June 2, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy LIX: Christ Crushes His Enemies


There is a dual theme of reward to the saints and destruction of their enemies announced by the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15–19) and it is picked up again in chapter 19, as is evident from the verbal similarities, especially in 19:5–6, specifically the threefold description of believers (11:18), the declaration of the commencement of God’s reign.

The main point of chapter18 was that the saints were to rejoice over God’s judgment of Babylon because that judgment demonstrated the integrity of the Christians’ faith and God’s justice. Ch19 begins with the phrase “after these things,” “these things” being primarily the vision of Babylon’s demise. God is to be praised because “the salvation and the glory and the power belong to our God”. The exhortation to the saints to “rejoice” in Revelation 18:20 is now answered in 19:1–3, 6–7. The saints offer praise only to God because he alone deposed Babylon (the world system) and deserves glory for this deed, which accomplished “salvation” for his people and demonstrated his “power.” The threefold “hallelujah” in verse 1–6 alludes to the Hallel psalms (Psalms 113–118) because of the prominent reference in those psalms to the exodus and because Jewish writings associated the Hallel Psalms with the final destruction of the wicked.

Babylon is “the Great Harlot,” the one who has “corrupted the earth through her fornication,” repeating
from chapter 18 the basis for judgment. She/it is the one who has contaminated the nations with her immoral ways. The fall of historical Babylon was a foreshadowed the grander fall of the last day, worldwide Babylon. God “has avenged the blood of his bondservants, which was shed by her hand.”  The wording “her smoke ascends forever” comes from Isaiah 34:9–10, where the portrayal of smoke continually ascending serves as a permanent memorial to God’s punishment of Edom for its sin.

The fact of God’s reign is a direct consequence of his judgment of Babylon. He has shown himself to be the all-powerful divine king by this great act of deposing the system that arrogated this office to itself. “The kingdom of the earth has come to be transferred to our Lord and his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever”

The Wedding Clothes

The innumerable crowd of verse 6 then lift their voices to glorify God once again. They raise up such a doxology “because the marriage of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready.” The marriage could not take place without the removal of the Babylonian arch enemy and the coming of God’s kingdom in complete form, as narrated in 18:1–19:6. The existence of Babylon was a necessary factor in the bride’s preparation for the marriage. How is this so?

It was Babylon’s oppression and temptation was the fire ultimately used by God to refine the saints’ faith to prepare them to enter the heavenly city. This idea of refining by fire/persecution is all over Scripture. A person needs only pay attention to it when reading the Bible. The bride’s preparation is explained in verse 8 where she clothes herself with “bright, pure, fine linen,” which symbolizes “the righteous deeds of the saints”. From a theological standpoint this would mean that justification is the fundamental necessary condition for entrance into the eternal kingdom, but good works are a not a necessary condition for salvation.  Therefore, the white clothes here should be equated not with the “righteous deeds” of perseverance, as in the view described above, but with the reward or result of such deed(s). Anther plausible and theologically sound interpretation here could be “just judgments on behalf of the saints.” The white robes could then represent two things:
      Human faithfulness and good works (as a necessary evidence of right standing with God)
      Vindication or acquittal accomplished by God’s judgments against the enemy on behalf of his people.

Overall the bride’s garments might best be interpreted as “righteous deeds” in order to describe an aspect of the intimate relationship between God and the people.  As noted above, the phrase includes reference to persevering faith in Jesus despite persecution, which is required for entry into the consummate, intimate relation with Christ. Likewise, the church’s righteous faith and deeds during its earthly bondage were given a guilty verdict by the world but now its members’ lives of faithful witness are vindicated by God through judgment and deliverance at the time of their final union with him. Therefore, the white linen represents not only the saints’ pure and righteous condition before God but also their vindicated standing before God and the world.

In the end the readers are to be encouraged to obey the exhortation by the knowledge that God has provided grace for them to clothe themselves now by the power of the Spirit and also by recalling that they will receive “pure garments” from God at the end of their pilgrimage individually and corporately.

The idea of the “supper” intensifies the idea of intimate communion expressed in the marriage metaphors, since suppers were the occasion of close table fellowship. The picture of Christ dining with his people has the same idea elsewhere in the Bible. The state of blessedness is the reward of enjoying such communion with God. Both pictures portray the intimate communion of Christ with believers, but the first focuses on the corporate church and the second on individual members of the church. This metaphor is also steeped in the idea and story of Mephibosheth and eating at the Kings table.

John then falls down in order to worship the angel in response to the angel’s confirmatory interpretation of verse 1–8 in verse 9. Though it is appropriate for John to revere the angel’s interpretation as a divine message, it is wrong for him to revere the messenger, who is not divine but only a servant to the divine. The angel commands John not to worship him but to “worship God”.

Christ will again reveal his sovereignty and faithfulness to his promises by judging Babylon’s former allies in order to vindicate his people (Revelation 19:11–21). First, Christ and his heavenly armies are described, in anticipation of their victory, then the imminent destruction of the enemy is declared. In the scene’s climax we see the defeat of the beast and false prophet, along with their followers. “He judges”,  “His eyes as a flame of fire”. That the actual weapon of judgment is Christ’s word of truth. The very thing believers are encouraged to steep themselves in even today.

