Bibliotheca Sacra 156 (January-March 1999) 72-84.

          Copyright © 1999 by Dallas Theological Seminary.  Cited with permission.

           

 

                 HEAVEN'S HALLELUJAH

            CHORUS: AN INTRODUCTION

           TO THE SEVEN "LAST THINGS"

                            (REV. 19:1-10)*

 

                                          David J. MacLeod

 

In his play entitled Saint Joan, George Bernard Shaw tells the

story of Joan of Arc and how she left her home to inspire her fellow

citizens in France to battle against the British conquerors. In the

second scene the young heir to the throne, Prince Charles, age

twenty-six, is whining and complaining because Joan, obedient

to her heavenly vision, is rebuking him for his softness and cow-

ardice. As she rebukes the prince he responds, "I want to be just

what I am. Why can't you mind your own business, and let me

mind mine?" The peasant girl, filled with the urgency of the sit-

uation, speaks: "Minding my own business is like minding your

own body: it's the shortest way to make yourself sick. What is my

business? Helping mother at home. What is thine? Petting lap-

dogs and sucking sugarsticks [i.e., lollipops] . . . I tell [you] it is

God's business we are here to do: not our own. I have a message to

you from God; and you must listen to it, though your heart break

with the terror of it."1

            These words of Joan of Arc reflect, in a way, the urgency of

apostolic Christianity. This urgency grew out of the apostles' be-

lief in the return of the Lord. Belief in the Lord's return, they

taught, should produce purity in life (1 John 3:1-3), forbearance

and patience toward brethren (Rom. 14:10), comfort in sorrow (1

Thess. 4:13-18), urgency in service (1 Cor. 3:10-14; 2 Cor. 5:10),

and vitality or vibrancy in worship (Rev. 19:1-5).

 

David J. MacLeod is a member of the faculty of Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque,

Iowa, and is associate editor of The Emmaus Journal.

 

*This is article one in an eight-part series, "Expositional Studies of the Seven ‘Last

Things’ in the Book of Revelation."

 

1 Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan: A Chronicle Play in Six Scenes and an Epilogue

(New York: Brentano's, 1924), 43-44.

 

                                                  72



                        Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus                          73

 

            Revelation 19:11-22:5 is the New Testament's classic pas-

sage on Christ's return. These chapters set forth seven major

motifs of biblical eschatology,2 "the Last Things," as Austin

Farrer calls them:3 the second coming of Christ (19:11-16), the

defeat of the Antichrist (19:17-21), the binding of Satan (20:1-3),

the millennial kingdom of Christ (20:4-6), the loosing of Satan

and his final defeat (20:7-10), the last judgment at the great white

throne (20:11-15), and the new heavens and new earth (21:1-

22:5).

            The first ten verses of chapter 19 are an introduction to these

great subjects. Besides introducing the seven last things, this pas-

sage focuses on worship and awe before God and gives Christians

reason for looking eagerly for the coming of the Lord. God is to be

praised for His judgment on this world because that judgment is

both deserved and fair, and He is to be praised for His benefits be-

cause of the glorious destiny of the people of God.

 

GOD IS PRAISED FOR HIS RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT

OF BABYLON (19:1—5)

 

In Revelation 17-18 John described the destruction of Babylon, the

last great empire to dominate the earth before the second coming

of Christ. It will be a vast commercial, political, and religious

system that will serve as the capital of the Antichrist.4 Like Baby-

lon of old, it will be the source of collective rebellion against the

Lord. It will be overthrown just before the Lord returns, and the

whole earth will mourn its loss. The world's business leaders

will all lament, " 'Woe, woe,' . . . and they were crying out as they

saw the smoke of her burning" (Rev. 18:16-18).

 

THE VOICE OF THE MULTITUDE (vv. 1-3)

The response of heaven is different from that of the merchant

class of the earth: "Rejoice over her, 0 heaven, and you saints

and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment

 

2 Cf. Alan F. Johnson, "Revelation," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Grand

Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 12:573.

