JESUS CHRIST – KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS - [3] Hallelujah! [Revelation 19:1-10]

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015

In Revelation 17:14 we read that the ‘beast’ and the ‘ten kings’, with united intention, will make war against the Lamb. This raises the question: is this speaking only of the final battle? Or is this speaking also of the on-going battle present during this entire interim period between the first and second comings? Commentators are divided.  

If the ‘one hour’ of verse 12 is meant to refer to the exceedingly brief ‘last battle’ then verse 14 is speaking of that last battle. If however the ‘one hour’ of verse 12 is symbolic of the ‘brief’ period which is the time of witness and suffering of the church, elsewhere defined as ’42 months’, ‘1260 days’ and ‘three and a half years’, then verse 14 includes the battle which the New Testament repeatedly indicates is taking place for the duration of this interim. I lean towards the second option, and this is reflected in the comments below.

Revelation’s original readers, and we today, live in the midst of ‘Babylon’, surrounded by her allurements and surrounded by those intoxicated, maddened, by those allurements. Every day is a battle. Every day threatens those who are Christ’s with a whole range of pressures/temptations coming from the evil one, not the least of which is that human self-importance that characterizes ‘Babylon’. That this battle is raging is evident in the letters to the seven churches in Chapters 2 and 3. There the repeated challenging promise was ‘to him who overcomes…’ Surrounded by the temptations of ‘Babylon’ how can the redeemed possibly overcome?

Surrounded by the pressures of physical persecution or economic sanctions how can the redeemed possibly overcome? Surrounded by the pressure to conform to the ‘religion’ of the majority how can the redeemed possible overcome? We have seen in 12:11 that the saints ‘overcame … by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony’, and in 15:2 we saw ‘those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name’.
In the midst of the sinful and antagonistic world the saints do overcome. Because they are ‘with’ the Lamb, and he is victorious. He can be nothing else. They are his. They are his called, his chosen and his faithful followers. They are those to whom he promised:

That he would never drive them away [John 6:37].

That he will raise them up at the last day [John 6:44].

That no one can take them from his hand or from his Father’s hand [John 10:28,29].

They are those of whom Paul wrote in Romans 8, that nothing in the whole universe can separate them from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus their Lord.

This on-going and final victory of the Lamb is absolutely unquestionable: because he is ‘Lord of lords and King of kings’ [17:14]. It is simply not possible for him [and those with him] to lose the battle. He has far more power and far more authority than any of his enemies imagine. Indeed his power and authority are beyond their ability to imagine. This concept is taken up again in Revelation 19.

 

A. THE PRAISE OF HEAVEN – the punishment of the great prostitute: 19:1-5

Revelation has been progressively revealing various aspects of the ‘end’, not in a this-event-follows-that-event sequence, but in terms of various concurrent, simultaneous aspects of the one event. The punishment of ‘Babylon’ has just been described. 19:1-5 relates the praise that resounds from heaven because of that aspect of the ‘end’. [19:11-21 describes the ‘end’ in terms of what happens to the beast from the sea and the ‘false prophet’.]

But there is something bigger going on in 19:1-5 that we must not miss. Because of the simultaneous occurrence of every aspect of the ‘end’ this tumult of praise is in fact the tumult of praise that resounds in heaven after all aspects of the ‘end’ of evil have been accomplished. Not only is this rejoicing related to the previous vision of the ‘end’ of ‘Babylon’, it is also related to the as yet to be described visions of the ‘end’ of the two beasts [19:19-21], the ‘end’ of the devil, the dragon, in 20:10, and the ‘end’ of death and Hades in 20:14.

That this is so is obvious in the fourth element of praise recorded in Revelation 19: that ‘the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.’
No further praise is recorded in Revelation beyond 19:8. This praise in Revelation 19 is the exultation of heaven over the victory of God and his Lamb. It anticipates, it already sees and knows, all that is revealed to John subsequently.

A.1 The great multitude in heaven
John reports extremely loud praise in heaven. He heard ‘what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting …’ We are not given the identity of this great multitude, and it is possibly those who are mentioned again in verse 6. It could be the thousands upon thousands of angels mentioned in Chapter 5:11; it could be all the creatures of heaven and earth and sea of 5:13; or it could be the countless multitude of the redeemed mentioned in Chapter 7. Or it could be all of these. Whoever it is the sound of their praise is overwhelming. But it is also very clear.

