Hallelujah, The Lord Reigns!
In Revelation, you find words like tribulation, endurance, trial.[i] You hear appeals like, “Hold fast” and “Be faithful unto death.”[ii] You also meet sinister characters: Satan the Dragon, the Beast who wars against the church, the False Prophet, Babylon who’s drunk with the blood of the saints.[iii] You also hear cries from God’s people, “How long, O Lord?”[iv]
Revelation isn’t written to a comfortable church. It’s written to a church in tribulation. It’s for those wearied by the world’s persistent evil. Many of you know this weariness. Every news outlet gives 24-hour commentary on the world’s evil. You’ve also experienced hurt and betrayal for following Jesus. You could name churches who’ve fallen prey to Satan’s lies, and it grieves you. You know the pressure of temptation and hardships. Taken together, it’s enough to exhaust any Christian.
In tribulation, we need something to hold onto. Or better, we need a hope that will uphold us in the face of evil. That’s why Revelation exists—to hold you up, to keep you faithful, to give you hope. Chapter 19 belongs to that hope. God will judge evil and fill the earth with songs at the marriage supper of the Lamb. That’s what today’s passage anticipates. Read it with me from verse 1…
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. 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.
The words we just read belong to a bigger picture that started with chapter 17. In chapter 17, we learned about a city named Babylon. 17:1 compared Babylon to a great prostitute. She personifies the whole system of evil that opposes the Lord and oppresses his people. But we also learned that Babylon won’t last forever. God has determined her judgment.[v] Chapter 18 then pictured the aftermath of her judgment. Kings, merchants, shipmasters, everybody setting their hope in Babylon—they weep because the great city is no more.[vi] Their riches have perished. They have no future. There’s nothing left but desolate wilderness. No singing, no life, no wedding.[vii]
But that’s not the case for those who set their hope in the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Twice John hears a great multitude singing in verses 1 and 6. We’ve seen them before. In 7:9, it’s a multitude that no one can number, from all tribes and peoples and languages. They’ve washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14).[viii] Now, we have the privilege of hearing their praises once again. But this time we listen to a future song. Babylon’s judgment is so certain that the song has already begun.
Praise God for the coming judgment of evil.
The first thing we learn from that song is to praise God for the coming judgment of evil. In verse 1, they sing, “Hallelujah!” That’s not a word you find elsewhere in the New Testament. But it does appear in many Psalms. It’s just translated, “Praise the Lord.” The worship leader would call the people to praise God for his mighty deeds in salvation and judgment. What I find interesting, though—this word gradually increases as you near the end of the Psalms, where there’s a striking emphasis on the conquest of the future king in David’s line.[ix]
Revelation 19 describes that future conquest in verses 11-16. All the Psalms find their fulfillment in the conquest of Jesus. With that conquest comes the judgment of Babylon. So, they sing, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.” Salvation refers to God’s redeeming work in Jesus. He’s the Lamb who ransoms a countless multitude. He conquers the Dragon.[x] Here he saves his people from Babylon. Glory is another word they use. It refers to the intrinsic worth of God going on display in judgment and salvation.[xi] Power is something else they recognize.[xii] Here God’s power topples Babylon the Great.
People had made Babylon their savior. People thought Babylon was glorious. People trusted that Babylon was invincible. But God’s judgments reveal that salvation, glory, and power belong to God alone. So, the multitude praises God.
Verse 2 then develops why more fully. Starting with a more general point: “his judgments are true and just,” it says. There’s nothing in God’s nature that’s tainted with error. He is goodness. So, no one can question his judgments.
More specifically, though, his truth and justice become apparent in toppling Babylon. Babylon, corrupted the earth with her immorality, verse 2 says. Remember, in Revelation, immorality isn’t limited to sinful sex. It’s a symbol for spiritual harlotry, unfaithfulness of all sorts. God made the earth good, and God made us to worship him alone. And when humanity worships God, relationships experience good order and creation thrives. But Babylon has led the nations to cheat on the Lord—to compromise with false gods—and through it she has ruined the earth. So, it’s appropriate for God to judge those who are ruining what he made to be good.
Another reason they sing is that his judgment “has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” In 17:6, we read that Babylon was drunk with the blood of the saints. She has supported the unjust killing of God’s people. Back in 6:10, we even heard the cries of those murdered for their faith. They cried, “How long, O Lord…before you will judge and avenge our blood.” In Babylon’s downfall, God answers their prayers. Finally, God has vindicated them from their oppressors! So, they sing.
