Studies In The Book of Revelation
By Jonathan Mitchell
1. After these things I heard – as it were a great voice of a large crowd – folks in the atmosphere (or: heaven) repeatedly saying, “Hallelujah (Praise Yahweh)!: the Deliverance (Salvation) and the Glory and the Power of our God!
2. “Because His judgings (decisions and administrations of justice; judicial processes; separations according to the Way pointed out) [are] true ones and fair (equitable; rightwised; just) ones, because He judged (or: judges) the Great Prostitute – anyone who was spoiling (ruining; corrupting) the Land (or: earth) within her prostitution (fornication) – and He restored a rightwised situation of equity in fairness for (avenges; vindicates; executes the right for) the blood of His slaves from out of her hand.”
3. And a second time they have said, “Praise Yahweh (Hallelujah)!” And her smoke rises up on into the ages of the ages.
4. Then the twenty-four elders (old people) and the four living ones fell (or: fall) down and worshiped the God continuously sitting upon the throne, repeatedly saying, “Amen (Make it so; So be it). Praise Yahweh (Hallelujah)!”
5. And a Voice from out of the throne came forth, saying, “Habitually praise our God, all His slaves and the people continually fearing Him – the small ones and the great ones.”
6. Next I heard as a voice of a large crowd, and as a sound of many waters, even as a sound of strong thunders saying, “Praise Yahweh (Hallelujah)! Because the Lord [= Yahweh] our God, the Almighty, reigns!
7. “We should (or: may) continually rejoice (be glad; be full of joy), and we should continually celebrate (exult), and we should [other MSS: we will] give the glory to Him, because the wedding (marriage festival) of the little Lamb came (or: comes) and His Wife made (or: makes) herself ready (prepares herself).”
8. Then it was (or: is) granted (or: given) to her to the end that she may clothe herself with bright and clean fine cotton (or: she may cast bright, pure, fine linen around her) – for the fine cotton (or: linen) is the effects of fair and equitable deeds and way of life (or: just awards; the results of rightwised behavior; the actualizations of justice; consequences of justice rendered; the effects of living in right relationship which accords with the Way pointed out) of the set-apart folks (of the saints).
9. And he is saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed (Happy) ones [are] the folks having been called (the summoned ones; those being invited) into the wedding supper (meal) of the little Lamb.’” He also is saying to me, “These are the true Words of (or: real thoughts and messages from) God!”
10. And so I fell before his feet to worship him, and he is saying to me, “See! No! I am your fellow-slave, even belonging to your brothers – the ones constantly holding (having) the witness of (or: the testimony pertaining to, and the evidence about) Jesus – Give worship to God! You see, the evidence of (or: testimony pertaining to; witness about) Jesus is the spirit of The Prophecy (or: For the Breath-effect which is prophecy is the evidence for, and comes from, Jesus).”
This chapter begins with praise from the cloud of witnesses – praise to God Who IS our salvation and deliverance; Yahweh is also our glory as well as our power and ability. There is no verb following the exclamation "Praise Yahweh!" so I used the colon to join the following phrases to this exclamation, indicating them as being descriptive of Yahweh, our God. It recalls Ex. 15:2 and Ps. 118:14, "Yahweh is my strength and might; He has become my deliverance (salvation)," and Ps. 62:2, "Truly He is my Rock and Salvation."
In vs. 2 note that the praise is because of His judgment of the Prostitute, the once-faithful City – which included "anyone" who was habitually spoiling and ruining the Land (figure of His people) with her idolatry and pagan influences. The spoiling of the land by prostitution with the gods of the nations via their religions was a continual problem with Israel of old. This judgment "restored a rightwised situation of equity in fairness for (avenges; vindicates; executes the right for) the blood of His slaves from out of her hand." His judgment brings restoration of what is right. And when His judgments come, the people of the system learn what is right (Isa. 26:9). Furthermore, recall that, "The judgments of Jehovah are true, they have been righteous – together. They are more desirable than gold, yea, than much fine gold; and sweeter than honey, even liquid honey of the comb. Also – Thy servant is warned by them, 'In keeping them is great reward.'" (Young).
