Chapter 18 showed us the mourning of those who profited from the idolatry and pleasure seeking of the world order John called Babylon and the Great Prostitute. But not all mourned. Verse 20 contained an invitation to rejoice to all saints, apostles and prophets because God finally destroyed their enemy and vindicated their faith.
Praise and Rejoicing in Heaven
Chapter 19 shows us the response to this invitation. Praises ring out in heaven to God for his victory. A great multitude praising as in one loud voice cried “Hallelujah”. “Hallelujah” means to joyfully praise God, to boast in him. And so they do. The attribute salvation, glory and power to him. They acknowledge that he is just in his judgments, especially of the great prostitute, because she corrupted the earth into idolatry. God avenged his servants.
But one round of praise is not enough. They cry out the second time “hallelujah”. (3) This time it is because “the smoke from her (Babylon) goes up forever and ever”. This may be a reference to Isaiah 34:10 where God gives judgment to the nations. This is again the type of hyperbole used in apocalyptic writing. We know it will not actually burn on earth forever because (1) it is a world system and not an actual city and (2) the earth will be remade and restored to perfection. There will not be a burning ruin there. What it means is that the world system, symbolized by the city of Babylon will be permanently destroyed. When judgment comes, it is irreversible. It is the same message as 18:21, where the mighty angel threw a millstone into the sea to symbolize permanent destruction. This really is “the end of the world as we know it”. God is bringing down his enemies and ours at the end of the age.
There may also be a reference here to Isaiah 34. In that chapter, God declares judgment on the nations that were the enemy of his people. In verses 9 and 10, god says he will make it a burning pitch. “night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever.” If you went to the place where Edom used to be, you would not see a burning fire and smoke.
But, you would see the nation of Edom no longer exists. The Kingdoms of Jordan and Saudi Arabia occupy that land.
After the multitudes praise God, the 24 elders and four living creatures do the same. The fall down and worship him as they did in 4:10.
And it turns out, two rounds of praise is not enough. For a voice comes out from the throne telling all believers (servants who fear him) to praise our God. (We an assume from that command that the multitudes again shouted out praise to God.
I have never attended a church that was rambunctious in its praise, but this would be like a championship football game where a huge crowd in a big stadium let out continual cheers for its team. The closest I have come to this in a worship setting was a men’s conference at Texas stadium, where 60,000 men sang praises to God. It was glorious. But the scene described by John will be infinitely more glorious.
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
Even after three rounds of praise, a fourth ensues. This praise has two aspects. First, that the Lord our God Almighty reigns. Second, that the marriage of the lamb has come and the Bride is ready.
God is the king of creation and has always reigned. The Old Testament is full of passages that declare his rule and his sovereignty over the kingdoms of earth. Daniel 4, for example, contains Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation that God’s kingdom endures and that he does according to his will with all creation. (Dan. 4:34-35) But God has allowed men and women to act in rebellion against him in this age to accomplish his purposes.
But in the age to come, God’s reign is consummated, it is complete and no rebellion will exist. All of the rebels will be banished. The multitude celebrates the coming of that time or age. It is the same event that occurred with the seventh trumpet. See Revelation 7:15-18. Loud voices in heaven said “the kingdom the world has become the kingdom of our Lord of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever”. (7:15)
Revelation here turns again to the metaphor of marriage between a bride and groom. The bride is the church, composed of believers of all the ages. Christ is the groom. Ephesians 5 tells us “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (as his bride), that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in spender, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27)
This sanctification by Jesus comes to completion in these verses. The church is sanctified. This is shown by the bride’s clothing, fine linen, bright and pure. Notice that the bride did not earn her garments. Verse 8 says “it was granted to her to clothe herself with fine linen”. John explains that the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Rev. 19:8) The saints are righteous because the righteousness of Jesus was imputed to them. Their righteous deeds are obedience and the pursuit of spiritual purity. Some prefer to translate this verse as “[God’s] righteous actions on behalf of the saints”.
In verse 9, the angel tells John to write a blessing. It is the fourth of Revelation’s seven blessings or benedictions. It is “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”.
The metaphor of the wedding and the wedding supper is used to convey the joy at the church finally united with Christ in perfection, in a place where no more persecution or suffering will occur. It is the picture of a couple who has waited and waited to get married, and now finally have a wedding and a celebration as they begin a new life together. Isaiah 25 described the scene this way:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
In this face of all of this joy and beauty, John was overcome. He fell down to worship the angel. But the angel would not allow it. Though he was a mighty angel, he said he was but a servant just like all human believers. We are to worship God and no one else. That has always been, and will always be, the rule. Prophecy is about Jesus and he must be the focus of our study of it.