02 Apr 2023
Passage Revelation 19
Speaker Chris Haley
Fourteen years ago my housemate tried to poison me! I know he tried to poison me, because he accidentally poisoned himself! He promised me a feast of enchiladas, but he put so much salt in them they were completely inedible. Still he managed to eat his own, and mine- and gave himself salt poisoning, and was ill for several days. That was not a feast I wanted to be part of! In this section of Revelation we’ve been seeing the tale of humanity being told as a tale of two cities. Babylon- and as still yet to come, new Jerusalem. And this week the story is being told as a tale of two feasts, two suppers. One you’d definitely want to part of, and the other, that you definitely wouldn’t! Just as the destinies of these cities are VERY different. So the outcome of these feasts could not be different, one spells life, the other spells death! We’ve got a lot to get through, so let’s dig in with our first point…
The Response of the Redeemed v1-10
1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for his judgements are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” Revelation 19:1-2 ESV
This part really finished off what we saw last week and feeds in to the next vision. Babylon, the world seen as a seductress of the saints has fallen. In one day, one hour she has gone. And heaven’s response is verse 1: Hallelujah! Hebrew for Praise the Lord! Hallelujah, what God has done is right and true. He has avenged the blood of his people by bringing judgement on the Babylon. Hallelujah, her smoke rises forever. She’s like Sodom and Gomorrah whose smoke rose to heaven, gone for good forever! God’s people, represented by 24 elders, and the whole of creation represented by four living creations reply:. Amen! Amen- Hallelujah! It’s over, it’s done! All that we’ve been groaning for is coming to pass! And they worship God! And as if to encourage them, a voice from throne comes calling all his servants, great and small to praise Him! . And that’s what they do. John gets a bit carried away in verse 10 and almost starts worshipping an angel! But no, we worship and praise God!
Verse 6 doesn’t tell us whether it’s the angels or the elders, or the living creatures. Probably the idea is that it’s everyone- it’s a noise as loud as thunder, or at the foot of a waterfall. HALLELUJAH! Why? Because God reigns! Hallelujah! Why? Because the wedding supper of the lamb is here. The engagement will soon be over and the Bride is now ready. She’s even got her dress! Now I thought Caroline’s dress was lovely on the day we got married. But it pales in comparison with this one! All the righteous deeds of the saints will adorn the bride on that day. All the good works done by Christians. All the times we’ve brought glory to God will make that dress shine bright like pure white linen!
Now bits of Revelation are hard, we’ve seen that, but this is an easy bit! We know who this is talking about! We’re used to these images and pictures. The lamb is Jesus, and the bride is the church. It’s the picture that launched a thousand wedding sermons! It reappears in Ephesians 5, in Revelation 21, and Jesus uses that picture of a wedding, again and again in parables. He even calls himself the bridegroom in the Gospels. In that sense in a way Biblically its like at the moment we’re engaged to Christ. An engagement was a much bigger deal in the Bible than it is for us. You’d have to get a divorce from it- a la Joseph. Who had in mind to divorce her quietly, even though they weren’t yet married. It’s binding, but it’s not consummated. We are secure in His love and faithfulness. But we await the public celebration. The public revealing of his love towards us.
In many ways that’s what the second coming is. A public revealing, unveiling of what is already true. The work was done in Jesus first coming. His death on the cross to rescue us. His defeat of evil on the cross when he triumphed over the world, the flesh and the devil. What happens when he returns is that those things will be publicly seen and acknowledged. On that day He will acknowledge his covenant love for us, and there will be a huge celebration. That in one sense will last on into eternity, as we spend the rest of forever with Him. And we are invited in verse 9. This is one of the seven blessings given in Revelation. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”. We’re not only going to the ceremony- we’re going to the reception! We’re going to the banquet, the supper, the after party! Many, many people down through the years have linked this back to Isaiah 25- the messianic banquet.