3 Austin Farrer, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (London: Oxford Univer-

sity Press, 1964), 196.

4 Evangelicals hold at least five interpretations of the identity of Babylon: pagan

Rome, papal Rome, eschatological Rome, apostate Jerusalem, eschatological Baby-

lon. For a defense of the view adopted here, see Harry Goehring, "The Fall of Baby-

lonHistorical or Future?" Grace Journal 2 (winter 1961): 23-34; Kenneth W.

Allen, "The Rebuilding and Destruction of Babylon," Bibliotheca Sacra 133 (1976):

19-27; and Charles H. Dyer, "The Identity of Babylon in Revelation 17-18, Part 2,"

Bibliotheca Sacra 144 (1987): 433-49.

 



74           BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1999

 

for you against her" (18:20). And so, in chapter 19, the atmosphere

is one of exultant worship, and not lamentation, over Babylon's

fall. "Shadow yields to light," Kiddie has written, "above the

smoke clouds from the ruined Babylon, a scene of ineffable

brightness opens out. The silence of the ruined city gives way to

the shout and thunder of eager rejoicing."5

            "After these things," that is, after the fall of Babylon, John's

attention turned to heaven, where he heard "the voice of a great

multitude." Some understand this to be a throng of angels.6 The

same expression is used, however, in 7:9 to describe the martyred

Gentiles of the Tribulation, so it is more likely that the great

multitude here is that group of martyrs.7

            They shout, "Hallelujah" (a[llhloui*a<). This expression is a

word taken from Hebrew (h.yA Ull;ha), which means "Praise Yah,"

that is, "Praise the Lord." This term appears only here in the New

Testament, where it occurs four times. In the Old Testament the

two Hebrew words introduce ten of the psalms, where the words

are translated "Praise the LORD!" (Pss. 106, 111-113, 135, 146-150).

            Psalms 113-118 are called the "Hallel psalms" or "the Hallel

of Egypt" because of the reference in them (114:1) to the Exodus.

They were regularly sung by the Jews at the Passover to celebrate

the deliverance of Israel and the destruction of the wicked. Jesus

and His disciples most likely sang the Hallel after Passover on

the night in which He was betrayed. Because of the close connec-

tion of the Hallel with Passover and the death of Jesus, the Lamb

of God, the early church incorporated it in their Easter celebration

of the triumph of Christ, "our Passover" (1 Cor. 5:7), over sin, Sa-

tan, and death.8 So in a yet future day the Tribulation martyrs

 

5 Martin Kiddie, The Revelation of St. John, Moffatt New Testament Commen-

tary (New York: Harper, 1940), 375.

6 For example H. B. Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John (London: Macmillan,

1906), 238; R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation

of St. John, International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: Clark, 1920), 2:118;

Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 224; George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the

Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 244; Robert L. Thomas, Reve-

lation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1995), 355-56. It is argued

that they must be angels because most earlier songs of thanks in Revelation involve

angels (4:8-11; 5:11-14), and human believers are called to add their hallelujah in

19-.5.

7 Cf. G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Harper New Testament

Commentary (New York: Harper, 1966), 232; John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of

Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody, 1966), 268; Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revela-

tion, New International Commentary on the New Testament, rev. ed. (Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 341.

8 Johnson, "Revelation," 12:570.

 



