For the Love of God, Volume 1/December 28
From Gospel Translations
2 Chronicles 33; Revelation 19; Malachi 1; John 18
REVELATION 19 IS DIVIDED into two parts. In the first part, John hears the roar of a great crowd in heaven shouting out various lines of unrestrained praise, joined by various others in antiphonal unity. The first stanza of adoration (19:1-3) praises God because he has condemned the great prostitute (see the reflections for December 26-27), thus demonstrating the truth and justice of his judgments (19:2). This stanza elicits a chorus: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever” (19:3), and the elders around the throne join in adoring approbation (19:4). A voice from the throne exhorts all God’s servants to join in praise—”you who fear him, both small and great” (19:5)—and again John hears a vast multitude in the thunderous acclamation of worship. Now the focus is less on God’s justice in condemning the prostitute, and more on the sheer glory of the reign of “our Lord God Almighty” and on the imminent “wedding of the Lamb” (19:6-8).
The second part of the chapter depicts Jesus in highly symbolic categories. Once again it is important to remind ourselves how apocalyptic can mix its metaphors. He who from chapter 5 on is referred to most commonly as the Lamb (a designation that is still very common in chapters 21—22) is now presented as a warrior riding a white horse. This warrior is called “Faithful and True” (19:11); his name is “the Word of God” (19:13; compare John 1:1, 14), and his title is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (19:16). He leads the armies of heaven in the final assault on the two beasts (i.e., on the beast and the false prophet) and on all who bear their mark. His weapon is a sharp sword that comes out of his mouth: he needs only speak to win. It is he who “treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (19:15), which returns us to the terrifying image of 14:19-20.
In one sense, Revelation 19 does not advance the plotline of the book of Revelation. It does not try to do so. We have already been told that God destroys the great prostitute, that those who bear the mark of the beast must face the wrath of God, and so forth. What it adds—and this is vital—is the entirely salutary reminder that God is in absolute control, that he is to be praised for his just judgments on all that is evil, and that the agent who destroys all opposition in the end is none other than Jesus Christ. Moreover, all of this is conveyed not only in the spectacular language of apocalyptic, but with the exulting tongue of enthusiastic praise. Implicitly we readers are invited to join in, even if at this stage we do so by faith and not by sight.