A.2 Hallelujah!
This word combines the Hebrew ‘hallelu’ which means ‘praise’ – to celebrate, to boast about, even to rave about; and ‘jah’  - ‘the LORD’, the great I AM, the ever-living, ever-present, all-sufficient one. In the Old Testament it is translated by the phrase ‘Praise the LORD’, but there are other words also translated by this English phrase, so it is not immediately obvious where this ‘Hallelujah’ is used.

In its use in the Psalms there are three contexts which dominate: the almighty unsurpassed power and excellence of God, the faithfulness of God to his promises and the just judgment God brings upon the enemies of his people. All of these are relevant to the scene in Revelation 19. There the supreme power and excellence of God and the Lamb has been demonstrated; there the faithfulness of God to his promises has been seen; and there the just punishment of ‘Babylon’ has been witnessed. The first time it is used [Psalm 104:35 – the final ‘praise the LORD’] it follows immediately after a prayer for the removal of sinners from the earth – ‘may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more’. Here in Revelation 19 this ‘Praise the Lord’ resounds because that has come to pass.

This ‘Hallelujah’ comes from the unidentified multitude [verse 1,3], and from the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures [verse 4]. In verse 5 a voice from the throne commands ‘all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great’ to ‘Praise our God’. This command is followed by an even louder expression of praise from an unidentified source in verse 6.

A.3 Salvation and glory and power …
In a way reminiscent of Chapters 4 and 5, praise is ascribed to God in terms of his qualities. There those qualities included glory, honour and power [4:11] and ‘power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honour, glory, praise’ [5:12,13]. Here in Revelation 19 ‘salvation’ is added. ‘Salvation and glory and power belong to our God’. God is the one who saves, God is the one who is glorious, God is the one who is powerful. In the final battle all three have been demonstrated and confirmed. The powerful and multi-faceted enemy, the enemy intent on deception and destruction and who had deceived the whole world and led the whole world astray, was ranged against God, and God conquered. No one else could have done it.

A.5 … just and true are his judgments
Not only is God all-powerful, all-glorious and able to save, his actions, his judgments, his punishment of the enemy are just and true. [Compare 16:7.]

Even the godless crave justice. Even the unbelieving demand justice from the God they deny exists. The seeming injustice of the interim era is used by the unredeemed to excuse their determined rejection of God. But justice is embedded in God and justice is embedded in the principles by which he operates the universe. Justice will at the ‘end’ be meted out. We have seen this more than once in Revelation. We saw it particularly in 15:3 where the redeemed are singing ‘just and true are your ways’ and about God’s ‘righteous acts’. When the end comes it ought not surprise those who have heard his Word, for God has given repeated notice of the judgment that falls upon sin and evil.

As we have seen before, the present apparent absence of justice is not because God has discarded justice, but that God in his grace is giving time and space for repentance until the complete number of the redeemed are gathered into the kingdom.

Not only has God acted with justice, in bringing evil to its end, he has also acted with truth. His judgments, his punishments, are according to truth. They reflect the truth revealed in the Scripture, and they reflect the truth about those who are judged. There is no bias here. There is no twisting or by-passing the truth here. Nothing here is done on the basis of hearsay or maybe. The judgments God has brought upon the world and upon all that is evil are just and true.

A.6 He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth …
[Note that ‘condemned’ includes both the judgment and the punishment.]

We must not minimize the identity of ‘the great prostitute’ either in terms of time or of geography. There is a feeling of all-inclusiveness, of totality, here. She ‘corrupted the earth’ – not just one part of the earth, not just one era of the earth, but rather ‘the earth’. She intoxicated the inhabitants of the earth [17:2]. She enticed the kings and merchants of the earth [18:3,9,11,23]. She is the ‘mother of the abominations of the earth’ [17:5] and deceived the nations of the earth [18:23]. Just as the ‘dragon’ has deceived and led astray ‘the whole world’ [12:9]. Just as the beast from the earth, the false prophet, caused all who live on earth to worship the beast from the sea [13:12]. All are global and perennial in their impact.