Looking into the heavenly dimension, John sees a “white horse and one sitting on it.” The rider on the horse is “called faithful and true”. The rider is described as one who “in righteousness judges and makes war,” is best translated “he judges righteously,” affirming the righteous standard by which the judgment is executed. This judicial motif and action by God in and from the Old Testament is now carried out by the divine Christ on behalf of his people. The allusion to “making war” refers not to literal battlefield conflict but to a legal battle and judgment, as does the heavenly combat between the angelic armies. The metaphor of v.12 “his eyes as a flame of fire”  evokes Christ’s role as divine judge since He can see and has seen everything. The horseman wears “many diadems on his head.”

The undefined multiplicity of diadems shows Christ is the only true cosmic king, on a grander scale than the dragon and the beast, whose small number of crowns implies a kingship limited in time and size. Christ’s judgment of the beast puts the beast in his proper hellish place. It seems as though the “crown” of the Satanic horseman in Revelation 6:2 is now removed and given to the heavenly horseman before the Satanic horseman is overthrown.  Believers receive Christ’s name to demonstrate their close association with him, which is also compared to the relationship between the bride and groom at a “bridal feast,” in striking similarity to Rev. 19:7–9, 12.  That no one knows the name mentioned here except Christ means that the prophecy of Isaiah 62 and 65 has not yet been consummately fulfilled. But Christ’s “name” will be known to his people when they experience the fulfillment of prophecy in a new, consummated covenant marriage relationship with Christ. The significance of knowing a name (or not knowing it) must be sought elsewhere in biblical literature. In the OT to know a name means to have control over the one named. Therefore, the confidential nature of the name here has nothing to do with concealing a name on the cognitive level but alludes to Christ being absolutely sovereign over humanity.

The rider is portrayed as “clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood,” which is a clear allusion to the
description of God judging the nations in Isaiah 63:1–3: “with garments of red colors … garments like the one who treads in the winepress … their juice is sprinkled on my garments.” John thus affirms Isaiah’s prophecy of God as a warrior and identifies Christ as that divine warrior. In Isaiah the warrior judges to achieve “vengeance” and “redemption” on behalf of his people. Therefore, the stained garments symbolize God’s attribute of justice, which he will exercise in the coming judgment.

In verse 14, the armies in heaven follow” Christ. They, too, ride on “white horses,” for the same reason that their leader does. The color of the horses enhances his role of vindication as the saints’ representative or, less likely, reveals that the saints together with Christ participate in their own  vindication. If the armies here are angelic, then there may be no question of God’s people taking part in their own vindication.

In verse 15 another name is added to explain further the ambiguous name in v 12. This name is written on the rider’s garment and thigh, either in two different places or only once, on a part of the garment that draped over the thigh. The thigh was the typical location of the warrior’s sword and the symbolic place under which the hand was placed to swear oaths (Genesis 24:2, 9; 47:29). Christ’s victory over the wicked will be a fulfillment of God’s promise to judge. The name for Christ was “King of kings and Lord of lords,” a title expressing the idea of “ultimate ruler over all kings.” The name is taken from the Septuagint of Daniel 4:37, where it is a title for God, and has already been applied to Christ in Revelation 17:14. Jesus, given this divine title, demonstrates his deity at the end of history by judging the beast that carried “Babylon the Great.”

John sees “an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out in a great voice, speaking.” The angel announces the coming destruction of the beast, the false prophet, and their troops through the same imagery by which the defeat of Gog and Magog was announced in Ezekiel 39:4, 17–20.

Christ Defeats the Beast, the False Prophet

(v.19) After the announcement of coming judgment, John sees a vision of the judgment itself. He observes that “the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies having been gathered to make war,” which essentially duplicates the wording used in 16:14 and 20:8 to describe the prelude to the last battle of history. Here the battle is conducted against Christ and his heavenly armies, but 16:14 and 20:8 reveal that it is also against God, his “saints, and the beloved city” on earth. Although the immediate agents of the “gathering” are the  devil and his demonic helpers, Ezekiel affirms that God is the ultimate force causing the unbelieving hordes to assemble.

The actual judgment occurs in two parts. First, the beast and the false prophet are captured and destroyed, and then their followers are executed (v 21). The false prophet is described before the narration of his judgment and that of the beast as “the one who did the signs before him [the beast], by which he deceived those receiving the mark of the beast and the ones worshiping his image.” The beast made divine claims, and the false prophet supported those claims by influencing others to pay heed  lest they be persecuted.

The two demonic pretenders are “seized” and “while living, were cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone”. This is not a merciful annihilation but rather (as Revelation 20:10 clarifies) that this punishment endures for eternity: “the devil, the one deceiving them, was cast into the lake of fire and of brimstone, where also [were cast] the beast and the false prophet, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”

Stinks to be them. (*Sorry Rob Bell, love doesn't win in this case, justice and truth does*)

The armies following the beast and the false prophet will then be “killed by the sword proceeding from the mouth of the one sitting upon the horse.” This is an allusion to Isaiah 49:2 and Isaiah 11:4, repeated from Revelation 19:15. What we know for sure about this account contained in Revelation 19:19-21 is it is a scene of devastating judgment, with no hint of redemption for the rebellious kings. They will be doomed.

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