Listen for God’s word to you from Revelation 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,
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.”
And again they shouted:
The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:
Then a voice came from the throne, saying:
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
both great and small!”
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”
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. 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. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
king of kings and lord of lords.
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, 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.”
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
There is one key word in this chapter. It is repeated four times. It is the word: Hallelujah!
It is one of those religious words with which we are all familiar, and perhaps you have used this word yourself. You might be surprised to know that this is the only place in the Bible where that word appears.
Hallelujah is a transliteration into Greek from two Hebrew words which, when translated into English mean: “Praise Yahweh!”
As I read this chapter, I see at least seven things we can praise the Lord for. First, we can praise him for his salvation of us. What has the Lord saved us from?
In Revelation 19, a great multitude in heaven shouts “hallelujah” because God has saved them from the great prostitute who has corrupted the world with her adulteries. We saw in earlier chapters how the great prostitute is called Babylon. She is a symbol of Rome. But even deeper than that, she is a symbol of all that has corrupted God’s good creation through all time. She is a symbol of evil itself.
Perhaps you have heard this or noted this before, but “evil” is “live” spelled backwards. Evil is the opposite of life, the total corruption of life.
I have quoted Jesus from John 10:10 a number of times in this series on Revelation. And I find I must quote him again. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
Satan comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. But Jesus offers to save us from all that. He saves us from death and destruction. He saves us to life. If you want to experience the fullest life possible, come to Jesus.
The second hallelujah I see in this passage has to do with worship. Praising God is worship. But I also find myself wanting to praise God for worship itself.
Here is what I mean. I don’t know if you have had this experience. But I can go for some days, sometimes, without worshipping God. But when I come back to Scripture, when I come back to prayer, when I come back to worship, it is such a relief. It fills me with such a sense of peace, that I just want to praise God for worship itself and how it uplifts me.
Also, to give our highest worship to anything other than or less than God is a mistake that leads to the diminution of life itself. We are all tempted to do it. We all latch on to things in this life that we think will give us fulfillment, but so often they do not. Whenever we try to fill the empty space inside ourselves with anything other than God, our very souls cry out against the act. John was even tempted in this way. He was tempted to worship the angel. But the angel told him to worship God alone. There is a space inside each one of us that not even an angel can fill. Only God can fill it and give us fulfillment.
The second hallelujah in this passage comes in response to the smoke that goes up from Babylon forever and ever. This can sound very vindictive, but the reason for this second hallelujah is because God’s victory over evil is going to be total and final.
Think of it this way… even those of us who are not old enough to remember have seen photos and video footage of what it was like when the Allies won the Second World War. There was great celebration on VE day then again on VJ day. Just so, there will be great celebration when God’s final victory over evil is won because that victory will be total, and it will be forever. The giant of evil will not rise again to threaten any of us.
Right after the third hallelujah in this passage there comes a voice from the throne saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!”
It is not clear whose voice this is. Perhaps it is the voice of an angel. If it is the voice of God, or of Jesus, it seems strange that he would command us to worship himself. It sort of makes God sound like a vain person wanting compliments.
But in fact, God does command us to worship him, not because he is vain, but because he knows that when we worship him, we are in right relationship to him. To worship him is to come fully awake from the nightmare that this life can sometimes be. To worship God is to enter full and everlasting spiritual health. That’s why God commands us to worship himself; he does it because he knows it is for our good.
And so, I think we need to praise God for that voice from heaven that commands us to worship. We need to praise God for his word.
Later on in this chapter, we are introduced to One whose name is “the Word of God”. We know from John’s Gospel that this is none other than Jesus.
A fourth thing we can praise God for is his reign. In verse 6, John hears what sounds like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.”
I don’t know if you have ever heard anything like that. But if you have ever been with a large group of people who are worshipping God it can sound like that. It can sound like the roar of rushing waters, or like loud peals of thunder.
I remember a worship service I was in many years ago where the whole crowd of several hundred people were all speaking and singing in tongues. It was like the sound of a rushing wind. It felt like a wave flowing over the congregation, back and forth.
This fourth “hallelujah” is uttered in Revelation 19 because “our Lord God Almighty reigns.” Almighty is John’s favorite word to describe God; it is used 9 times in Revelation. The Greek word is Παντοκράτωρ. That word is used only 10 times in the New Testament and 9 of them are in Revelation.
