With the close of Revelation 18, this worldly system represented by Babylon the Great has been completely and thoroughly judged by a holy God. Wickedness receives her due recompense. Evil finally meets her match. Justice rules the day! The reign of man that began the moment Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit is at last brought to an end.
In his vision of this future day, in Revelation 18:8, John sums up the scene, “Therefore her plagues will come in one day — death and mourning and famine (will result). And she (the entire system) will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.”
As I noted in our previous study, the description provided in this text isn’t some type of global economic collapse or market crash. Instead, John is saying in one day everything this world holds dear, everything mankind has built for himself will be destroyed and brought to ruin. God’s judgment of this world will be sudden, swift, and complete.
Diving back into the narrative (and remember there were no chapter breaks)… Revelation 19:1, “After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!’”
For starters, chapter 19 begins with a shift in scene that provides for us an interesting contrast. While for two chapters an angel has “carried John away in the Spirit” in order to show him the fall of moral and societal Babylon, “after these things” had been completed and this world finally judged, John instantly finds himself back in the heavenly space hearing “a great multitude” erupt in praise. In truth, “after these things” could be broadly applied to include the entire story arch of the Bible beginning all the way in Genesis 3.
In reaction in Babylon’s demise, John records the reaction of the sinful world… Look again at Revelation 18:18-19, “And they cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’ They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’”
The contrast presented in this first verse of chapter 19 of the heavenly reaction to the same scene is intentionally designed to be stark and profound. As the world mourns the loss of this evil system in rebellion against God, all of heaven breaks out in celebration!
Back in Revelation 6, with the opening of the fifth Seal Judgment, the folks who’d been martyred for their faith during the Tribulation cried out to God, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” With the final judgment of this world at the end of chapter 18, their question has finally been answered.
I imagine the scene John is describing being similar to the 9th inning of the 7th game of the World Series. Your team is winning. There are two outs. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. With the 0-2 pitch, the fans in the stadium, those gathered in local bars and restaurants, or the masses watching at home hold their collective breath as the batter takes one final, mighty cut. A swing and a miss! Strike three! The game is over! Your team has won! Instantly, everyone leaps from their seats and begins to celebrate. This is heaven!
With the destruction of Babylon, the game is over and God has proved victorious! At that moment, heaven explodes with the declaration, “Alleluia! Salvation, glory, honor, and power belong to the Lord our God!” It really is an awesome moment. Righteousness gets the W!
Akin to the Hebrew word “hallelujah” frequently used throughout the Psalms, this Greek word “alleluia” is presented only four times in the New Testament — all of which occur in this chapter. Not only is this word unique to the Bible but it’s absent in virtually all ancient Greek literature. As such, some scholars speculate it may be part of the heavenly language.
In 1 Corinthians 13:1, the Apostle Paul mentions how the Gift of Tongues would frequently manifest in his own private prayer life enabling him to express his heart to the Lord in a way no longer limited by the constraints of human language. What’s fascinating about this is that Paul notes how he’d “speak with the tongues of men and of angels.” It could be John hears heaven erupt in an angelic tongue forcing him to invent a word to relay its meaning.
Because the word alleluia is closely related to hallelujah, we can reason it means to praise the Lord without restraint. “Praise ye the Lord, Hallelujah.” And yet, the way “alleluia” is used in this chapter indicates it’s as much an invitation to praise God as it is the declaration of praise. Think of the word as I’m praising God now you praise Him too!
And why should we praise Him? The multitude of heaven answers… For “salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!” In the Greek, the definite article “the” is placed before each word. It actually reads, “The salvation and the glory and the honor and the power belong to the Lord our God!” You see Jesus is worthy of our praise for no other reason than who He is! He is our salvation. In Him, exists all glory or splendor as well as honor. Jesus is the most precious and all power and might belong to Him!
Revelation 19:2-3, “For (this is the reason for the first alleluia) true and righteous are His judgments (the judgments of God are intrinsically genuine and justified), because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.’ Again they said, ‘Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!’” (The image presents eternal destruction.)
In His model prayer, recorded in Matthew 6, Jesus instructed His disciples to include the petition, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Understand, as a central element of our faith in Jesus, should be this future expectation. Knowing what the remedy is to this fallen world, the Christian should live today with a real anticipation and desire for God to bring His kingdom to this earth. It and it alone is the ultimate fix!
With the destruction of Babylon, all of heaven is filled with praise because this prayer has finally been answered! The wickedness of man has come to an end. Evil has been purged. The kingdom of man has been scraped from the earth in order to give way for a new societal framework… A new way of living… The kingdom of God! At this point, nothing else is needed. Nothing is restricting the Second Coming of Jesus. At last, the time has come!
