Jesus Wins! – Part 33: Funeral to Wedding Rev. 19:1-10

//Jesus Wins! – Part 33: Funeral to Wedding Rev. 19:1-10

Jesus Wins! – Part 33: Funeral to Wedding Rev. 19:1-10

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, 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.”

Once more they cried out,

          “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”

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 [lit. “has begun to reign”]. 7Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

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. [1]

As we approach the end of Revelation, John moves from describing the ongoing war between believers and the world, the flesh, and the devil to the future of God’s people as overcomers of the forces arrayed against them. John fast-forwards into the future to the final judgment and the consummation of all things. The Roman empire, it’s client rulers, and its demon-worshiping culture serve as symbolic pictures for the political-military powers and the idolatrous cultures throughout the ages that oppose Messiah Jesus’ inbreaking kingdom. Beginning with the final two bowls of judgment in chapter 16, the scenes that follow are slow-motion replays of various aspects of the final judgment and Christ’s kingdom fully come.

Chapter 19 turns our attention to the heavenly celebration when the city of man falls, and God’s great demolition project is completed to pave the way for his new garden-temple where he will tabernacle with his people for eternity. The funeral dirges sung by the earth-dwellers give way to heavenly praise choruses in chapter 19. While the harlot committed spiritual adultery with the nations, the bride of Christ prepared herself for her groom. The bride of Christ is the opposite of the harlot, whose beauty is a Satanic deception and whose destruction has been the subject of Revelation 16-18.

Remember in chapter 16 we saw an angel pour out the seventh bowl of final judgment that destroyed the great city of man. As we looked at the slow-motion replays in chapters 17 and 18, we learned that seven, even eight, mountains (kingdoms) arise out of mankind’s idolatrous culture – that is, the complete number of idolatrous cultures of the earth are part of the same God-hating city of man. John’s first-century readers would have understood the Old Testament references to historic Babylon as the place where God’s people were held in captivity in a city-state completely given over to demon worship and utterly opposed to the one, true God. Yet, the prophets promised that mighty city-state would fall at the hand of God and that God would free his people to return to their land.

Israel’s exile in the literal, historic Babylon was a type (a picture) of the realities taking place throughout the ages in between Jesus’ first and second coming as the world, the flesh, and the devil oppress God’s people. So, if you’re still asking yourself “Who is the beast?” and “Who is Babylon?” here is the answer: The beast is any human government-military authority not in submission to Christ as Lord. Babylon is any human culture (social, intellectual, artistic, economic) not in submission to Christ as Lord. Was Rome the Beast? Yes. Is America Babylon? Yes. Is China the beast? Yes. Is Russia Babylon? Yes. But there will be a final beast and a final whore of Babylon arrayed by the devil against the Church when Jesus returns to destroy evil.

Who is the great and final beast? Who is the great and final Antichrist? Who is the great and final Babylon? Nobody can and will know until Jesus returns in judgment. This letter from Jesus through John teaches that Christians will suffer waves of persecution until Christ returns and that we will always be tempted by God-rejecting, idol-worshipping cultures because our flesh (our Old Adam 1.0 hardware) is hard-wired to trust only what it can see with its eyes, touch with its hands, and use to feed its sense of pride and personal happiness.

In these final chapters of Revelation, we see God demolishing idol-worshipping earthly powers and the demons behind them. John has told us that many believers and several congregations of Roman Asia in his day were drawn away from the exclusive worship of their bridegroom, Jesus, into the pursuit of self-generated happiness offered by the great harlot. So, the main point of Revelation is NOT to know the time of Christ’s return but to maintain biblical wisdom that allows believers to respect their God-ordained governments and enjoy the good gifts of human culture while still worshipping Jesus alone.