Vs. 3 shows that although her judgment came in one hour (ch. 18:10), the burning continued on into the ages (it is the burning that causes the smoke, this latter being a result and an indicator of the process going on). This brings a second witness of praise to Yahweh. For 1st century folks, they saw the end of Jerusalem, and thus the end of the old covenant and system of worship as the slave-girl (Gal. 4) was cast out. But the burning and evidence of this end continues on into the next ages, a witness that it is no longer an outward religion, but rather a relationship with God "in spirit and truth/reality" (John 4:23, 24). Barclay considers associates this picture with Isa. 34:9, 10: "And her valleys shall be turned into pitch, and her land into brimstone (sulphur: Greek "theion," – deity; the divine nature) and her land shall be as pitch burning night and day (compare this figure to the lake of fire, here in the Unveiling). And it shall not be quenched unto the Age time, and her smoke shall go up: it shall be made desolate throughout her generations." (LXX)
Vs. 4-5 show us that we are still in the setting of ch. 4, in the presence of God's throne, and the message (Voice) from the throne continues to be that we should be habitually praising God. Note that it is the God who is continually sitting upon the throne, and this God was revealed to be the slain Lamb in ch. 5:6.
In vs. 5, with reference to those "fearing Him – the small ones and the great ones," Vincent refers us to Ps. 115:13, "He will bless those who fear Yahweh, the small and the great alike;" and then in reference to, "Habitually praise out God..." he point us to Ps. 134:1, "Lo! Bless Yahweh, all ye servant of Yahweh..." (Rotherham).
Vs. 6-7 has the cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1, and vs. 22-24, "the heavenly Jerusalem" which are "an assembly of an entire people, a called-out of first-born folks... and to Jesus...;" also note that their voice is the same as the Son of man, in ch. 1:15) again giving praise, and now we learn that it is because God reigns (functions as King), and the wedding of the Lamb came, and His bride has made herself ready. So we see the demise of Yahweh's wife, Jerusalem, and now the presentation on the bride of the little Lamb – His called-out community, which he called out of the religions of the world.
We will see this bride in ch. 21:2 & 10, figured as the "new" Jerusalem (called "the Jerusalem which is above" by Paul in Gal. 4:26), as she now descends out of the atmosphere (the place of her encounter with the Lord, 1 Thes. 4:16-17, which, I suggest, was the time and place of the marriage). The descent of Christ in ch. 18:1 focused on the judgment of the old; the descent of His bride focuses on blessings for the earth, as God/the Lamb brings in the new order, the new age, as we see in ch. 21:5, "And the One (or: He [who is]) continuously sitting upon the throne said, 'Consider this! I am presently making all things new (or: habitually creating everything [to be] new and fresh; progressively forming the whole anew)!'"
Now we also see the reason for the celebration: the marriage festival. In Isa. 54:1-8 it says, "Begin singing, you barren and childless.... 'For your Maker is your husband.... the LORD calls for you – and as new wedded wives who displease,' says your God – 'for a moment sent off, but called back with great pity. In quick anger My face I had hid for a moment, but now with a lasting affection I cherish,' says the LORD, your defender." (Fenton) This gives us a reference point for the figure of God's people being His bride, and in relation to His as in a marriage.
Ezk. 16:7 -14 gives another picture, "... I am spreading My hem over you and am covering your nakedness. And I am swearing to you and entering into a covenant with you [= marriage]... and you are becoming mine. Then I am washing you with water.... rubbing you with oil. I am clothing you..."
Then Hos. 2:19-20 tell us, "And I have betrothed thee to Me to the Age.... and thou has known Jehovah" (Young). So here in ch. 19, we see that the marriage metaphor was one that was a familiar one to Israel. Paul takes it up, applying it to the called-out communities, in Eph. 5:23-33, "For a husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is Head of the called- out..."
Marriage symbolism is often seen in the gospels. There is the marriage feast in Matt. 22:2 with the bride chamber/wedding garment in vs. 10-11. Mark 2:19 speaks of the "sons of the bride chamber" and the bridegroom, and John 3:29 remarks about the "friends of the bridegroom." Paul picks up the same metaphor in 2 Cor. 11:12, speaking of his betrothing the called-out community as a pure virgin to Christ. He uses this figure to describe the relationship between Israel and the law in Rom. 7, noting that when the Husband dies, "she has been RELEASED from the Law of the Husband" (vs. 2). The husband-wife symbolism began with Adam and Eve, and continues throughout the entire Bible. God is portrayed to us as Family, and the central theme is union.
In regard to Jerusalem of old, recall God's words to her in Jer. 3:14-15, "Return, you apostate sons, urgeth Yahweh, for I am become your Husband... and I will give you shepherds according to Mine own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and discretion" (Rotherham). Another promise to her is in Isa. 62:4-5, "No more shall men call you Forsaken, no more shall your land be called Desolate.... for the LORD delights in you and to Him you land is wedded ... and your God shall rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride" (NEB).
