An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 25 June 2011; Revised 20 January 2021
Scripture: The Revelation Scripture text is taken from the NASB (1977 Edition) and unless otherwise indicated other Scripture quotations are from the NASB 1995 Updated Edition. Other Bible versions are also quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Works by early church fathers are available online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library or Early Christian Writings. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75-99 A.D.). Online.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from Walter Bauer, W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (1957), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
The Fourfold Hallelujah (19:1-6)
1― After these things I heard, as it were, a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God;
After: Grk. meta, prep. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The opening phrase refers to the narrative of Chapters Seventeen and Eighteen. I heard: Grk. akouō, aor., properly to hear aurally and in Scripture with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend with the ears, but also to accept and to act upon what has been heard (DNTT 2:173). John's attention is now drawn toward the sound of exuberant praise. as it were: Grk. hōs, adv., as, like as, even as, according as, in the same manner as.
a great: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, which may relate to (1) number; many, much, numerous; or (2) high degree of quantity or quality; extensive, great, large, many, much, plentiful. The first meaning applies here. multitude. Grk. ochlos refers to an aggregate of people. In 7:9 John saw a "great multitude" that consisted of the martyrs of the great tribulation (7:9, 14). Now John hears a great multitude, but does not mention seeing them.
in: Grk. en, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Danker). There is also no identification offered of the crowd, although the location and nature of the praise would indicate they are the citizens of heaven named in 18:20. What a contrast to the laments in the previous chapter! The congregation responds enthusiastically to the command of 18:20 to "rejoice" over the judgment of the great harlot Babylon. The content of the praise that follows is parallel to the praise offered by the four living creatures and twenty-four elders in 4:9ff.
Hallelujah: Grk. hallēlouia transliterates the Heb. halelu-yah, a combination of two Heb. words that mean "Praise Yah!" (Stern). The Hebrew construction occurs over thirty times in the Psalms, the most in any one book in the Scriptures, and introduces and ends several Psalms (106, 111-113, 117, 135, and 146-150). In the apostolic writings the word "hallelujah" occurs only in this chapter. Psalms 113–118 is called the Great Hallel and is sung chiefly at the feasts of Passover and Booths (Robertson). The Midrashic sources also unanimously associate the Hallel with the destruction of the wicked, exactly as this passage in Revelation does (Johnson).
Declarations of praise and thanksgiving were prominent features of congregational worship services in the first century. There was genuine joy that overflowed because of God's daily works of grace and power in people's lives. "Hallelujah" is both a declaration and an intention. Serving as a preparatory exhortation, "hallelujah" announces that God is worthy of praise and informs God and others that suitable praise will follow. The Psalmists repeatedly use this form of tribute to God.
As is well known, this section of Revelation inspired the "Hallelujah Chorus" in the great oratorio Messiah by George F. Handel who used the words of the KJV from this verse, 19:6, 19:16 and 11:15. In fact, Messianic prophecies and other verses from the Bible about Yeshua constitute its entire libretto (Stern 838).
Salvation: Grk. sōtēria is used in the sense of preservation in danger, deliverance from impending death or eternal salvation. The context of this important theological term is the loss of freedom. "Whenever men by their own fault or through some superior power have come under the control of someone else, and have lost their freedom to implement their will and decisions, and when their own resources are inadequate to deal with that other power, they can regain their freedom only by the intervention of a third party" (DNTT 3:177). That third party is the God of Israel and his agent to accomplish deliverance is the Messiah. In the LXX sōtēria translates six different Hebrew formations derived from the root verb yasha, to deliver (DNTT 3:206).
The multitude enthusiastically praises God for salvation. The theme of salvation is also part of the Great Hallel. In Bible times the last day of Sukkot, the Feast of Booths, included ordinary people waving their palm leaves and chanting the Hallel, which includes in its closing verses:
"Please, ADONAI, Save us!’ Please, ADONAI, Rescue us! Blessed is he who comes in the name of ADONAI! We bless you from the house of ADONAI." (Ps 118:25-26 CJB)
The plea to "save us" led to the day being called Hoshana Rabbah, the Great Hosanna. The prayer had Messianic implications and was shouted as Yeshua entered Jerusalem a few days before his crucifixion. The prayer was also a petition for the covering of sin, for Hoshana Rabbah was understood to be the absolutely final chance to have one's sins for the year forgiven (Stern 178f). The message of Yeshua on the last day of this feast that He had living water for the thirsty (John 7:37f) was the answer for the prayer of the people. Being "saved" is such a common word in the Christian's vocabulary that unbelievers do not comprehend the import of the concept and even Christians may not appreciate the full significance of the word until this day before the throne of God. The rejoicing of the redeemed acknowledges that salvation is no longer a petition, but an accomplished reality.
and glory: Grk. doxa may refer to an impressive appearance or a good opinion (Danker). In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod, which refers to the luminous manifestation of God's person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). The word "glory" refers to the awesome majesty of His presence and, because of His salvation, the congregation is able to see and experience His glory.
and power: Grk. dunamis may be translated "power," "strength" or "might." In the apostolic writings dunamis is primarily used to refer to the power of God. In ordinary usage the Greek word suggests the inherent capacity of someone to carry something out, whether it be physical, spiritual, military or political (DNTT 2:601). In the LXX dunamis was used to translate Hebrew words that referred to military forces or the power of a ruler (DNTT 2:602). Here the praise refers to the inexhaustible resources God possesses to carry out His will both in salvation and judgment. The praise asserts that salvation, glory and power belong to our God, since His works are indistinguishable from His nature. It must always be remembered that the God given such praise in the Bible is the God of Israel and the Jews. Gentile disciples only have the right to refer to Him as "our God" by virtue of being grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel.
2― BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and HE HAS AVENGED THE BLOOD OF HIS BOND-SERVANTS ON HER."
HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS: The multitude continues by declaring that their passion and purpose for praise is grounded in the nature of God's judgments, perhaps an allusion to David's assertion, "The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether" (Ps 19:9). The Lord's judgments are "true" because He is faithful to His promises to do justice for His children. His judgments are "righteous" because they are in perfect accord with the standards of His Torah. Unlike earthly legislators and rulers who make laws they do not live by or enforce, God carries out the intention of His Law for justice.
He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting: Grk. phtheirō, impf., means to destroy, ruin, corrupt or spoil. In ancient Greek literature phtheirō is used to speak of ruining financially, destroying a marriage, seducing a virgin, breaking the rules of a contest, corrupting someone's morals or religion with erroneous teaching or immorality, or ruining something by misleading tactics. the earth with her immorality: Grk. porneia. See 17:2 on "immorality."
John is reminded again of Babylon's crime of corrupting the earth, which may echo one of two concepts in Scripture. First, "the earth" may mean the people of the earth, as reported of the antediluvian world, "Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth" (Gen 6:11f). Unfortunately, the corruption of killing and murder did not cease when the world was reduced to one family, but was reborn in Babylon and the legacy of death was transmitted to every generation in every part of the world (18:24). Second, "the earth" may mean the land and represent the Hebrew idiom of "defiling the land" found in the Torah. In the Torah two evils especially defiled the land or rendered it unclean – immorality (Lev 18:24f; Deut 24:4) and murder (Gen 4:10; Num 35:33f) and Babylon is charged with committing both abominations.
HE HAS AVENGED: Grk. ekdikeō, aor., means to avenge someone, procure justice for someone, take vengeance or punish for some wrong. THE BLOOD: Grk. haima, blood that circulates in a body, here of humans. The noun has a variety of figurative uses and here denotes spilling of blood by violence. OF HIS BOND-SERVANTS: pl. of Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. word ebed, which similarly described someone enslaved after being captured in war or in order to pay a debt, whether voluntarily or involuntarily (cf. Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 44, 47). In addition, ebed identified those who served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593ff).
The noun is used in Revelation as a designation of Yeshua followers (cf. Acts 2:18; Eph 6:6; 1Pet 2:16). The Hebrew concept of a servant of the Lord is intended here. Spiritual leaders of Israel were known by other descriptive titles, but the greatest honor of all was to be called a servant of God. Being a servant is more than simply being born again, but being consecrated to God and devoted to righteousness (Rom 6:18).
ON HER: The Greek construction ek cheiros autēs (lit. "from her hand"), translated "on her," is a Hebrew idiom and means "to exact punishment from a murderer" (Mounce). The KJV and DRA translate the idiom as "at her hand(s)," emphasizing the harlot's responsibility for the deaths. The CJB settles the distinction by translating the idiom as "He has taken vengeance on her who has the blood of his servants on her hands."
The last part of the praise was foreshadowed in the Torah command, "Rejoice, O nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people" (Deut 32:43). The verb "avenged" means that God answered the prayer of the martyrs for justice and imposed appropriate punishment on Babylon. Avenge and revenge are not the same. Revenge is man flouting God's rule of law by either using the law unlawfully, as the unbelieving Jewish leaders did in the trial of Yeshua (Acts 7:52f), or simply ignoring God's prohibition of a personal vendetta (Rom 12:19). God asserted His authority over the proper use of vengeance from the beginning by incorporating a justice code in His Torah.
