10). This includes more than just the Son’s deliverance of believers from sin and all its dire consequences. Redemption here also denotes Jesus’ final victory over the heathen principalities of this world that crucified Him and murdered His followers.
The heavenly choir declared that glory and power belonged to the Father alone, for His judgment of the wicked was honest and fair (4:11; 5:13). This is seen in the way He punished the filthy prostitute.
As a lover of iniquity, this diabolical entity had corrupted humanity with her shameful deeds. Also, as an enemy of righteousness, the harlot had murdered believers. For this reason, it was valid and equitable for the Lord to make the whore pay for her crimes (19:2; see Deut 32:4; Rev 15:4; 16:7; 18:20).
John once again heard the throng in heaven praise the Creator for overthrowing Babylon. They noted that the smoke from her burned corpse would never stop rising (19:3; see Isa 34:10; Rev 14:11; 18:9, 18).
It is possible that these worshipers are an angelic host. They could also be the saved of all the ages or martyrs killed during a final period of great distress. They stand in stark contrast to earth’s occupants, who squandered their lives in veneration of pagan, demonic entities (Rev 9:20; 13:4, 8, 12).
Regardless of the exact identity of the crowd declaring “Hallelujah” (19:3), their example emphasizes the importance of giving praise to the eternal Monarch for His unconditional and unfailing love. Likewise, the closer we draw near to Him, the more we will want to adore Him.
As the Creator sat on His celestial throne, the 24 elders and the four living creatures knelt before Him in humility and devotion (4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 11:16), while shouting, “Amen, Hallelujah!” (19:4-5). Next, a voice originating from the throne, perhaps belonging to one of the four living creatures (4:6–8), summoned all the Father’s bondservants to praise Him.
The worshipers are not restricted to one group. All believers from every social class and economic level join in revering the Lord. This is a reminder that none of us is more spiritually elite than others in the divine kingdom.
John next heard what sounded like the shout of a huge crowd, the roar of mighty ocean waves, and the crash of loud thunder all mixed together. A multitude praised the Creator for being the sovereign and all-powerful King.
The eternal Monarch’s triumph over evil set the stage for the wedding of the Lamb to His virtuous and faithful bride (19:6-7; see Isa 61:10–62:5). According to Revelation 21:2, 9, and 10, this is identified as the new Jerusalem, which descends to earth from the Father’s sacred presence in heaven.
Scripture teaches that the Church—which consists of all true believers—is the chaste and radiant bride of the Messiah (Isa 54:5–7; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-32). In a sense, the Church right now is betrothed to the Son and awaits the day when He claims her as His bride. At His return, He joins Himself to His people in intimacy, love, and joy.
Throughout the centuries, the Savior’s bride has been preparing herself for the day when she meets Him. In contrast to the gaudy clothing worn by the prostitute (Rev. 17:4; 18:16), Jesus’ bride is wearing a wedding dress made of pure and fine linen.
In the Greco-Roman world, participants in a victory march wore white clothing (3:4). The linen garment worn by God’s consecrated, triumphant children symbolized their upright acts, which they performed in Jesus’ power and for His glory (19:8; see Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:13).
At the command of an angel, John wrote that the Father’s blessing rests on all whom He invites to the wedding feast of the Lamb (the fourth of seven beatitudes in the Apocalypse). This is no idle promise. What the Lord pledged was true and would surely take place (Rev. 19:9).
The Near Eastern marriage banquet is a fitting symbol of the celebration that would occur when Jesus consummates His union with the Church (Isa 25:6–9; Luke 13:29; 14:15). This joyous feast stands in sharp contrast to the carnage noted in Revelation 19:17–18. Eternal rewards awaited the righteous, while unending loss awaited the wicked.
Perhaps feeling overawed by what he had seen and heard, John knelt at the feet of the angel and began to worship him (v. 10). Thankfully, the angel stopped the apostle, explaining that the celestial emissary was a bondservant of God, as was John and his fellow Christians. They not only believed the witness Jesus bore in His life and death, but also told others about their faith in the Savior.
The angel urged John to worship the Father, who is the source of all genuine revelation (11:16; 14:7). The prophecies of Scripture, in turn, ultimately originate from, concern, and are empowered by the Son (Luke 24:27, 44–48; 1 Pet 1:11–12; John 5:46). Indeed, the message He declared is the essence of prophetic truth. Angels, on the other hand, are the Creator’s bondservants whom He sends to help believers (Heb. 1:14).
The defeat of God’s foes, Revelation 19:11–21
It is easy for us to feel confused and disturbed when we see the wicked prospering. The Bible encourages us to be patient, however, for we know that the Creator will one day punish those who reject Him.
Consider John’s vision of the future. As heaven opened wide before him, he saw a triumphant Conqueror emerging from God’s throne room and riding on a white, powerful warhorse.
The divine Warrior is the Messiah, and the warhorse represented complete victory over Jesus’ enemies. He comes prepared to wage one last battle against Satan, sin, and death, as well as to judge fallen, pagan humanity (Rev. 19:11; see Isa 11:3–5; John 5:27; Acts 17:31).
The apostle called Jesus, “Faithful and True” (Rev 3:14). Expressed differently, the Messiah is genuine, upright, and loyal in His character. He also guarantees the certainty of whatever He declares.
John said the Son’s eyes seemed as if they were ablaze with “fire” (19:12), a description that symbolized His tremendous power and acute wisdom (1:14; 2:18). Jesus wore many jeweled headbands, after the manner of ancient monarchs who donned multiple crowns to represent their supreme authority over numerous kingdoms.
John saw a name written on the Messiah that only He knew (19:12). While interpretations vary regarding what the apostle meant, surely it indicates at least that there is much about the Savior we are unable to understand. For instance, His nature and person are so exalted that they transcend our full comprehension (Deut 29:29; Isa 40:13; Rom 11:33–36).
