For the last few days we have been reading the initial visions of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. The Lord Jesus appeared to him on the prison island of Patmos (see chapter 1) and gave him messages for the seven churches of Asia Minor (see chapters 2-3). Then Jesus transported John into another dimension and forward in time, allowing him to witness the worship going on in the very throne room of heaven at the end of human history as we know it (see chapters 4-5). We have skipped chapters 6-18, which use highly symbolic images to describe the events of what Jesus called the “Great Tribulation” (see Matthew 24:21). When Jesus breaks the first seal on the scroll of God’s end-time plan (see 6:1), the Tribulation begins and lasts for seven years. (Note: the Tribulation is the last “week” of the 70 “weeks” or “sevens” of Daniel 9:24-27 — at least as I understand it).
In chapters 6-18 we read of the “four horsemen of the Apocalypse”, the seven seals, the seven bowls, and the seven trumpets. All these are symbolic of the devastatingly thorough judgment God will pour out on the world. The Tribulation is a time of judgment. While all that takes place, the church (all believers) will be with Jesus in heaven, having already been raptured, saved from Tribulation wrath.
When we come to chapter 19, the time is the very end of the Tribulation period, and John is still in the throne room of heaven. From his vantage point he has seen the horrifying events of the Tribulation unfold, but he is also privy to the exuberant reactions around the throne of God as the excitement builds toward the final climactic events of the end times. At this point the battle lines will have already been drawn for the greatest conflict in human history, when the Antichrist and his vast armies gather to attack Israel at a place called Armageddon (see 16:16).
Knowing the great victory that Christ is about to win, a “great multitude” in heaven bursts into loud praise (v.1-4). The shouts come in waves as they celebrate God’s salvation of repentant sinners and His judgment of all evil. The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fall down before the throne of God, saying, “Amen! Hallelujah!” Their voices had hardly died down when the “great multitude” picked up another chorus, even louder than the first (v.6). This time their praise became thunderous as they announced the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (v.7-9). We do not know much about this event, but we do know that the entire Bride of Christ (all believers, the Church) will be in attendance, we do know that it will be a time of great celebration just before the Battle of Armageddon, and we do know that a “supper” involves food! (Note: Whether the food is literal or symbolic we do not know, and it does not matter. Christ will be there, and in His presence all needs are met. The celebration will be more important than the menu!)
The next thing John saw was the majestic figure of the Lord Jesus sitting on a white horse and dressed for battle (v.11). He is poised and ready to fight, and the “armies of heaven” are following Him. In this setting one title is not enough to describe the Savior — He is called “Faithful and True”, “The Word of God”, and “King of kings and Lord of lords” (and one additional name that only He can read; v.12). He is pictured with a sword between His teeth, ready to “strike down the nations” (v.15; in the New Testament, a sword represents the truth of Scripture, as in Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12).
In contrast to the beautiful banquet of the Bride of Christ in heaven, an angel calls scavenging birds to “the great supper of God”, a morbid invitation to devour the flesh of the soon-to-be-fallen soldiers allied with the Antichrist (v.17-18). The actual battle takes place quickly, with Christ easily defeating His enemies — apparently with just a verbal pronouncement of judgment (v.21). Now that’s power! According to verses 20-21, everyone is killed except for two prisoners of war captured alive. The Antichrist (“the beast”, v.20) and his high priest/prime minister known as “the false prophet” are thrown alive into the fires of hell, never to be heard from again. Their defeat signals the end of the Great Tribulation and the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. We will cover that tomorrow in chapter 20. Until then, live for Jesus, join your voice with the praise of heaven, and think about the victory you have in Christ. Hallelujah!