The scroll (book of judgment) which Jesus received from His Father (Rev. 5:7-10) at this point has been completed. Chapters 16-20 describe in detail how God's final judgments come upon Satan, Antichrist, the false prophet and all people who reject Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice. Those who ignored His words on the cross, "It is finished" will now hear His words of eternal judgment, "It is done!" (Rev.16:17) The Antichrist has gathered his armies at Armageddon to "make war against the Lamb" (Rev. 17:14; 16:16) and here in this chapter Jesus returns and, "out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations" (v. 15). The battle of Armageddon is part of the cataclysmic judgment of God as seen in the seven bowl judgments (chapter 16) and the judgment of Babylon both as a city and as a spiritual-political-economic system that has rejected and opposed God throughout history (chapters 17-19).
A poignant summation of God's final judgment is seen in the contrast of two suppers: the wedding supper of the Lamb -"Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb" (v. 9); or the great supper of God: "And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great" (vv. 17-18; also see v. 21).
"After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah!" This is truly a time to praise the Lord! (halel means praise and jah refers to Yahweh and literally means ‘praise Yahweh'. It is used frequently in the Old Testament but is only found in the New Testament here in this chapter – 4 times!) It is also noteworthy that this is part of the text that revived a broke and depressed composer named George Frederic Handel. He wrote The Messiah in twenty-three days, non-stop and when he had completed it and finally agreed to see a friend he said with tears streaming down his face, "I do believe I have seen all of Heaven before me, and the great God Himself." When it was first performed in London in 1743 the King of England stood up and remained standing during the Hallelujah chorus (the entire work is three hours long) and many all over the world still stand today when it is sung. Yet here in heaven men and angels fall down: "The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne." Surely the heavenly hosts that will sing this great hymn of praise on that great day are at choir practice even now, "for the time is near" (Rev. 1:3) for our Lord's return.
Why were they singing Hallelujah, praise the Lord? Because Jesus has defeated His enemies and come for His bride. "He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants." "Hallelujah! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready."
The picture of marriage is seen throughout Scripture as God the husband of Israel (e.g., the book of Hosea ) and Christ the Bridegroom/husband of the church (Eph. 5:35, 32) and the three phases of a Jewish marriage have much to say to us about getting ready for the "wedding of the Lamb." 1) The betrothal; 2) the consummation; and 3) the celebration – the wedding supper or wedding banquet.
1) Betrothal – Often the marriage would be arranged when the couple was young and thus they would wait for some time to actually consummate the marriage in sexual union.(Many marriages throughout the world (and in Scripture) were (and still are) arranged marriages. Dating is a relatively new thing and there are still a lot of cultures that have arranged marriages today.) This betrothal phase was as legal as our marriage certificate is today. (This is seen in Scripture when Joseph thought that Mary had broken her betrothal vows when he realized she was with child.) In the picture of our marriage to Jesus, we become betrothed to Him when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. He initiates the relationship and proposes to us (the gospel) and we say yes and receive Him as our Lord and Bridegroom. (John 1:12) As seen throughout Scripture the Lord is a Jealous Lover and is emotionally hurt when we run around on Him during this betrothal period (i.e., this life). "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." (2 Cor. 11:2-3 ) Thankfully He doesn't "put us away" as Joseph thought about doing when he felt Mary had betrayed him. (Matt. 1:19)
2) Consummation – As the husband/groom-to-be awaited the consummation of the marriage he would be preparing a room for his bride in his father's house. In the meantime the bride would not know when the room would be ready and when he would come for her. When he and his father knew it was time, it was customary for the groom to go to receive his bride in the middle of the night with friends and torches and they would shout for her to come to her betrothed. He would then take her to their new home and consummate the marriage. All of this is a great picture of the Rapture. When Jesus left His disciples (His betrothed ones) He said this to them: "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:2-3) That is just what our Lord/Bridegroom is doing now – preparing a place for us in heaven. Then when the Father says it is time, Jesus will come. "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matt. 24:36) And like the Jewish husband to-be He will come at an unexpected hour so we need to always be ready – watching and waiting. "The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. "At midnight the cry rang out (the shout): 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." (Matt. 25:5-6; 13 – note the shout of the bridegroom's friends to "come out to meet him." ) And we see this again in 1 Thess 4:15-18 regarding the Rapture: "According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command (shout), with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words." But before Jesus consummates his marriage to us He must make us perfectly pure as He is: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church." (Eph. 5:25-27; 32) Jesus will meet us, His bride at the Judgment seat of Christ (the Bema) and purify us with fire and cleanse us from every stain or blemish. "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work (See 1 Cor. 3:1-15). As we see here in Revelation 19, as we wait for our Lord we are to be working on our wedding dress: "Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)" This verse shows both human responsibility (righteous acts) and God's grace; " fine linen given to her (us)" – the righteousness of Christ is given to us – (Phil. 3:9). In Philippians 2:12-13 (and other passages) we see both God's grace and man's efforts in the sanctification process: "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." So we must continually pray (our part) for God's grace (His work in and for us) and then obey (our part). In a sense, God gives us our wedding dress and we can adorn it with "righteous acts" (Titus 2:10).
3) The wedding supper/celebration – After the consummation of the marriage there would be a celebration of the marriage for seven days; quite a party. After Christ purifies us and consummates the marriage with us there will be a celebration of the marriage. Some say this occurs in heaven during the seven years of Tribulation on the earth. Others say it occurs on earth during the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth; a thousand year honeymoon?? Quite a party! Hallelujah!!!!
"At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." John was wrongly worshiping an angel and the angel rebuked him and told him to worship God only. The angel then told John that all the revelations that he was receiving from God (i.e., seen in the Book of Revelation -prophecy) is all about Jesus Christ. In fact, all the prophecies from Genesis to Revelation are about Jesus Christ. The Father is so proud of His Son (Matt. 3:17) and talks about Him all the time (the Bible) and we, as His bride, should be talking about Him all the time even as a bride-to-be talks about her fiancé/lover all the time.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION AND DISCUSSION
1) What is your main take away from today's message and table discussion and how can you apply it to your life this week?
2) Why is marriage such a good image for our hope as believers? What is the greatest part of this hope/reality? How does knowing you are betrothed (engaged) to Jesus impact your life here on earth? (See 1 John 3:3)
3) Are you watching and waiting for your Bridegroom? What may God be calling you to do to adorn your wedding dress? (See Titus 2:10)