Our God Reigns.

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
    who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God,
    all you his servants,
you who fear him,
    small and great.”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Revelation 19:1-10 ESV

At the close of chapter 18, the angel of God extended an invitation to all those in heaven to rejoice over the fall of Babylon.

“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” – Revelation 18:20 ESV

But this was not a call to gloat over the demise of an earthly kingdom or over the destruction of those who lived in it. This was to be a celebration of God’s vindication of His people. Notice what the angel said: “God has given judgment for you against her.” They were to rejoice because their God had stepped in and stood against the forces of evil – all on their behalf. And as we begin chapter 19, we see that the angel’s invitation to celebrate and rejoice was eagerly taken up by those in heaven. John says that he immediately heard the sound of many voices, a great multitude, coming out of heaven, and they were singing the praises of God.

There are five songs contained in the first 10 verses of this chapter. The first four look back on the destruction of Babylon, recounting the city’s downfall, but celebrating God’s display of salvation, glory and power. The main emphasis of these songs is God’s vindication of all those who had suffered martyrdom as a result of Antichrist’s reign. And his rule and power are symbolized by his governmental headquarters in Babylon, which God brought to a devastating end. If you recall, all the way back in chapter six, John had seen, under the altar in heaven, the souls of all “those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne” (Revelation 6:9 ESV), and they had been crying out:

“O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” – Revelation 6:10 ESV

Well, their prayers have been answered. God has avenged them, and all those in heaven rejoice at the faithfulness of God. They call on all those who fear Him to praise Him. Four separate times, we hear the phrase, “Hallelujah!” coming out of heaven. In the Greek it is hallēlouïa, and it literally means “Praise the Lord.” It is only found in this chapter and nowhere else in the New Testament. It is frequently used in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms and is usually associated with God’s punishment of the ungodly.

Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
    and let the wicked be no more!
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah) – Psalm 104:35 ESV

What a contrast we see between the songs of rejoicing emanating from heaven and the mourning of those who had placed all their hope in the false religion of the Antichrist and the immoral commercial and political system he established on earth. Back in chapter 18, John was told that the kings of the earth would weep and wail over Babylon’s fall. The merchants of the earth would weep and mourn over her demise. And even the sailors, who benefiteds from shipping the vast amounts of commercial goods that flowed from her gates, would mourn the loss of this great city, calling out, “What city was like the great city?” (Revelation 18:18 ESV). But in heaven, there would be nothing but singing and celebration over the fall of Babylon the Great.

The second song sung by the heavenly host celebrates the finality of Babylon’s fall. “The smoke from her goes up forever and ever” (Revelation 19:3 ESV). In other words, the city’s destruction at the hands of God is complete, eliminating any possibility that she should ever rise to power and prominence again. Babylon’s long and less-than-illustrious history of rebellion against God will be brought to an ignominious end.

While the people on earth had showered their praises on Antichrist and on his capital, the praises in heaven are reserved for God alone.

“Praise our God,
    all you his servants,
you who fear him,
    small and great.” – Revelation 19:5 ESV

And isn’t this the whole point of the book of Revelation? It paints the vivid and disturbing picture of God’s judgment against a world that has refused to praise and honor Him for millenniums. The apostle Paul outlines the problem in the opening chapter of his letter to the Romans, clearly indicting the world for its refusal to honor God as God and choosing instead to offer their praise to anything and everything but God.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. – Romans 1:18-23 ESV

The book of Revelation chronicles what happens when the world finally turns its back on God completely and finally. We have seen the visions of God’s judgments falling on rebellious humanity and, even under the fierce nature of His wrath, they stubbornly refuse to repent and acknowledge Him as God. The city of Babylon becomes the icon of man’s rebellion against God and, with its destruction, God signals the coming end to all sin and rebellion against Him. In short order His Son will return, to put the finishing touches on the divine plan to eliminate sin from the earth once and for all.

And the final song John hears echoing from the realm of heaven has to do with the coming marriage supper of the Lamb. With the fall of Babylon, one of the most long-awaited and eagerly anticipated events in human history can take place. On the night that Jesus was to be betrayed, as He celebrated His final Passover meal with the disciples, He told them, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29 ESV). Jesus was letting His disciples know that there was going to be a delay, a period of time before He would celebrate over a meal with them again. He was referencing the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. After His resurrection, when He appeared to them on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He ate fish with them. But there is yet another meal, still to come, and it will be shared in His Kingdom – His Kingdom on earth.

In a traditional Hebrew wedding, there are three major parts. First, the marriage is consummated by means of a contract. This is pictured in God calling unto Himself all those who He chooses as His own. Next, the day comes when the bridegroom, accompanied by friends, goes to the bride’s house and escorts her to his own home. This is reflected in the rapture, when Christ returns for His bride, the church, to take her to be with Him in heaven, His home (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). Then, the final phase of the wedding celebration takes place: The wedding feast. And this is what the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is all about. Christ will return to earth and set up His Kingdom and, when He does, He will celebrate with His bride, the church.

It is important to notice the words of this final song.

“Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready.” – Revelation 19:7 ESV

The voices are referring to the bride of Christ. This is a clear reference to the church and not Israel. In the Old Testament, Israel was often referred to as the wife of Christ, but as a nation, they had proved unfaithful and adulterous. That is a big reason for much of what happens in the book of Revelation. God is bringing judgment on the sinful world, but also on rebellious Israel. But He will restore them. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb is a reference to the church and the final phase of the marriage ceremony. The bride is described as being ready, being dressed in “fine linen, bright and pure.” And John lets us know that these garments symbolize the righteous deeds of the saints. This is not a reference to their sinlessness while on earth, but to their glorification as a result of His return for them at the rapture. When Christ returns for His church, believers will experience immediate glorification, their final transformation into the likeness of Christ. In his first letter, John explains that the day is coming when we will be like Christ.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. – 1 John 3:2 ESV

And in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds us that our transformation into His likeness is His doing. It is He who sanctifies us and it will be He who presents us to Himself as spotless and sinless, dressed in garments of righteousness.

25 Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, 27 so that he may present the church to himself as glorious—not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. – Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV

John is told by the angel, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9 ESV). There will be countless guests at this wedding feast. This will include the Old Testament saints as well as all those who will have been martyred for their faith during the days of the tribulation. These guests will be blessed because they will witness the faithfulness of God as His Son consummates His marriage covenant with His bride. Everything God has promised for the church and for the people of Israel will be fulfilled. And that is great cause for rejoicing.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

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