When the Lord Jesus Christ returns, there will be great celebration in the kingdom of heaven! All of God’s servants will behold the glory of their King, and all rebels will receive their just punishment. The Lord’s long-suffering with the rebellion for the sake of redeeming His saints will come to an end, and the eternal reign of righteousness will begin.
Such has been the anticipation of the saints throughout human history. And the contents of this book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ are revealed to the apostle John for the Lord’s Church to heighten the expectancy of His return (Rev. 1:1-8). Being assured of our Lord’s glory (ch. 1), of His sovereignty in His Church (ch. 2-3), of His plans to crush the satanic rebellion (ch. 4-19), of His reign on the earth (ch. 20), and of our future with Him in eternity (ch. 21-22), His saints are filled with praise. We are encouraged to trust Him and do His will come what may, since we know the plans He has for us.
However, nothing can compare to the day of Christ’s glorious return to earth! Then His saints will rejoice like never before because, at long last, everything He has promised — everything we have hoped for — will be fulfilled. At His appearing, the joyous exclamation, “Praise the Lord!”, will sound the loudest in God’s creation. For then will His kingdom be fully realized by His loyal subjects. The elect among angels and men will be jubilant as they experience the fullness of God’s eternal purpose and plan.
Revelation 19:1-10 gives us a glimpse into that most climactic moment. As heaven exults over the fall of the rebellion known as Babylon, it is called to the marriage supper of the Lamb — a celebration of Christ (the perfect union of God and Man in one Person) bringing the saints (His bride) to Himself for all eternity (1 Tim. 2:5). His bride is most symbolically represented in His Church (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:22-33), although it includes the saints of all the ages.
Just as the nation Israel is a representation of God’s eternal kingdom on earth, so the Church is a representation of God’s eternal relationship with those in His kingdom. Imperfect though Israel and the Church are because of fleshly weakness, the day is coming when the Lord Jesus will return and bring to fruition His eternal, glorious purpose for both.
In verses 1-6, our attention is drawn to the rejoicing that precedes this joyous event. Here, the word “Alleluia” (or “Hallelujah”) appears four times. It is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning, “Praise the Lord.” While it is used often in the Old Testament — especially in the Psalms (e.g. Pss.104:35; 113:1; 146:1, etc.) — it is found only here in the New Testament. When Christ returns, the citizens of the kingdom praise the Lord for His salvation, His judgment, His worthiness, and His sovereignty. We will consider the praise for His salvation and judgment in verses 1-3 for this study.
Praise the Lord! – Part I (19:1-3)
For His Salvation (v. 1)
The events revealed in this passage begin immediately “after” the “things” described in the previous chapter. With the fall of the rebellion’s capital city, the seven-years of unparalleled tribulation on the earth comes to a catastrophic end. The final bowl judgment (Rev. 16:17-21) paves the way for Christ to return, destroy Antichrist’s armies, and cast that beast and his false prophet into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:11-21).
At this point, John hears “a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven.” Some commentators believe this is the voice of angelic beings only. Their vast numbers certainly coincide with what we find in 5:11-12 prior to the breaking of the first seal of the scroll (the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation). We see them again praising God with a loud voice just before the seventh seal is broken to begin the time of Great Tribulation (7:11-12). Now they again rejoice after the seventh bowl judgment is completed.
The angels exalt God as at other times. Here they specifically praise the Lord for His “salvation.” But it is not their own salvation, since these are elect angels who have never fallen in sin. God provides no salvation for Satan and the demons (fallen angels) who have rebelled against Him (Is. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:12-15; Matt. 25:41; Jude 6; Rev. 12:3-4, 9).
Yet, throughout redemptive history, the elect angels have curiously watched God save His elect from among Adam’s fallen race (1 Pet. 1:12). They have also participated by ministering to those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14). Indeed, God has chosen to manifest His glory to all the angelic host in His redemption of a remnant of mankind (Eph. 3;10). As the crucified and risen Christ returns to fulfill God’s plan, the angels again praise Him for His “glory…honor…and power” in salvation. It is the glorious, wise and sovereign work of “our God” and theirs.
