|<< Revelation 19 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Analysis Of The Chapter
This chapter Revelation 19, as well as the last Revelation 18, is an episode, delaying the final catastrophe, and describing more fully the effect of the destruction of the mystical Babylon. The chapter consists of the following parts:
I. A hymn of the heavenly hosts in view of the destruction of the mystical Babylon, Revelation 19:1-7;
(a) A voice is heard in heaven shouting Hallelujah, in view of the fact that God had judged the great harlot that had corrupted the earth, Revelation 19:1-2.
(b) The sound is echoed and repeated as the smoke of her torment ascends, Revelation 19:3.
(c) The four and twenty elders, and the four living creatures, as interested in all that pertains to the church, unite in that shout of Hallelujah, Revelation 19:4.
(d) A voice is heard from the throne commanding them to praise God, Revelation 19:5; and,
(e) the mighty shout of Hallelujah is echoed and repeated from unnumbered hosts, Revelation 19:6-7.
II. The marriage of the Lamb, Revelation 19:8-9. The Lamb of God is united to his bride - the church - never more to be separated; and after all the persecutions, conflicts, and embarrassments which had existed, this long-desired union is consummated, and the glorious triumph of the church is described under the image of a joyous wedding ceremony.
III. John is so overcome with this representation, that in his transports of feeling he prostrates himself before the angel who shows him all this, ready to worship one who discloses such bright and glorious scenes, Revelation 19:10. He is gently rebuked for allowing himself to be so overcome that he would render divine homage to any creature, and is told that he who communicates this to him is but a fellow-servant, and that God only is to be worshipped.
IV. The final conquest over the beast and the false prophet, and the subjugation of all the foes of the church, Revelation 19:11-21;
(a) A description of the conqueror - the Son of God, Revelation 19:11-16. He appears on a white horse - emblem of victory. He has on his head many crowns; wears a vesture dipped in blood; is followed by the armies of heaven on white horses; from his mouth goes a sharp sword; and his name is prominently written on his vesture and his thigh - all emblematic of certain victory.
(b) An angel is seen standing in the sun, calling on all the fowls of heaven to come to the great feast prepared for them in the destruction of the enemies of God - as if there were a great slaughter sufficient to supply all the fowls that feed on flesh, Revelation 19:17-18.
(c) The final war, Revelation 19:19, Revelation 19:21. The beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies are gathered together for battle; the beast and the false prophet are taken, and are cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; and all that remain of the enemies of God are slain, and the fowls are satisfied with their flesh. The last obstacle that prevented the dawn of the millennial morning is taken away, and the church is triumphant.
1And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:
And after these things - The things particularly that were exhibited in the previous chapter. See the notes on Revelation 18:1.
I heard a great voice of much people in heaven - The voice of the worshippers before the throne.
Saying, Alleluia - The Greek method of writing "Hallelujah." This word - ἀλληλούΐα allēlouia - occurs in the New Testament only in this chapter, Revelation 19:1, Revelation 19:3-4, Revelation 19:6. The Hebrew phrase - הללוּ יה haleluw Yah "Hallelujah" - occurs often in the Old Testament. It means, properly, "Praise Yahweh," or "Praise the Lord." The occasion on which it is introduced here is very appropriate. It is uttered by the inhabitants of heaven, in the immediate presence of God himself, and in view of the final overthrow of the enemies of the church, and the triumph of the gospel. In such circumstances it was fit that heaven should render praise, and that a song of thanksgiving should be uttered in which all holy beings could unite.
Salvation - That is, the salvation is to be ascribed to God. See the notes on Revelation 7:10.
And glory, and honour - notes on Revelation 5:12.
And power - notes on Revelation 5:13.
Unto the Lord our God - That is, all that there is of honor, glory, power, in the redemption of the world belongs to God, and should be ascribed to him. This is expressive of the true feelings of piety always; this will constitute the song of heaven.
2For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.
For true and righteous are his judgments - That is, the calamities that come upon the power here referred to are deserved.
For he hath judged the great whore - The power represented by the harlot. See the notes on Revelation 17:1.
Which did corrupt the earth with her fornication - See the notes on Revelation 14:8; Revelation 17:2, Revelation 17:4-5; Revelation 18:3. Compare the notes on Revelation 9:21.
And hath avenged the blood of his servants - See the notes on Revelation 18:20, Revelation 18:24.
At her hand - Shed by her hand,
3And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.
And again they said, Alleluia - See the notes on Revelation 19:1. The event was so glorious and so important; the final destruction of the great enemy of the church was of so much moment in its bearing on the welfare of the world, as to call forth repeated expressions of praise.
And her smoke rose up forever and ever - See the notes on Revelation 14:11. This is an image of final ruin; the image being derived probably from the description in Genesis of the smoke that ascended from the cities of the plain, Genesis 19:28. On the joy expressed here in her destruction, compare the notes on Revelation 18:20.
4And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.