They also sing because, verse 3 says, “The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” That comes from Isaiah 34:9-10. Edom was God’s enemy. But the Lord promised to punish them the same way he punished Sodom and Gomorrah. When the Lord was finished, people would pass by and see the smoke rising over the city as a memorial to their judgment. The multitude witnesses the same. Babylon will never rise again. Her smoke goes up forever. So, they praise God.
Now, some struggle with this picture of the saints eventually praising God over others being destroyed? But let’s remember a few things. One is what we discussed at 14:11—those who face God’s judgment are not the innocent begging for mercy. They’re bent on hating God and hating his people. Also, God’s judgment reveals aspects of God’s love. Much like a wife would feel loved by a husband who protects her from an abuser, so God’s people experience his special love in delivering them from Babylon.
Something else is that praise over the smoke rising forever need not dismiss how we’d all experience Babylon’s fate were it not for the Lamb’s blood. There is a sense in which even Babylon’s judgment tempers the saints’ praise with humility.
But finally, we need to see that the multitude doesn’t sing about punishment for its own sake. Rather, they rejoice in what the punishment reveals about God’s “true and just” character. They now see the glory and worth of God truly, and they have learned to esteem him rightly. The rest of heaven confirms their praises. In chapter 4, John started at God’s throne and worked outward to the multitude. But in verses 4 and 5, the vision starts with the multitude and works inward to the throne. The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures say, “Amen. Hallelujah!” Then from the throne itself a voice comes, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” For his judgment on Babylon, God is worthy of your praise.
Praise God for the marriage of the Lamb.
That brings us to a second scene with the great multitude. Again, John hears a Hallelujah chorus in verse 6. But this time we learn to praise God for the marriage of the Lamb. The judgment of Babylon wasn’t an end in itself; it prepares the way for a greater work that’s part of a new creation when Christ returns. They say, “The Lord our God the Almighty reigns.” The title, “Almighty” is a substitute for the phrase, “God of hosts” in the Old Testament. God exceeds all others in power. But in Revelation, God’s reign refers to the way he manifests his kingdom on earth at Christ’s return.[xiii]
That’s what verses 7-8 develop—events that surround Jesus’ return. That also fits Jesus’ teaching elsewhere about the return of the Bridegroom. The multitude says, “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; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure, for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”
A few things to consider here. One, we’re now introduced to another woman. Babylon was also a woman. But she was an unfaithful woman. This woman keeps herself for one husband, the Lamb. She wears garments bright and pure—which the text says symbolizes “the righteous deeds of the saints.” We’ve seen from 3:4 that stained clothing is a symbol for moral defilement. Here the Wife is bright and pure.
That’s not her own accomplishment. We’re also told how “it was granted her to clothe herself.” God’s initiative stands behind her righteous deeds. We’re also told in 7:14 how the multitude washes their robes and makes them white in Jesus’ blood. But the emphasis here is that instead of choosing to sleep around with the world, the Bride has chosen to walk in purity. Like a pure virgin, she saves herself for marriage to the Lamb; and eventually we’ll see her coming down from heaven as the New Jerusalem in 22:10.
Now, this special marriage union between Christ and his Bride fulfills a major theme spanning the whole Bible. In the Old Testament, to be God’s people was to be in a covenant relationship much like a marriage. That’s why the Law uses language like “whoring after other gods”—Yahweh is the covenant husband, and his people shouldn’t cheat on him with idols. Of course, that’s exactly what they did.
Ezekiel 16, for instance—God finds Israel in a desperate state. She’s dirty and bloody and without hope. But God cleans her up and prepares her to be his bride. But Israel then chases the idols of other nations. So, God compares Israel to a serial adulteress. Isaiah 2:21 laments the same thing: “How the faithful city has become a whore.” The prophet Hosea even illustrates this by marrying a woman named Gomer that he knows ahead of time will cheat on him. But as you keep reading Hosea 1-2, you realize how Gomer pictures Israel chasing after whatever lover she wants. In all these prophecies, God reveals that he must judge Israel for cheating on him.
