19 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
3 And again they shouted:
The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
In chapter 19 John sets out his vision of the climax of world history. Evil is defeated [v 2] and the wedding of the lamb has come [v 7]. There is great rejoicing in heaven [v 1-8]. The joy is over both the salvation of God’s people and the punishment of evil. Although God’s judgement is a terrible thing, it is also a just and right judgment and a display of his righteousness and as such, is celebrated.
In the vision the angel tells John to write down “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb.” Hendriksen writes “Scripture again and again compares the love-relationship between a bridegroom and his bride to that which exists between Jehovah and his people, or between Christ and his church (Is 50:1 ff; 54:1 ff; Eph 5:32; Rev 21:9). Indeed, the former is a symbol, a faint reflection of the glory and beauty of the latter.” [William Hendriksen “More Than Conquerors” pg. 180] At this present time the church is Christ’s betrothed. She readies herself for the wedding. Verse 7 & 8 tell us that part of this getting ready is that the bride dresses herself in the clothing given her, which is the righteous acts of the saints [v 8]. The righteous deeds of God’s people adorn them, but notice that the deeds are given them by God. It’s a reminder of the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes but will walk with Christ “dressed in white” [3:4]. This righteousness is given us. 7:14 tells us that our robes are washed white in the blood of the lamb. Our good deeds were prepared in advance for us to do [Eph 2:10]. We have here the duality involved in sanctification. It is a gift of God and yet we are to live it out. The good works were prepared in advance for us to do but we are to do them. Rather than being a contradiction, it is wonderful partnership.
As Paul Gardner points out, we tend to think that God looked to marriage as a good example of his relationship to his church, but that is not the case. “Far from God choosing marriage as a useful picture of his love for us, God actually instituted marriage as itself in order to let us know something of the depth of his love for us. Viewed this way round, marriage and the sexual relationship between a husband and wife are even more remarkable. God has built into our very make up and way of behaviour a foretaste and picture of the depths of his love for us as his people, his bride.” [Paul Gardner “Revelation” pg. 255] We can see this in Ephesians 5:22-33 where human marriage is to mirror God’s relationship with his people, rather marriage being a picture of God’s love. Human marriage is modelled on the prior marriage of Christ and the church.
Our relationship to Christ is meant to be the formative relationship in the whole of life. It is the one relationship that outlives and outshines all others. There is lots of talk around about identity and if you listen to many who comment in our world today, you’d think that something like gender is the primary identifier of who we are. So what makes us who we are? For the believer it is who we are in Christ, and for the unbeliever, though they may not recognise it, it is who they are without Christ. The fundamental reality is what is shown to us in the book of Revelation. Who are you at the very depth of your being? We are all, believer and unbeliever alike, fallen image bearers and some of us are restored image bearers and thereby the bride of Christ.
What a wonder!
What a saviour!
My Father, thank you for my identity in you. Thank you that I am your child and part of the bride of Christ. Thank you that I am the temple of your Holy Spirit. Amen
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron sceptre.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
king of kings and lord of lords.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”
With verse 11 we come to the righteous judgment of God. This passage reminds us that it is a terrible thing to remain an unforgiven enemy of God and his people. It’s one of those passages that many of us have problems with as it seems so out of character for a loving God. As with other judgment passages some try to explain it away as picture language and therefore a huge exaggeration. It is picture language, but we have to ask what it’s a picture of; what truth is it depicting? Surely it is that Judgment is terrible, whether there will be baths of blood or not. Jesus is the master of all. His head has many crowns and on his thigh and his robe is written “King of kings and Lord of Lords.” He has another name – Faithful and True [v 11; see also 3:14]. Judgment is a result of faith and truth. God had promised that the evil one would one day be destroyed and by implication all who follow him. He is faithful to his promise. It’s not a loss of temper. It’s not vengeful. It is righteous and just.
He has a third name in this passage – the Word of God. He is the final and full revelation of God [Heb 1:1-3]. He is depicted with a sharp sword coming out of his mouth. This is another way of depicting Jesus as the speaker of the Word of God [Heb 4:12].
There is a fourth name – one that no one knows [v 12]. It’s a reminder that there are depths to our God that a beyond our knowing, and probably beyond our comprehension.
Jesus is the judge. It is not something that we think of all that much about Jesus. In fact, he himself said he did not come to judge the world [John 12:47]. His first coming was to bring life, but his second coming will be as judge [Acts 10:42]. The redeemer is also the judge.