A.7 He has avenged on her the blood of his servants
In 17:6 we read that ‘the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus’. In 18:24 we read ‘In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth’. God holds ‘the great prostitute’ responsible for it all. In 6:10 the cry of the saints went up to God asking ‘how long … until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ and in 16:6 we read of an angel affirming the justice of God in his judgment on the inhabitants of the earth ‘for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets …’

We have already seen the concept of God applying retributive justice on those who have harmed his people in our studies on 6:9-11; 15:2-4 and 16:5-7. This aspect of God’s justice is a serious part of the final battle/judgment.

To affirm the rightness of this the ‘Hallelujah’ of verse 1 is repeated by this immense multitude in verse 3. God is praised for the justice of his actions.

A.8 The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever
This statement is part of the thunderous praise of God for his punishment of the ‘great harlot’. A similar description is applied to the punishment of all who worship the beast and his image and receives his mark’ [14:9-11]. The concept of ‘for ever and ever’ is also applied to the ‘torment’ of the devil, the beast and the false prophet [20:10].

The punishment is permanent and absolute. God’s justice leaves nothing out. God’s justice leaves no possibility for a repeat offence. Since the beginning of the world the inhabitants of the earth have rejected God and his offer of grace. Now at the ‘end of the world’ they have received the net result of that rejection. They have received what they chose. This ‘end’ makes that choice permanent.

The ‘smoke’ is an apocalyptic symbol. It infers darkness. It infers fire – that is, pain. It infers loss. And that darkness, that loss, that pain, is permanent.

A. 9 The response of the elders and living creatures
Those twenty-four elders and four living creatures which we saw in earlier visions, close to the throne of God, and somehow indicative of God’s holiness, respond to the punishment of the great prostitute [and of all evil] by falling down and worshipping God, who was seated on the throne. They add their ‘Amen’ [a word signifying agreement] and their own ‘Hallelujah’ to those of the great multitude. In this they affirm the justice of the punishment.

A.10 Praise commanded
The great multitude in heaven praised God. The elders and living creatures praised God. Now a voice comes from the throne commanding all God’s servants, all who fear him, both small and great, to praise him. The ‘end’ of evil is a time for praise.

And even now, we who are still living before that end - all who are God’s servants - are commanded to praise him. That end is so sure. This is the message of Revelation to the suffering church: God has conquered. The Lamb has conquered. Evil, all that is evil, will be brought to an end. That is absolutely certain.

But have you noticed that Christians have an aversion to talking about the final judgment? About hell? About God’s just wrath? There is a feeling that it is somehow sub-Christian, that it doesn’t quite fit with the grace and forgiveness that characterizes the Gospel? We don’t quite feel that we ought to sound out the ‘Hallelujahs’ of Revelation 19 when God brings down his enemies, in particular his human enemies … our relatives, our associates. But it has just been commanded in 19:5 ‘Praise our God all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small’.

The perversity of our human hearts and minds, even our redeemed human hearts and minds, is so evident here: we want God to stop the suffering, we want God to bring justice to the earth, but when he does we are embarrassed by that justice.

And this raises serious questions about how little we really understand, and we realize yet again how greatly we are saved by grace alone and not at all by the depth or the clarity of our understanding.

How little we understand how abhorrent sin is to God.
How little we understand how far we have fallen from the glory God created us for.
How little we understand how great and how holy God is.
How little we understand how insignificant we are in comparison.
How little we understand the nature of evil.
How little we understand the wrath of God.
How little we understand what Jesus did and what he suffered on the cross in our place.

If we understood more, if we believed more all that the Bible tells us, we would not be so prone to excuse or minimize the expression and the implementation of God’s wrath upon the unbelieving world. We would indeed praise God that he has brought to an end all that opposed him, all that corrupted, all that destroyed the earth, all that brought dishonour to his name. And we would praise him that by his grace he has redeemed us from this final out-pouring of his wrath. And we would praise him even more that this redemption which we enjoy was bought with a price: the death of his beloved Son on whom he poured out the full measure of the same wrath that was due to us, the same wrath that is here poured out on the great harlot.