But that’s not all these Old Testament prophets reveal. They also speak of a covenant Husband who, in rich mercy, willingly forgives his unfaithful wife and restores her to himself. Ezekiel 16, for example, ends with this promise: “I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame [the shame of her adultery].” Why? “When I atone for you for all that you have done.”
Or how about Hosea 2:16? They slept around so much that Israel had forgotten God (Hos 2:13); and it would’ve been just for God to forget them. But God says, “Behold, I will allure her.” Despite all she’s done to him, God speaks tender and romantic words to woo her back. Words that include this: “…in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’…I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.”
Isaiah 62:4, “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.” In other words, as the storyline progresses the Prophets anticipate God coming like a Husband to rescue his Bride even when she’s been unfaithful to him.
Then enters Jesus, God almighty in the flesh. And what do we find Jesus doing? He’s at a wedding feast in John 2 turning water into wine. Why? He’s the true Husband preparing the ultimate wedding feast. In John 3:29, John the Baptist is the best man: “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom [that’s Jesus]. The friend of the bridegroom [that’s John] who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.” John the Baptist can hear the church bells ringing already. The Bridegroom is here to win his bride.
And what does Jesus do? Does he flirt with other idols? No, he obeys God all the way, even to the point of laying down his life for his unfaithful bride. Ephesians 5:25-27 says that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” That she might be bright and pure.
In Revelation 19, it’s like we’re in the foyer just before the doors open to see her Husband—she’s dressed and ready for the marriage. Jesus’ return completes the marriage. So, the multitude sings, “Hallelujah! Let’s give him glory!” O man, do you feel that too? Open the foyer doors now! We want to see you, Jesus. We want to hear him say, “My Delight Is In You,” my beloved people. Come soon, Lord Jesus.
Praise God for the true words of his Spirit.
Verses 9-10 then round out the section; and in them we also learn to praise God for the true words of his Spirit. The angel says to John, “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.” John mixes the metaphors. In verse 7, the Bride represents God’s people. In verse 9, the invited guests are his people. There is one parable Jesus tells in Matthew 22:1-14, where some are “invited” but refuse to attend. That’s not how “invited” is used here. Here it refers to all who will enjoy Messiah’s banquet.
If you belong to Jesus, there’s assurance that you will feast with him at the final marriage supper—something the Lord’s Supper will point us to once again.
John experiences all this. He falls down at the angel’s feet to worship him in verse 10. And the angel says, “You must not do that! I’m 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.” Now, some translations take “spirit of prophecy” to mean the testimony about Jesus captures the essence of what true prophecy is.
But Revelation is a prophecy and we’re told several times that John receives this prophecy “in the Spirit” (Rev 1:3, 10) or after being “carried away in the Spirit” (4:2; 17:3; 21:10).[xiv] So, I think it’s better to take “spirit” as referring to the Holy Spirit—the Holy Spirit being the source of prophecy. The testimony John has received about Jesus is the Spirit himself prophesying. Meaning, if the Spirit is the source of this testimony, don’t bow and worship the angel. He’s just a messenger like you, John. Worship God. God is the source of these true words.
Prepare to Meet Your Husband
That’s the vision. What’s the point? How would this have moved the churches of John’s day? How should the vision move us? I’ll give you three ways it has moved me. One, it has moved me to pray for Babylon to fall and for Jesus to return. Earlier this week, I was in 2 Samuel 7, where God makes a covenant with David. David then prays for God to confirm his word. He prays for God to glorify his name. He prays for God to bless David’s house. But verse 27 is very instructive: “For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.”
Today, we have seen another revelation that God has given to his servant. God has promised to judge evil and bring the marriage of the Lamb; these promises comes as an answer to the prayers of the martyrs in 6:10. Therefore, saints, you should find courage to pray for these things. When you see evil prevail and the innocent suffer, find in these words the courage to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, Father.” Find courage to pray, “Father, end the wickedness of this world. Upend Babylon and cause her to fall. Father, frustrate the plans of the wicked. Shatter their idols. Avenge the blood of your servants. Bring a new creation and don’t let Babylon corrupt this world anymore. Confirm your word about her judgment.”
Find courage to pray, “Lord Jesus, come! Don’t delay. Rescue your Bride. Wherever she’s hurting, sustain her and keep her and protect her. Wherever she’s tempted, speak words that will draw her back. Dress your people in righteousness and prepare them to meet you.” These are prayers the Lord will answer. They all agree with his revelation and align with his purpose in Christ. So, let this vision move you to pray.