Vs. 8 gives the picture of how she makes herself ready: it is by clothing herself with Christ, her righteousness – figured by the bright and clean fine cotton (or: pure fine linen). This symbol answers to being clothed in a white garment, and is associated with the overcomer in ch. 3:5. This is what Paul was speaking of in 2 Cor. 11:2, "for I continue with hot zeal (eager vehement passion) concerning you in (or: with; by) God's fervent zeal (an eager vehement passion which is God), because I, myself, joined you folks in marriage to one husband, to make a pure virgin (= unmarried girl) to stand alongside in the Christ."
You see, our being joined to the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17) is being married to Him, being "one spirit." This is in direct contrast to having been joined to the Harlot (the old Jerusalem of ch. 18, figuring the old covenant religion that had become distorted and polluted – filled with dead people's bones, Matt. 23:27) and thus having become "one flesh" with her (1 Cor. 6:16). The judgment of these was seen in Paul's metaphor of the olive tree in Rom. 11 (unbelieving branches being broken out). The wild branches being grafted in (vs. 17) are an echo of Zech. 2:10-11, where it says "And MANY NATIONS shall be JOINED to the Lord in THAT DAY, and shall be My people..."
Vs. 9 tells us the we are blessed to be able to participate in this celebration, and thus in its reality, and then affirms the truth and reality of what has just been said. The term "blessed folks" is frequently used in the "sermon on the mount" in Matt. 5, and calls to mind "Blessed is the man.." in Ps. 1, repeating it in many other psalms. This phrase is used in the Unveiling in 1:3, 14:13; 16:15; 20:6; 22:7 & 14, as well as in this chapter. It is easy to see why Ray Prinzing titled his book on Revelation "... A Positive Book."
In Matt. 22:2-14 we have the parable of the King's Son's wedding. Jesus spoke this as a warning to the Jewish leadership, pointing out that the King "is angered, and upon sending His troops, destroys those murderers and set their city in flames." A clear reference to AD 70. In Matt. 8:12 Jesus says this in another way, "Yet the sons of the kingdom [= Israel] shall be cast into outer darkness."
No wonder those called to this wedding here in ch. 19 are termed "blessed folks." Then vs. 10 comes out of the scene, to the experience of John with the agent. John is overwhelmed with all of this and returns to the practice of the old flesh covenant of worshiping by falling at a person's feet, and thinking that a person in the realm of spirit should be worshiped. But the messenger corrects him, explaining that "I am your fellow-slave, even belonging to your brothers – the ones constantly holding (having) the witness of (or: the testimony pertaining to, and the evidence about) Jesus." Worship is only to be given to God, and Jesus explained that this is to be done in spirit and in truth – not in physical practice (John 4:21-24).
You will note that here I translated the definite article before the word prophecy, "The Prophecy." I suggest that the agent was referring to the entire Unveiling here, calling it "The Prophecy." The spirit of the entire prophecy is a witness of Jesus, or the testimony pertaining to Jesus – and His purpose of the ages.
Foy Wallace call this chapter "The Vision of Victory": "There is a striking analogy between these scenes of the church emerging in victory from the period of persecution... and the deliverance of Israel from Babylonian exile, described by Ezekiel in the closing section of his prophecy from the 36th to the 39th chapters. The nation of Israel was comforted, and their release was described in terms of a figurative resurrection; and the return to their homeland was pictured as a 'new heaven and a new earth' (Isa. 66:2). The closing chapters of Rev. from ch. 19 to 22 follow the course of Ezk's. apocalypse of Israel returning from the 70 years of exile, but here the church was seen emerging from the period of persecution. The symbols are similar, and the parallel is evident."
11. Then I saw the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven), having been opened, and consider! A bright, white horse. And the One continually sitting upon it being constantly called “Faithful (Full of Faith; To Be Trusted; Trustworthy; Loyal) and True (or: Real),” and He is continuously judging (making decisions and separations) and battling (making war) in fairness (equitable dealings; in justice and right relations which accord with the Way pointed out).
12. And His eyes [are] a flame of fire; and upon His head [are] many diadems (kingly bands), having a name having been written [other MSS: having names written, and a name] which no one knows except Himself,
13. and having been clothed (or: cast around) with a garment having been dipped in blood (or: dyed with blood), and His Name is being called “The Word of God (God’s Logos; The Message from God; God’s Idea).”
14. And the armies in the atmosphere (or: heaven) – ones having been clothed with (invested with; entered within) clean (or: pure) bright, white fine cotton – continued following Him upon bright, white horses.