 

B. THE PRAISE OF GOD’S SERVANTS – the wedding of the Lamb: 19:6-8

Again the praise of a great multitude [at least of what sounded like a great multitude] anticipates the final end. Here in 19:6,7 we are taken in advance to the reality shown to John in Revelation 21:9-27.  For this shouting ‘multitude’ it is already a reality. Evil has been judged. From this perspective of praise the beast, the false prophet and the devil have already been judged. Now the ultimate reality is ushered in. Here is what all heaven has been waiting for. Here is what the universe itself has been waiting for. Here is what the redeemed have been waiting for. Here is what Jesus died for. Here is the ultimate expression of the eternal purpose God planned before time began.

Again the sound of praise is overwhelming, even more overwhelming than before: ‘like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder’. There is no escaping from this praise that reverberates through the whole universe intensely penetrating one’s whole being and irresistibly absorbing the listener into itself. [Talk to anyone who has stood behind a massive waterfall. Talk to anyone who has ridden in a perfect barrel in the surf.] For now, not only has evil been terminated, but good has been restored, that perfectly good relationship between God and man.  

Again the praise is begun with ‘Hallelujah!’ – praise to the I AM.

B.1 … our Lord God Almighty reigns
Whoever the speakers are they are people or beings or creatures that acknowledge God … he is not ‘the Lord …’ he is ‘our Lord …’. They are those who submit to him. They are those who recognize his right of authority over them. [And they are all who are left. ‘Babylon’ is gone. Every enemy is gone. We are already, in this vision, beyond the visions recorded in 19:11 – 20:15.]

From beginning to end the Bible affirms the sovereignty of God. God reigns. God is king. God is in control. God is the Almighty One. God is the only God and there is no one like him or comparable to him. He is the all-powerful One. He has no equals. He is the ruler of all [the pantokrator].

This word is used of God throughout Revelation:

1:8 – he is ‘the Lord God … the Almighty’ who is the Alpha and the Omega – the one from whom everything has its origin and existence, and the one in whom everything and everyone has its meaning and its completion.

4:8 – he is the thrice holy ‘Lord God Almighty’ – unequalled, incomparable, one-of-a-kind, the focus of the praise of heaven.

11:17 – he is the Lord God Almighty, the eternal one, the one who reigns; all the kingdoms of the world have become his kingdom.

15:3 – he is the Lord God Almighty, the King of all the ages, whose ways are just and true, and who should be feared and glorified by everyone.

16:7 – he is the Lord God Almighty whose judgments are just and true.

19:15 – he is God Almighty whose wrath is exacted by Jesus Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords.

21:22 – he is the Lord God Almighty in the light of whose permanent presence the redeemed enjoy the new heavens and the new earth.

But in the interim from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 it does not always look like God is Almighty. It does not look at all like he reigns. The world looks like a runaway world. Evil seems to triumph over good. Anti-god forces appear to dominate and to dictate. God seems impotent and helpless. When the godless look for excuses not to believe in God they find them shouting loudly from every direction. Faith in God appears to be pointless. There seems to be no sense in believing in a God who does not and cannot keep the world in the order he demands. His claims about himself have the distinct appearance of lies. Indeed, it does not seem that there is any god at all, worthy of the name, or worthy of human worship.

But the scripture states ‘The fool says in his heart “There is no God” [Psalm 14:1]. This is the ‘fool’ who looks only at what he sees and comes to his own conclusion. Blinded by the evil one he cannot see beyond or below the surface of things. He does not see the sovereign hand of God restraining the evil; he sees only the evil. He does not see the sovereign mercy of God redeeming people from the evil; he sees only the evil. He does not see the sovereign patience of God, bearing with the evil, bearing the blame for it century after century, while he allows humans time to repent of their personal evil; he sees only the evil. He does not recognize the sovereign God incarnate, God incognito, God in human flesh, God in Christ, triumphing over the evil by his cross, and redeeming us from the evil; he sees only the evil and the apparent absence and impotence of God.

Little does he realize that the God he despises and denies is his only hope for this life and for eternity. Little does he realize that he, in his arrogant assumption of knowledge and wisdom and understanding, is depriving himself of his own identity and of his own ultimate good.

