King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Verse 1 And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God: 2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. 3 And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.
Continuing the subject of Revelation 18, the apostle here introduces the song of triumph which the redeemed saints strike up on their harps when they behold the complete destruction of the system of great Babylon, which is in opposition to God and His true worship. This destruction takes place and this song is sung in connection with the second coming of Christ at the beginning of the thousand years.
Forever and Ever.--There can but one query arise on this scripture: How can it be said that her smoke rose up forever and ever? Does not this language imply eternity of suffering? Let it be remembered that this expression is taken from the Old Testament, and to gain a correct understanding of it, we must go back to its first introduction, and consider its import as there used. In Isaiah 34 will be found the language from which, in all probability, such expressions as these are drawn. Under the figure of Idumea, a certain destruction is brought to view. It is said of that land that its streams should become burning pitch, and not be quenched night nor day, but that its smoke should go up forever. This language is spoken, as all must concede, of one of two things, either of the particular country called Idumea, or of the whole earth under that name. In either case it is evident that this phrase, "forever and ever," must be limited in its application. Probably the whole earth is meant, from the fact that the chapter opens with an address to the earth "and all that is therein; the world, and all that come forth of it;" and "the indignation of the Lord" is declared to be upon all nations.
Whether this refers to the depopulation and desolation of the earth at the second advent, or to the purifying fires that shall purge it of the effects of the curse at the end of the thousand years, the expression must still be limited; for after all this, a renovated earth is to come forth, to be the abode of the nations of the saved throughout eternity. Three times in the Bible smoke is spoken of as going up forever: once here in Isaiah 34, of the land of Idumea as a figure of the earth; in Revelation 14 (which see), of the worshipers of the beast and his image; and again in the chapter we are now considering, in regard to the destruction of great Babylon. All these apply to the very same time, and describe the same scenes, namely the destruction visited upon this earth, the worshipers of the beast, and all the pomp of great Babylon, at the second advent of our Lord and Saviour.
Verse 4 And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshiped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. 5 And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye His servants, and ye that fear Him, both small and great. 6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. 7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
A Song of Triumph.--"The Lord God omnipotent reigneth," is the language of this song. He reigns at the present time, and has ever reigned in reality, though sentence against an evil work has not been executed speedily. Now He reigns by the open manifestation of His power in the subjugation of all His foes.
"Rejoice, . . . for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." Who is "the bride, the Lamb's wife," and what is the marriage? The Lamb's wife is the New Jerusalem which is above. This will be noticed more fully in Revelation 21. The marriage of the Lamb is His reception of this city. When He receives this city, He receives it as the glory and metropolis of His kingdom; hence with it He receives His kingdom, and the throne of His father David. This may well be the event designated by the marriage of the Lamb.
That the marriage relation is often taken to illustrate the union between Christ and His people, is granted, but the marriage of the Lamb here spoken of is a definite event to take place at a definite time. If the declaration that Christ is the head of the church as the husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5: 23), proves that the church is now the Lamb's wife, then the marriage of the Lamb took place long ago. But that cannot be, according to this scripture, which locates it in the future. Paul told his Corinthian converts that he had espoused them to one husband, even Christ. This is true of all converts. But while this figure is used to denote the relation that they then assumed to Christ, was it a fact that the marriage of the Lamb took place in Corinth in Paul's day, and that it has been going on for the past nineteen hundred years? Further remarks on this point are deferred to a consideration of Revelation 21.
But if the city is the bride, it may be asked how it can be said that she made herself ready. We answer, By the figure of personification, which attributes life and action to inanimate objects. (See a notable example in Psalm 114.) Again, the query may arise on verse 8 how a city can be arrayed in the righteousness of the saints, but if we consider that a city without inhabitants would be but a dreary and cheerless place, we see at once how this is. Reference is had to the countless number of its glorified inhabitants in their shining apparel. The raiment was granted to her. What is granted to her? Isaiah 54 and Galatians 4: 21-31 will explain. To the new-covenant city are granted many more children than to the old. These are her glory and rejoicing. The goodly apparel of this city, so to speak, consists of the hosts of the redeemed and immortal ones who walk its golden streets.
Verse 9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. 10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.
The Marriage Supper.--Many are the allusions to this marriage supper in the New Testament. It is referred to in the parable of the marriage of the king's son (Matthew 22: 1-14), and again in Luke 14: 16-24. It is the time when we shall eat bread in the kingdom of God when we are recompensed at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14: 12-15.) It is the time when we shall drink of the fruit of the vine with our Redeemer in His heavenly kingdom. (Matthew 26: 29; Mark 14: 25; Luke 22: 18.) It is the time when we shall sit at His table in the kingdom (Luke 22: 30), and He will gird Himself, and come forth and serve us (Luke 12: 37). Blessed indeed are they who have the privilege of partaking of this glorious feast.
