Before we begin, let us pray…
My God, my Father and my Savior, you have been pleased to preserve me by your grace through the night and you have brought me to this new day. Grant that I may use it entirely in your service, that I may think, say, and do nothing but to please you and to obey your holy will. May all my actions be to the glory of your name and to the service of others. And just as you cause the sun to shine on the world to give physical light, let your Holy Spirit illumine my mind to guide me in the way of righteousness. In everything I do, let my goal and intention always be to walk reverently and to honor and serve you., relying only on your blessing for my well being, and undertaking only what is pleasing to you.John Calvin
The Fall of Babylon signals the destruction of everything in creation. It is followed by the lament of those who participated in her sexual immorality. Ironically, they are those who killed her and in the end, lost everything valuable they had with her, and so grieved her demise. Last week, we pointed out these are the wicked reprobates and the professing but unregenerate hypocrites. And as Christian pilgrims living in world, we are called to come out of her, her worldliness, and live uncompromising lives. Let the lament of the wicked serves as a warning for us to live in the world but not of it.
Now, in contrast, the response of the elect believers and the saints in heaven is rejoicing and praise. We will continue with this theme of praises from God’s people (verse 1-5) and then we will continue with the next event John saw in the heaven after seeing the lament of the wicked perishing on earth: The Bride of Christ and The Marriage Feast with the Lamb. This will serve then the sermon parts of this morning’s preaching: 1) The Rejoicing in Heaven; (2) The Bride of Christ, and The Marriage Feast with the Lamb. On the first part, we will identify the source of our comfort in the midst of trials and tribulation. On the second part, we will discover the Bride of Christ,, and we will uncover the final event in the last days after judgment and this is the marriage feast in heaven.
The Rejoicing in Heaven
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.” (verses 1-5)
Finally, John’s vision moves us back to heaven and from there he shows us the proper response to God’s wrath and judgment is rejoicing and praising for God’s kingdom has finally been consummated. God’s people are finally vindicated. God puts everything under Christ’s feet. Christ conquered death and inaugurated new creation in his resurrected but in his ascension and second coming, he subdues the effects of our sin and misery, and consummates God’s kingdom in the new heavens and the new earth.
Obviously, the great multitude singing in heaven are the saints. They are God’s people finally united to God in Christ there in heaven, and instead of mourning and lamenting they are shouting their praises to God. Worshipping God for who he is and what he has done is the chief end of man, and once all of God’s enemies are subdued, we will all worship him not only for his grace and mercy, but also for his righteousness and justice. God has won the great cosmic battle against the dragon, the beast, and the harlot and now all of God’s people sings praises to God for finally winning the war.
At this point, we can compare chapter 19 with the previous scenes where the saints worships God at his throne and they are found in chapters 4-5, 6-7, 12, 14 and 15. The detail at every point increases from chapters 4 to 19. From chapter 4-5, we can sense the immense congregation surrounding the throne. From chapter 6-7, we can identify these multitude as God’s people, they are the saints in heaven who were martyred here on earth. From chapters 12 and 14, we know they are the church of Christ, the whole number of God’s elect. From chapter 15, we can understand that they are those who awaits the completion of God’s wrath over his enemies. They anticipates God’s vindication in the end. And finally in Chapter 19, we can see here now the event of God’s victory over his enemies and the worship of God’s people is permanent. We will forever worship God. Verse 3 declares ““Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
God’s people will forever worship God in the new heavens and new earth and even though our worship here on earth is often perceived as feeble and weak when viewed by the outside world but for us it is a heavenly reality we all participate into every Lord’s Day. Gathering every Lord’s Day together with the pilgrim saints here on earth is the only encouragement and comfort we can receive from God and apart from it, we will lose sight of this heavenly perspective. Worship is the primary activity of all the saints. We will forever adore and worship God for who he is and what he has done. This is what the triple Hallelujah signifies. In the end, we will praise God forever. What we doing now is what remains in the future. Let us encourage one another as we worship God here in this place today and every Lord’s Day.
The Bride of Christ and The Marriage Feast with the Lamb
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. 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. 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.” 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. (verses 6-10)
The fourth Hallelujah here marks for us the theological understanding that God inaugurates his kingdom on the first coming of Christ and consummates it in his second coming. The clause “For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns” conveys this idea. Yes, the verb “reigns” here is an aorist or an action from the past but it ingressive which means it is also a continuing reality. This is close to saying God inaugurates his reign by defending death because of Christ’s first coming then he continues to reign subduing everything until finally in his second coming he brings his reign into its consummating end.
Now the event that follows this end is a marriage feast with the Lamb. Here we can ascertain the identity of the bride who will marry the Lamb. She is the church of Christ. We know it is the church because she was granted to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure. This alludes to Paul’s own description of the church where in Ephesians 5:25-27 reads, “…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.” At the same time, we know from Old Testament passages like our reading for this morning from Isaiah 61 where Israel identifies Yahweh as bridegroom and she is her bride, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (verse 10).” Also, in Hosea, Yahweh charges Israel of adultery as an equivalent to spiritual infidelity.
Therefore, the term “bride” here is highly symbolic of the relationship between God and his people. It demonstrates for us intimate spiritual union. And in contrast to sexual immorality of the harlot from Revelation 18, the bride from Revelation 19 is symbol of fidelity in marriage. The bride, as seen by John, “has made herself ready”, “for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints”.
Yes, the righteousness of the bride is the imputed righteousness of Christ. It comes from the bridegroom as part of the deposit or inheritance she receives from Christ’s first coming but come wedding day, in his second coming, the bride has demonstrated her faith in the midst of trial and tribulation, and she has persevere in the end. She also walked in the path of godliness as granted to her by the sanctifying grace of God, and brought for the necessary fruit of good works as “the righteous deeds of the saints”. Indeed, the bride has made herself ready for return of her bridegroom. She has been proven faithful.
The visible church of Christ here on earth continues to battle against the forces of the dragon, the beast, and the harlot. And as Christ continues to defend her and subdue her enemies here on earth, we can never deny the sad reality we experience from the hands of our enemies. The bride of Christ continues to battle and appears to be down and trodden. She seems defeated, shutdown, dismissed, and even appears extinguished. Yet no matter how she seems when perceived by the eyes of her enemies, in the end, God will preserve her until the end. No war, pandemic, disease, sickness, economic turmoil, and even death can shutdown the church of Christ. She will continue to thrive in the end and she will be the final victor in Christ. “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” says the angel of the Lord and of course, it refers to the Parable of the Wedding feast Jesus taught his disciples from Matthew 22. The unworthy guest who were invited to attend comprises the church, the bride of Christ. They are blessed because they received a kingdom that has no end, and now they feast with the Lamb in the heavens. Is this encouraging brothers and sisters? Let us exhort one another with these words.
ZCRC(Imus), let us rejoice in our worship of God. He is gracious, merciful, holy and just. The church of Christ will persevere in the end and God will continue to preserve her until Christ’s second coming. Maranatha!
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.