                          Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus                      75

 

will sing the Hallel to God for His deliverance from the

Antichrist, the tyrant of Babylon.9

            Because of the occurrence of the word "Hallelujah" here in

Revelation 19, this passage has been called "Heaven's Hallelujah

Chorus."10 It has also been called a "Te Deum" ("You God") by a

number of commentators,11 for it is a hymn of worship. The mul-

titude will worship God for both His attributes and His actions. He

is praised for His attributes, which include (a) "salvation," that

is, He is a God who safeguards His people and delivers them into

the kingdom; (b) "glory," that is, His moral excellence, which is

seen in His judgment of sinful Babylon; and (c) "power," His

might, which is seen in the overthrow of wicked civilization.12

These things should awaken worship on the part of believers to-

day too. His salvation should awaken gratitude; His glory should

awaken reverence; His power should awaken trust.13

            Also God is praised for His actions. The word "because" in

verse 2 introduces the reason for the great outburst of praise. God

has executed a fitting ("true") and deserved ("righteous") judg-

ment on "the great harlot," that is, Babylon. Babylon will be a lit-

eral city in the end times. In the Bible it also stands as a metaphor

for the world and its opposition to the things of God. The world was

corrupted by Babylon's secular, humanistic, and hedonistic ide-

ologies, her false religions that adulterated and opposed God's

Word, her pagan doctrines, and her deceitful practices that harm

the human race.14

            The gospel will be preached to all the nations during the

Tribulation. Many, however, will worship the Antichrist, and

will rejoice over the death of the witnesses for Christ (Rev. 11, 13).

Babylon will stand as an obstacle to the inauguration of the king-

dom of God on the earth.15 Fraud, immorality, and violence will

 

9 G. R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation, New Century Bible (Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 271.

10 Ford C. Ottman, The Unfolding of the Ages (New York: Baker & Taylor, 1905),

402.

11 This title is taken from the description by Arethas of the passage in his com-

mentary on Revelation. Arethas was bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia (ca. A.D. 900).

See Swete, Apocalypse, cxcv, 238.

12 William Barclay, The Revelation of John, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster,

1976), 2:169; and Walter Scott, Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, 4th. ed.,

(London: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), 375.

13 Barclay, The Revelation of John, 2:169.

14 Thomas F. Torrance, The Apocalypse Today (London: Clarke, 1960), 154.

15 Kiddie, The Revelation of St. John, 377.

 



76       BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January–March 1999

 

be obliterated, and those in heaven will cry, "Praise the Lord!"16

            The reason for the praise in heaven should be noted. The

multitude in heaven will praise God for His destruction of

wickedness. People like to think of praise in the sense of George

Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," in which "hallelujah" is the tri-

umphant worship of the reigning King. Such a chorus will be seen

in Revelation 19:6, but first there will be the equally triumphant

rejoicing over the downfall of evil at the hand of God.17 Many

Christians do not want to hear of God's judgment and wrath.

They want to hear only of His love and kindness. But Babylon's

"smoke rises up forever," that is, she will be totally destroyed (v.

3). Heaven's estimate of things differs from this world's. The

things the world loves most fondly are the objects of God's most

intense wrath.18

            Believers should be struck by the reverence and awe of

heaven. Unfortunately many have lost that sense of wonder, says

Warren Wiersbe, and wonder is the basis of worship. Wonder

means amazement, surprise, astonishment, bewilderment, ad-

miration, awe, and fascination.19

 

THE WORSHIP OF THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS

AND THE FOUR LIVING CREATURES (v. 4)

In verse 4 the twenty-four elders, that is, the glorified church,20

and the four living creatures, probably cherubs who serve before

God's throne (cf. Rev. 4:6-7),21 reappear. In 5:6–10 they fall down

and worship the lamb and sing of His worthiness to break the

seals of the scroll He had taken from the right hand of God. Here

they perform the same act of worship, this time honoring God for

His righteous judgment.

 

16 Significantly the first occurrence of "Hallelujah" in the Bible is in Psalm

104:35, where the context is also judgment (E. W. Bullinger, The Apocalypse, 3d ed.,

[London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1935; reprint, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 19841, 584).

17 J. R. Love, 1 John—Revelation, Layman's Bible Commentary (Atlanta: Knox,

1960), 104.

18 Joseph Seiss, Lectures on the Apocalypse, 9th ed. (New York: Cook, 1906), 3:199.

19 Warren W. Wiersbe, Real Worship, rev. ed. (Nashville: Oliver Nelson, 1990),

4;3-44.