Regardless of what it looks like … and it does look and feel terrible even for the redeemed in this interim of ‘suffering and kingdom’, in this tension between the already and the not yet, in this time in which the ‘two witnesses’ witness and the ‘woman dressed in the sun’ sojourns in the desert … the redeemed know that God is Almighty and God does reign. Revelation has been assuring us of this time and time again as we have seen in vision after vision the victory of the Lamb … not only his victory accomplished by his death, but also the ultimate and final victory in which the full fury of God’s wrath is poured out, and every single one of the enemies of God and his people are brought down.

Here in Revelation 19 in this final expression of praise and exultation the reign of God – the rule, the kingdom, the sovereignty of God – is celebrated. The justice of God has been implemented. The enemy has been brought down. The blood of God’s people has been avenged. [19:1-4].
God has done all that he said he would do. It is he, not the evil in any of its expressions, who reigns.

B.2 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory
The people of God exhort and encourage each other to participate in this exultant joyful praise directed to the glory of God. Just as the voice from the throne commanded all God’s servants to join in the praise of God because of the punishment of the ‘prostitute’, so now they encourage each other to ‘rejoice and be glad and give him glory’.

But there has been a shift in focus here. God is still to be praised - ‘give him glory’, but there is something else – those who belong to him are themselves to ‘rejoice and be glad’. The end of evil, the reign of God is to put joy and gladness in our hearts. We are exhorted not simply to glorify God, but to be personally full of joy and gladness and by that joy and gladness to glorify God. And this joy and gladness has an additional cause. Not only has evil been brought to its appointed end, not only does God reign, but now that these two are in place something else can also take place – the ‘wedding of the Lamb has come’. We will look at this shortly.

Let us pause and take a look at this ‘rejoice and be glad’. What does this end of evil mean for the redeemed? What difference does it make? Have we not already been rejoicing in Christ ever since we knew him? Have we not been rejoicing in our salvation ever since we received it in Christ? Yes. We have. But our joy has been mixed with sin and suffering and sorrow. Here, with the end of evil, there is no more sin, no more suffering no more sorrow. [As we saw already in Revelation 7 and as we will learn again in Revelation 21.]

The agony of the whole universe is ended [Romans 8:18-26].

The sin and imperfection that dogs our footsteps are no more [1John 3:2].

The pressures and temptations which assailed us are gone forever [Revelation 19:3].

The final redemption for which the universe has been waiting since Genesis 3 has come. The freedom and the peace and the joy of Genesis 1 and 2 are restored.

But there is something here now that was never there in Genesis 1 and 2. There is a deep and overwhelming emotion that goes far deeper than even thankfulness and gratitude … an emotion that wells up from the knowledge forever embedded deep within our hearts and minds of what this God and this Lamb did for our redemption, what this God and this Lamb did to save us from our sin and from their just wrath. Joy and gladness and glory to God. Glory to God … for only he could do, only he and the Lamb would do, what together they did for the redeemed.

B.3 For the wedding of the Lamb has come …
God reigns. Because he reigns evil has been removed. Because he reigns salvation has now been brought to its intended goal: God and man together forever. The ‘Lamb’ and his ‘Bride’ together … with nothing ever again coming in between. Nothing ever again diluting the joy of the Creator in his creature nor the joy of the creature in their Creator. Pure joy. Pure gladness. Pure glory. Pure love.

The imagery of betrothal, of weddings, of marriage, of marital faithfulness is used in the Bible of the ideal relationship between God and his people.

It speaks of an incredible love that has wiped out all past indiscretions [Isaiah 54:1-8].
It speaks of a permanent commitment that excludes all others [Hosea 2:19,23].
It speaks of a period of patient waiting [Matthew 25:1-13].
It speaks of rejoicing and celebration [Matthew 22:2; John 3:29].
It speaks of sacrificial love [Ephesians 5:25].
It speaks of the purity of the bride [Ephesians 5:25-27].

In the Hebrew culture the betrothal was a binding commitment. Between the betrothal and the wedding was a period of preparation. This symbolic betrothal period has ended. The symbolic consummation, the symbolic wedding, has come. Our salvation through the death of Christ parallels the betrothal. Our final redemption at his second coming parallels the ‘wedding’.