Chapter 18 showed that everything into which the earth-dwellers trust for their security and personal happiness is demolished before their eyes by Messiah Jesus. Babylon sinks into the waters of judgment like a millstone tossed into the river. No longer will there be the sounds of life or of commerce in her streets because the streets of the harlot city have run with the blood of the prophets and the saints. As the harlot has helped the beast shed the blood of the saints, God will take all life from Babylon the Great. There will be no voices or sounds within her walls, only silence. Her fate is sealed, her doom is sure.[2]

The slow-motion replay of the seventh bowl of judgment found in chapters 17-19 gives way to a shot of the crowd, on their feet in the heavenly stadium, cheering with true joy over the crushing victory of Team Jesus. John and a glorious angel narrate the post-game wrap-up. Like chapter 18, chapter 19 opens with rejoicing in the form of a praise chorus. The chorus is a response to the command in 18:20 for heaven and the “saints and apostles and prophets[3] to rejoice over Babylon’s destruction. The demolition of the sinful world, the flesh, and the devil brings the great wedding feast of the Lion-Lamb and his bride, the church.

HALLELUJAH CHORUSES (1-5)

The chapter opens, “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, 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.’”

God has vindicated his suffering saints who sojourned through the wilderness. He has brought them into a new and perfect and unconditional Promised Land where their right to stay has been earned for them through the resurrected and ascended and glorified Jesus’ perfect law-keeping life and his sacrificial death. Where Adam and Eve had to remain perfect to inherit an eternal life in the garden-temple of Eden, where Israel had to keep God’s holy law to remain in their Promised Land, now all God’s people enter the new heavens and the new earth where God will be their God, they will be his people, and he will dwell with them.

Notice this praise chorus is sung by a vast crowd. They are a great multitude. We saw this crowd in 7:9. Verse 1-8 pictured the church as 144,000 holy warriors sealed by Christ for battle. But we know that’s not a literal number because he then describes them in verse 9 as:

… a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.[4]

The number of those sealed into Christ from the First Adam to the return of the Last Adam is so ginormous that nobody but God himself can count them. All these saints have sojourned through the wilderness of a sin-dominated world –faithful Jews and Gentiles who worshiped Messiah Jesus as the Promised Seed of the Woman who crushed the dragon’s head.

Among this vast crowd are the martyrs who cried out from under the heavenly altar in Revelation 6:10, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”[5] Though they suffered greatly on earth, now they join their praises with the Psalmists. They sing the themes of Psalm 104, 106 and Psalm 58 that praise God for his judgment of the wicked. The image of Babylon’s eternal smoldering (her smoke goes up forever) comes from Isaiah 34:9-10 where the constant smoldering of Edom forms a permanent memorial of divine judgment for her idolatry.[6]

The sight of earth-dweller culture going up in smoke prompts the heavenly court to join in the praise. “And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’[7] The word “Amen” is a liturgical expression of trust often used to strengthen a statement. It means “true” or “truly.” Jesus puts it before several of his statements, “Truly, truly I say to you….” The declaration of “Amen, hallelujah” intentionally echoes Ps. 106:48. In the Psalm, as here, it functions as part of the people’s thanksgiving to God for gathering them to himself after delivering them from “their enemies” who “oppressed them” (cf. Ps. 106:42–48 with Rev. 19:1–2, 7–9).[8]

Following immediately after the heavenly court declares its assent to the church’s praise comes another voice commanding both small and great to “Praise our God.” We don’t know who issues this command. It is likely one of the elders or cherubs gathered around the throne, but it could also be Christ. Nevertheless, the command links together the praise over Babylon’s destruction with the next 5 verses announcing the great wedding feast.

WEDDING FEAST OF THE LAMB (6-10)

All creatures great and small amp up the level of praise because not only have they and their God been vindicated by the final judgment, now God’s great demolition project has paved the way for eternal life apart from the power and presence of sin and complete union and communion with God. So, the praise amplifies. John describe it as, “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.[9] This is an explosion of joy such as the universe has never seen. The boom of thunder can measure 120 decibels. The loudest college football stadium is reputed to belong to the University of Washington Huskies with a top reading of 133.6 decibels – the equivalent of standing next to a jackhammer or behind a jet airplane on takeoff.

When I read this text, I was struck by the contrast of this scene and the one found in Acts chapter 19 when the angry citizens of Ephesus pack into their amphitheater and scream, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” The city’s greatest source of fame and pride was their temple dedicated to the demon called Dianna or Artemis. The apostle Paul’s gospel preaching was delivering many out of demonic bondage and into Christ, threatening the city’s trade of Artemis trinkets and souvenirs. Very few were lining up to buy their “I visited Artemis” spoons and “Temple of Dianna” snow globes.