When God asserted that vengeance belongs to Him, He did not mean that He was the only one allowed to carry out vengeance. Rather, God meant that only He had the right to determine the conditions under which justifiable vengeance could be conducted. To assure the appropriate administration of vengeance God delegated to human government the authority and the duty to exact life for life (Gen 9:6; Rom 13:1-4; 1Pet 2:13f). By God's justice the only way to cleanse the land from murder is with the death of the murderer (Num 35:33). However, when man's government and institutions reject God's rule of law, "what can the righteous do?" (Ps 11:3), but look to the heavenly court for justice. The saints are gratified that the heavenly Judge has ruled in their favor and exacted the just penalty on their persecutors. See 6:10 on the cry of the martyrs for justice.
3― And a second time they said, "Hallelujah! HER SMOKE RISES UP FOREVER AND EVER."
And a second time they said: The joy of the multitude wells up again, as John matter-of-factly notes. HER SMOKE RISES UP: The shout of "Hallelujah" is heard followed by praise for Babylon's ruin (18:8, 18) that continues for eternity. The reference to the smoke rising "forever and ever" alludes to Isaiah's prophecy, "It will not be quenched night or day; Its smoke will go up forever. From generation to generation it will be desolate; none will pass through it forever and ever" (Isa 34:10). While the idiom in Isaiah would be hyperbole as applied to the physical destruction of the city of Babylon, the spiritual meaning points to the intransigence of God's holy nature and standards that will never moderate toward Babylon, its philosophy, its idolatry, or its pseudo-science. The eternal smoke especially refers to the horrors of hell that Babylon's citizens will face, as well as those who take the mark of the beast (14:11). The fire and smoke that took place in one hour on one day (18:2) will continue for eternity.
4― And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!"
fell down and worshiped: As with their custom of adoration and submission in Chapter Four, the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures join the praise and prostrate themselves before the Creator. Many think they have worshipped if they go through a religious ritual or have an emotional experience in a church service. Yeshua corrected the Samaritan woman for similar misconceptions (John 4:21-24). The root meaning of the word "worship" is to bow down. In every day life worship is sacrificially bowing down to the will of God in obedience (cf. Rom 12:1-2). The first mention of "worship" in the Bible occurs in connection with Abraham obeying God to sacrifice his son (Gen 22:5). True worship is costly. Even though angels do not suffer and have no need of salvation, the angelic order agrees with the praise of the redeemed by saying "amen" and adding their own "hallelujah!" The praise of the angels demonstrates the divine principle given to God's people to "rejoice with those who rejoice" (Rom 12:15).
5― And a voice came from the throne, saying, "Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great."
The praise of the multitude, creatures and elders is so pleasing that a "voice" comes from the altar calling for more praise. This is the third time John hears a "voice" coming from the altar (cf. 9:13; 16:7). The "voice" is not identified, but as on the other occasions it is not likely to be the Father speaking, and may be the Lord's angel charged with communicating the prophetic Word to John (1:1). John may not have seen the speaker so he could only report what he heard. The admonition to praise may seem strange since the multitude has twice shouted "hallelujah." However, the verb "praise" is a present imperative, which would mean "do not stop praising; keep it up."
Unlike the census categories of 7:9 based on ethnicity, the multitude is further described in three ways. all you His bond-servants: pl. of Grk. doulos. See verse 2 above. The ones who praise God are servants at heart. you who fear Him: Grk. phobeomai, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) to be afraid or frightened; or (2) have reverence or respect for God or men who command respect. The second meaning applies here. The phrase "you who fear Him" may be a parenthetical comment on "bond-servant," but can also stand alone as a description. The fear of the Lord keeps the saint from treating God lightly or assuming that he can violate God's law and get away with it.
the small: Grk. mikros, adj., relatively limited in extent, used (1) of persons as a measure of physical height, age and social position relative to importance, influence or power; (2) of things whether in size, number, significance or time; and (3) as a substantive to mean a short time, a little while (BAG). The first usage is intended here. In the LXX mikros (in its neuter form mikron) appears about 190 times to translate a variety of concepts of which Heb. qatan (SH-6996), small, young, unimportant (first in Gen 19:11) is frequent (DNTT 2:428).
and: Grk. kai. the great: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great, large. The phrase "the small and the great" is a Hebrew idiomatic expression for the "young and old" (BAG 498; Ladd). Josephus uses the same expression in describing masters of slaves (Ant. XII, 4:8). The phrase also occurs at 13:16, 11:18; 19:18 and 20:12. In other words, the redeemed is an inclusive group that spans all age levels.
The Marriage Announcement (19:6-10)
6― And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
And I heard: John offers yet another affirmation of his personal experience. He didn't make this up. the voice of a great multitude: The great multitude responds immediately to the encouragement of the altar voice and apparently increases their volume. John likened the intensity and loudness of the sound from millions of believers to "many waters" and rolling thunder. Perhaps John drew from an experience on Patmos of an intense thunderstorm with torrential rains and pounding surf. One can only imagine the building crescendo of joyful praise flowing from the exhilaration of the saints at the greatness and goodness of God. The emotional and spiritual "highs" that may be experienced in worship services now are only a foretaste of the praise that will pour forth with abandon in the presence of the King.
the Almighty: Grk. pantokratōr refers to God as the mighty ruler of all, the Almighty. In biblical usage it emphasizes more God's supremacy over all things than just his omnipotence (Rienecker). Ladd suggests translating the word as "All-Ruler." Pantokratōr is not found earlier than the LXX and in Greek literature is used as a title for pagan deities (DNTT 3:717). In the LXX pantokratōr renders Sebaot, ("armies" or "hosts") in the prophetical books in references to the "Lord of Hosts" and Shaddai ("sufficient" or "almighty") in Job. However, given the context here Sebaot is much more likely to stand behind the Greek word than Shaddai.
In its Hebrew origins the title "Almighty" has military overtones and refers specifically to God being the ruler over the armies of heaven (Stern). With such resources at his disposal the Lord God becomes the mightiest Warrior and invincible King. In the last days the nations and the dragon will wage a fierce war against the saints and Mount Zion, but the Almighty God will vanquish all his foes. The Lord God's rulership also extends to control over the entire universe and all processes of nature on earth. Indeed, these resources are included in his vast arsenal to punish and defeat the enemy.
reigns: Grk. basileuō, aor., to reign. While the aorist tense would ordinarily be translated as "reigned," Mounce classifies the verb as an inceptive aorist, "has taken up His reign." The key emphasis of this round of praise is on the present reality of God's reign. The Lord's universal reign over the earth and the nations is a strong affirmation in Scripture and the saints are frequently urged to acknowledge the fact in praise (1Chr 16:31; 20:6; 29:11; Ps 22:28; 47:2, 8; 83:18; 93:1; 96:10; 97:1, 9; 99:1; 103:19; 145:13; Is 52:7; Dan 4:3, 25f, 32, 34; 5:21).
God's reign began by virtue of His creation of the heavens and the earth, as well as all life, and since creation God has controlled and maintained all physical processes, even at the atomic level, all of which serves the needs of man (Gen 1:1; 1Chr 16:30; Ps 19:1-6; 93:1; 96:10; 139:13; Isa 40:21f; 45:7, 12, 18; 51:13; Jer 51:15; Zech 12:1; Matt 5:45; Heb 1:3). Satan may be the "god of this world" (2Cor 4:4; cf. 1Jn 5:19), referring to whom most the people and institutions of this world really serve, but God controls history, determines rulers, and directs individual lives (Gen 15:7; Ex 6:6; Neh 9:6; Ps 139:16; Prov 16:9; 21:1; Jer 1:5; Isa 40:23; 41:13; 43:13ff; 45:1-4; 46:10; Acts 4:27f; 17:26; 1Cor 12:11, 18). God continues to reign, even on the earth, to accomplish all His good pleasure (Deut 4:39). Our God reigns!!
7― "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."
Let us rejoice: Grk. chairō, pres. subj., be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance, thus be happy, glad, delighted or rejoice. and be glad: Grk. agalliaō, pres. subj., be exuberantly joyful, thus rejoice or exult. and give: Grk. didomi, aor. subj., to give. Three times the hortatory subjunctive is used to exhort others to participate with the speaker in the desired acts of rejoicing, being glad and giving glory. the glory: Grk. doxa originally meant opinion, conjecture, praise or repute in secular Greek in regard to what one thought about a person or thing. In the LXX doxa renders Heb. kabod (pronounced "kah-vohd"), "abundance, honor, glory" (SH-3519; BDB 458). Kabod does include the meanings of dignity of position, reputation of character and the reverence due to or ascribed to someone, and is frequently used for the honor brought or given to God (e.g., Ps 29:1; Isa 42:12).