This eternal and perfect union between Christ and those who believe in him was in Christ’s mind before his death [John 14:3; 17:24]. Christ set himself apart for those who believe in him [John 17:19] and asked his Father to set them apart for him [verse 17]. This is the identity of all who believe – sanctified, set apart for this sacred purpose: set apart for Jesus Christ.

And as we have seen previously, this eternal and perfect union between Christ and those who believe in him was in God’s mind before the creation of the world. This multi-national ‘bride’ of Christ is the eternal purpose of God, the mystery kept hidden for generations, but revealed in Christ [Ephesians 3:11].

We must not overlook the fact that it is the wedding ‘of the Lamb’. The use of the symbol of ‘the Lamb’, rather than any of the exalted divine titles of Jesus, keeps us in touch with his sin-bearing death, and in doing so reminds us of the price paid for our redemption. If we are meant to sustain the imagery of a wedding we could refer to the ‘dowry’ which the bridegroom paid. In any case, ‘the Lamb’, this eternal and divine ‘bridegroom’, has secured this final consummation of the purpose of God. The ‘wedding’ will take place. The ‘bride’ will not and cannot default. The ‘Lamb’ has already ‘freed us from our sins by his blood’ [Revelation 1:5]. He has already ‘made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father’ [1:6]. He has already ‘purchased (us) for God’ [5:9]. Nothing that happens during the period of ‘betrothal’ can reverse what has been accomplished by the ‘Lamb’.

B.3 … his bride has made herself ready …
The ‘bride’ is all the redeemed, collectively symbolised as one ‘bride’. [The Greek actually uses the word ‘wife’. We could possibly see this as a direct contrast to the ‘great prostitute’, the ‘woman’ of Revelation 17:3ff. The Greek word for ‘wife’ is also the word for ‘woman’. This ‘wife/woman’ of the ‘Lamb’ is also the ‘woman’ of Revelation 12:11-17.]

‘has made herself ready’ is in the Aorist Tense, and thus speaks of a deliberate and decisive action, not an on-going action. This is not speaking of a long period of progressive sanctification during which ‘the bride’ has become increasingly godly.

B.4 Fine linen … was given to her …
Herein is the readiness, the preparedness, of the ‘bride’. In the context of the bridal imagery getting ready is getting dressed in the bridal garments. The ‘bride’ of the Lamb has made herself ready by putting on the wedding garments provided by the Lamb. We have seen these garments previously in Revelation [3:4,5,18; 6:11; 7:9,13,14]. Verse 8 informs us that this ‘fine linen, bright and clean’ was given to the ‘bride’ to wear. Then verse 8 further explains that this ‘fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints’ [NIV translation], but this translation creates a significant difficulty for our understanding. The KJV reads ‘the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints’. The Greek word used here is dikaioma, which was also used in 15:4. [See notes above.]

Here we come face to face with an issue which has concerned believers throughout the history of the Church: on the last day does our salvation depend on the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to those who believe in him? Or does our salvation depend on whether or not we have kept enough rules and regulations? Whose ‘righteousness’ saves us? Whose ‘righteousness’ is this ‘fine linen’ given to the ‘bride’? Who provides this ‘fine linen’ – the saints or the Lamb?

Let us hear what the text says: the fine linen bright and clean was given her to wear’. In 7:14 we are taught that the robes of the redeemed are ‘white’ because they have been washed and made white in ‘the blood of the Lamb’. This ‘fine linen bright and clean’ is the perfect imputed righteousness of Christ. This imputed [credited] righteousness is described by Paul as ‘the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’, the ‘righteousness from God … that is by faith from first to last’ [Romans 1:16,17]. It is the ‘righteousness from God, apart from law’ that ‘comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’ [Romans 3:21,22], sometimes referred to as being ‘justified through faith’ [Romans 5:1]. It is this righteousness that Paul chose, counting his own perceived personal ‘righteousness’ as excreta [Philippians 3:4-10].

In the Pauline references above the words used are the noun ‘dikaiosune’ and the verb ‘dikaioo’. Both are legal terms referring to acquittal – to being declared ‘not guilty’.