For His Judgment (vv. 2-3)
But the holy angels also praise God for His judgment on those who refuse to turn to Christ for salvation. The second “Alleluia” from the angels (v. 3) follows a declaration that God’s “judgments” are “true and righteous” (v. 2) He is not unjust to punish sinners. In fact, that is His only obligation, and it is in full compliance with His holy standards for His creatures (Rom. 1:18-2:16). Were it not for His mercy, we would all have been consumed by God’s wrath already (Lam. 3:22). Were it not for His grace to intervene in our hopeless condition as sinners, no one would be saved (Ex. 33:19).
When the Lord justifies sinners by grace through faith in Christ He is just in so doing. Jesus bore our sins on the cross — the Just for the unjust (Rom. 3:21-26; 1 Pet. 3:18). The punishment we deserve according to God’s righteous law was fully experienced by Christ. God’s wrath toward sin was satisfied by our Savior’s sinless sacrifice, and we are no longer condemned but justified (Rom. 8:1). We are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Rom. 6:5-11). God did not merely overlook the believer’s sin. Rather, He punished it as His law demands when He delivered His Son to die (Rom. 8:32; Acts 2:23).
So it is right to praise God for His judgment of sin, and it is good to long for His judgment to come inasmuch as it glorifies Him. All rebellious angels and human beings deserve eternal death for their treason against Heaven. God’s holiness demands that He punish every violation of His law to the fullest extent. As noted in previous studies, sin against the eternal and holy God requires His eternal and holy wrath. He is glorified in judgment as much as He is in salvation, and He deserves praise forever for both.
At the end of the Tribulation, when God “…has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication” (i.e. the idolatrous world system which God calls “Babylon”), it will be well deserved and righteous. That dramatic, historical expression of His wrath toward the rebellion will be a preview of eternal hell — an exclamation mark at the end of the age. Our Creator God wishes to allow the rebellion to fully express its treachery, and He wishes to fully express His anger. It will demonstrate the failure of the rebellion and the triumph of His kingdom.
Also, God’s judgment of Babylon will have “avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.” Those who rebel against God naturally hate those who are loyal to Him and represent Him. Their hatred is manifest in various ways and to the extent that God will permit it. They have spitefully abused the saints since Cain killed his brother, Abel, and they will do so until God’s redemptive plans are complete and judgment falls. Then the cry of the persecuted saints, expressed in Rev. 6:10 by those martyred in the Tribulation, will be answered by God. They desire that He take vengeance on their persecutors for His glory. Until that time, our Lord tells us to pray for our enemies and do good to them, knowing that vengeance is His (Matt. 5:44; cf. Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:17-21).
The holy angels are ministers of God to the saints, but they are also ministers of God for judgment on rebellious angels and men. As seen throughout this book and elsewhere in Scripture, angels play an active roll in carrying out God’s punishment on sinners. So when Babylon falls, they praise the Lord for His judgment as much as they praise Him for His salvation. Like all the saints, they rejoice because Babylon’s “smoke rises up forever and ever!” (v. 3). That is, when that day comes, rebels will no longer have any hope of resisting God. They will only experience the eternal torment they deserve (cf. Rev. 20:7-15). What they mistook for God’s reluctance to judge them was actually tolerance as He completed His sovereign work of redemption (2 Pet. 3:1-9).
The celebration among the citizens of God’s kingdom when the King returns to claim the earth is certainly beyond our comprehension. However, our Lord has revealed these future events for our encouragement and to heighten our anticipation of His return. We are to diligently represent His kingdom with a godly life and the message of the Gospel, knowing that He will deal with the rebellious world for its idolatry and its persecution of the His saints. When you suffer as a Christian, remind yourself that God will deal with your persecutors. Until then, pray He will have mercy and save them.
Are you joyously representing God in light of Jesus’ return?
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