In the Besekh doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). The Hebrew idiom "give glory" means that someone deserves respect, attention and obedience (TWOT 1:427) and as an act of praise to acknowledge sovereignty (Shulam 171). Giving glory to God may acclaim the might of His creative power (Ps 19:1), laud His covenant faithfulness (Ps 115:1), or extol the greatness of His kingdom (Ps 145:11-12). In legal settings giving God glory meant to openly tell the truth before the Judge of the universe (cf. Josh 7:19; John 9:24).
to Him for the marriage: Grk. gamos may refer to marriage, a wedding or the marriage celebration. The process of getting married in Jewish culture may be pieced together from various stories in the Bible and the Apocrypha, and instructions found in the Talmud. The Ketubot (prenuptial agreements) and Kiddushin (betrothal) tractates in the Nashim ("women" or "wives") portion of the Mishnah contain the most definitive information on laws that governed Jewish marriage. The Mishnah (c. 200 A.D.) is the written compendium of Jewish halakhic law and is generally assumed to represent the beliefs, customs and traditions of Jews in the first century. Nevertheless, while there were essential elements in all the marriages, the biblical stories illustrate that no two weddings were exactly alike, since the process was controlled by the parents - not priests, rabbis or government. In fact, as Bob Gundry says, "Our ignorance of ancient Semitic marriage customs exceeds our knowledge" (95). See my web article Marriage in Ancient Israel.
Jewish marriage was essentially a two ceremony process. If the marriage proposal was accepted then the groom could perform a betrothal ceremony. Prior to Moses a man would take a wife at will by obtaining her consent and then taking her into his tent or house and having intercourse in private. From that point on she was his wife (e.g., Gen 25:1; 38:1-3; Ex 2:1). The Torah introduced the concept of betrothal in which a man acquired the bride of his choice in the presence of witnesses (Ex 22:16; Deut 20:7; 22:23, 25; 24:1; 28:30; cf. Ruth 4:9-11). According to the Mishnah (Kiddushin 1:1), a woman could be acquired [in marriage] in three ways: by money or its equivalent (Gen 29:18; 34:12; Ex 21:11; 22:16), by deed (Gen 24:3-4; Judg 14:2; Ruth 4:9-10), or by intercourse (Deut 22:28-29). A deed was almost always involved because marriage included a transfer of property.
Jewish betrothal is not like the Gentile concept of engagement, which is only a promise of marriage. Betrothal was also called Heb. kiddushin, "sanctification," and meant that from that point the woman belonged to the man. The word kiddushin comes from the same root word as kadosh ("holy"). Just as kodesh ("holy things") are forbidden to all but those for whom they are designated, so too does this woman become forbidden to all men but to whom she has now been designated. Betrothal made the woman a legal wife and her status could only be changed by divorce or death. Betrothal was usually accomplished by the groom giving a coin or ring to the prospective bride and her acceptance of the token accomplished kiddushin.
Marriage was completed by the groom taking the bride into a room or his house for consummation, called nisuin. The Hebrew word nisuin ("elevation") comes from a verb that means to lift up, to carry or to take. The wife has left her father's authority and now belongs fully to her husband, just as Chavah ("Eve") belonged to Adam when God presented her to him. In biblical accounts a wife never takes a husband, but a husband takes a wife (e.g., Gen 4:19; 6:2; 11:29; 1Sam 25:39; Hos 1:2). The wedding ceremony, if there was one, was determined by local custom and the wishes of the parents.
of the Lamb: In this instance God's people rejoice and give glory by voicing their joy for the impending marriage feast to celebrate the reunion between Yeshua and the saints. Together the members of the Commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12) are depicted as "the bride," the pure virgin betrothed to the Messiah. In the Tanakh Israel is pictured as the wife of God (Isa 54:1-8; 62:4f; Jer 31:31; Ezek 16:1ff; Hos 2:19) and several passages in the apostolic writings depict the imagery of the Messiah as a bridegroom and the Kingdom being inaugurated by a wedding (Stern). (Matthew 22:1-14, 25:1-13; Mark 2:18-20; John 3:28-30; Romans 7:1-4; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20; 2 Corinthians 11:2; and Ephesians 5:25-33.) has come: Grk. erchomai, aor., to come or arrive. To say that the divine marriage "has come" means that in the sequence of the narrative the time for the wedding ceremony has now arrived after all the events depicted in the seals, trumpets and bowls.
and His bride: Grk. gunē may mean any adult female, but sometimes more specifically a married woman. has made herself ready: Grk. hetoimazō, aor., to prepare or make ready. This statement is probably an allusion to the Jewish customs followed by a bride and groom in preparing for their wedding. The bride had a maximum of twelve months from the time of the betrothal to prepare her marriage "outfit," which included her jewels and ornaments. The groom also had twelve months to make preparations for the wedding dinner and the bridal chamber or huppah. Spiritually speaking, Yeshua did the primary preparation by initiating the marriage covenant and making the salvation provision, but the bride had to agree to the terms of the covenant and live by them.
The bride has worked out her salvation with fear and trembling, demonstrating her loyalty even as the bridegroom proved His reliability. This reference to the bride being ready represents, then, a fulfillment of the admonition of Yeshua to "be prepared" (Matt 24:44), which He said at the close of a parable about the Second Coming. Preparation, consisting of godly living and watchful expectancy, obviously occurs during this life. Readiness is not something that can be developed after death, which seals the eternal destiny for all.
8― And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
And it was given to her to clothe: Grk. periballō, aor. mid. subj., means lit. "to fling around" (Robertson). herself in fine linen: In ancient times linen was an expensive cloth used to make the garments worn by priests and royalty (Johnson). The bride, a metaphor representing all the faithful of Israel and the grafted-in Gentile believers who are one people of God, is given the gift of new clothing, "fine linen" from the bridegroom. It should also be noted that while in God's perfect world of Eden Adam and Eve were naked, in the new earth the saints will be clothed. One may wonder how an earthly product like linen can be in heaven (cf. Heb 8:4-5; 9:23). Actually there are many things on earth that are poor copies of what is in heaven. Heaven's linen will be far superior in quality and durability than any linen produced on earth.
bright: Grk. lampros can mean bright, shining, radiant or gleaming. and clean: Grk. katharos, free from contamination. The dual characteristic of "bright and clean" may have reminded John particularly of the vestments worn by the ordinary Jewish priest. The vestment material was linen, or, more accurately, "’byssus," the white shining cotton-stuff of Egypt (Edersheim-Temple 68). the righteous acts: Grk. dikaiōma, an act which is right according to the Lord and a concrete expression of righteousness. of the saints: pl. of Grk. hagios, set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of God and therefore holy or sacred; lit. "holy ones." The hagios word-group translates the Heb. qadôsh, "holy," and its derivatives (DNTT 2:224), which means to be separated from what is common, unclean or contrary to God’s holiness.
In the Tanakh the term is used for the nation of Israel as the people of God (Deut 7:6; Job 15:15; Ps 16:3; 34:9; 89:5, 7; Dan 7:18, 21-22, 25, 27; 8:24; Zech 14:5). The label originated when God called Israel to be a people consecrated to worship and obey Him. The term succeeds in having a corporate meaning as well as an individual meaning. In later Jewish literature the plural hagioi is used for members of the Jerusalem priestly community (1Macc 1:46; 7:17). The community of Qumran described itself as "the holy ones of His people" (1QM 6:6), "we, your holy people" (1QM 14:12), "separate from the session of perverse men" (1QS 8:13) and the "Yahad [unity] of Holiness" (1QS 8:21) (TDSS).
In 1QS 8:21 the Essenes defined the Yahad of Holiness as those who walk blamelessly as God commanded. Paul addressed most of his congregational letters to the "holy ones." These congregations were well acquainted with the LXX and the usage of hagioi for the holy ones of Israel would have significant meaning for the Jews in the congregation. The "holy one" shares a likeness of nature with Yeshua, but apostolic usage never intended the label of "holy ones" in any elitist sense. The historical restriction of "saints," from the Latin sanctus, in Christianity to designate only the apostles and later Christian leaders acclaimed for their ministry and miracles is unfortunate and misleading as to the meaning of the term in Scripture. In fact, the word "saint" is so associated with its usage in Christianity, that it has lost all its Jewish significance in the English language. When a Christian reads "saints" in his Bible he naturally thinks "Christians," however it is defined in his denomination.
The true "holy ones" are those who have accepted the truth of the Good News of the Messiah, repented of their sins, put their trust in the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua for their sins and separated themselves to be faithful to their Lord (Col 1:2). Being a "holy one" is a high level of devotion to which all disciples are called (Rom 1:7; 1Cor 1:2; Eph 1:18). The "holy ones" are those who are wholly His and who seek to live by His Torah standards of righteousness (Eph 5:3-16; Rev 12:17; 14:12). The "holy ones" comprehend the full measure of the love of God in Messiah (Eph 3:18-19). The "holy ones" are to receive prayer support in the Body of Messiah (Eph 6:18). The "holy ones" care for the needy within the Body of Messiah (Rom 12:13; 16:2). The "holy ones" are fit to hear and decide disputes between believers (1Cor 6:1).