Revelation 19:4-8, “And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, ‘Amen! Alleluia!’ (Note: these elders and living creatures were first introduced by John in Revelation 4.) Then a voice came from the throne (this is likely an angel), saying, ‘Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him (revere Him), both small and great!’
And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, (John is going to describe for us the sound made by this collective voice) as the sound of many waters (a great waterfall) and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For (this is the reason for the second alleluia) the Lord God (the kyrios, the theos) Omnipotent (the One who holds sway over all things) reigns (has taken up His reigns)!
Let us be glad (salute) and rejoice (be exceedingly glad) and give Him glory (hold Him in the highest regard), for (the reason for the reaction) the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
This phrase “the righteous acts of the saints” is a little misleading as it seems to allude to the works or actions of the saints as somehow factoring into their righteousness. We know that cannot be the case for Isaiah the prophet wrote in the 6th verse of his 64th chapter, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags!”
Again, this is where English struggles to present an adequate translation from the original Greek language. In the text, the neutered noun dikaiōma (de-ki-o-ma) has no equivalent. At best, we can translate the word as righteousness-es (which isn’t a word). Understand, John isn’t describing the activity of the bride but her status. She was totally righteous!
Revelation 19:9-10, “Then he said to me (this would be the same angel first introduced at the beginning of chapter 17), ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’ And I fell at his feet to worship him. (John is completely overwhelmed by everything he’s seeing)
But he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that! (Better translated as, “Don’t do that!” Then the angel explains why…) I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus (“I serve and serve specifically those who are followers of Christ”). Worship God! For (why) the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’” (Basically, the angel points out since all of this was about Jesus He should be the object of our worship!)
In verse 7, we read heaven declare, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage supper of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” Now, in verse 9, we have this angel telling John, “Blessed (or literally happy) are those who are called (who have been called, invited, included) to the marriage supper of the Lamb…”
There are some who see “the marriage supper of the Lamb” as being the heavenly party that takes place during these seven years of tribulation on earth. I should add the majority of scholars hold some variation of this view. And yet, if this were the case, the placement of this reference right before the Second Coming of Jesus seems strange. Again, we read, “The marriage supper of the Lamb has come!” Something long anticipated has now arrived.
In order to unpack what occasion John is referring to as being “the marriage supper of the Lamb” and therefore the timing of this event, I need to first define the characters involved and then explain the process of getting married in the ancient, Hebrew culture.
With all the imagery already established in Revelation, we can safely say Jesus is “the Lamb” or, in context, He is the Bridegroom! The pressing question… Who is “His wife?”
There is a school of thought that contends that this is a reference to the Hebrew people. While it’s true in the Old Testament Israel’s relationship with God was described using marital terminology, never once is that language used regarding the Jewish people and Jesus. Since this is the wife of the Lamb, it’s safe to say this is not the Nation of Israel.
In Ephesians 5:25-32, the Apostle Paul provides us an answer in an exhortation he gives to married men. He writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul actually builds on this idea writing, “I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Scripturally, the Bible places the Church as having a different relationship with Jesus than the Old Testament saints who came before or the Tribulational saints who’d come afterward. We are His Bride!
One component to this section of Scripture often overlooked is how the marriage supper followed the marriage ceremony. Consider how the “marriage supper of the lamb” will include Jesus the Groom and “His wife.” While we know her to be the Church, it’s interesting the word “wife” is used and not “bride” as is so often the case. In fact, this is the only time in the entire Bible the Church is called “His wife” and not the Bride of Christ.
Aside from this, the great multitude declares how she “has made herself ready” as “it was granted” for her “to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright.” The implications of the Bride, who is now referred to as Jesus’ wife, with her preparations for the “marriage supper” being presented in the past tense lends to the notion this “marriage supper” indeed follows the marriage ceremony and consummation. The Bride is clearly a Wife!
In order to understand when this event occurs and what this particular “supper” entails, a little background into the process of matrimony within Hebrew culture is warranted. With regards to ancient Jewish weddings, there were three distinct phases or parts.
First, there was the shiddukhin which was a prearrangement made between families that their kids were going to get married. In Hebrew culture, parents didn’t leave such a big decision as to who you’d spend the rest of your life with up to adolescent whims. With that in mind, I have three kids so the Adams family is open for business!
While I don’t want to wade to deep into matters of theological debate or controversy, you need to know that if you’re a Christian the Bible is clear you were chosen by God to have a relationship with His Son. Romans 8:30, “Whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
Further evidence of this can be found in Ephesians 1:3-6. We read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
How incredible it is to think that God fully knew you and still called you! As the angel declares, in verse 9, “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” Friend, with this in mind, I do need to say… If you are uncertain whether or not you were predestined by God to have a relationship with His Son Jesus, all you have to do is give your life to Him this morning and all the uncertainty will be gone!