15. Also a sharp two-edged broadsword repeatedly goes out (issues forth; proceeds) from His mouth, to the end that in it He may smite (or: strike) the multitudes (nations; ethnic groups). And He will shepherd them with an iron staff. Furthermore He is continually treading, [as on a path], (or: trampling) the tub (the wine vat) of the wine of the strong passion of the internal swelling fervor (natural impulse; mental bent; personal emotion; indignation; wrath) of the All-Strong (Almighty) God.
16. And upon His garment and upon [His] thigh He has a Name having been written: “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
This scene just described is a more complete view of the opening of the first seal in ch. 6:2, the One on the white horse. Let's consider His description:
a. He is called Faithful (Trustworthy; Loyal) and True (or: Real)
b. He is continually judging – He does not wait until our life is over!
c. He is continuously making war in fair and equitable dealings (or: in accordance to the Way pointed out, which is right relationships)
d. His eyes are a flame of fire (recall ch. 1:14 – this is the same One)
e. Upon His head are many diadems (vs. 16: King of kings. Does this mean that He is in fact the real ruler of all kingdoms? Or, is this a symbol of His having conquered the kingdoms of this world?)
f. He too, being Himself an Overcomer, has a name which no one else knows – as do all over comers (ch. 2:17), thus showing solidarity with us.
g. He has a garment that has been dipped in blood: either the blood of His enemies, or the blood of His own sacrifice, which latter captures the souls (the soul is in the blood) of His enemies.
h. His Name is be called "The Word of God" – a reference to John 1:1, ff
I. A two-edged broadsword issues forth from His mouth (see Heb. 4:12)
j. He shepherds the nations with an iron staff (ch. 2:27 – the overcomers)
k. He continually treads the wine vat of the strong passion of God's internal swelling – His wrath (recall that this wrath presently dwells upon the uncompliant – John 3:36 – and so is their current situation)
l. His garment and thigh have the inscription, "King of kings & Lord of lords" – an echo of Matt. 28:18, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth"
He also has a following: the armies (plural – does not say how many) of the atmosphere (or: heaven). Recall the soldier's equipment that we are admonished to wear, Eph. 6:10-17. They are clothed with white fine cotton – an echo of ch. 3:5. This is a picture of Christ and His body – us.
So what did this picture speak to the 7 churches in the 1st century? That Christ and His body, the called-out community, has overcome and will fulfill the purposes of God. This figure shows that Christ is active, on the move and involved. He is overcoming in all situations. He is One whom we can trust – He is real. He brings the reality of His kingdom into our earth, riding triumphantly through the midst of our being – as well as throughout the earth realm.
He constantly judges us, correcting our path to be in accord to "the Way pointed out" His sword (Word) "penetrates as far as a dividing (parting) of [our] soul [from our] spirit... to discern [the] thoughts (in-rushing passions) and intentions of [our] hearts." And all this is "shepherding" His sheep.
17. Next I saw one agent standing in the sun. And he cried with a great voice, repeatedly saying to all the birds continuously flying in mid-heaven, “Come! Be gathered together into God’s great supper (meal taken at evening),
18. “so that you may eat kings’ flesh and military commanders’ (commanders of 1000 men; tribunes) flesh, even the flesh of strong ones, and the flesh of horses and of those sitting on them; both flesh of all free ones and of slaves; even of little ones and of great ones.”
19. And I saw the little wild animal (creature; beast), and the kings of the Land (earth), and their armies, having been gathered (assembled) to make war (or: do battle) with the One continually sitting upon the horse, and with His army.
20. And yet the little wild animal (beast) was pressed and caught (or: is arrested), and with him the false prophet (the lying prophet) – the one that did (or: who does) the signs in his presence (or: before him), in which he led astray (or: he deceives) the folks taking the imprinted mark of the little wild animal, and continually worshiping its image – the two were cast (or: thrown) into the lake of the Fire: the one continuously burning within the midst of [the] Deity (or: the lake of the fire which constantly burns in union with the Divine Nature).
21. And the remaining ones (the rest; the ones left) were killed in the broadsword coming out of the mouth of Him who is continuously sitting upon the horse. And all the birds were fed until satisfied from out of their flesh.
The vision changes, and John sees a picture of a meal that is in stark contrast to the wedding supper. In vs. 11-16 we saw the triumphant Christ with His armies, and the battle is described in the metaphor of His treading the wine vat. Now we see the results of this battle: the vultures are called in, implying that there is nothing but dead bodies (or: flesh) of that which God has determined to destroy. Even their horses are dead – an echo of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea.