It is the "holy ones" for whom the Spirit intercedes according to the will of the Father (Rom 8:27). The "holy ones" are bold intercessors so that their prayers are remembered in Heaven (Rev 5:8; 8:4). The "holy ones" are willing to lay down their lives for the sake of Yeshua (Rev 12:11; 13:7, 10; 14:12-13). The two qualities of the linen worn by the holy ones suggest significant symbolic meaning, one inferred and the other stated. The inferred meaning is that the wearing of linen reinforces the revelation of the Bride as a kingdom of priests (1Pet 2:5; Rev 1:6). The stated meaning is that the linen represents righteousness or blamelessness. While the standard for becoming a Jewish priest was primarily hereditary and physical in nature, they nonetheless had to adhere to a strict standard of ethics and morality.
However, righteousness does not consist merely of what one avoids, but includes those charitable works that fulfill the command to love one's neighbor (cf. Matt 6:1-4). Just as in Western culture a bride dressing in white traditionally proclaimed her virginity (although not anymore), so the heavenly clothing serves as an advertisement of character. The clothing of the Bride contrasts sharply with the garish dress of the harlot, which illustrates her sin (Rev 17:4; 18:16; cf. Isa 1:18) (Stern). In a similar fashion the clothing of the Pharisees did not conceal their sin from Yeshua (Matt 23:27; Mark 12:38). In a parable of Yeshua about the future marriage feast a man was found without a wedding garment (Matt 22:11f). Johnson suggests that the garment he lacked was probably a clean one supplied by the host but either refused or soiled through carelessness by the rejected guest.
While Yeshua does not explain that curious matter, what cannot be missed are the consequences to the man for not having the proper clothing. He was expelled from the feast to "outer darkness." The symbolic meaning of the wedding garment, of course, does not negate the fact that righteous acts are performed through the power of the Holy Spirit. No one can produce righteousness apart from God's gracious gift. The fact that all wear the same clothing suggests that no one person's righteousness is of greater value than that of another person.
9― And he said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" And he said to me, "These are true words of God."
And he said: The opening phrase probably refers to the voice of verse 5, the Lord's angel of 1:1. Write: For the eleventh time John is given specific instructions to write something (see 1:11 on "write."). Blessed: Grk. makarios, adj., enjoying special advantage, blessed, privileged, fortunate or happy. In the LXX makarios translates Heb. esher, which means happiness, joyfulness, blessedness and fortunate all at the same time (BDB 81). The announcement of "blessedness" is the fourth in the series of seven beatitudes in Revelation. are those who are invited: Grk. kaleō, perf. pass. part., means to call, to summon or to invite. The verb was used in reference to the call to salvation (e.g. Matt 9:13; Rom 8:30; 9:24; 1Cor 1:9; 2Th 2:14), and also to give a child a name, to summon someone to a legal proceeding or to simply call a group of people together.
The perfect tense emphasizes an action in the past with continuing results to the present, so once the invitation was given it has never been rescinded. The participle gives the verb adjectival quality and could be translated "the invited ones." The perfect participle form of this verb is used five times in the apostolic writings, of which four, including this verse, are in the context of being invited to a feast (Matt 22:4, 8; Luke 14:17). The point of the verb is that guests who attend the marriage feast are only admitted because they were first invited. In ancient times it was a high honor to be invited to any private feast or banquet, and a supreme insult to the host to reject such an invitation (cf. Luke 14:16-24; Matt 22:3) (Rienecker). While the invitation is given to all people (Luke 14:16; Rom 10:13), the blessedness may only be experienced by accepting the invitation to the Lord's wedding.
No one comes to the Lord by his or her own unilateral decision (cf. John 1:13; Rom 9:16; 11:32). God exercised His will first to give the light of His love to all, to send Yeshua into the world to be the Savior for all and to provide His prevenient grace in all to enable the exercise of faith (John 1:9; 1Tim 4:10; 1Jn 2:2), and to call many to the kingdom of the Messiah (Matt 22:14) so that "whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom 10:13). In reality the verse contains "mixed metaphors," because one would not ordinarily consider the bride as "invited." She belongs there. The real force of the grammar is that from ancient times Israel was considered the bride of God (Isa 62:5) and it is the Gentiles who have been invited to join the wedding! What a privilege it is to be one of the invited and what joy to RSVP!
to the marriage: Grk. gamos. See verse 7 above. supper: Grk. deipnon can refer either informally to the main meal of the day eaten toward evening or formally to a banquet, such as the Passover Seder (John 12:2; 1Cor 11:20-21). The translation of "supper" does not adequately convey the meaning of the word. The English word "supper" is a family meal, but the "marriage supper" is an allusion to the Jewish wedding feast. By custom the wedding feast would generally last a week, while the bridal days extended over a full month in order to receive gifts (Edersheim-Life 143). By rabbinic law the wedding of a maiden normally fell on a Wednesday. Weddings for widows occurred on Thursday.
Wednesday was chosen for the wedding of a virgin for two reasons: to avoid the Sabbath, the Day of Preparation that preceded the Sabbath and the day after the Sabbath out of respect for Torah regulations, and to give the husband the opportunity to contest virginity in the courts which met on the second and fifth days of the week, if there was suspicion of wrongdoing (Edersheim-Life 139f). Yeshua may have alluded to the great marriage supper when He attended a wedding feast at Cana. When His mother tried to give Him recognition for the miraculous supply of wine He cautioned her, "My hour not yet come" (John 2:4). His cryptic words may not have been referring to His death and resurrection as commonly supposed, but His own wedding feast with His people on this day!
The big question is when and where does this feast occur? There are only a few references in the apostolic writings outside of this chapter that speak of a wedding feast in connection with the Lord's return (Matt 25:1-13; Luke 12:35-36). The following facts should be noted. The book of Revelation does not locate the marriage banquet of the Lamb in heaven, during the great tribulation or during any period associated with the seventieth week of Daniel. The present text does not describe the actual conduct of the feast or imply that the event occurs before the glorious return of Yeshua. The angel merely offers an invitation to be a part of the occasion. There is no mention or description of the groom (Yeshua) fetching his bride from her home (earth) to take her to his home (heaven). Indeed, the groom takes the bride back to her home instead of His home (1Th 4:14)!
Some interpreters resort to explaining the marriage feast with the Parable of the Virgins (see my commentary on Matt 25:1-13). However, usage of the parable must overlook some serious inconsistencies with the pre-tribulation theory. In this story of Yeshua, the groom comes to where the virgins, who supposedly represent Christians, are gathering for the wedding feast. It is much more likely is that the going out of the virgins to meet the groom would represent the post-tribulation gathering of God's people from the earth to meet Yeshua and the holy ones coming with Him from heaven, and then returning to the earth to begin His reign for the millennium (Rev 20:1-4). In fact, in Revelation the only humans seen in heaven are those who have died in the faith but have not been resurrected. After the millennium Yeshua finally brings the home He has prepared for His bride down to the earth (Rev 21:1ff).
Another question to consider is why does the feast occur at all? After all, to speak of a wedding banquet with the Lord is like waiting fifty years after a wedding to have the reception. Why, then, is there a marriage supper with the Lord when the divine marriage took place centuries ago? It may relate to one aspect of the Hebrew custom of marriage. When a couple was engaged they were legally married. To break the marriage commitment, even before consummation, required a formal divorce. During the engagement period the bride and groom would have little private contact. Since the saints have only known the Lord through the Spirit, the day that brings them face to face with the living Lord will call for a special feast to celebrate the union of the Lord and His saints. The picture, then, of a "wedding" feast is an appropriate analogy.
Juster proposes that the marriage banquet of the Lamb is the feast of Sukkot or Booths (Juster, 85; so also Keith Intrater, quoted in Juster, 108), as prophesied by Zechariah, "Finally, everyone remaining from all the nations that came to attack Yerushalayim will go up every year to worship the king, ADONAI-Tzva'ot, and to keep the festival of Sukkot" (Zech 14:16 CJB). Sukkot does have marriage overtones since the sukkah looks much like a huppah under which Jewish couples are wed. However, Sukkot is an annual event and a marriage feast is a one-time event. Moreover, by rabbinic law a wedding was not supposed to be conducted during any of the annual festivals because the same prohibition of work on the Sabbath also applied to other celebrations (Kethuboth 7a; see also Edersheim-Life 144).
While Stern makes no connection with Sukkot, his suggestion that the Second Coming occurs in conjunction with Rosh HaShanah and the Feast of Shofars (Trumpets) (792) would imply support for the marriage feast being the inauguration of the millennial Sukkot in fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy. During the millennial kingdom other feasts mandated in the Tanakh besides Sukkot will be celebrated (cf. Isa 66:23; Ezek 46:1-11; Matt 26:29). Yeshua did talk about feasting when He returns without any reference to the prescribed festivals.
During His reign the Lord will fulfill His promise made at his last Passover Seder that His disciples will eat and drink with Him again (Luke 12:37; 22:29-30). In ancient times it was customary for a ruler to invite guests to share his table for meals (cf. 2Sam 9:7, 13; 1Kgs 2:7; 4:27; 2Kgs 25:29; 2Chr 9:4; Neh 5:17). God promised a lavish banquet for all peoples on His holy mountain (Isa 25:6) and Yeshua prophesied the prospect of the disciples sharing a table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Matt 8:11; Luke 13:29; 22:29-30). Presumably, there would be similar social occasions with other biblical heroes and life in the future kingdom will include many other occasions for fellowship in joyous celebrations.
