rev 19 (1)… the wedding

Revelation 19

1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments 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.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” 6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out. “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.

After this’ seems to indicate a new section through clearly it has close links with what has gone before, namely the judgement of Babylon. (Jer 51L25,26). The smoke of her destruction arises forever (v3). The city which brought ruin now lies in ruins (Isa 34:10). There is a finality implied. The desolate silence of smouldering Babylon gives way to thunderous rejoicing in heaven. This is the climactic expression of praise in Revelation. The first song is heaven’s praise for God’s righteous judgement of Babylon and the final song heaven’s praise for the salvation of God’s people. Overall, four hallelujahs ring out; a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew used only here in the NT. ‘A great multitude in heaven’… ‘the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures’, ‘a voice’ from the throne and trumping them all, ‘the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder‘ from the throne combine in songs of praise, worship and hallelujahs, approving God’s actions. We seem to be back in the throne room of Ch 4,5. For the seventh and last time the elders and four living creatures appear. The whole of heaven and the representatives of both church and creation (the elders and the four living creatures) consent to God’s actions. Salvation belongs to God and his judgements are true and just (third time affirmed) These twin axes of salvation and judgement will be further unpacked through 19-22 as the reign of God unfolds. The elders and living creatures fade from view for the reality they represent is coming into focus – the new creation and the new Jerusalem (the glorified church). From now we will see various aspects of God’s reign.

7 Let us rejoice and exult. and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself. with fine linen, bright and pure”—. for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

If there is resounding praise for the demise of Babylon then the anticipation of the marriage of the lamb is cause for rejoicing and jubilation. Glory belongs to God who has arranged this marriage.

The bride/wife has made herself ready- the first mention of the bride. There will be no further sounds of bride and bridegroom in Babylon but there will be a wedding in heaven. Here a few narratival connections are at work. Firstly the bride dressed in fine linen bright and pure stands in vivid contrast to the great prostitute and her excessively opulent apparel. (17:14). The Prostitute’s dress reflects her excesses and her cup of abominations her idolatries and sins whereas the fine linen of the bride is the ‘granted’ woven righteousness of the saints It is her purity which is her beauty (Eph 5:25-32; 2 Cor 11:2). Hers is a purity both gained and given (Isa 61:10; Jn 3:29). In this image it is her purity that is to the fore while in the later in the image of the city it is her glory that dominates (21, 22)

The marriage supper of the Lamb a time of joyful celebration about which Scripture often speaks is in stark contrast to the ‘great supper of God’ the unclean feast where carrion birds feast on the bodies of the vanquished lying on the battlefield (v17). Apparently John is told to ‘write’ twelve times in Revelation. Here he writes one of the seven beatitudes of the book – the blessedness of being invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. We ought not to read into this that the bride is the church and the guests are a different group. Both are the same group; the metaphor is mixed. The bride is the collective image of the church emphasising Christ’s love for his people (Eph 5:27; Isa 61:10,11, 62:5) Like ‘saints’ the guests are a metaphor for all the individuals who compose the bride (Matt 22:1-13, 25:1-13, 8:1-11; Isa 25:6-8 Cf. Lk 14:16-24; Mk 2:19). The joy of the wedding contrasts with the drunken revelry of the prostitute (17:1-6). Here is the feast that the Lord looked forward to eating with his own in the kingdom of God (Matt 26:29), the feast the church anticipates each time it participates in the Lord’s supper. However, only when his military battles are won can he marry his bride (Deut 24:5).

The introduction of the bride here in typical Revelation style prepares us for the fuller description of the bride in Ch 21,22. There the bride descends from heaven as the New Jerusalem. Just as the world was both Babylon the city (culture) and a whore so the people of God are both the New Jerusalem and a bride. In the OT Jerusalem is depicted as both a city and a bride (Isa 61:10; 62:5; Hos 2:16-23; Ezek 16:8). Needless to say these OT Scriptures and images inform John in Revelation.

As John writes the invitation to be a wedding guest remains open, but barely – the bride has made herself ready (v7,9; Matt 22:1-13; Lk 14:17). The wedding is imminent but not yet.

In a book replete with angelic beings who do astonishing things by John’s misguided effort to worship one it is underlined they too are simply servants like us. The angelic instruction is clear ‘Worship God’. In a book explicitly monotheistic it is all the more remarkable that the Lamb is an object of worship (Rev 5).

The final words in this section guide us on how to approach prophecy; the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Now it is true that testimony from Jesus in Revelation is the spirit of prophecy (1:2), however, it seems more likely that the objective sense is to the fore – the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Prophecy is about God’s purposes in Christ (1 Per 1:10-11. The work of the Spirit is to reveal the truth about Jesus (1 Cor 12:3)

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