John's Fellow Servant.--A word on verse 10, in reference to those who think they find here an argument for consciousness in death. The mistake which such persons make on this scripture is in supposing that the angel declares to John that he is one of the old prophets come back to communicate with him. The person employed in giving the Revelation to John is called an angel, and angels are not departed spirits of the dead. Whoever takes the position that they are, is to all intents a spiritist, for this is the very foundation stone of their theory. But the angel says no such thing. He simply says that he is the fellow servant of John, as he had been the fellow servant of his brethren the prophets. The term "fellow servant" implies that they are all on a common footing as servants of the great God; hence he was not a proper object for John to worship. Calling the prophets "thy brethren," signifies that they all belong to the same class in the service of God. (See comment on Revelation 1: 1, "His Angel.")
Verse 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon Him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. 12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself. 13 And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. 17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; 18 that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. 19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army. 20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of His mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
Christ's Second Coming.--With verse 11 a new scene is introduced. We are here carried back to the second coming of Christ, this time under the symbol of a warrior riding forth to battle. Why is He represented thus?-- Because He is going forth to war, to meet "the kings of the earth and their armies," and this would be the only proper character in which to represent Him on such a mission. His vesture is dipped in blood. (See a description of the same scene in Isaiah 63: 1-4.) The armies of heaven, the angels of God, follow Him. Verse 15 shows how He rules the nations with a rod of iron when they are given Him for an inheritance, as recorded in the second Psalm, which popular theology interprets to mean the conversion of the world.
But would not such an expression as "treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God," be a very singular description of a work of grace upon the hearts of the heathen for their conversion? The great and final display of the "winepress of God's wrath," and also of "the lake of fire," occurs at the end of the thousand years, as described in Revelation 20; and to that it would seem that the full and formal description of Revelation 14: 18-20 must apply. But the destruction of the living wicked at the second coming of Christ, at the beginning of the thousand years, furnishes a scene on a smaller scale, similar in both these respects to what takes place at the close of that period. Hence in the verses before us we have this mention of both the winepress of wrath and the lake of fire.
Christ has at this time closed His mediatorial work, and laid off His priestly robes for kingly attire; for He has on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords. This is in harmony with the character in which He here appears, for it was the custom of warriors anciently to have some kind of title inscribed upon their vesture. (Verse 16.)
What is to be understood by the angel standing in the sun? In Revelation 16: 17 we read of the seventh vial being poured out into the air, from which it was inferred that as the air envelops the whole earth, that plague would be universal. May not the same principle of interpretation apply here, and show that the angel standing in the sun, and issuing his call from there to the fowls of heaven to come to the supper of the great God, denotes that this proclamation will go wherever the sun's rays fall upon this earth? The fowls will be obedient to the call, and fill themselves with the flesh of horses, kings, captains, and mighty men. Thus, while the saints are partaking of the marriage supper of the Lamb, the wicked in their persons furnish a great supper for the fowls of the heavens.
The beast and false prophet are taken. The false prophet is the one that works miracles before the beast and is identical with the two-horned beast of Revelation 13, to whom the same work, for the same purpose, is there attributed. The fact that these are cast alive into the lake of fire, shows that these powers will not pass away and be succeeded by other, but will be living powers at the second advent of Christ.
The papacy has long been in the field, and has come to the closing scenes in its career. Its overthrow is emphatically predicted in other prophecies than the one now before us, notably in Daniel 7: 11, in which the prophet says that he beheld until the beast was slain, and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame. This power must be very near the close of its existence. But it dos not perish until Christ appears, for it then goes alive into the lake of fire.
The other power associated with it, the two-horned beast, we see fast approaching the climax of the work it has to do before it also goes alive into the lake of fire. How impressive is the thought that we see before us two great prophetic agencies which are by all the evidences near the close of their history, which yet are not to cease until the Lord shall appear in all His glory.
It appears from verse 21 that there is a remnant not numbered with the beast or the false prophet. These are slain by the sword of Him that sits upon the horse, which sword proceeds out of His mouth. This sword is doubtless what is spoken of elsewhere as "the spirit of His mouth" and "the breath of His lips," with which the Lord shall slay the wicked at His appearing and kingdom (2 Thessalonians 2: 8; Isaiah 11: 4.)