John’s account of the fall of Babylon informs of great mourning, weeping, wailing – all that the lost had counted on for future hope gone up in smoke. John viewed event from primarily earth’s perspective: how will it look to those present at time of destruction. Only verse 20 gives indication of how heaven might view the end of the prostitute and her domain, then John continues describing the finality of her destruction.
Her end will be truly awful, those who trust in the great prostitute will not end well nor is there a wonderful plan for their eternal future. Difficult for us to accept, given inclusion of friends and family among their number. From our present point of view seems nearly impossible to rejoice, when we think about all the consequences, what the Great Day of the Lord will bring. Yet Bible makes it clear that will not only be mourning that Day, will be great rejoicing also. How can that be?
Becomes more understandable when we take into account circumstances of those rejoicing. We talk about seeing things from heaven’s perspective, but what does that really mean? More than simple change of location, much else is different also. Our eyes and ears will be opened all the way – will see and hear without distortions due to remaining sin. True of our understanding as well; will be able to comprehend reality as it really is, connecting the dots in right sequence to make a clear picture.
Goes even beyond that. We understand much in terms of contrasts or comparisons; often describe things as “like…” or “not like…”. Becomes more significant when trying to grasp topic at hand. Saints in heaven not only have perfect vision, hearing, understanding; have perfect model by which to evaluate everything else. Those saints can see God as he is in all his glory and magnificence; for them, viewing God at work in the world, God is in the foreground, all else is in background. Seeing God in his perfections makes heinousness of sin starkly clear. How revolting and insulting sin is to God becomes obvious, his righteous judgment is then cause for rejoicing. Our problem now is we don’t see either side clearly; thank God for day when we will have perfect understanding.
As next scene opens, John hears and sees the commencement of a great celebration, in fact it’s a wedding that’s about to happen. Handel’s Messiah can’t hold a candle to the Alleluia Chorus announcing the beginning of the great event. The Lamb is to be married, the Bride is ready, the guests have been invited. All this has been accomplished by power of God as he brings about his purpose for his creation.
A. hallelujah chorus v.1-6
Note the repeated hallelujahs (1, 3, 4, 5, 6).
Salvation, glory, honor, power belong to God (1) Bringing to an end God’s purpose in salvation now evident with overthrow of Babylon, deliverance of his people. God will accomplish this in such a way that he receives all the glory and honor – will obviously be a “God thing”. Regardless which “side”, God will get credit either for judgment or salvation. God deserves the praise because only he has the power to subdue Satan and his kingdom, deliver the saints from deception and dominion of false trinity. God’s glory truly is seen in rightness and justice of his judgment against evildoers.
her smoke rises forever (3) Great crowd in heaven shouts loud praise to God that his judgment on Babylon is completed. Unlike beast who appeared to be killed only to rise again, Babylon is no Phoenix, will never rise from ashes to threaten kingdom of Christ. How much of the joy of heaven would be lost if always looking over our shoulder, wondering if sin or Satan might reappear. God ensures that will NEVER occur; there is absolutely no possibility of anything disturbing the peace and bliss of heaven.
Amen, alleluia (4) More voices added to heavenly chorus, giving their assent to what has already been loudly proclaimed. Yul Brynner: “So let it be written, so let it be done.” = Amen. Representatives of entire church along with all creation declare agreement with praise given to God for what he has done. Accompanied by worship – no high-fives here, humble bowing in adoration before absolute Sovereign of all creation.
heavenly call to worship (5) Call comes from very throne of God, perhaps from the Lamb, directing the church to worship. Jesus did tell Mary Magdalene to tell his brothers that he was “ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” John 20:17 Certainly not beyond realm of possibility for Jesus to identify with his people, putting the thought of “my” and “your” together into “our”, especially since he is addressing saints gathered in heaven.
God has begun to reign – response to call from the throne (5) Call to worship brings immediate and full-throated response: “like the roar of many waters and like loud crashes of thunder” NET Vast multitude not satisfied with singing, shout with all their might, praise to God and declare reason for enthusiasm: God’s unopposed rule in its fullness has begun, the 7th trumpet conditions are in place – “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Rev. 11:15
B. wedding celebration v.7-8
All this is kickoff for celebration like no other – we’re getting really really close to the end-slash-high point of the Lord Jesus’ exaltation. Remember: state of humiliation – laying aside His divine majesty assuming human nature, becoming subject to the demands and the curse of the law. Followed by state of exaltation: passing from under the law as a covenant obligation, entering into the undivided favor and good pleasure of God, and being crowned with a corresponding honor and glory. Christ’s return with power and glory on that great Day to judge the world is the mountain peak of exaltation during this age; the marriage of the Lamb immediately precedes his return.
“his bride has made herself ready.” (7) She has dressed herself in white, a beautiful gown befitting a beautiful bride. Making ready is a process – not only garments but bride herself require preparation. Gown and accessories are fitted and adjusted: train, veil, shoes, flowers, jewelry, hair, makeup – combined effort of bride and attendants to make her beautiful and present her to the groom. Clear from Scripture our salvation has purpose in this life: “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10) “the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty …become[s] one who lives it out” (James 1:25NET) “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. …I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18NET)
“it was granted her” (8) True righteousness signified by fine linen not something the bride bought or took for herself; was granted to her by her bridegroom. He gave her a pure gown and granted permission to wear it, showing her readiness for the wedding. Bride’s experience up to this point is outworking of the bridegroom working out his purpose in her salvation:
Husbands, love your wives, as 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. (Eph 5:25-27NET)
betrothal is over; now begins full experience of salvation and glory in full union with Christ. “They two shall be one” to fullest extent possible. Two pictures given for our understanding – bridegroom and bride, banquet with host and guests. Same individuals in both pictures, emphasis on different aspect of the relationship. Bride: union with bridegroom; guest: union and fellowship with other guests.
C. declared blessing v.9-10
4th of 7 blesseds: (Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14)
(9) Unlike Jesus’ parable of Luke 14:16-24, the blessed ones are invited not as guests but as the bride, every table is a head table! Obvious here that only those invited will be present, will be no party crashers. Invitation to party/banquet always given in advance of the event; may be only moments before (go compel them to come in), may be months or more ahead of time. Invitation synonymous with God’s effectual call that results in regeneration, adoption, entrance into his kingdom. Angel here says it’s a blessing simply to have an invitation – blessing begins in this life, participation in next is guaranteed.
Don’t be so overwhelmed by the messenger you forget source of the message (10) Right response, wrong object. More fully we understand scope of God’s plan for his people, more our minds/hearts geared toward worship. John had most intimate relationship with Jesus during time on earth, still blown away by what he saw in heaven (see also Rev. 22:8-9). We rejoice greatly when someone tells us these wondrous truths but worshipful gratitude must be reserved for God alone.
D. make yourselves ready
hold onto the truth – ref. 7 churches; we have the truth: written and living Word accompanied by Holy Spirit; ability to understand and apply truth; must maintain and not compromise it
live our faith – knowledge of truth must be apparent in action as well as word; understanding of biblical principles must inform choices made in daily life
worship God – express adoration and praise, give him honor corporately, 24/7 in all we do; God and his honor must have first place. Bride should act as though married, faithful to her husband.
remember it’s all of grace – invitations issued at discretion of bridegroom, not request of guests; the bride is who she is because Lord Jesus has washed her up, set her aside for his pleasure, made her truly holy, removed her blemishes (not just painted them over!). All done because he “loved the church and gave himself up for her”.