The message is clear, which is the same message throughout this book, the Little Lamb rules; Christ is triumphant. Here it is not the Prostitute that is killed, but the little wild animal upon which she rode. Here the beast and the kings of the Land are not gathered against the City, but against the One sitting upon the horse. So historically, I suggest that this represents Rome's persecution against the called-out, in the period following the destruction of Jerusalem. But as Malcolm Smith repeatedly said of this book, "Things are not always what they seem to be – the Lamb rules." So this is a prophecy of the end of the little wild animal (the fourth kingdom of the image in the book of Daniel). The animal and the false prophet represent government and religion. Neither can stand against the Rider on the white horse, nor against His army. That is the message of hope: Christ reigns!
But what does it say to us today? First, that Christ is continually judging and making war in righteousness (vs. 11) – that He repeatedly does this as the occasion and His purposes demand. But secondly, we can see the result: dead FLESH! And then He calls in the flesh-eaters of the atmosphere (where they continuously fly) – the realm of spirit – and they pick the bones clean until there is no more FLESH. And then, one could say to us, "Can these bones live?" (Ezk. 37)
This same picture is used in Ezk. 39:17-20, "And you, son of man, thus says Yahweh God; Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, 'Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to My sacrifice... even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood.... of the princes of the earth...'" As this prophecy presented the victory of God for Israel, so these similar images present the victory of Christ over the world and false religions. Here the picture projects into the ongoing ages of the future, as did the vision in Daniel, where the Rock – that struck the feet of the statue and brought it to the ground – became a mountain and filled the whole earth.
Vs. 19-21 reiterate this battle, vs. 20 giving specific information to the destiny of the little wild animal (beast) and the false prophet. The gathering for battle was seen in ch. 16:13-16, when the 6th cup was poured out. In 16:13 the dragon (satan) was mentioned along with the little beast and the false prophet. Here in ch. 19 it is only the beast and false prophet that are cast into the lake of Fire (God). We do not see the devil cast there until vs. 10 of the following chapter – and yet there, too, it follows a description of a battle. Wallace remarks that "The lake of fire was not literal any more than the beast was literal.... The phrase 'cast alive into a like of fire' was equivalent to 'burned alive.'"
Why are we told, in vs. 21, that "all the birds were fed until satisfied"? Is this to emphasize the abundance of flesh that needs to be consumed? May it imply that there will come an end to the need for these flesh-consumers?
Note that the remaining ones are killed with the sword of His mouth: His Word. This speaks to me of Christ and His body ministering the Word. It is the Word that brings an end to the beast system and to false religion. Although this probably had prophetic reference to things of the 1st century, I see a need of the same in our day, too. This is why He is continually, or repeatedly, doing battle in righteousness.
Witness Lee connects this battle with the Valley of Jehoshaphat in Joel. 3:9-16, and with Zech. 14:2-3 and 12-15. Recall that Peter connected the latter verses of Joel 2 with what happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts. 2:16-20), so it would not be historically unreasonable to connect what is described in Joel 3 with what happened about 40 years after the day of Pentecost, or as Jesus said, on "this generation."
Gary Demar connects the prophecy of Zech. 14 to the events surrounding Jerusalem's destruction in AD 70. But I suggest that what has been may well be again, and Yahweh will again roar out of the heavenly Zion, and utter His voice out the New Jerusalem, and the atmosphere (heaven) and the earth (humanity) will shake again – Joel 3:16.
Of vs. 11-21, James Stuart Russell says, "This magnificent passage is descriptive of the great event which occupies so prominent a place in NT prophecy, the Parousia, or coming in glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. He comes from heaven; He comes in His kingdom; 'on his head are many crowns;' He comes with His holy angels; 'the armies of heaven follow him;' He comes to execute judgment on His enemies; He comes in glory.... It must be remembered that it is a poem rather than a history that we are now reading; a drama, rather than a journal of transactions.... If we examine the prophetic discourse on the Mt. of Olives we shall find the same order of events. It is immediately "after" the great tribulation that the sign of the Son of man appears in heaven.... coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matt. 25:29). The scene represented in this vision is that very event. The Lord Jesus is 'revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God...' (2 Thes. 1:7, 8)." (The Parousia, pp. 510-511)
Russell does, however, give consideration to the possibility that the whole scene of the great battle and the victory of Christ may "be properly conceived as taking place in the spirit, not in the flesh... [since this] follows the allusion to the marriage supper of the Lamb, an event which is certainly supposed to take place in the spiritual and eternal state." With this thought I concur, for in AD 70 we do not see Rome defeated – that comes later in history.
But the called-out communities of the 1st century could take courage that even if they saw Rome destroy Jerusalem and the physical temple, it was only the beginning for the reign of Christ.