These are true: Grk. alēthinos, adj., in accord with what is true; (1) true, in the sense of reliable or dependable; (2) opposite of superficial, real, genuine, authentic; or (3) in accord with fact or circumstance, accurate. The first meaning is probably most relevant here. words: pl. of Grk. logos, a vocalized expression, and may be rendered as word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, matter" (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). of God: Grk. theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos.
The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel, the only God in existence. The invitation to the marriage feast closes with an affirmation of the truthfulness of God's Word, and, in particular, the words that John recorded while serving as stenographer for heaven's court. All of God's words are true, that is, they are reliable and infallible. Unfortunately, many Christians are like Pilate, willing to be flexible on the definition of truth instead of taking a firm position that the words of Scripture conform to objective reality. John emphasizes again that the Revelation came from God, not his own inventiveness.
10― And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
And I fell: Grk. piptō, aor., to drop from a higher position to a lower position. John does not mean that he was forced into this position, but that he voluntarily bowed down. at: Grk. emprosthen, prep., indicating position that is in front or ahead. his feet to worship him: Grk. proskuneō, aor. inf., to recognize another's prestige by offering special honor, ordinarily through a gesture of prostration (Danker). The Lord's angel appeared before John who, perhaps blinded by light, mistook the angel for Yeshua and thus bowed in worship. The Gospels record a number of occasions when people bowed down before Yeshua in reverent worship, earnest petition, humble penitence or heartfelt thanksgiving (Matt 2:11; 8:2; 17:6; 28:9; Mark 5:22; 7:25; Luke 5:8; 7:38; 8:47; 17:16; John 11:32; 12:3).
Physical prostration with the face on the ground was often the reaction of people in Scripture to heavenly visitors (Josh 5:14; Jdg 13:20; 1Chr 21:16; Luke 24:5). John's reaction is understandable in view of his humility and considering what he had seen and heard. John made an honest mistake in assuming that the one who had been speaking to him at this time was Yeshua. But John is quickly corrected and cautioned against inadvertent idolatry. This must have been an embarrassing moment since every Jew knows (and every Christian should know) that God's first commandment expressly prohibits worshipping any idol or venerating any physical likeness of people, angels or whatever is in heaven (Ex 20:4-5). The only resident of heaven or earth that is entitled to receive worship is God Himself.
Do not do that; I am a fellow servant: Grk. sundoulos means "fellow slave." In Greek literature the term was used in reference to an oriental court official and his ruler. Similarly, both the apostle Paul (Col 1:7; 4:7) and Ignatius (Epis. to Eph 2:1; Mag. 2; 1Phild 4; 1Smyrn. 12:2) used sundoulos to refer to specific church leaders or officials with whom they worked, including deacons. Rather than being Yeshua, the "voice" turns out to be an angel, which may be deduced from two facts. First, the angel insists that he is not the Master, but a fellow servant, a technical term for an official in a ruler's court. He also clarifies that his responsibilities include serving John and John's brethren: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb 1:14)
of yours and your brethren: pl. of Grk. adelphos, brother or kinsman. The use of "your brethren" emphasizes that there is a relationship angels do not share. Adelphos literally means blood siblings, but in Scripture is also used to refer to John's countrymen (i.e., Jews; Lev 10:14; Deut 15:3, 12; 17:15; Acts 2:29; 3:17, 22). Moreover, Yeshua considers anyone who "does the will of My Father" as near as a personal blood relation (Matt 12:50) and therefore calls His disciples "brethren" (Matt 25:40; Mark 3:34; John 20:17; Heb 2:11). The angel may have used "brethren" in the ethnic sense, but the present tense of "hold" points to John's fellow leaders who were faithfully continuing the work of God while John was kept on Patmos. In addition, it is the brethren of Yeshua, not the angels, who have been given custody of the testimony that Yeshua gave to His apostles.
who hold: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application, including (1) to possess with the implication of something being under one's control or at one's disposal; (2) to bear on one's person; (3) be in a position to do something; (4) view something in a particular way; or (5) experience a condition or situation. The fourth meaning applies here in the sense of "hold fast" or "keep." the testimony: Grk. marturia, attestation of a fact or truth; testimony, witness, especially in a legal context. of Jesus: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21).
For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua? The NASB has rendered the genitive Iēsou, "of Yeshua," as an objective genitive. A subjective genitive, also possible, would produce the meaning "who hold to what Yeshua testifies." So, it is not the disciple's testimony about Yeshua, but Yeshua's own testimony being communicated by the Holy Spirit through John. More importantly, the testimony of Yeshua, like the testimony of the Torah written on tablets by the finger of God (Ex 31:18), is the revelation that the Lord gave to His apostles about the future and, in particular, the great Revelation of the end of the present age. When you hold the Word of God, the Bible, in your hands you are holding the testimony of Yeshua.
worship: Grk. proskuneō, aor. imp. God: The angel redirects John as to the only One worthy to receive his worship. the spirit: Grk. to pneuma. It is ironic that standard versions translate pnuemati (without the definite article) in 1:10 as "the Spirit," yet here render to pneuma as "the spirit," leaving identification somewhat ambiguous. Pneuma has substantive meaning in the apostolic writings, referring either to man's spirit, a demonic spirit, an angel or the Holy Spirit. Even when the term is used in conjunction with a virtue or spiritual characteristic (e.g., "spirit of adoption," Rom 8:15; "spirit of faith," 2Cor 4:13; "same spirit," 2Cor 12:18; "spirit of gentleness," Gal 6:1), the idiom still infers the divine source of the virtue, namely the Holy Spirit. I concur with the CEV, CJB and WNT in translating the phrase as "the Spirit of prophecy" (cf. Acts 2:4).
of prophecy: Grk. prophēteia is speaking on behalf of God. The noun is derived from the verb prophēteuō (to foretell, tell forth or prophesy) and has three functional meanings: (1) the act of stating or disclosing divine will and purpose; (2) gift for disclosure of divine will or purpose; (3) or a disclosure made under divine authority or direction. The apostolic writings asserts the continuation and place of biblical prophecy, which would eventually be replaced in Rabbinic Judaism by the authority of the Sages (Baba Bathra 12a).
The angel comments that the testimony of Yeshua is prophecy. In Scripture "prophecy" is used both in the sense of the canon and the content of inspired writings, as Peter says, "no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2Pet 1:20f). The angel's words have the practical effect of asserting the divine inclusion of Revelation, which is the testimony or witness of Yeshua, in the New Testament canon. The character of prophecy in Scripture may be either proclamation or prediction. When functioning as proclamation prophecy challenges, edifies and comforts the saints (cf. 1Cor 14:2) and as prediction prophecy sets forth God's intended plans of salvation and judgment (cf. Matt 13:14).
In a general sense the spirit of prophecy can refer to Yeshua speaking through all believers as they share the gospel to unbelievers or give an account for the hope they possess (1Pet 3:15). He told His disciples not to worry about what they would say, for the words would be supplied by the Holy Spirit (Matt 10:19-20).
11― And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war.
And I saw heaven opened: Twice previously John spoke of something in heaven that opened, but this time he says that "heaven opened," a Hebrew idiom referring to God allowing the one of His choice to look into that unseen world of His dwelling and works (cf. Ezek 1:1; Matt 3:16; John 1:51). In this context the expression may also indicate that egress was being provided for the Lord and His angels to depart to earth. John was already in heaven observing the multitude and the altar, so the perspective is not one of John being outside and suddenly allowed inside.
behold a white horse: A "white horse" appears again (cf. Rev 6:2), this time with the Lord clearly as its rider. In the first century John may have witnessed a white horse being ridden by a Roman general or even Caesar. When Caesar would tour the distant provinces he traveled in either a horse-drawn vehicle or a wheelless carriage chair borne by slaves. When Caesar approached a major city he would change into ceremonial battle armor and ride into the city mounted on a white horse as a victorious military leader accompanied by the Imperial Guard. The residents would line the streets, waving palm branches, the universal symbol of victory (Leadingham 29). The reality, of course, is that Caesar never personally led armies into war. While military generals plan and manage battles from the rear, the Messiah will be at the front of the heavenly army.
When Yeshua ascended into heaven he was hidden by a cloud (Acts 1:9) and an angel informed the apostles that he would return the same way (Acts 1:11). There is no mention of him leaving on a horse or in a chariot. As a mode of transport Yeshua certainly does not need a horse to return and on the earth horses (and reindeer) do not have the capability of flight. In his Olivet Discourse Yeshua said he would return in the clouds (Matt 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27) and Revelation 1:7 says he will return "with" the clouds. Considering these eschatological prophecies "horse" is probably intended as a euphemism for cloud as the Psalmist says, "He makes the clouds His chariot" (Ps 104:3). This prophetic vision stands in stark contrast to when Yeshua entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, fulfilling Zechariah's Messianic prophecy,
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zech 9:9).