20 The identity of the twenty-four elders is one of the great interpretive problems

of the Book of Revelation. Most modern commentators identify them as either an

exalted angelic order or as a redeemed company of people. For a helpful summary

of seven views on the identity of the twenty-four elders, see David Anne, Revelation

1-5, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1997), 288–92.

21 C. R. G. Hall, "Living Creatures in the Midst of the Throne: Another Look at

Revelation 4:6," New Testament Studies 36 (1990): 609–13.

 



                        Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus                                 77

 

THE EXHORTATION OF THE CHERUBS FROM THE THRONE (v. 5)

At this point John heard a voice from the throne, encouraging all

to "Give praise to our God." Some say this voice was that of

Christ.22 However, it is very unlikely that Christ would say, "our

God." It is more likely that the voice is that of the four living

creatures.

 

GOD IS PRAISED FOR THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB (19:6-8)

Verses 6-8 have been called "the wedding march of the

Church."23 Here John heard the "great multitude" of martyrs

again. Their praise turns from celebrating the judgment of Baby-

lon to rejoicing over the marriage of the Lamb. The sound of the

praise in John's ears was like the din of a vast, thunderous water-

fall and the sharp cracks of thunder.

 

PRAISE FOR THE IMPENDING KINGDOM (v. 6)

"Hallelujah [Praise the Lord]! For the Lord our God, the Almighty

reigns." The martyrs in heaven know that the fall of Babylon

means that the age-long prayer of God's people, "Thy kingdom

come" (Matt. 6:10), is being realized, and the time of reward is

about to begin.

            Domitian, the Caesar who ruled at the time Revelation was

written, conferred on himself the title "Our Lord and God"

(Dominus et deus noster).24 But the praise recorded in 19:6 points

out that God, not Caesar, is "the Almighty" (o[ pantokra<twr), the

One who holds all things in His control.25

 

              JOY OVER THE LAMB'S WEDDING (vv. 7-8)

No aspect of the Christian's hope is more radiant and reassuring

than the disclosure made here by John concerning the marriage

of the Lamb and the feast that follows.26 In Ephesians 5, Paul

counseled husbands and wives about marriage. Having empha-

sized oneness in marriage, he concluded, "This mystery is great;

but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church" (v. 32).

Revelation 19:7-8 also speaks of the relationship between Christ

and His church as that of husband and wife.

 

22 For example, G. H. Lang, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (London: Paternoster,

1948), 312.

23 Torrance, The Apocalypse Today, 153.

24 Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars, Book 8: Domitian 13, trans. J. C. Rolfe,

Loeb Classical Library (New York: Macmillan, 1914), 2:367.

25 Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 346.

26 A. Skevington Wood, Prophecy in the Space Age (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

1963), 95.

 



78        BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January—March

 

            In marriage a man and a woman are united in a relation-

ship for companionship, fellowship, intimacy—the sharing of

thoughts, purposes, and life. When the Bible pictures the relation-

ship of Christ and His people as that of a husband and wife, it is

expressing the truth that there is a covenant or bond between

them,27 an everlasting union.28 As Charles put it, marriage

"denotes the intimate and indissoluble communion of Christ with

the [believing] community, which He has purchased with His own

blood."29 It also contains the notions of love, joy, and fidelity.30

            The Bridegroom. The bridegroom is identified as "the

Lamb." It is significant that the heavenly wedding is not called

"the marriage of the Creator," "the marriage of the Lord," or "the

marriage of the King."31 The title "Lamb," more than any other,

draws attention to the fact that "Christ . . . loved the church and

gave Himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25). He is "Christ our Passover,"

celebrated by the singing of the Hallel psalms.

            The bride. The bride,32 as most commentators agree, is the

church, the company of the redeemed.33 Dispensational commen-

tators specifically identify the bride as all saints between Pente-

cost and the rapture of the church.34 Revelation 19:7 actually says

"wife" (h[ gunh<) and not "bride" (h[ nu<mfh).