As indicated, the word used in Revelation 19:8 is dikaioma. It is obviously related to the above words. Leon Morris asserts that nowhere does it appear to mean the ‘righteous acts’ of human beings. Its primary meaning is something like ‘ordinances’ [the requirements of God’s law – as in Luke 1:6; Romans 1:32; 2:26; Hebrews 9:1,10]. However, in Romans 5:16 and 18 it is used of the ‘righteousness’, the ‘justification’, given to those who believe in Christ, on the basis of his legal righteousness. Similarly in Romans 8:4, it refers to the ‘righteous requirements of the law, which we could not fulfil, but which Jesus did, and by doing so delivered us totally from the condemnation that was due to us because of our failure to do so.

This ‘fine linen, bright and clean’ is not the puny and polluted ‘righteousness’ that we might assume we have achieved by our own efforts, but that perfect righteousness of the Lamb granted to all who believe in him. He is ‘the LORD our righteousness’ [Jeremiah 23:6: 33:16]. He is ‘our righteousness’ [1Corinthians 1:30]. He is the suffering servant of the Lord who justifies [declares righteous] many [Isaiah 53:11]. This righteousness of Christ is the ‘fine linen, bright and clean’, given by the Lamb to his ‘bride’, with which the ‘bride’ has made herself ready.

 

C. JOHN AND THE ANGEL – 19:9-10

The symbolic imagery changes. While the ‘bride’ is comprised of the redeemed, the saints, the Church, collectively, each individual believer now comes into focus, and instead of the topic being the ‘wedding of the Lamb’ it is ‘the wedding supper of the Lamb’. Every individual believer is ‘invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb’. We must not let this change of imagery bother us. There is far too much truth to be communicated by one image. Multiple images and necessary to communicate the multi-faceted truth of the Gospel – the good news. It is this image of invitation to the wedding feast that Jesus himself used.

The point here in Revelation 19:9 is ‘blessed’ are those who are invited. Or, as the Greek text has is ‘blessed are those who are called into’ the wedding feast.

These are those same people whom the New Testament refers to as:
Those called by God, justified by God and glorified by God [Romans 8:30].
Those called by God from both Jews and Gentiles [Romans 9:24].
Those called by God into fellowship with his Son [1Corinthians 1:9].
Those called by the grace of Christ [Galatians 1:6].
Those called by God into his kingdom and glory [1Thessalonians 2:12].
Those called by God through the gospel, that they might share in the glory of Christ [2Thess. 2:14].
Those called to eternal life [1Timothy 6:12].
Those called because of God’s purpose and grace [2Timothy 1:9].
Those called by God out of darkness into his wonderful light [1Peter 2:9].
Those called by God to his eternal glory in Christ [1Peter 5:10].
Those called by God by his own glory and goodness [2Peter 1:3].

All the redeemed are here at this wedding feast of the Lamb. From Abel right down through history unto the last moment of repentance … all are here. And all are blessed. This is not a wedding celebration that lasts just for a couple of hours. Nor is it a wedding celebration that lasts for a week or two, as the Jewish celebrations could. This is an eternal celebration. This is eternal joy. This is eternal gladness. This is eternity spent in the presence and the love of the One who sits on the throne, and of the Lamb.

But we will see more of this in Chapters 21 and 22.

John was so overwhelmed by the prospect that has been presented to him by these symbols that he sought to worship the angelic messenger. The angel prohibits such worship, affirming that he is a ‘fellow servant’ with John and with all faithful believers. The angel instructs him to ‘worship God’.

The angel refers to himself and believers as those ‘who hold to the testimony of Jesus’. The verb translated ‘hold to’ is simply the word ‘have’, as we have seen previously [6:9; 12:7]. All believers ‘have’ the testimony of Jesus, the Gospel. They have in their knowledge and in their possession, the testimony of Jesus. They know and acknowledge the truth.

The angel explains further that ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’. From the very first word about Jesus in Genesis 3:15 the truth about Jesus permeates the Scripture. As we have seen early in these studies, Jesus Christ is the eschatos – he is the last, the end, the consummation towards which the whole of human history and the whole of the scripture is directed. In him all the purposes of God are fulfilled.