The larger context of Zechariah's prophecy meant that Yeshua identified Himself as the One who would assume David's throne, crush the military might arrayed against Israel, do justice for His oppressed people and establish His reign over the whole earth (Zech 9:8-10; 12:1-9; 14:1-9). The Jewish crowd understood the significance of the act (as did His enemies) and shouted the blessing from the Messianic Psalm, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; we have blessed you from the house of the Lord" (Ps 118:26). What the crowd didn't understand was that salvation is first spiritual before it becomes social.
Yeshua would have to die for the sins of His people before full deliverance could be accomplished and the donkey aptly symbolized Yeshua' submission to the Father's plan. In the Second Advent the Lord will return as the victorious Messiah and King to defeat the Antichrist and his gathered army at Armageddon, bringing to completion Zechariah's prophecy foreshadowed by the donkey ride. The white horse serves as a suitable symbol of the statement that "in righteousness He judges and wages war."
A Jewish poem from the Middle Ages reflects the idea of the Messiah returning on a horse: "Hurry, Messiah of God. Why do you tarry? Behold, they wait for you with flowing tears. Their tears of blood are like mighty streams. For you, O Prince, yearns every heart and tongue … Awake, our Messiah. Arise and shine. Mount a galloping horse, hitch up a royal carriage" (Brickner 80).
Faithful and True: The rider is given a title that calls to mind the titles of the Lamb from 1:5, 3:7 and 3:14 and emphasizes that His promise to return was no idle boast. Stern comments that "faithful" and "true" mean virtually the same thing, since the ancient Hebrew idea of truth was not correspondence to reality (as in Greek thought), but reliability. For Jews, the "God of truth" (Jer 10:10) is not primarily the God who reveals eternal verities, but the God who can be trusted to keep His covenant. As for Stern's philosophical distinction – if the information contained in God's Word is not factual, then the Scriptures cannot be reliable. The two concepts are mutually dependent.
When General Douglas MacArthur was forced to leave the Philippines in early World War II, he promised to return. He did not say, "the American army will return." He said, "I shall return." Throughout the war American supplies brought to Filipino guerrillas bore the written message "I shall return." That simple message brought great encouragement during those difficult days (William Manchester, American Caesar, Little, Brown & Co., 1978, p. 271). The reliability of MacArthur's promise was based on his well-known integrity that his word was his bond. The Lord's Word is far more reliable than any uttered by man, so disciples of Yeshua should remain faithful, and in so doing affirm continued confidence in the veracity of His promise.
in righteousness He judges and wages war: The rider is also said to follow "righteousness" in performing two critical duties. Righteousness refers to an absolute standard which guides all that He does. God is not capricious nor does He simply react. Likewise the Lord is not swayed by sentimentality or favoritism. God established in His Torah the commandments, ordinances and regulations that would assure justice and it is in accordance with the unchanging standards of His Law that He judges and makes war. Until this point Yeshua had the authority to judge (John 5:22), but did not exercise it (John 8:15). Judgment typically relates to individual persons, but the individuals are constituents of an entire kingdom opposed to the reign of God. War, then, is a necessity to put an end to rebellion and avenge the martyrdom of Yeshua's disciples (2Th 1:7-8). The court of heaven has judged the beast to be deserving of death and the Lord returns to carry out that edict.
12― And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems; and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself.
His eyes are a flame of fire: John then describes the rider that captivated his attention. For the third time John sees the Lord with "eyes" as flaming fire. The first time was when John saw Yeshua walking among the lampstands (Rev 1:14) and the second time was in the letter to Thyatira (2:1) when He condemned tolerance toward Jezebel's sin. Paul said Yeshua would be revealed with flaming fire as He takes retribution on the wicked (2Th 1:7-8).
upon His head are many diadems: Grk. diadēma, a royal symbol, crown. The ancient diadem was a blue headband trimmed with white, on the tiara, and served as the sign of royalty among the Persians. The rider is also seen with many crowns or "diadems" on His head, which contrast with the seven diadems of the dragon (12:3) and the ten diadems of the beast (13:1). John does not define "many" but there must have been an unusually high stack of the crowns piled on the rider's head. The many diadems are probably meant to emphasize the unlimited sovereignty and dominion of the King of Kings (19:16).
and He has: Grk. echō, pres. part. See verse 10 above. The KJV translates the present participle as an imperfect tense, "had," contrary to the TR on which it is based, perhaps pointing back to John's experience from the standpoint of someone reading John's narrative. However, "has" not only correctly translates the verb, but emphasizes the continuing nature of "written." a name written upon Him: Yeshua has been revealed with many titles, but John reports there is one more of special significance. The words "on Him" are supplied since the Greek text contains no mention of a location. Locations for special names given to or marked on God's people in Revelation include the forehead (14:1), stones (2:17; 21:14) and gates (21:12). Since the context is a description of Yeshua's appearance, then it is reasonable to assume that the name would be somewhere on His robe.
which no one knows except Himself: The phrase "no one knows" suggests that Yeshua has chosen not reveal His special name. Parallels of angels declining to reveal their names may be found in Genesis 32:29 and Judges 13:18. Yet, the phrase may mean that the name is written in a divine language known only to the Godhead and the next verse provides the translation of the name, "The Word of God," into human language.
13― And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
a robe dipped: Grk. baptō in common usage meant (1) to dip, (2) to dip into a dye and (3) to draw water (DNTT 1:144). Baptō occurs only three other times in the apostolic writings (Luke 16:24 and twice in John 13:26). Twice as many Greek MSS actually have "sprinkled" in this verse (rhantizō) instead of "dipped" (GNT 887). Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen and Cyprian in the third century quote the verse with "sprinkled." Nevertheless, the KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, and NLT all follow the MSS that have "dipped." The CJB has the bolder word "soaked." Robertson believes that "sprinkled" is probably correct since the phrase is an allusion to Isaiah 63:3.
in blood: Yeshua is then described as wearing a garment with blood on it. The intent of the phrase is probably that the robe is splattered with blood rather than the entire robe being soaked with blood. However, the blood is not His, but is the blood of His enemies, as Isaiah prophesied,
"Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment." (Isa 63:2f)
Johnson notes that the Jewish Targum on Genesis 49:10ff has a reference to the warring Messiah whose clothes are discolored with the blood of his enemies. Jewish rabbis likewise regarded the splattered blood in Isaiah 63:3 to be that of God's enemies.
In Rev 5:6 John saw the Lamb who had been slain for the sake of sinners. The image of Yeshua here is not one of atoning sacrifice but of conquering King. The fact that the blood appears on His clothing before the battle begins indicates its certain outcome (cf. 14:14-20).
His name is called The Word of God: Writing in Hebrew John may have used dabar ("word) or he may have used an Aramaic expression, Memra, found in the Targums (Aramaic paraphrases of Scripture) and familiar to first century Jews. The Targums consistently use Memra when speaking of God (John Fischer, The Voice of the Lord, 147). The title-name of the Warrior-King reminds the reader of John's declaration in his Gospel that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). The symmetry of Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 means that Yeshua, the eternal Son of God was not created nor emanated from the Father, but was God, the very Creator of the universe and as such spoke creation into existence (Ps 33:6, 9).
"The Word of God" also alludes to the oft repeated phrase "the Word of the Lord" found in the Tanakh, especially in the prophetic works. While this phrase always refers to a message from God, there are many times when the text emphasizes the Person behind the message so that they cannot be easily distinguished (cf. Gen 15:1; 1Sam 15:10; 1Kgs 6:11; 1Chr 17:3; Isa 38:4; Jer 1:11; Ezek 1:3; John 10:35). From the beginning of the Scriptures the term "Word" represented God's revelation of Himself and His desire for direct communication and relationship with mankind. Thus, Yeshua is "the Word," because "in these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son" (Heb 1:2).
14― And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
the armies: The Lord Yeshua will lead thousands upon thousands of obedient soldiers when He returns (cf. Jer 4:13). The armies from heaven are angelic and may be the same angels that warred against the dragon in 12:7. Many times in Scripture God is called the "Lord of hosts," referring to the vast angelic army under His command. clothed in fine linen: The armies are clothed in the apparel of the saints (19:8), which has led some to assume the "armies" are the saints returning to earth with the Lord (cf. 1Th 4:14). However, angels also wear white clothing (Matt 28:3; John 20:12; Acts 1:10). white horses: In this vision the angels not only are clothed in white but, like their Leader, ride white horses (cf. Ps 68:17).
It should be noted that the verse does not identify the "armies" as the saints, and the only other usage of "armies" in Revelation is in 9:16 that describes a plague of 200 million demonic soldiers riding strange creatures. Military service is viewed as an honorable profession in Scripture and metaphors are drawn from military equipment and duties to describe spiritual virtues (cf. Eph 6:11; 2Tim 2:3), but nowhere in the apostolic writings is the people of God ever likened to an army. In fact, Paul goes out of his way to emphasize that the saints do not wage war with weapons of the flesh (2Cor 6:7; 10:4).
The apostolic writings affirm the prophecy of Zechariah that when Yeshua returns He will be accompanied by angels of heaven (Zech 14:5; Matt 16:27; 25:31; 2Th 1:7). In the Garden of Gethsemane Yeshua said that 12 legions of angels (about 72,000, based on first century military organization) were at his immediate disposal (Matt 26:53). At His humiliation Yeshua chose not to involve His angels, but when He comes in His kingly glory all the angels will be deployed to assist in completing His plan.