            In the New Testament the bride/wife metaphor is used of the

church in two kinds of passages. In some (Rom. 7:1–4; 1 Cor.

6:17) the church is seen as the wife married to Christ. In others

(e.g., 2 Cor. 11:2) she is seen as a virgin and the marriage is fu-

ture.35

 

27 Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation, 273.

28 Kiddie, The Revelation of St. John, 379.

29 Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John,

2:126.

30 Barclay, The Revelation of John, 2:173.

31 Robert T. Ketcham, "The Marriage Supper of the Lamb," in Understanding the

Times, ed. W. Culbertson and H. B. Centz (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1956), 171-79.

32 In the Old Testament, Israel is viewed as the unfaithful wife of Yahweh, who

was put away (Hos. 2:2) but one day will be reunited to Him (2:19-20; cf. Isa. 62:1-5).

33 Not all agree, however. Those who hold to a partial pretribulational rapture say

the bride is made up of a select group of believers whose Lives have been character-

ized by dedicated discipleship and watchful preparedness (Robert Govett, The

Apocalypse: Expounded by Scripture [London, 1861; reprint, Miami Springs, FL:

Conley & Schoettle, 1981), 4:167; Seiss, Lectures on the Apocalypse, 3:213-19; Lang,

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 315-16). Ultradispensational writers argue that

the wife of Revelation 19 is Israel and the bride of Revelation 21 is the church

(Bullinger, Apocalypse, 589-91).

34 For example Scott, Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ; 380.

35 The choice of term (i.e., “wife” instead of "bride") is probably not significant (cf.

Morris. The Revelation of St. John, 227).



                           Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus                         79

 

            The preparations. "His bride," John said, "has made herself

ready" (Rev. 19:7). This is no reluctant bride. Her making her-

self ready suggests the repentance and faith that each person must

exercise to become one of God's people." Her wedding gown of

fine linen is described as "the righteous acts [lit., ‘righteous-

nesses’] of the saints." That her wedding garment was given to

her pictures the fact that faith is the gift of God.

            Scholars have debated the expression "the righteousnesses of

the saints" (ta> dikaiw<mata tw?n a[gi<wn, v. 8). Some say it refers to

the doctrine of justification, whereby a person is acquitted or de-

clared righteous in God's courtroom.37 It speaks, they say, of the

church's holy state before God.

            Others say John referred to two kinds of righteousness, justi-

fication and sanctification. One is the righteousness believers

have the moment they exercise faith in Christ. The other is the

righteousness believers acquire as they respond in daily obedi-

ence to the heavenly Bridegroom.38 This view has been illus-

trated by the custom in the Roman world of wearing two robes.

The inner garment was a tunic, and the outer, loose-fitting gar-

ment was a toga. "Both of these garments, the inner garment that

Christ gives us, and the outer garment, the weaving of our own

works, we shall wear in the beautiful, consummating day of our

Lord. . . . There is a positional righteousness [and] a practical

righteousness."39

            Still others say the "righteousnesses" should be viewed in the

context of rewards. They point out that the rapture of the church

and the judgment seat of Christ will have taken place. They see

the bride clothed in her rewards or awards.40

            Other expositors say the "righteousnesses" refer to the innu-

merable acts of faithful obedience that characterize the bride. In

other words it speaks of the good works ("righteous deeds of the

saints")41 performed after salvation, good works enabled by the

 

36 Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation, 274.

37 For example Henry Alford, The Greek Testament (reprint, Chicago: Moody,

1958), 725. Alford says the plural is distributive, implying not many righteous-

nesses for each believer, but one state of righteousness for each of the saints.

38 Seiss, Lectures on the Apocalypse, 3:223–24; cf. Beasley-Murray, The Book of

Revelation, 274.

39 W. A. Criswell, Expository Sermons on Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

1969), 5:29.

