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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Revelation 19-20

Revelation 19-20
The theme of “redemption” that we've touched upon throughout our study of Revelation is really made known in these chapters. This image of hope and restoration of humanity to holiness is pervasive throughout the text.
Chapter 19
  • We ended chapter eighteen with the destruction of the city of Babylon, and immediately after this John hears “a great multitude in heaven, saying 'Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God, for his judgments are true and just. . . he has avenged on her the blood of his servants. . . . The smoke goes up from [Babylon] forever and ever.'” (19:1-3).
    • As has been the norm throughout the text of Revelation, a judgment will be poured out upon the earth or upon the “enemies of God” and there will be a resulting affirmation by either someone or something.
  • The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures mentioned earlier in the text fall down before God and begin to worship him, giving him praise and honor (19:4-5).
  • John then hears a voice “of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunder-peals, crying out, 'Hallelujah!” (19:6 emphasis mine).
    • Further use of similes on the part of the author signifying a reluctance to describe things great, magnificent, or concerned with the divine.
  • 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; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure'” (19:7-8)
    • The earlier mentions of Babylon being a whore (17:5) and the sexual purity of the 144,000 individuals redeemed by God (14:4) can now be understood as something talking about spiritual “purity” or fidelity towards God.
  • John is then told by an angel to write “Blessed are those who are invied to the marriage supper of the Lamb. . . These are the true words of God.'” (19:9).
  • John, upon hearing this, falls down to the ground and begins to worship this angel who has brought him this declaration. The angel corrects him and reminds him that he (the angel) is also a “servant with you and your comrades [brothers] who hold the testimony of Jesus.” (19:10)
    • The angel reminds John that the message he is bringing is just one in accordance with the message that Jesus had brought and was not worthy of worship.
  • Before John, heaven opens and a white horse appears. The rider is called “Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war” and has “eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself.
    • This rider seems to have an anonymity about him, though many have attempted to associate him with the lamb found earlier in Revelation (5:6). I think this is fundamentally flawed, though, since the two images of the rider and the Lamb are starkly at odds. The Lamb never seems to have a secret or concealed identity, and has a peaceful means of human liberation (5:6-9). The rider, on the other hand, seems to wage war and create violence which is at odds with what the lamb does.
  • This rider is wearing clothes that are dipped in blood, and his name (obviously one that is different from the name mentioned earlier that he alone knows) is The Word of God. The armies of heaven follow him in pure clothes. He has a sword that comes from his mouth which he uses to strike down the nations and to shepherd them like as with a rod of iron. He is the one who brings about the wrath of God and is called the King of Kings and Lord of lords. (19:13-16)
    • Compare this with the image of the Son of Man (1:13-16) which sounds very similar—particularly the part about a sword. There seems to be this dissonance or stark difference between the Son of Man/the rider and the Lamb.
  • After this an angel is said to be standing in the sun, declaring with a loud voice to all the birds that there will be a great supper for them to feast upon the flesh of kings, captains, the mighty, and horses with their riders. (19:17-18)
    • Birds are typically scavengers and so after wars, they would go and eat off of the dead bodies gathered there. This pronouncement is just a confirmation that the judgment upon the enemies of God is ready to be final and complete.
  • The beast and the kings of the earthy line up their armies and fight against the rider and his armies. The beast is captured, as is the false prophet who had performed signs for the people, and they are thrown into “the lake of fire that burns with sulfur” and everyone else is killed with the sword from the rider's mouth. (19:19-21).
    • The fighting is now over and the rider has quickly ended the war with the simple use of his authority of word (the sword from his mouth).
Chapter 20
  • An angel comes down from heaven after his, holding the keys to the bottomless pit along with a great chain. The dragon is seized and is bound up for 1,000 years, thrown into the pit, and sealed there so that he wouldn't deceive the nations for that period of time. (20:1-3).
    • The exact purpose for this temporary protection from the dragon isn’t entirely clear. The period of 1,000 years is best viewed as symbolic suggesting a temporary period of righteousness and tranquility before a final eschatological judgment. John's point here is best viewed as lost to the ravages of time.
  • Thrones are then made clear to John and those who are seated upon those are given authority to judge. Those who were martyred for their testimony to Jesus appear, and are given authority to reign with Christ for 1,000 years. (20:4)
  • Those who are to share in “the first resurrection” are blessed and they will not be subject to death any longer, but will be priests of God (20:6).
  • When the thousand years are ended, the dragon is released and he will deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog. They'll gather up armies for battle which will be as numerous as the sands of the sea, and will march all over the earth to surround the camp of the saints. Fire will fall from heaven and consume them, though, and they will not be able to prevail over the saints. (20:7-9).
    • Gog and Magog were ancient nations mentioned in the book of Ezekiel (chapters 38-39).
  • Following this defeat, the dragon is thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur along with the beast and the false prophet (20:10).
  • John then sees a great white throne and someone sitting on it. The earth and the heaven are said to flee from his presence because he is so great. All the dead, great and small, are gathered around before the throne as books were opened. Another book, the book of life, is opened and all the dead are judged “according to their works, as recorded in the books.” The sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades give up their dead, and all these are then judged according “to what they had done.” Death and Hades are then thrown into the lake of fire. (20:11-15).
    • God's judgment is made final. All the people of the world are judged by what they have done, and there is a reunification between God and all his people—the people he loves and has cherished; both big and small, sinful and pure.

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