One of the important tasks of the Lord's army at His coming is to gather the saints from heaven and earth. "And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, and from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven" (Mark 13:27). Pre-wrath advocates fail to consider that there is only one "coming with the angels" at which the saints may be gathered and that this coming occurs after the seventh bowl of wrath. After His coming angels will be tasked to separate the wheat and the tares and to carry out the sentence imposed from the King's judgment of the sheep and goats (Matt 13:41-42, 49-50; 25:31-32, 41).
15― And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
And from His mouth: The Greek phrase ek tou stomatos, "out of the mouth," occurs for the seventh time in Revelation. As a metaphor in Scripture "mouth" refers to the strong power of influence that can be used for good or evil, including bringing about death. The metaphor accomplishes the same intent as the expression "breath of his mouth" with which Yeshua executes justice on the wicked (cf. Job 4:9; Isaiah 11:4), and particularly on the beast and his followers (Rev 19:15; cf. 2Th 2:8).
comes a sharp sword: Grk. rhomphaia refers to a long-bladed and heavy broadsword used by Thracians and other barbarous nations (Rienecker). In 1:16 the same sword is identified as two-edged," so the reference to its sharpness here may allude to the two edges. Isaiah prophesied, "He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked" (Isa 11:4). Paul speaks of the "breath of His mouth" destroying the Antichrist (2Th 2:8). The common denominator in all these verses is the "mouth," and although the word picture may be different in each case the same purpose is accomplished. The present tense of "comes" indicates that the striking power does not stop until the task is done.
Only Yeshua is seen wielding the sword. While the angels are given an important mission in the Second Coming, there is no mention of the angels killing people at this final battle. Of course, they could be engaged in battle with demonic forces. Obviously, the sword of the Lord is not an ordinary blade of steel. In the first advent Yeshua "did not open His mouth" (Isa 53:7) to fight His enemies, but now in the Second Advent the sword of His mouth will sever soul from body (Heb 4:12). The Lord only needs to speak and whatever He says happens.
He may smite the nations: The Lord will defeat the alliance of nations opposed to Him, a strong statement referring to swift, decisive and total victory (Isa 11:4). This is the Day of the Messiah that the enemies of God dread (6:15ff). The prophecy of Zechariah gives specific definition to the destruction of the beast's army,
"Now this will be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth. … So also like this plague will be the plague on the horse, the mule, the camel, the donkey and all the cattle that will be in those camps" (Zech 14:12, 15).
and He will rule them with a rod of iron: For the third time in Revelation John is reminded that the Son will rule the nations with a "rod of iron," which may seem a strange comment coming between two statements depicting total destruction of the enemies of God. (See 2:27 and 12:5 on "rule.") The "rod of iron" is not a description of the manufacture of the rod but a statement of the authority of the One who carries the rod. The prophecy probably refers to the millennial reign (20:3-5) as Zechariah's prophecy explains, "Then it shall come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts" (Zech 14:16). The metaphor speaks of an administration that is protective and caring for the needs of all citizens, but also one that assures justice by teaching the Torah as the standard for all relationships.
He treads the wine press: As strong as is the image of a rider on a horse wielding a sword, the Lord is next seen personally trampling His enemies as if in a winepress stomping grapes. (See 14:19 on "winepress.") The fierce wrath of God visited on the inhabitants of the earth results in unimaginable bloodletting. The imagery explodes the popular myth of God as just a nice old man upstairs. In the end, God's supreme justice will prevail and the prayer of the martyrs will be answered. This is more than a "light at the end of a tunnel." This is glorious victory for all of God's people!
16― And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
And on His robe: The use of superlative titles of the Lord reoccurs as John notices the rider wearing an embroidered robe. While there is no previous mention of the titles being written on anything, here John sees monarchical titles written on His thigh. Since tattooing was forbidden in the Torah (Lev 19:28), this probably means that the name was written on His robe at the place where it fell across His thigh. KING OF KINGS: See also 17:14 on "King of Kings and Lord of Lords." Taken together the two titles echo the prophecy of Zechariah, "And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one" (Zech 14:9). The display of the royal titles affirm that the defeat of the beast and his army will be followed by the establishment of the Messiah's righteous and beneficent rule on the earth and the fulfillment of the prayer of God's people of all the ages "Thy Kingdom come" (Baron 507).
17― And I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, "Come, assemble for the great supper of God,
an angel standing in the sun: The angel takes up a prominent position to make a solemn announcement. "Standing in the sun" could mean standing in the vicinity of the sun where it is positioned in the solar system, but more likely it is intended as an observation of someone on the earth looking up and seeing the angel high in the sky.
saying to all the birds: pl. of Grk. orneon a term used only in Scripture of unclean birds or birds of prey. The ones that gather would likely be the variety that feed on the flesh of dead animals, of which there are several species. which fly: Grk. petomai, pres. mid. part. The present tense participle would refer not merely to the physical capability of flight, but offers a vivid picture of the announcement being made while the birds are in flight. This statement may sound like a redundancy, but there are over 20 types of bird that do not fly, including the emus, ostriches and penguins.
in mid-heaven: Grk. mesouranēma in ancient astronomy referred to the meridian and the zenith of the sun directly overhead of an observer on the land. "Mid-heaven" is used only three times in Scripture and all three in Revelation (8:16; 14:6). Mid-heaven has a very general frame of reference meaning the height of the sky that an observer on the ground would be able to see. Birds can fly up to altitudes of 25,000 feet, at which point they are above two-thirds of the atoms of the atmosphere (Humphreys 61). The birds that respond to the summons would be those that have evaded and escaped the destructiveness of the trumpet and bowl judgments.
"Come, assemble: Grk. sunagō, aor. pass. imp., to gather. The directive is given to "all" the birds, probably meaning carrion-eating birds, so they respond in accordance with the divine flight plan and converge on Armageddon from all directions, perhaps in fulfillment of Yeshua's cryptic prophecy, "where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered" (Luke 17:37). Two stories out of Israel make for interesting news in this context.
· Bird Migration. Israel, which is located at the junction of three continents, is being crossed by migrating birds on a scale unparalleled anywhere. Studies over the past decade show that about 500 million birds cross Israel's narrow airspace twice every year in the course of their migrations. People in the Middle East, recognizing that migrating birds do not recognize political borders, believe they serve as ideal symbols of an era of peace that is dawning in the region. (Migrating Birds Know No Boundaries, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 19 November 2003.)
· Return of Vultures. Israeli ornithologists are working to revive Israel's dwindling Griffon vulture population. The program, Spreading Wings, works to resuscitate the vulture population and has set up 20 feeding and nesting stations around the country. Griffon vultures, once a common sight in the Middle East, have nearly disappeared. It was estimated that in the late 1880s, Griffon vultures numbered in the thousands. In the mid-1950s, there were still approximately 1000 couples. Today there are only 70 breeding pairs in the country, a drop of 95%. In whole areas of the country, vultures have totally disappeared. The impact of the vulture decline has been felt throughout Asia. Rotting carcasses left uneaten by vultures pose a health hazard. Such carcasses are linked to the spread of diseases such as anthrax, according to the conservationists. Other animals, such as rats, cats, and dogs, are filling the niche once filled by vultures. Wild dog populations in particular have increased substantially, leading to an increase in the spread of rabies and physical attacks on people. (Israel Scientists Help Vultures Spread Their Wings, Israel21c Newsletter, 6 June 2004.)
for the great supper of God: The banquet for the birds is a grisly contrast to the marriage feast of the Lamb (verse 9), as is evident by the intentional repeat of the same word for "supper." The beast had left the bodies of the two witnesses unburied, so Yeshua leaves His enemies lying on the battlefield with the ignominy of being food for the birds. Just as the unclean spirits in 16:16 gathered the beast's army for their divine appointment, so now God gathers the birds to the feast He has prepared for them of the beast's destroyed army. Ezekiel prophesied a similar fate for the armies of Gog when they invade Israel (Ezek 39:17-20), which some commentators mistakenly assume to be John's inspiration for this vision. On the contrary John insists three times in this section that he "saw" what he saw.
18― in order that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great."
that you may eat the flesh: Grk. sarkos means "flesh." In this verse every occurrence is plural, meaning "pieces of flesh" (Rienecker). After the angel gives the invitation the Lord describes the menu the scavenger birds will consume. Horses are mentioned four times in Revelation (Rev 6:2-8; 9:7-9, 17-19; 18:13; 19:11-21). With modern technology and the symbolic use of "horse" elsewhere in Revelation many interpreters find it difficult to take literally the reference to the beast's army using horses. However, world economic conditions could cause a return to the use of horses. See the note on 14:20.