40 Bullinger, The Apocalypse, 593.

41 G. Schrenk, “dikai<wma,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 2

(1964), 222; Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 272; and Thomas, Revelation

8–22: An Exegetical Commentary, 370-71.



80            BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  / January-March 1999

 

indwelling Spirit of God.42 The fact that the same noun

(dikaiw<mata) is used of God's righteous acts in 15:4 favors this

fourth view. The bride receives the garment as a gift, but she must

put it on.43 A transformed life is the proper response to the call of

the heavenly Bridegroom.44

            The marriage. Jewish marriage customs in Bible times in-

volved three stages.45 The first was the negotiation or betrothal

stage. Parents would contract to marry their children, and a

dowry would be paid to the father of the bride. The couple was then

considered husband and wife (cf. Matt. 1:18-19), and only a di-

vorce could sever the contract. Between the betrothal and the wed-

ding there was an interval or waiting period to demonstrate

chastity. The second stage involved a procession and the wed-

ding. The groom would go to his bride's parents' home and take

her to the home of his parents, where the marriage would be con-

summated. The third stage was the wedding feast, in which the

festivities could last up to seven days.

            These three stages can be seen in Christ's relationship to the

church. The first stage (negotiation or betrothal) answers to the

Cross where the price—the dowry—was paid. Samuel Stone ex-

pressed this truth in his hymn "The Church's One Foundation":

            From heaven He came and sought her

                        To be His holy bride

            With His own blood He bought her,

                        And for her life He died.46

           

            On another level it refers to the work of evangelism and the

moment of faith when a sinner embraces Christ as Savior. While

the actual union of believers with Christ is yet future (they are liv-

ing in the interval between betrothal and wedding), it is their pre-

sent hope.

 

42 Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 348.

46 Robert Wall, Revelation, New International Bible Commentary (Peabody, MA:

Hendrickson, 1991), 222-23.

44 Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 348.

45 On Jewish marriage customs see Marcus Cohn, "Marriage," in Universal Jew-

ish Encyclopedia, 7:372; Raphael Posner, "Marriage," in Encyclopaedia Judaica,

11:1032-34; Joachim Jeremias,"nu<mfh," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testa-

ment, 4 (1967), 1099-1101; Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible

Times (Chicago: Moody, 1987), 64-69; William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors

(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1939), 215-17; and Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus

Christ, 271.

46 Samuel J. Stone, "The Church's One Foundation," in Hymns of Truth and

Praise (Fort Dodge, KS: Gospel Perpetuating, 1971), 226.



                    Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus                      81

 

            The second stage (procession and wedding) will take place at

the rapture of the church, when the Lamb will take His bride to His

Father's home, where she will be united to Him forever. Paul

wanted the church to be prepared for this event. He was concerned

lest the bride be defiled on earth by false doctrine or immoral be-

havior (Eph. 5:27).

            Bible teachers differ widely over the symbolism of the third

stage (the wedding feast, or "marriage supper of the Lamb").47

Several factors suggest this will occur in the millennial king-

dom. This is the feast of which the Savior spoke when He said, "I

will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day

when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom" (Matt.

26:29). He said of the Passover Feast, "I shall never again eat it

until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:16). Jesus

also spoke of the day when "many shall come from east and west,

and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in

the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 8:11). That the feast will be mil-

lennial is also suggested by Luke's parable of a wedding feast

(12:35-37) in which the Lord serves supper when He returns from

the wedding.

 

ASSURANCE OF THE CERTAINTY OF THESE THINGS (vv. 9-10)

THE INVITATION TO THE WEDDING

In verse 9 an angel (probably the angel of 17:1) told John to write

of the blessedness of those who are invited to the marriage supper.