We should also be moved to join the multitude in praising the Lord. Praise the Lord for his coming judgment. Part of God’s plan in renewing all things is ridding the world of all that destroys it. Evil has an expiration date, as someone else put it. Things won’t always be this way. Part of the good news is that God will eradicate all evil. Give thanks to the Lord for this and praise his name.
Praise him also for the marriage of the Lamb. Praise him for the Lamb’s sacrifice. Jesus’ blood washes us and makes us new. He enables us to sit at the wedding banquet without shame. Isaiah 54:4 says, “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name.” Praise God that our true Husband has come to deliver us, and he’s coming again to bring us to himself.
And praise God for his true words from the Spirit. Do you ever just spend time just thanking God for his written word? What a treasure we have in God’s inspired, written revelation. Our God is not silent. He has spoken and revealed his purpose. Give thanks that we’re not facing the world’s evil with nothing to stand on. We have a word to guide us, a word to uphold us and remind us that the outcome is secure. Jesus wins. Praise God for all these things and let them put a new song in your mouth.
Lastly, prepare to meet your Husband. That’s both sanctifying and reassuring. It’s sanctifying because Christ’s bride wears righteous deeds. In Revelation, obedience and good works play a crucial role in the Christian life. Those who belong to the Lamb follow him wherever he goes. They act in loyal devotion to him.
But you live in a culture determined to lead you astray from your true Husband. You’re engaged to Christ and waiting for the wedding day. But Babylon the Prostitute seeks to distract you. She has riches and pleasures and comforts and security that will immediately gratify. Don’t think it can’t happen to you.
In Jeremiah 2, Israel is likened to a wife who leaves the Lord for the false gods of other nations. In Hosea 4, the men of Israel went after sexual idols of various kinds—and in our day, you can add pornography. In Ezekiel 23, Israel looked to the power of political systems to save them. In 2 Corinthians 11:1-2, Paul describes the church as a people he betrothed to one husband. He aimed to present them as a “pure virgin to Christ.” But at some point, they start straying after a different gospel that would lead them away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. James 4:1-4 addresses quarreling in the church, which is due to passions at war within us. And he follows that up with, “You adulterous people!” Don’t think it can’t happen to you.
Babylon can so easily distract us from our true Husband. Don’t let her. She’s a liar. Her smoke goes up forever and ever. Guard yourself from the morally defiling things of the world; and clothe yourself with a pure devotion to Christ. Keep yourself like a pure virgin waiting for the big wedding day. It’s almost here, beloved.
That’s why it’s also reassuring. Our Bridegroom is coming. As a kid, I grew up in a church that had a bell tower. And on a happy day like a wedding, we loved racing up the stairs to pull on the rope and ring the bell. That’s what Revelation does—it’s already pulling on the rope so that we can hear the wedding bells ringing. Our Husband will not leave behind the Wife he died for. He died to present you to himself in splendor. The marriage supper of the Lamb is coming. We will eat with him. He will delight in us. All will be well and glorious once again! Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory!
[i] E.g., Rev 1:9; 2:2, 19; 3:10.
[ii] Rev 2:10; 3:11; cf. 13:10; 14:12.
[iii] Rev 12:1-18; 13:7, 14; 16:13; 17:6.
[iv] Rev 6:9-11.
[v] Rev 17:1, 15-18; 18:2, 4-8, 21.
[vi] Rev 18:9-20.
[vii] Rev 18:1-3, 21-24.
[viii] In 14:2, this same group sings a new song because God has redeemed them (cf. Rev 14:2; 19:6).
[ix] See, e.g., James Hamilton, Psalms: Volume 1, EBTC (Bellingham: Lexham, 2021), 64.
[x] Rev 7:10; 12:10.
[xi] E.g., Exod 16:7, 10; 33:18-34:7; 40:34-35; Num 14:22; Isa 40:1-5; Ezek 39:21.
[xii] Already we’ve seen God’s power as Creator (Rev 4:11) and Redeemer (Rev 5:12).
[xiii] It can also be translated, “has begun to reign”—just like it was in 11:17.
[xiv] Also, the Spirit is the source of prophecy to the churches in chapters 2-3. He’s the one that speaks the blessings in 14:13 and 22:17.