Isaiah 25:6-8 ESV
6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death for ever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
Sounds like a wedding banquet doesn’t it! Sounds like a feast fit for a king! A glad and joyous day when we will enjoy a great wedding feast with the lord Jesus, the lamb. Won’t that be good?! There we’ll feast forever in a honeymoon that never ends- more to follow in chapter 21. But before we can get there some other things need sorting out. And so the camera angel changes, away from the romantic wedding film with a white dress to more of an action film with a rider on a white horse!
The Rider of the White Horse v11-16
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16 ESV
The section starts with Heaven being opened. Which, if you’ve with us for the series so far, is ominous. That glimpse back to heaven occurs at the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet, and with the seven bowls of God’s wrath. It’s a clue that this is the end of the end in mind. A rider comes forth out of heaven on a white horse. And, spoiler alert, it’s Jesus. Again many, many things disputed in Revelation. Not this one, this is Jesus. The description leaves us in no doubt! Plus, the angel tells John the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of all prophecy. Prophecy at its heart is there to prophecy about Jesus! It’s there to tell us about him. And in all the confusion and trickiness it’s easy to forget that. This is a Revelation of Jesus Christ- Revelation 1 verse 1. And as though to give us a worked example- he testifies to the Lord Jesus through prophecy. In other words he tells us some things about the Lord Jesus, but in apocalyptic language. Really he tells us three big things throughout the description.
Firstly, he tells us some of the names of Jesus. Not just Lord or Christ. But he tells us He is called faithful and true. He is dependable, and trustworthy, he is honourable and sincere. In Revelation 3:14 He was called the faithful and true witness. He did not give in, even though it sent Him to the cross. He tells us that He is called the Word of God. A little plug there for his own Gospel, which famously starts by calling Jesus the Word! But more than that it’s consistent with how Scripture presents Jesus to us as the revealer of the Father. And the one by whom the Father acts, and organises the world. The one by whom judgement comes. He tells us that he has a name written that no-one else knows. In Revelation 2:17 the church in Pergamum were told they would be given a new name which no-one else would know. Then we said it was to do with control. In the ancient world they believed if you knew someone’s name you could curse them, or control them. No-one knows his name- in other words no-one can control or curse him. He is above all authority. He tells us his robe and thigh have written on them ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’. He’s got clothes with writing on to identify Him, still have them today! Thighs with writing on- less so! So many different reasons given, it’s where swords are, it’s where you could see if he’s sat on a horse! Thankfully the point is not so much where it’s written, but what is written! King of Kings, Lord of Lords. This is who He is, no one greater, no one higher. This is who He is today! And this is the day everyone will see!
Secondly, He tells us what he’s wearing and what he looks like. He tells us that he has many diadems on his head. When I first read this I thought it must be a mistake. Jesus and his followers aren’t pictured wearing diadems. We defined diadems before as a sort of showy crown. The dragon wore seven, completely showy! Jesus’s and his followers though usually wear a ‘stephanos’. A victor’s crown. A lower key affair. But there will be nothing low key about Jesus’ return! He will return in glory and power. No-one will dispute his kingly power- it will be visible to all! He tells is that He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood. The saints we were told had washed their clothes in the blood of the lamb and made them clean. There is no need for his clothes to be cleaned, he is already pure and holy. But the blood is a reminder He is the lamb who was slain. With his blood he has purchased men and women for God. He tells us that his eyes are like flames of fire. That’s from Daniel’s vision of a man in Daniel 10 and was mentioned back in the vision of Jesus in the opening chapter. Back then we said that it shows he has “laser-like vision, burning eyes, seeing all.” There’s nothing hidden from his gaze. He knows and sees all. And there’s no hiding.
Linked with that thirdly, he tells us that he is coming back to judge. He tells us that He judges and makes war- in righteousness. Jesus is the righteous judge. He is the conqueror in the one and only truly just war. He comes here to bring judgement to the nations. And when he does he will come with an accompanying army. Jesus is not alone on that day. There is an army with him, dressed similarly to him. The army of heaven. The heavenly host. We forget that host is a military term! Some think the saints are included here too. Especially since the bride is clothed in fine linen in v8 and so are this army. But we’re certainly told the angels in Mark 8 and Jude 14 come with Him on the last day, so it may be both. He tells us that He will strike down the nations with the sword of his mouth . Again we were given this picture back in chapter 1, but it’s from Isaiah 11.
Isaiah 11:4 ESV but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
There’s no actual battle, he just speaks His powerful word, and they perish. He tells us that He will rule with a rod of Iron. A reference back to Psalm 2 where we are told God’s anointed will dash the nations to pieces like a clay pot. He tells us that He will tread the wine press of God’s wrath. That’s not a reference back to the cross, but a reference forward to the judgement here, and a reference back to the horrific harvest of chapter 14. Where the winepress of God’s wrath was trod, and produced a river of blood longer than the river Jordan. And here it is Jesus who is treading it! I don’t think we’re used to seeing Jesus this way. We’re used to Jesus meek and mild, we’re not used to Him riding in on a white horse and striking down the enemies of God. But he is the judge. And we’re told in chapter 6 that people will seek to hide themselves on that day from ‘the wrath of the lamb’. And we mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking that only God the Father is angry at sin. Jesus is angry at sin too! And it’s Jesus here who brings judgement. We shouldn’t try and make out that Father, Son, or Spirit have different personalities. They are different persons in the Godhead, but their character is the same. Yes, for us being a person means we have a different personality, with our own quirks and character traits, but that’s not what it means in the Trinity. They are different persons, but they don’t have different personalities. That’s why to know Jesus is to know God the Father. He Jesus will return as judge and bring justice. And that’s what we see in our last section….
A Different Supper v17-21
17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. Revelation 19:17-21 ESV
What follows is a pretty horrific account of the end. We get three in quick succession in this section of Revelation as the focus moves to the end. We’ve already had the fall of Babylon- the seducer of the church. Here we see the fall of the Beasts – the persecutors of the church. Next week we’ll see the fall of Satan – the enemy behind it all. But I don’t think we’re supposed to see these in succession. As though Babylon falls, then the beast falls and then Satan falls. We’re to read this as three takes on the same event- judgement day- the day of the Lord. I’ll explain more why as we go through. But here we see the two beasts we saw in chapter 13. Here they are called the beast and the false prophet but clearly those two are in mind. In chapter 13 we defined them as secular and religious authorities that persecute Christians. Beasts that have had many faces down through the ages. And here we see them thrown into the lake of fire. Babylon ended with fire, the beasts end with fire, and the devil will end in fire. Not be destroyed, but to be tormented for eternity!
Revelation 20:10 ESV 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
This is a truly horrific end. Thrown alive into the lake of fire- as though to add to the horror of it. But what it means is that one day, not only the seduction, but the persecution of believers will end. In the world to come there will be no beasts breathing down our necks. There will be no authorities threatening Christians with death if they share their faith. There will be no authorities trying to force Christians to go against their consciences and bow down to something other than the true God. There will be no persecution, that will be done with. The beasts will be gone, never to trouble God’s people again. But not just the beasts, those who have followed the beasts. They must be dealt with too.
Now this bit is truly horrific, but as a church we don’t pick and choose which bits we do and don’t look at. This is horrific, but it’s there, so we’re going to look at it. What we see in verses 18 and 21 are really a repeat of the horrible harvest of chapter 14, but from a different angle. The word of Christ slays all of the people who have opposed Christ and his people. It kills them, dead. And the birds of the air are called to feast on the corpses. All men (and women). Slave and free, small and great. All are slain. There are no survivors. They have made their choice to oppose Christ, to live in rebellion against him and now they must face the consequences.
Jesus is returning as judge, and all who did not heed the call to repent will perish. And this is the other feast we have here. When the birds are called down to feast on the bodies of the slain. A supper for the birds. And the image is parallel to the marriage supper of the lamb. The message is this: you can come to the feast, or you can be the feast? What are you going to choose? There is no middle ground. Which would you rather do or be? It sounds horrific, but to many of the first readers this would be an encouragement, many of whom were facing terrible persecution. Those who had killed their compatriots, those who have driven them from their homes and their places of worship, those who have refused them a living and stolen their property. One day justice will come. One day the wrongs will be righted, eternally so, we’ll see in the coming chapters. The very creation itself will join in on the judgement. As the birds feast on the flesh of the fallen.
The imagery here is taken from Ezekiel 39. Ezekiel is told to call the birds to eat the flesh of the fallen army of Gog and Magog. In Revelation Gog and Magog, whoever you take them to be fall in the next chapter. A clue again that this is not in chronological order, one after the other, but three accounts of the same day, that same time. But whatever you think about it, it’s pretty horrific stuff! That’s why we had the reading after the children left this morning. It’s good to hear the Bible together, and for the children to know that that’s what we’re looking at too. But we don’t want to give them nightmares! And it is the stuff of nightmares. It is not a case of turn to Jesus and your life will be better or easier. It’s not a case of turn to Christ or don’t that’s all fine. It’s turn to Christ or face the alternative we see here- judgement. Eat supper or be supper.
And you can view negatively like a threat, although God IS the judge. Is it wrong to have prison or fines as a threat to deter those who would commit crime? Is it wrong for a parent to spell out the consequences for if their child does wrong to stop them doing wrong? God is the legitimate authority. And he is warning us in advance where our actions will lead. It’s like those shocking warnings on cigarette packets. This will be the outcome if you continue on the path you’re on. To be honest it’s more of a warning. And if the person carries on, they are free to do so, but on their own head be it, they have been warned.
Or if you want to view this more positively, you can view it like an incentive. God makes the alternative shockingly awful so that we have no reason not to turn to Christ. It’s not two happy endings, there’s just one. So there is no good reason not to turn to Christ, especially given the alternative. Humanly speaking, why wouldn’t you turn to God in light of this? We have no excuse not to, if we understand this correctly. Even if being a Christian was awful, wouldn’t it better than this horrific end?. In the tale of two feasts wouldn’t you prefer to be part of the one that doesn’t poison or kill, whatever the other meal might be?
Let me finish with a story that Ray Comfort, the American evangelist tells. Imagine you’re on a plane on the way to a lovely holiday in Spain, and someone tells you that you need to put on a parachute. You quite rightly ask why? They tell you that it will enhance your flight experience. That all the cool people and influencers are wearing them. And that you’ll be surprised how comfortable the parachute is. You put the parachute on, and other people on the plane start to laugh, and make fun of you. You can’t get comfortable in your seat. It’s just to difficult to carry on- so you take off the parachute. Oh, and unexpectedly the plane crashes and you perish! OK, same scenario. You’re on a plane on the way to Spain, and someone tells you that you need to put on a parachute. Again you ask why?. And they tell you that the plane has got an engine problem and will certainly crash! They tell you the parachute is uncomfortable, that people will scoff at you wearing one. But when the plane goes down you can jump to safety. And that’s what happens. You put the parachute on and people start to laugh. But you keep remembering what’s coming. It’s uncomfortable on the plane. But you keep wearing it. Again the plane crashes, but because you know what will happen, you have clung to your parachute, and made it to safety. That’s what John wants for His readers. That’s what God wants for those who hear the words of this book. Yes, what’s described is horrific, but it’s there to cause people to cling to their salvation. To cling to Christ, the lamb, our bridegroom, even when it’s hard. And look forward to that day when there’ll be no Beast or Babylon. And next time we’ll see- no Beelzebub, but for now, let’s pray.