Some commentators say the word “wife” looks at the church col-

lectively, while the invited guests describe the church as individ-

uals.48 "The guests and the Bride are one and the same."49 Propo-

nents of this view note the fluidity of metaphorical language. For

example, in Revelation 7:17 the "Lamb" and the "shepherd" are

one and the same.50 Others distinguish between the bride and the

invited guests. They argue that the guests are the saints converted

 

47 There are at least three views: (1) The marriage supper is millennial (Seiss,

Lectures on the Apocalypse, 3:230–31; Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation,

275). (2) The marriage supper will take place after the millennium in the eternal

state (Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St.

John, 2:126-29; and Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 348). (3) The marriage supper

will take place in heaven before the return of the Lord to the earth (Renald E.

Showers, "The Marriage and Marriage Supper of the Lamb," Israel My Glory, June

1991, 9–12). Texts such as Isaiah 25:6–8 and Luke 12:36–37 seem to support the first

view.

48 Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, 234.

49 Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John,

2:129.

50 Ibid., 2:234; and Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, 250.



82      BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1999

 

during the tribulation and possibly also Old Testament saints.51

In any case it is a blessed thing to be invited52 to this wonderful

meeting with Jesus Christ. The very word "invited" implies that

access to the wedding feast is not gained on one's own merits. The

initiative in salvation always lies with God (Matt. 22:3).53

 

THE BASIS OF THE BELIEVERS' CONFIDENCE

Is this invitation to participate in Christ's glorious kingdom a

delusion? No, for the angel assured John, "These are the true

words of God." The Lamb, who was slain that sins may be for-

given, is in heaven today preparing a place for His people. He

will return someday for His people, and there is in store for them

a banquet with Jesus Christ in the kingdom of heaven. There is

no room for doubting.

 

THE DIGNITY OF THE BELIEVERS' MESSAGE

John was so awed by the message he heard from the angel that he

bowed down to worship him. John did this again (Rev. 22:8-9),

and in both instances the angel rebuked him and asserted that

God alone must be worshiped. Why did John record these failings

 

51 Cf. William Kelly, Lectures on the Book of Revelation (London: Morrish, 1874),

392-98; and Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 273. Proponents make the

following observations: (1) Psalm 45:13-14 and the parable of the virgins (Matt. 25:1-

13) distinguish between the bride and her companions. (2) In Hebrews 12:23 the

church is distinguished from "the spirits of righteous men made perfect," that is,

the Old Testament saints in the eschatological city to come. (3) In Revelation 21:24

the nations are distinguished from the bride (Seiss, The Apocalypse, 3:232).

Classic dispensationalists make a sharp distinction between Israel and the

church. They argue, for example, that the Bible distinguishes between two hus-

bands (Father and Son) and two wives (Israel and the church). They say this dou-

ble-marriage idea solves the dilemma of two distinct peoples both being married to

the Lord. "The company that constitutes the bride of the one marriage would consti-

tute the guests at the other. When [God] shall take Israel into eternal union with

Himself, the Church shall be there as ‘the called.’ When Christ shall take the

Church into a like eternal union, Israel shall be there as ‘the guests’" (Ottman, The

Unfolding of the Ages, 411; cf. Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation: An Expository

Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971], 353; and Showers, "The Marriage," 11).

            A modified dispensationalism recognizes more continuity than discontinuity

between the people of God in each age and concludes that the New Covenant people

of God as a whole (including both redeemed Israel in the millennium and the

church) is the bride of Christ. The marriage supper in the millennium will cele-

brate the union between Christ and His people, that is, the church and Israel

(Robert L. Saucy, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism [Grand Rapids:

Zondervan, 1993], 184-85; and Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, 248-49).

52 The verb kale<w is also used of the effectual call to salvation, that is, election

(Rom. 8:30; 2 Thess. 2:14). Here, however, it seems to have the idea of "invited" with-

out suggesting election. In the parable of the wedding feast (Matt. 22:14) kale<w is

clearly used of a general call or invitation (Johnson, "Revelation," 572).

53 Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, 250.