The judgment is a foregone conclusion. The angel of v 17 calls for the clean-up crew before it actually occurs. This is not a great battle where first one side then the other gains ascendancy. And it may not even be a physical battle. It’s certainly not described. In 2 Thessalonians we read that the evil one will be overthrown by Christ “by the breath of his mouth and the splendour of his coming.” [2 Thess. 2:8] In chapter 19 Jesus kills by the sword of his mouth which may mean that they are judged by the gospel and their reaction to it, or it may mean that they are destroyed by the mere word of judgment. Either way this is not a protracted war. It is over in an instant.
Part of the judgement is that the beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of burning sulphur. In chapter 20 we find that the beast and the false prophets are thrown into the lake of fire to be tormented day and night forever [20:10].
The judgment of God is a terrible, awful thing. There is nothing wrong with scaring people into heaven by teaching of the fate awaiting the unforgiven. After all, salvation is being saved from something as well as for something. We should not apologise for these passages in scripture that seem so dreadful, because they are also wonderful and glorious. We serve a God who is righteous and holy and good and just. He does not let the guilty go unpunished.
Wonder of wonders he has a made a way of escape - a glorious salvation bought by the blood of his son at immeasurable cost, freely offered to all without favour!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for true and just are his judgments.”
Great Father of our Lord Jesus, saviour and judge, than you for your wonderous rescue. Help me to live worthily of that gift. Amen
20 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
With Revelation chapter 20 we begin the cycle over again. Chapter 19 has taken us to judgment day, and now we go back over the history of mankind. We have gone over the cycle a number of times to this point. In Rev 11:18 we’re told that the time for judging the dead has arrived – judgment day but with chapter 12 we go back to the start of the New Testament period with the birth and death of Christ [12:5]. So in chapter 20 we have “Christ’s first coming followed by a long period of during which Satan is bound; this in turn is followed by Satan’s little season; and that is followed by Christ’s second coming, i.e. his coming in judgment.” [William Hendriksen “More Than Conquerors” pg. 185]. In chapter 12 Satan is defeated by the blood of the lamb [12:10-11]. Gardner points out that in John 12:31-33 Jesus speaks of his death and describes it as the time when the prince of this world will be defeated. In Mark 3:27-28 Jesus speaks of binding the ”strong man” who represents Satan. Paul speaks of Jesus disarming the evil powers at the cross [Col 2:15]. Paul Gardner “Revelation” pg. 270] So the thousand years is the period preceding the second coming of Jesus. The point of the binding of Satan is that the age of Christ has come. Light has come into the world [John 3:19-21]. Mankind is no longer bound in darkness. “the ‘truth’ of the gospel would gradually replace the ‘Lie’ of the devil.” [Hendriksen] So during the thousand years the influence of the evil one has been curtailed. During the gospel period “the church conquers the nations, and the nations do not conquer the church.” [Hendriksen pg. 189]. However, Satan is not completely bound in every way. As Hendriksen puts it, “A dog securely bound with a long and heavy chain can do great damage within the circle of his imprisonment. Outside that circle, however, the animal can do no damage and can hurt no one. He can no longer completely deceive the nations [Acts 14:16; Eph 2:11-13]. Satan will be set free “for a short time” [v 3] in order for his punishment to meted out. It is during this period that he will make a final , desperate assault on God’s people. It is a time for Gods’ people to fight with Christ – with the sword of his mouth, the gospel.
We live in the age of the gospel, which is for all people. The binding of Stan makes it possible. Those who seem to have been defeated by the evil one by their martyrdom [v 4], in fact have triumphed and their souls now reign with Christ [v 4] in the here and now and do not have to wait for the final day [remember the souls under the altar in Ch. 6:9]. This indicates that upon our death the Christian’s soul immediately rises to be with Christ [“Today you will be with me in paradise” – Luke 23:43]. Upon the final Day we will be given our resurrection bodies – the second resurrection – and will receive the incredible blessings of Ch. 21 & 22.
Death can be a frightening prospect, but it is really a transition process. It holds no ultimate dread because it is the doorway to paradise.