In John’s vision, he saw the Son clothed with a blood-soaked robe (v. 13). The mention of blood may refer to Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. A different, gruesome possibility is that John was talking about the blood shed by the Messiah’s enemies, whom He would slay in battle (Isa 63:1–6).
The Father would give the victorious Son a designation that sums up all that He is—the “Word of God” (Rev 19:13). To His followers, Jesus is more than anything else the supreme and final revelation of the eternal Creator (John 1:1–3, 14; Heb 1:1–2).
The Savior would not return alone. Behind Him would be the vast armies of heaven clothed in white and riding upon white horses (Rev 19:14). These celestial legions would be angels, believers, or a combination of both (Matt 25:31; 2 Thess 1:5–10).
A large, broad sword thrust out of the Savior’s mouth (Rev 19:15; 1:16; 2:12, 16). It is difficult to imagine this sharp, lethal object being a reference to the gospel. Most likely, it is a symbol of the divine Warrior’s ability to defeat those who spurn the Creator’s redemptive truth.
The Son would rule the nations with an iron scepter (Ps 2:9; Rev 2:27; 12:5) and trample His enemies as if they were crushed in a winepress, causing their lifeblood to pour out (Rev 14:17–20). This heinous image calls to mind people stomping grapes to make them into wine. The winepress is a symbol of the Lord’s just wrath (Isa. 63:2–3; Rev 14:8, 10; 16:19).
On Jesus’ robe and thigh are printed a name that declares Him to be the King over those who reign as kings and the Lord over those who rule as lords (Rev. 19:16). This title sums up who the Messiah is in relation to the rest of the universe (Deut 10:17; 1 Tim 6:15; Rev 17:14).
In a civilization where there was an emperor and many lesser monarchs and nobles, John wanted his readers to understand that there is an eternal Potentate who is the most powerful of all. Every human ruler is subservient to the Son. One day His kingship would be most fully exercised.
Sadly, many people have rejected the lordship of the Savior, convinced instead that they had all power and authority. Yet, when Jesus returns, they would discover that they have misdirected their allegiance.
John next saw an angel standing either on, above, or within the sun (Rev 19:17). The celestial emissary summoned birds of prey circling high overhead in the sky to take part in God’s carnivorous feast. The appalling scene is one in which carrion fowl gorge themselves on the cadavers of the wicked, who were slaughtered in battle (v. 18; see Ezek 39:4, 17–20; Matt 24:28; Luke 17:37; Rev 20:8).
In one last hostile encounter, the rulers and people of earth under the command of the beast try to defeat the divine Warrior and His army (Rev 19:19). The rebellious horde included monarchs and military commanders, along with people from all echelons of pagan society. However, the insurrection would fail, and the resulting human carnage would be ghastly (vv. 20–21).
Some think a climactic, military confrontation would take place near the city of Megiddo in the plain of Esdraelon in northern Israel (see also the mention of Armageddon in 16:14–16). This place was the scene of many clashes in Old Testament times.
Others think John made only symbolic reference to a final struggle in the last days in which the Messiah would emerge victorious. In either case, the divine Warrior would defeat the beast and the false prophet and throw them alive into a lake of burning sulfur (19:20; see Matt 25:41; 2 Thess 1:9; Rev 14:10; 20:14–15; 21:8).
It is possible the beast is a real person commonly known as the Antichrist. Another option is that the beast represents the embodiment of wickedness found in the evil world system (Rev 13:1–10; 16:13).
The false prophet could be a real person who is the deputy of a literal Antichrist. A second possibility is that the false prophet personifies a wicked entity symbolizing the priesthood of a godless, heathen state (13:11–18; 16:13).
For thought and application
Jesus urged His followers to be on guard and alert for His return. Our attitude should be the same as the Christians in the first century A.D. We should be prepared for Jesus’ second coming at any moment, both as a church and as individuals.
Some believers are too prone to expect to find lasting peace within this world. That’s not to suggest we should say or do anything to deliberately provoke disfavor from others. It only means that while we hope and work for the best, we need to be prepared for the worst. We cannot let opposition discourage or deter us from proclaiming the gospel throughout the planet (Mark 13:10; Acts 1:8).
People of every age need to learn that only those who are baptismally united to Jesus by faith can enjoy security amid a crumbling world. No time or place is free from upheavals. For that reason, we must rest our confidence on the eternal promises of God, which cannot change.
When we see institutions, nations, and even religious organizations in which we have placed our trust begin to fall apart, we can reflect on the changelessness of God. Our first duty is to know Him and obey His Word.
Then we need to recognize that the future holds no surprises for Jesus. He is completely aware of what lies ahead and is preparing His people to deal with the disturbing events they will encounter.
Difficult circumstances only come with the Savior’s permission. Moreover, along with the trials He gives grace to deal with them.
Unfortunately, many sermons about the Second Advent unnecessarily frighten the faithful. That’s regrettable, for Jesus certainly did not intend to petrify His disciples.
Admittedly, terrifying events will come to pass. Even so, Jesus wanted us to know that the same calamities that destroy the peace of unbelievers can give Jesus’ followers reason to hope.
The believers’ confident anticipation of the future is rooted in the Redeemer’s sovereignty and tender care. He enables them to remain patient in adversity and grateful for the temporal and eternal blessings He bestows upon them.
When distress seems to overtake the world, Jesus’ followers can look with eagerness for His return. On that day when the Son appears in power and glory, the Father will vindicate the faithful and the values by which we have lived. We will see—indeed, everyone will see, once and for all—that faith is stronger than doubt, good is more powerful than evil, and love is more triumphant than hate.