                             Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus                              83

 

on his part? The lesson is twofold: He wanted to show his readers

how idolatry can infiltrate one's life through even innocent

means. John was about to turn a messenger of the truth into an

idol. Idolatry is more than burning incense before a man-made

statue. It is giving absolute worth and devotion to anything or

anyone other than God, even a good cause.54

            In Revelation 19, however, the lesson is not so much that John

was demeaning God's glory. Rather, he was demeaning his own

prophetic office.55 The "testimony of Jesus is the spirit of

prophecy." The phrase "of Jesus" is an objective genitive, mean-

ing that the message is about Him. The message about Jesus—His

death, resurrection, and soon return—is at the heart of all

prophecy.56 The angel is not the object of the prophetic word. On

the contrary, angels, together with John and other prophets, bear

witness to Jesus. They are no more than fellow servants with the

saints in their relationship to Christ. By bowing to the angels

John was ignoring the fact that he had an office equal in dignity

to that of any angel. He was a prophet who proclaimed the truth

about Jesus.

 

                                       CONCLUSION

A number of important lessons for Christians may be seen in

Revelation 19:1–10. First, the passage teaches the inescapable

consequences of sin. Will God allow the world to persist in its un-

righteousness? No. A day is coming when God will make right

all the world's wrongs. The punishment of Babylon (vv. 1–3) and

the punishment of all sinners will demonstrate God's justice.

            Second, God's judgment is true and righteous. His punish-

ment will fit the crime. God is perfect in His judgment for He

alone can see the inmost thoughts and desires of any person, He

alone has the purity that can judge without prejudice, and He

alone has the wisdom to choose the appropriate judgment and the

power to execute it.57

 

54 Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, 237.

55 Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John,

2:130.

56 Morris, The Revelation of St. John, 228. "A situation, then, in which . . . oppo-

nents of Christianity are trying to make its adherents deny that Jesus is the Mes-

siah, curse Christ, say that Caesar is Lord, and swear by the tu<xh? [Fortune] of Cae-

sar . . . is the setting for the angel's assurance that it is the prophetic Spirit which

inspires every confession of Jesus, and, conversely that the form which inspired

prophecy takes in this struggle is testimony to Jesus" (G. W. H. Lampe, "The Testi-

mony of Jesus Is the Spirit of Prophecy [Rev. 19:10]," in The New Testament Age,

ed. William C. Weinrich [Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984], 1:257-58).

57 Barclay, The Revelation of John, 2:169.



84      BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January—March 1999

 

            Third, some people will escape the judgment of God. They

will be blessed by participating in the marriage supper of the

Lamb ("Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper

of the Lamb," v. 9).

            Fourth, this passage points up some important lessons about

the nature of worship and its relevance to the Christian life. Wor-

ship in heaven has great dignity; it will include every believer

(no one can say, "Well, I can't sing"); and heaven's songs are

theocentric. Everyone will be offering praise to the Lord for His

glory,58 not for their own entertainment.

            Several observations can also be made about the worshipers

in heaven. First, true worshipers accept the will of God. When the

twenty-four elders say, "Amen" (i.e., "So be it, Lord") they are ap-

plauding the judgment of God. Second, true worshipers are com-

mitted to God's purposes. Those in heaven are delighted at the

prospect of Christ's kingdom ("the Lord our God, the Almighty,

reigns," v. 6). Third, true worshipers will discover joy in fellow-

shiping with God. They will rejoice (v. 7) because they are be-

trothed to Him now and soon will be united to Him at "the mar-

riage of the Lamb." Fourth, true worshipers will rest in the assur-

ance of God's victory, knowing that He is "the Almighty," the One

who holds all things in His control.59

 

 

58 Bill Wymond, "The Music of Heaven's Worship," Table Talk, December 1991,

10-11.

59 James Stewart, The Wind of the Spirit (Nashville: Abingdon, 1968), 47-55.

 

 

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:       x

Dallas Theological Seminary

            3909 Swiss Ave.

            Dallas, TX   75204          

www.dts.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu