Dr. Richard L. Strauss
July 1, 1979
The Book of Revelation is the unveiling of God's program of the last days. It's His plan of destroying sin and Satan, of delivering His creation from its bondage to corruption, and of establishing His kingdom of righteousness and peace on earth. All of these great accomplishments center around one great event, the event toward which all human history progresses: the second coming of Jesus Christ.
It is the focal point of human history. This event is the major theme of the book of Revelation. It is called the "revelation of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:1). From the very first chapter it is predicted: "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye shall see Him" (Revelation 1:7). And when we reach chapter 19, that great event is upon us. It is the major emphasis of the chapter, and while it does not occur until verse 11, the preceding verses prepare us for it. It is those 10 verse that we want to discuss today. The chapter begins with the alleluias.
1. The Alleluias in Heaven
"And 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" (Revelation 19:1).
Who this great multitude is we do not know for sure. It may be the whole host of angels and men around the throne of God. The important thing is that they are ascribing salvation, glory, honor, and power to the Lord. The time has come for God to put down sin, to bind Satan, to deliver the earth from its bondage, and to establish His righteous kingdom. The Son of God stands on the threshold of heaven ready to be revealed, ready to consummate God's plan of the ages. And the hosts of heaven cannot be quiet; they shout their alleluias to the Lord.
Incidentally, the King James says, "Alleluia!" The New Scofield Bible says, "Hallelujah!" Alleluia is simply the Greek form of the Hebrew word hallelujah, which means, "Praise be to God."
One great reason for these peals of praise is revealed to us in verse 2, "For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged the blood of His servants shed by her. And again they said, Alleluia! And her smoke rises up for ever and ever" (Revelation 19:2-3).
From the day sin entered the world, Satan has been preparing his false bride, false religion, which God calls the great harlot--Mystery Babylon whom we studied in chapter 17 and 18. But now she is gone and the hosts of heaven shout their praise. The smoke rising forever indicates the perpetual punishment of those who participated in her wicked deeds. They will experience everlasting condemnation.
So we see one alleluia in verse 1. We see another in verse 3. The third alleluia is in verse 4. It is heard from the 24 elders who surround the throne of God. "And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, 'Amen! Alleluia!'" (Revelation 19:4).
We have heard from them before. Representing the church of Jesus Christ in heaven, they have sounded their praise to God at each significant step in God's program of subjecting the earth to the rule of His Son. In Revelation 4:10-11, they honored the Lord for creating all things. In Revelation 5:8-9, they sang the praises to the Lamb who was worthy to open the scroll, thus asserting His right to redeem the earth from its bondage to corruption. In Revelation 7:11-12, they celebrated the arrival of that great multitude of tribulation martyrs whose robes had been washed white in the blood of the Lamb. When the seventh trumpet sounded in Revelation 11:15-18, they fell on their faces and worshipped again because of God's righteous judgment against sinners during the Great Tribulation, and for the glorious announcement, "The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever." And now once more, when the fall of Babylon is recalled and the imminence of Christ's great appearing is considered, they add their "Amen! Alleluia!" (Revelation 19:4).
"Then a voice came from the throne, saying, 'Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!' And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, 'Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth'" (Revelation 19:5-6).
The voice John hears is probably that of an angel. It is addressed to all those who fear the Lord, small and great, and it is a command to keep on praising the Lord (present tense). Why shouldn't every servant of the Lord praise Him at a moment like this--angelic or human? This is the moment all human history has waited for: the moment when Jesus Christ shall exercise His authority as King of kings and Lord of lords, the moment when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father. This is the thought that inspired Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. The great multitude cries out like the sound of many waters and like mighty peals of thunder, "Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth."
2. The Announcement of the Marriage Supper
The praise continues in verse 7, but the anticipation of Christ's coming, and the establishment of His kingdom on earth, causes a new element to be introduced into that praise. It is the marriage celebration of the Lamb. It is the announcement of the marriage supper. "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7).
The overthrow of the false bride in chapters 17-18, which was the subject of praise in the first 6 verses of chapter 19, now leads us to a consideration of the true Bride of Christ. Note first the difference in the text between verses 7 and 9. At the first reference it is called the marriage, but it is not a marriage ceremony but rather a marriage celebration. At the second reference, the word "supper" is added in the Greek text as well as the English. But many commentators are agreed that this is one and the same event. The basic meaning of the word used in verse 7 is "marriage celebration" or "marriage banquet." The context seems to be referring to the same event, adding "supper" for emphasis in verse 9.
The ceremony is actually when Revelation 19 opens. The Bride is called the Lamb's wife. The marriage feast or banquet is about to begin. "Let us be glad and rejoice for the marriage feast of the Lamb is come."
Why does anticipation of Christ's coming to earth call forth rejoicing over the marriage feast? And why is it related to the second coming of Christ? Do we really understand what is happening here? In order to understand it, we have to go back to the Old Testament. As we have noted from other passages, the Millennial kingdom is often likened to a great feast. The Old Testament projected this concept of the kingdom in Isaiah 25:6-8 and Psalm 22:26-29.
The Lord Jesus knew that. I mean, He inspired it to be written. He uses that same symbolism in several of His parables (see Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13; Luke 14:15-24). What John hears in verse 7 is the announcement that the great time of blessing on earth predicted by the prophets throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament is about to be realized. The marriage feast of the Lamb is come.
Maybe it would be helpful for us to review the elements in an oriental wedding of that day, in order to understand this passage better. The first step was a betrothal--the contract, often arranged by the parents before the children came of age, and many times involving the payment of a dowry. It was a legal, binding contract, and was looked upon as tantamount to marriage. The second step, which led to the consummation of the marriage union, occurred when the couple had come of proper age. The bridegroom, accompanied by his friends, would go to the house of his bride, and escort her to his home to take her as his wife. This is the ceremony. It is culminated in the physical act and now they are husband and wife. This was followed by the third element, the marriage feast, either at his own home or the home of his parents, and sometimes lasting as long as a week.
Now let's take these customs, and see how the Scriptural doctrine of the Bride of Christ corresponds perfectly to them. The church of Jesus Christ is espoused to the Lord Jesus as His bride-to-be. The contract has been made and it is binding. Even the carnal Corinthians were included in the marriage contract, according to the statement of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:2, "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."
Paul was like their spiritual father who negotiated the contract and espoused them to Christ. All believers are espoused to Christ.
The next step is for the Bridegroom to come for His bride-to-be. The Lord Jesus predicted that coming for His bride in John 14:3, "And if I go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." That coming is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. We call it the Rapture because we're caught up away from the earth to meet the Lord in the air.
But the central passage concerning the actual presentation of the church to Christ as His bride is found in Ephesians 5:25-33. In verse 27 is the presentation of the church to the Savior, and at that moment of official presentation, the Bride is spotless and without blemish. She has been sanctified and cleansed (Ephesians 5:26). In other words, all impurities have been removed.
Now let me ask you a question. When will all impurities be removed from the bride of Christ? This official ceremony must of necessity take place after the judgment seat of Christ, where the purging fires shall consume all worthless deeds, leaving a perfectly spotless and pure church. So we know that the events of Revelation 19 happen after the judgment seat of Christ.
By the way, some insist that Ephesians 5 does not teach that the church is the bride of Christ. To me such a view is an unbelievable denial of Scripture. After seven verses describing the relationship of husbands and wives, the Apostle says, "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:32).
Now the ceremony is completed. All that remains is the wedding feast. "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage feast of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7). The coming of the Lord to earth to establish His kingdom is at hand; the marriage feast is about to begin.
In verse 8, we have a beautiful description of the condition of the Lamb's wife at that moment, after the judgment seat of Christ, after the presentation to Christ, immediately before the second coming. "And to her was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints" (Revelation 19:8).
That word righteousnesses actually means "righteous deeds." There is a righteousness we receive by faith in Jesus Christ, imputed righteousness, which fits us for heaven. We can do nothing to earn it. Our good works contribute nothing whatsoever to it. But after we are there, the works we have done during our Christian life are reflected. They not only provide the basis for our rewards, the crowns we lay at Jesus' feet, they provide the materials for our garments. Those things done through the energy of the flesh, for selfish purposes shall be destroyed and forgotten. What lives on in the form of crowns and garments are those things done for the glory of the Lord, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But some are probably wondering if that means some will have no garment. I believe the Scripture teaches that every true child of God will have something that survives the fires of the judgment seat of Christ. Jesus said, "Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:20). If no fruit whatsoever is present, they aren't true believers. James adds, "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). Unless faith is attended by at least some Spirit-produced deeds, it is non-existent.
Now turn to one of the central passages on the judgment seat of Christ, 1 Corinthians 3. The fire is described in verses 11-15. Remember, the works are burned, not the person. "If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15). I think some Christians don't understand that. Purgatory is not taught in the Bible. We are not burned; our works are burned.
But the question is, can every single work of any one man be burned, so that he will have nothing praiseworthy left? Will some have nothing to wear? If you will turn to chapter 4, which is the same context, still dealing with this same judgment when God will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. And there we read, "and then shall every man have praise of God" (1 Corinthians 4:5). Naturally, Paul is speaking of every Christian believer. Not one will be without a garment. Some may be a great deal more elaborate than others. I just don't know--the Bible doesn't say. But every true believer will have a garment of some kind or other. And it will be made of fine linen, clean and white.
But this is the time to take stock, isn't it? Has the thought ever occurred to you before that the garment you will wear when you reign with Christ in His kingdom will be of material of your own making? There are many, many Christians today who would have to admit that they're not ready. If Christ were to come today, and their garment were to be made of the quality of their Christians lives to this point, they would be horribly ashamed. I'm not suggesting that you "rededicate your life" because that's usually just a decision to try harder in the energy of your own flesh and we are not capable of doing anything in ourselves.
I'm really not suggesting that you do anything. I'm suggesting that you, by an act of your will, develop an attitude; it is an attitude of absolute submission to Jesus Christ, complete, unselfish surrender to Him and His will. Ask Him to remove every selfish motive for what you do. Ask Him to take control of your life, and do anything he wants with it--anything! Then thank Him for everything He does. And what He does through you will be the basis for your reward and for your garments in His kingdom. Those works will survive the judgment seat of Christ.
Now, we're back in Revelation 19 at verse 9. The wife of the Lamb will not be the only one at the wedding feast. There will be guests, as well. John is commanded in verse 9 to write, "Blessed are they who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." Now this is obviously a different group from the wife of the Lamb. A bride doesn't need an invitation to her own wedding reception. She has a place of honor, next to her husband. But there will be other guests there who will receive invitations to attend, who will be called. They are the friends of the bridegroom.
Can we discover whom they will be? If you remember, back in John 3:29, John the Baptist referred to Christ as the Bridegroom. "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled." John was a friend of the Bridegroom. That's a hint. If John the Baptist was a friend of the Bridegroom, then it would seem that believers of past ages will fit into this category.
According to Christ's parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25, saints of the future age will also be among the invited guests. The context of that parable places it in the framework of Israel during the Great Tribulation. It gets so twisted around by some preachers sometimes, but the context is during the Great Tribulation. Believing Jews will enter the marriage feast, unbelieving Jews will not.
The church of this age--the church age--is the bride. Believers from other ages are the guests. Concerning them John writes, "Blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9). And to reinforce this truth, he adds, "These are the true sayings of God."
John is overwhelmed with all of this, and so in verse 10 he falls at the feet of this one who is speaking to him, evidently an angel as in past visions of this book. But the angel says, "See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus." Not only redeemed men, but angels as well can be called fellow slaves of Jesus Christ. They too bear testimony to Jesus Christ. But they are not to be worshipped. Worship is directed to God alone, which seems to be the meaning of the next command "Worship God."
Then notice the last statement in verse 10, "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Here is one of the clearest Biblical revelations of the purpose of prophecy. Why are we going through this book of Revelation? It's to magnify and exalt and honor the Lord Jesus Christ. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
We're not going through this book to satisfy our curiosity about future things. It isn't to give us an edge on unbelievers who don't really know what's going on in the world--where this world is headed and why and what it's all about. It's not just to give us an edge on them. It isn't only to inspire us to yield our wills to Jesus Christ. It is that, but that's not all. And that's not the first reason we study prophecy. Prophecy is primarily to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ, to exalt Him. And if any other reason is foremost in any prophetic teaching, then we ought to hold it suspect.
Before Jesus left this earth He told His disciples of the Holy Spirit whom He would send. "When the Spirit of Truth is come, He'll guide you into all truth." He went on to say, "He will show you things to come." The Spirit of God will teach us about prophetic events. And then He says right after that, "He will testify to Me" (John 16:13b-14a). And any prophetic teaching that doesn't glorify the Lord Jesus is not of God.
I trust that we've gotten a little better glimpse of the Lord Jesus tonight. Our Bridegroom, who someday will come and receive us to Himself, who will cleanse us and present us to Himself spotless, without blemish, holy, set apart unto Him, and then return to the earth with us to rule and to reign throughout the Millennium, and then usher us in to our eternal state.
If we know Him a little better tonight, I trust we love Him a little more. And if we love Him a little more, we'll let Him have control of our lives and live through us. If we do that, the results could very well be experienced and enjoyed forever in our reward and in our garment. Let's pray.
Father, we ask You to heed the exhortation we received from an angel who spoke to John one day on the isle of Patmos, who anticipated that day when we shall answer for the quality of our Christian life. God, I pray that as a result of thinking and sharing these things, my life may measure up a little better to your standard for me. I pray that all of us together will have grown through the Word today. For we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
Continue to RV-13B: Behold, He Cometh (Part 2)