It means that God rules over all. He is the undisputed ruler. He is all powerful, all mighty. We cannot hear these words today without also hearing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus: “For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
Do you know why people stand for The Hallelujah Chorus whenever it is sung around the world? The custom of standing for The Hallelujah Chorus originates from a popular belief that, at the London premiere, King George II did so, which would have obliged all to stand. If that is what happened, then it was a recognition on the part of the King of England that there is a greater king who rules over all.
A fifth thing we can praise God for in this chapter is the wedding supper of the lamb.
In the Hebrew Scriptures Israel was pictured as the bride of Yahweh. This same image is picked up in the New Testament, except in the New Testament it is the Church that is the bride of Christ.
Jesus is like the perfect bridegroom. He has given himself up for us. He has made us spotless by his blood. He has given us fine linen to wear—the most beautiful wedding dress in the world. And Jesus invites us to intimacy with himself—an intimacy deeper than any between two people here on earth.
I don’t know how many weddings you have been to. I’ve been to a lot. During my five years in Stowe, Vermont I officiated about 65 weddings, more than the rest of my career put together.
When I was growing up, weddings in my family were a big deal. I especially remember the wedding parties for a couple of my cousins. There was a lot of drinking and a lot of dancing. It was such fun!
The wedding supper of the lamb, when we are betrothed to Jesus, when we see him face to face for the first time, that is going to be the biggest, happiest wedding blowout of all time.
The angel says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” This is the fourth of seven beatitudes in Revelation.
How do you get invited to the wedding supper of the lamb? How do you score an invitation like that? Well, I am inviting you right now. That, I believe is my main job as a pastor, and as a Christian, is to invite people to the wedding supper of the lamb. I hope you will RSVP to the invitation today and say yes to Jesus, say yes to attending the wedding supper of the lamb.
A sixth thing we can thank God for in this passage is the appearing of Christ. In verse 11, John sees heaven standing open.
That little word “open” is used 25 times in Revelation. And now, in chapter 19, heaven stands open. The door of heaven stands open to us today. All we have to do is accept Jesus’ invitation and enter in.
And that is precisely who we see when heaven’s door is opened in chapter 19. We see Jesus. He is on a white horse which symbolizes the fact that he is conqueror. Jesus can make us more than conquerors over everything that holds us back from being the people he created and redeemed us to be.
Jesus is faithful and true. He will never leave you or forsake you. If you want to know the truth, come to Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
With justice he judges and wages war. But his is not an earthly war. His one weapon is the sword that comes out of his mouth. That sword is his word. His word is like a doctor’s scalpel used to heal.
Jesus’ eyes are like blazing fire. They are alight with life and his eyes penetrate and see us for who we really are.
On Jesus’ head are many crowns because he is worthy to rule over all peoples and nations. Is he ruling in your life?
Jesus has a name written on him that no one knows but himself. In the same way he gives each of us a name known only to us and to him. There is a mystery to the intimacy that we share with Jesus individually and there is a mystery to the intimacy he shares with the Father.
Jesus wears a robe dipped in blood. It is his own blood shed on the cross for our sin. And his name is, as we said before, the Word of God.
Notice the armies of heaven follow Jesus but they are not dressed for any worldly war. They are not wearing armor but fine linen, white and clean. Jesus wins the spiritual war by the word of his mouth.
And Jesus treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God. H. Richard Niebuhr once said that much modern-day preaching is characterized by “a God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” That is not what we have in Revelation. But note this: the fire of God’s wrath doesn’t want to burn you up. He wants to burn away your sin; he wants to burn away all that is less than what he wants you to be.
The seventh thing we can praise God for in this passage is his triumph. This passage ends with some gruesome images. But we must remember they are just that: images, symbols.
The birds come and eat the flesh of God’s enemies. We must remember that is what happened on every ancient battlefield. So, this gruesome image that John uses points to the fact that God’s triumph will be complete.
Again, Jesus wins the battle against God’s enemies by the sword coming out of his mouth. He wins with a word.
And the beast and the false prophet, who are both the epitome of evil, are cast into the lake of fire. We will see and say more about this next week. For now, let me end with a question…
What happens when you burn something up? That’s the end of the matter, isn’t it? Whatever burns is not the same after burning—it is just ashes, just remains. Just so, hell, in so far as the New Testament talks about it, is the end of the story for some. It is not the beginning of a new story. It is not something that goes on and on forever. It is the end.
But it doesn’t have to be our end. Because we have a choice. We can choose life, or we can choose death. To choose Jesus is to choose life forevermore. Hallelujah! Amen.