The judgment falls equally on all classes and ranks of the great army, parallel to the classes of people listed in the sixth seal (6:15). The term commanders (Grk. chiliarch, the commander of a thousand soldiers) refers to senior leadership in the army. Mighty men may refer to elite forces, such as David's mighty men (2Sam 23:8-30) who were renowned for their courage and skill in the military arts. In this context free men and slaves may distinguish those who voluntarily enlisted and those who were conscripted for military service by the government. Members of the military are often the pawns of national leaders and as loyal citizens they follow orders, but in the end the prowess of these soldiers will not be enough to deliver the prize of power to the beast and the dragon. The phrase small and great: See verse 5 above. No one is spared in God's judgment.
19― And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
And I saw the beast and the kings: The Antichrist and the confederation led by the ten kings with their armies take up their battle positions with weapons trained on the sky in order to "make war" on the Son of Man when He appears in the sky. In 16:16 the staging area for the beast's army is given as Armageddon or Megiddo. The prophet Joel identifies God's final judgment as taking place in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2, 12ff; Jehoshaphat means "YHVH judges").
The early church fathers equated the Valley of Jehoshaphat with the Kidron Valley, which runs next to Jerusalem. There was no valley actually named for Jehoshaphat, but the reference most likely identifies the area in which King Jehoshaphat won a great victory against the enemies of Israel, specifically "at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel" (2Chr 20:16), perhaps twenty miles southeast of Jerusalem. These two locations may represent the northern and southern boundaries of the beast's massive army as indicated in Zechariah 12:11.
Many unique and divinely aided victories have been won before against the enemies of Israel, such as the destruction of Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea (Ex 14:26ff), the conquest of Jericho (Josh 6:20f), Joshua's defeat of the Amorites on the day the sun stood still (Josh 10:8-14), and the angelic destruction of the Assyrian army that surrounded Jerusalem (2Kgs 19:35). The modern victories of Israel in the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973) against much larger forces can only be attributed to the Lord fighting for Israel. The last great war in Israel still remains to be fulfilled. This is the true "mother" of all battles.
and their armies assembled to make war: One can only wonder at the incredible foolhardiness of the beast in massing an army of mortal men to face an immortal enemy. Of course, the entire scheme is carried out under the deception of Satan. The soldiers will likely be under the psychic control of demons or possessed by demons. The beast and his armies come to make war, not realizing that instead they will face their doom. This narrative is offered from the point of view of the returning Messiah. The invasion narrative of Ezekiel 38-39 may well represent the Israeli point of view of this climactic event.
Yet, this is not a typical battle with soldiers of opposite sides locked in combat with the enemy and killing to survive. While Revelation does not offer the details of the battle, Zechariah tells the brief story:
"Now this will be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets and the tongue will rot in their mouth. It will come about in that day that a great panic from the Lord will fall on them and they will seize one another's hand, and the hand of one will be lifted against the hand of another." (Zech 14:12-13)
20― And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
And the beast was seized: Grk. piazō, aor. pass., to take firm hold of or take under control; grasp, seize, arrest. In two verses the battle, or judgment, of Armageddon has arrived and concluded. See 16:14 and 17:14 on the battle of Armageddon. With a simple economy of words John relates that the beast and false prophet were forcibly taken and thrown into the lake of fire. The fact that there is no account of the opposing armies clashing illustrates the ancient method of warfare in which the champions of each side would meet to determine victory, such as in the triumph of David over Goliath (1Sam 17:8f, 45-52). Thus, Yeshua determines to cut off the head of the beast empire first. Loss of leadership can quickly demoralize an army.
Yeshua does not physically lay hands on the beast, but rather the powerful force of His Word, which can create stars, seizes the unholy despots and flings them to the place of torment. The beast and the false prophet do not get a Miranda warning, legal defense or a bail hearing. Satan's duo had accomplished their totalitarian rule by false miracles and deception, but they have no power to save themselves from the God of justice who imposes and enforces His righteous decree, above whom there is no superior authority to submit an appeal.
the lake: Grk. limnē ordinarily means a lake or pool of water. of fire: Grk. pur, fire as a physical state of burning and a product of combustion. The expression "lake of fire" occurs only in Revelation and is likely a synonym of gehenna ("hell"), which does not occur in Revelation at all. However, all the descriptions of hell that Yeshua gave in the apostolic narratives correspond to the characteristics given of the lake of fire in Revelation (Berry 19f). It is the judgment word of Yeshua that immediately sends these villains to their eternal punishment in the lake of fire, which suggests an other-worldly location. Yeshua spoke of hell more than anyone else in Scripture and declared that it was originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41), implying that hell was not created until after Satan rebelled.
Hell is a place of "everlasting fire" (Matt 18:8; 25:41) that "destroys both soul and body" (Matt 10:28). The fire of hell is described as "unquenchable" (Grk. asbestos, Matt 3:12; Mark 9:43f; cf. Isa 66:24; Jer 4:4; 7:20; 21:12), which means that the fire will not degrade in intensity over the course of eternity and it cannot be extinguished by any force other than God's power. Hell is also a place of "wailing and gnashing" (or grinding) of teeth (Matt 13:40-42; 22:13). The reference to wailing means that the human spirit is not destroyed but instead mourns with the deepest regret. The metaphor of "gnashing teeth" speaks of suffering unimaginable torment (cf. Luke 16:23f for the torment of the rich man in Hades).
The lake of fire, or Hell, is a real place, a physical reality. It is not just a metaphor for a state of separation from God (so H. Ray Dunning, "The Reality of Hell," Illustrated Bible Life, Vol. 19, Num. 2, p. 51). Dunning, though an evangelical, cautions against too much literalism, which he blames for people falling prey to the hoax of Russians drilling into hell and hearing the screams of the damned (see the note on 9:1). However, a "state of separation" is nonsensical if there is no actual place of damnation. And, if there is no hell, there can be no heaven. The lake of fire may be located in outer space across the galaxy since it is also referred to as the "outer darkness" (cf. Matt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; Jude 13).
which burns with brimstone: Grk. theion, a word used for the yellow sulfurous mineral usually found near active volcanoes. Large deposits of sulfur are found in the Dead Sea area (Mounce). Highly combustible, sulfur burns with a blue flame that emits a peculiar suffocating odor (sulfur dioxide). Ironically, sulfur is an essential element in all living organisms and is needed in several amino acids and hence in many proteins. Scripture reports God using brimstone in judgment on the wicked (Gen 19:24; Ps 11:6; Ezek 34:8ff; 38:22; Luke 17:29), which may refer to a specially created divine fire or to molten elements erupting from below ground. In Isaiah 30:33 the "breath of the Lord" is described as being like brimstone. The lake of fire, then, is not like a lake of water with flammable material ablaze on the surface; rather the lake of fire is composed of a sulfurous substance that is constantly burning. For example, the sun could be described as a lake of fire, because its total mass is burning.
21― And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
And the rest were killed: With the "command and control" of the beast's empire removed Yeshua turns His attention to the army filling the great valley. Unlike the beast and false prophet who were cast alive into the lake of fire, the beast's followers are first killed. all the birds were filled: Grk. chortazō, aor. pass. ind., to feed, fill, or satisfy. The passive mood means to eat one's fill or be satisfied. The translation of "gorged" suggested by BAG and used in the NIV is inappropriate. Only humans devour food greedily. Animals simply eat until filled.
It is indeed a most haunting and surreal sight as the birds soar over a silent battlefield filled with dead soldiers and animals and swoop down to feed on the flesh. In Judaism, following biblical practice, the honored dead are buried. Not to be buried is a disgrace (cf. 2Kgs 9:34), and being torn apart by buzzards and dogs is the ultimate shame (Stern).
One might wonder why the "rest" were not thrown alive into hell. The massive execution may be done to fulfill the Torah. God had decreed that murder polluted the land (Gen 4:10) and the beast and his followers, as well as Babylon, murder millions of the saints. According to the Torah only the death of the murderer can cleanse the land of this pollution (Num 35:33; cf. Gen 9:6; Job 16:18f; Ps 9:12). And, on that day the martyrs will finally be avenged.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online.
Baron: David Baron, Zechariah: A Commentary on His Vision and Prophecies. Kregel Publications, 1918.
Berry: Harold J. Berry, Treasures From the Original. Moody Press, 1985.
Brickner: David Brickner, Future Hope. Purple Pomegranate Productions, 1999.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Edersheim-Temple: Alfred Edersheim, The Temple-Its Ministry and Services, Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1994. Online.
Edersheim-Life: Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life. Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1994. Online.
Gundry: Bob Gundry, First the Antichrist. Baker Books, 1997.
Humphries: D. Russell Humphreys, Starlight and Time. Master Books, 1994.
Johnson: Alan F. Johnson, Revelation. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. (Zondervan CD-ROM Version 2.6, 1989-1998)
Juster: Daniel Juster, Revelation: The Passover Key. Destiny Image Publishers, 1991.
Ladd: George E. Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972.
Leadingham: Everett Leadingham, ed. Does the Bible Really Say That? Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2004.
Mounce: Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation. rev. ed. New International Commentary on the New Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vols. The Zondervan Corporation, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. 6 Vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Stern: David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. 5th ed. Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1996.
TDSS: The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. Rev. ed. Trans. Michael Wise, Martin Abegg Jr. and Edward Cook. HarperOne, 2005.
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