And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts - See the notes on Revelation 4:4, Revelation 4:6-7. As representatives of the church, and as interested in its welfare, they are now introduced as rejoicing in its final triumph, and in the destruction of its last foe.
Fell down - Prostrated themselves - the usual posture of worship.
And worshipped God that sat on the throne - Revelation 4:2-3, Revelation 4:10. That is, they now adored him for what he had done in delivering the church from all its persecutions, and causing it to triumph in the world.
Saying, Amen - See the notes on Matthew 6:13. The word here is expressive of approbation of what God had done; or of their solemn assent to all that had occurred in the destruction of the great enemy of the church.
Alleluia - See the notes on Revelation 19:1. The repetition of this word so many times shows the intenseness of the joy of heaven in view of the final triumph of the church.
5And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.
And a voice came out of the throne - A voice seemed to come from the very midst of the throne. It is not said by whom this voice was uttered. It cannot be supposed, however, that it was uttered by God himself, for the command which it gave was this: "Praise our God," etc. For the same reason it seems hardly probable that it was the voice of the Messiah, unless it be supposed that he here identifies himself with the redeemed church, and speaks of God as his God and hers. It would seem rather that it was a responsive voice that came from those nearest the throne, calling on all to unite in praising God in view of what was done. The meaning then will be, that all heaven was interested in the triumph of the church, and that one portion of the dwellers there called on the others to unite in offering thanksgiving.
Praise our God - The God that we worship.
All ye his servants - All in heaven and earth; all have occasion for thankfulness.
And ye that fear him - That reverence and obey him. The fear of the Lord is a common expression in the Scriptures to denote true piety.
Both small and great - All of every class and condition - poor and rich - young and old; those of humble and those of exalted rank. Compare Psalm 148:7-13.
6And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude - In Revelation 19:1 he says that he "heard a great voice of much people"; here he says he "heard as it were a voice of a great multitude." That is, in the former case he heard a shout that he at once recognized as the voice of a great multitude of persons; here he says that he heard a sound not distinctly recognized at first as such, but which resembled such a shout of a multitude. In the former case it was distinct; here it was confused - bearing a resemblance to the sound of roaring waters, or to muttering thunder, but less distinct than the former. This phrase would imply:
(a) a louder sound; and,
(b) that the sound was more remote, and therefore less clear and distinct.
And as the voice of many waters - The comparison of the voices of a host of people with the roar of mighty waters is not uncommon in the Scriptures. See the notes on Isaiah 17:12-13. So in Homer:
"The monarch spoke, and straight a murmur rose,
Loud as the surges when the tempest blows;
That dash'd on broken rocks tumultuous roar,
And foam and thunder on the stony shore."
And as the voice of mighty thunderings - The loud, deep, heavy voice of thunder. The distant shouts of a multitude may properly be represented by the sound of heavy thunder.
Saying, Alleluia - See the notes on Revelation 19:1. This is the fourth time in which this is uttered as expressive of the joy of the heavenly hosts in view of the overthrow of the enemies of the church. The occasion will be worthy of this emphatic expression of joy.
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth - Yahweh - God Almighty - the true God. The meaning is, that as the last enemy of the church is destroyed, he now truly reigns. This is the result of his power, and therefore it is proper that he should be praised as the "omnipotent" or "Almighty God" - for he has shown that he can overcome all his enemies, and bring the world to his feet.
7Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
Let us be glad and rejoice - Let all in heaven rejoice - for all have an interest in the triumph of truth; all should be glad that the government of God is set up over an apostate world.
And give honour to him - Because the work is glorious; and became it is by his power alone that it has been accomplished. See the notes on Revelation 5:12.
For the marriage of the Lamb is come - Of the Lamb of God - the Redeemer of the world. See the notes on Revelation 5:6. The relation of God, and especially of the Messiah, to the church, is often in the Scriptures represented under the image of marriage. See the Isaiah 54:4-6; Isaiah 62:4-5 notes; 2 Corinthians 11:2 note; Ephesians 5:23-33 note. Compare Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 31:32; Hosea 2:19-20. The idea is also said to be common in Arabic and Persian poetry. It is to be remembered, also, that papal Rome has just been represented as a frivolous and meretricious woman; and there is a propriety, therefore, in representing the true church as a pure bride, the Lamb's wife, and the final triumph of that church as a joyous marriage. The meaning is, that the church was now to triumph and rejoice as if in permanent union with her glorious head and Lord.
And his wife hath made herself ready - By putting on her beautiful apparel and ornaments. All the preparations had been made for a permanent and uninterrupted union with its Redeemer, and the church was henceforward to be recognized as his beautiful bride, and was no more to appear as a decorated harlot - as it had during the papal supremacy. Between the church under the papacy, and the church in its true form, there is all the difference which there is between an abandoned woman gaily decked with gold and jewels, and a pure virgin chastely and modestly adorned, about to be led to be united in bonds of love to a virtuous husband,
8And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
And to her was granted - It is not said here by whom this was granted, but it is perhaps implied that this was conferred by the Saviour himself on his bride.