The second part of the marriage process arrived the moment the kids had finally reached the appropriate marrying age. At this point, you’d have what was known as the erusin which was the formal engagement period. Historically, it was called the betrothal.
In order to legally bind the agreement that had been reached years earlier between families, the mohar or the purchase price for the bride would now be paid by the father of the groom. Once this transaction was completed, the bride and groom were officially married but the union was not consummated and they had to remain apart for a time.
The woman was required to remain under her father’s roof until the groom had prepared an adequate dwelling place — which was typically an extension onto his father’s home. For reference, this is why Mary was constantly mentioned as being Joseph’s “betrothed virgin wife.” They were legally married but had yet to sleep together when she turns up pregnant.
Consider the purchase price paid by God the Father in order for you to become the Bride of Christ… In Romans 6:23, we read, “For the wages of sin is death.” Death was the debt you owed. How amazing that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Consistent with this ancient martial tradition, knowing He would leave His disciples behind, Jesus provided this promise (John 14:1-3), “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
Lastly, this betrothal period would be followed by a third and final stage known as the nissuin. This Hebrew word means to take. Although the bride knew it would likely be a year or so to make the proper arrangements before her groom could come and retrieve her to himself, she would not know the exact day or hour this would happen.
This meant the bride would have to live as though the groom was coming for her any day at any time. In fact, not even the groom would know when the time was right. Instead, it would be the groom’s father who would give him permission to go and retrieve his bride. Jesus said, in Matthew 24:36, “Of that day and hour no one knows… but My Father only!”
In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus taught a parable that ties into these things… “The kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’
While they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
When that glorious day finally arrived when the father tells his son he can go get his bride, as you’d expect the groom would immediately spring forth into action. There would be no delay! Traditionally, as he approached, the blast of the shofar would inform the expecting bride the time had at long last come. The groom would pick up his bride and bring her to his father’s house where they’d have a ceremony with the entire community.
Writing in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Paul describes a still yet future day when Jesus will come to retrieve His Bride the Church. “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
Finally together, the ceremony would happen under what was known as the huppah. This was a decorative marriage canopy where the bride and groom would finalize their marital vows to each other, before God, and in the presence of friends and family.
Following the ceremony but before the party popped, the bride and groom would go from the huppah to a secluded room known as the yihud. While their guests patiently waited, it would be in this room, that the couple would have their first meal together as husband and wife and actually consummate their marriage.
Only after this private time with one another are the bride and groom ready to begin their new lives together. As one would expect, the bride readies herself, and together with her groom, they exit the yihud publicly presenting themselves for the first time as husband and wife. Please note, she is no longer a bride but considered the groom’s wife.
Aside from the instant eruption of applause from the banquet of guests, the celebration quickly transitions into a feast known as the seudah. This feast would include a formal supper followed by music and dancing. While today these festivities last only a few hours, in ancient times, these types of wedding celebrations could last for an entire week!
When John refers to the “marriage supper of the lamb” this is likely the event in question. The Church — a Bride already chosen by God, with her mohar officially paid in full by His work on the cross, and therefore formally betrothed to Jesus — will one day finally hear the trumpet sound indicating the Groom was, at last, coming for His Bride…
Following the Rapture of the Church and a ceremony known as the Bema Seat of Christ, Jesus will then spend an intimate period alone with just His Bride. During this time, John records how “it was granted to her to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright.” Amazingly, the garments of the Bride were not earned but bestowed to her by Jesus. It is the loving Groom who clothes His Bride in righteousness.
While there is this private season following the Rapture, the day will come when it’s finally time for the Bride and Groom to publicly present themselves to the world as Husband and Wife and start their life together. You see, in the Second Coming, this is what occurs.
Jesus and His Wife (the Church) exit the yihud of heaven and together we make a public appearance by returning to the earth. And what happens? A celebration begins that will last for 1000 years known as “the marriage supper of the Lamb!”
In fact, the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the last feast on the Jewish calendar, was designed to be a yearly rehearsal for this amazing moment. In Zechariah 14:16, the prophet says during these 1000 years, “It shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”
In closing… One of the great misconceptions regarding the Second Coming of Jesus is that it will be Apocalyptic. Sure, as we will see next Sunday, this will be a bad day for Satan, the Antichrist, False Prophet, and all those who’d taken the Mark of the Beast. Sure, on this day, there will be a great slaughter of all those who’d gathered to make war against Jesus. And yet, we shouldn’t think any of this is going to take any time for Jesus to accomplish.
Again, Zechariah the prophet writes (14:12), “This shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people… Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths.”
Understand, the judgment of this day will be incidental in comparison to what the day really represents. You see the Second Coming initiates “the marriage supper of the Lamb!” This is the day when Jesus finally returns to earth with His Wife the Church to establish His kingdom. What follows will be the greatest celebration in all of human history!
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