God of heaven and earth, ruler of the nation and Father of our saviour Jesus the Christ, give me a firm and solid trust in your promise of victory in Christ. Amen
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Is this not one of the most wonderful passages in Scripture? It talks of blessing upon blessing. We are betrothed to Christ in this life, but will be fully his in the coming age. Betrothal necessarily involves some separation; we are his but not yet fully. That will change dramatically after the Day of Judgment. Then we will fully dwell with God [v 3]. What we now see through a widow dimly [1 Cor 13:12], then we will experience fully. Those glimpses we sometimes get of the beauty of our adoption as God’s children, those Sprit-given moments of pure joy, will be our permanent experience. No more tears! No more mourning or loss!
“To him who is thirst I will give without cost.” [21:6]. This is the completion on Christ’s promise in John 4:13 & 14. That inner thirst of the soul will be completely satisfied. The words of God are the same as He spoke through Isaiah,
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labour on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.”
That inner thirst was given us so that we’d long for the satisfaction that only God can give. It was meant to give us a longing for heaven. So many people look to satisfy that hunger in false ways.
“I will be their God and they will be my child.” [21:7] We are God’s children now in this life, but again, the fulness of that adoption is yet to be fully realised.
Then an angel shows John the Bride [v 9 ff], symbolised by the new Jerusalem, and which in turn symbolises the church [Is 54:5; Eph 5:32]. What a radiant bride she is! She shines with the glory of God [v 11]. She. Comes down from Heaven. The church glorified is always a work of God. The dream of mankind is that through things like education, advancement, wealth, the green movement, better welfare etc. will bring in a paradise here on earth. The Bible sees that as an impossibility as only God can bring in the new heaven and earth, and it is done by a complete remake. Mankind is too flawed. It needs remaking.
The new Jerusalem is measured and it is a perfect cube, as was the Holy of Holies in the temple built by Solomon.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The church is the supreme picture of beauty and perfection. She is complete.
And all this is ours. Great is our God!
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. [Is 40]
Lord God, strengthen your church with the vision of what she is in you and what she will become. Amem
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
The River of Life flows from the throne of God. He is the ultimate source of life. Jesus referred to himself as “the Life” [John 14:6]. Back in Ezekiel 47 we see a river flowing out of the temple that is the home and provider of all sorts of life. The unity of the Bible is amazing. After all the doom and gloom of the previous chapters these last chapters of the book of Revelation are full of light, life and joy.
In verse 3 the curse of Genesis 3 is gone. The new heavens and earth are free from their slavery to decay, as is mankind. We will see God’s face, something that even Moses couldn’t do and live [Ex 33:22]. Face to face with Almighty God. Imagine that!
The book ends here in chapter 22 with the end of the vision and the final encouragement to the persecuted church.
The angel encourages John not to seal up the words of the prophesy because the time is near, that is, the time of persecution and suffering and the age of the gospel are arriving. He quotes Jesus, “I am coming soon.” There is a sense of urgency about this statement. Action is required. What action? It’s been set out for the church in the letters to the seven churches. Renew your first love, keep the truth and fight for it, repent of faithlessness, do the works you did at first, avoid idolatry, resist false teaching, be faithful even to the point of death and above all, persevere.
The name of God and the lamb are on the foreheads of God’s people [v 4]. It reminds us of the number of the beast being on the foreheads of his people [13:16]. In both cases it’s a symbol of possession and belonging. God’s people are marked for blessing and glory. In fact, the Bible teaches that is already the case. God’s people are marked in the here and now. Eph 1:13 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” It’s a wonderful thought! It makes me think of Saul, the persecutor of the church, on the road to Damascus, hearing the words of Jesus, “Saul, Saul, who do you persecute me?” He had been persecuting Christians, but Jesus so identifies with his people that he sees it as an attack on him personally, and so it is. We are his! He has claimed us for himself.
“Blessed are those who wash their robes that they may have the right to the tree of life and go through the gates into the city.”[v 14] In 7:14 the robes as washed in the blood of the lamb. It’s a reminder that our place in God’s heart is not by our goodness but only through the shed blood of Jesus.
Revelation is a wondrous book as it helps us to look behind the events of history and even our own lives and to see that God is carrying out his purposes despite how it might look. The evil one seems at times to have control as evil rampages and as so many oppose the Word of God an deny Christ, but God is at work. It helps us to see that victorious Christian living is not about health and wealth but perseverance and faithfulness.
“Come Lord Jesus.” So ends the book of Revelation. That is the answer to our world’s woes! That is the answer to pain and suffering and grief! That is the reason for our perseverance!
Mighty God, Lord Jesus Christ, by your Spirit keep me faithful and joyfully serving you to very end. Amen
And so ends our Daily Feast until the end of January.