Imagine a stadium of 30,000 angry demon-worshipping souls screaming as the sound of their voices booms against the hillside and out across the city. Remember, this was in an era where there were no jets, automobiles, air conditioners or other competing noises to dampen the effect of the crowd. Now, imagine being a new believer huddled with your family inside your home as the thunder of the chanting crowd bounces off your walls, leaving you to wonder if someone is going to kick in your door and lead you away to be a human sacrifice at the Temple of Artemis.

Can you see in your mind’s eye that great crowd of demon-worshipping earth-dwellers – livid over the power of the gospel of Christ, defiant and demanding Paul as a blood sacrifice to their patron evil spirit? As loud and menacing as the sound of their anger was, the joyful chorus of all God’s redeemed people, together with the elect angels gathered on the heavenly Mt. Zion, is FAR louder. Ephesus was destroyed by earthquakes. The demon temple was shattered. But God’s people – no longer hunkered down in fear in their homes at the sound of murderous screams – gather to celebrate their eternal union with Jesus. The promise of divine intimacy is fully fulfilled: “You shall dwell in the land… you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezek. 36:28).

Two major things are announced in these five verses. The first, unfortunately, is obscured by many English translations in verse 6. Something dramatic has happened: The Lord God Almighty has begun to reign (ingressive aorist, not present tense).[10] That doesn’t mean that God has not been reigning. It means that up to this point in the history of creation, he has ruled according to his patient endurance of sin for the sake of his elect. He has allowed the dragon, the beast, and the harlot to oppress, and sometimes seduce, his people. While God often reigned indirectly, using the sins of the earth-dwellers for his own glorious purposes, now and forever he reigns directly in eternal love for his people and in eternal wrath against the citizens of hell.

The second major thing announced here is the great wedding feast of the Lamb has come. Throughout scripture, salvation is presented as a love relationship between God and his people. He promised Israel, “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.[11]

Paul states that marriage promise is fulfilled in in Jesus’ saving work. “…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.[12]

How has Jesus’ bride made herself ready in verse 7? Paul has explained it: Jesus has cleansed her through the word. She was given ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. John wrote, verse 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.[13] Note that her garments of righteousness are given to her, not earned. Throughout this evil age, Christ’s bride prepares herself for her marriage to the Lamb, by testifying to the unbelieving world around her of the truth of the gospel and matching that profession with good deeds–what we might speak of in another context as giving evidence of one’s sanctification, one’s beginning to look more like Jesus. The white robe is outward sign not only of the bride’s faithfulness to her bridegroom, it is also her wedding present from Christ.[14]

Christ’s bride, the church, you who trust into him alone do not save yourselves in any way. You do not contribute to your salvation. Your good works give you no merit at the final judgment.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. [15]

The ones who stand before Christ and proclaim their own deeds are those whom Jesus rejects (Matt. 7:21-23):

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” [16]

What is “the will of my Father” that delivers God’s saints to the wedding feast of the Lamb?

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [17]

There will come a day when the merriment and songs of weddings will be heard no more in the city of man. Only the smoke of Babylon will remain as an incense of eternal judgment. But on that very same day will come the merriment of the saints. The eternal happy hour will begin. Outside will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). But inside the heavenly city shall be feasting, singing, and joy uninterrupted for you will be fully and eternally united to Christ, free from the effects and power of sin, free from the pursuit of some shabby idolatrous idea of personal happiness. Finally, you will realize the fulness of true created purpose – to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Flee to Christ as your refuge. The city of man is crumbling around you, but the Word of the Lord abides forever.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. [18]

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:1–10.

[2] Kim Riddlebarger, Blessed Are Those Who Are Invited (Rev. 19:1-10). http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/downloadable-sermons-on-the-bo/Blessed%20Are%20Those%20Who%20Are%20Invited%20%2026%20–Revelation%20191-10.pdf

 

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 18:20.

[4] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Re 7:9.

[5] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Re 6:10.

[6] Beale, 929.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:4.

[8] Beale, 930.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:6.

[10] Beale, 931.

[11] Phillips, 533. The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Ho 2:19–20.

[12] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Eph 5:25–27.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:8.

[14] Riddlebarger, op. cit.

[15] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Eph 2:10.

[16] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Mt 7:21–23.

[17] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 6:40.

[18] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:17.

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