That she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white - See the notes on Revelation 3:4-5, Revelation 3:18; Revelation 7:13. White has, perhaps, in all countries been the usual color of the bridal dress - as an emblem of innocence.
For the fine linen is the righteousness of saints - Represents the righteousness of the saints; or is an emblem of it. It should be remarked, however, that it is implied here, as it is everywhere in the Scriptures, that this is not their own righteousness, for it is said that this was "given" to the bride - to the saints. It is the gracious bestowment of their Lord; and the reference here must be to that righteousness which they obtain by faith - the righteousness which results from justification through the merits of the Redeemer. Of this Paul speaks, when he says Philippians 3:9, "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but what is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." Compare the notes on Romans 3:25-26.
9And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
And he saith unto me - The angel who made these representations to him. See Revelation 19:10.
Write, Blessed are they - See the notes on Revelation 14:13.
Which are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb - The idea of a festival, or a marriage-supper, was a familiar one to the Jews to represent the happiness of heaven, and is frequently found in the New Testament. Compare the Luke 14:15-16; Luke 16:22; Luke 22:16 notes; Matthew 22:2 note. The image in the passage before us is that of many guests invited to a great festival.
And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God - Confirming all by a solemn declaration. The importance of what is here said; the desirableness of having it fixed in the mind, amidst the trials of life and the scenes of persecution through which the church was to pass, makes this solemn declaration proper. The idea is, that in all times of persecution - in every dark hour of despondency - the church, as such, and every individual member of the church, should receive it as a solemn truth never to be doubted, that the religion of Christ would finally prevail, and that all persecution and sorrow here would be followed by joy and triumph in heaven.
10And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
And I fell at his feet to worship him - At the feet of the angel. See the notes on Revelation 19:9. This is a common posture of adoration in the East. See Rosenmuller's "Morgenland, in loco." notes on 1 Corinthians 14:25. John was entirely overcome with the majesty of the heavenly messenger, and with the amazing truths that he had disclosed to him, and in the overflowing of his feelings he fell upon the earth in the posture of adoration. Or it may be that he mistook the rank of him who addressed him, and supposed that he was the Messiah whom he had been accustomed to worship, and who had first Revelation 1 appeared to him. If so, his error was soon corrected. He was told by the angel himself who made these communications that he had no claims to such homage, and that the praise which he offered him should be rendered to God alone. It should be observed that there is not the slightest intimation that this was the Messiah himself, and consequently this does not contain any evidence that it would be improper to worship him. The only fair conclusion from the passage is, that it is wrong to offer religious homage to an angel.
And he said unto me, See thou do it not - That is, in rendering the homage which you propose to me, you would in fact render it to a creature. This may be regarded as an admonition to be careful in our worship; not to allow our feelings to overcome us; and not to render that homage to a creature which is due to God alone. Of course, this would prohibit the worship of the Virgin Mary, and of any of the saints, and all that homage rendered to a created being which is due to God only. Nothing is more carefully guarded in the Bible than the purity and simplicity of worship; nothing is more sternly rebuked than idolatry; nothing is more contrary to the divine law than rendering in any way that homage to a creature which belongs of right to the Creator. It was necessary to guard even John, the beloved disciple, on that subject; how much more needful, therefore, is it to guard the church at large from the dangers to which it is liable.
I am thy fellow-servant - Evidently this was an angel, and yet he here speaks of himself as a "fellow-servant" of John. That is, he was engaged in the service of the same God; he was endeavoring to advance the same cause, and to honor the same Redeemer. The sentiment is, that in promoting religion in the world, we are associated with angels. It is no condescension in them to be engaged in the service of the Redeemer, though it seems to be condescension for them to be associated with us in anything; it constitutes no ground of merit in us to be engaged in the service of the Redeemer (compare Luke 17:10), though we may regard it as an honor to be associated with the angels, and it may raise us in conscious dignity to feel that we are united with them.
And of thy brethren - Of other Christians; for all are engaged in the same work.
That have the testimony of Jesus - Who are witnesses for the Saviour. It is possible that there may be here a particular reference to those who were engaged in preaching the gospel, though the language will apply to all who give their testimony to the value of the gospel by consistent lives.
Worship God - He is the only proper object of worship; he alone is to be adored.
For the testimony of Jesus - The meaning here seems to be, that this angel, and John, and their fellow-servants, were all engaged in the same work that of bearing their testimony to Jesus. Thus, in this respect, they were on a level, and one of them should not worship another, but all should unite in the common worship of God. No one in this work, though an angel, could have such a pre-eminence that it would be proper to render the homage to him which was due to God alone. There could be but one being whom it was proper to worship, and they who were engaged in simply bearing testimony to the work of the Saviour should not worship one another.
Is the spirit of prophecy - The design of prophecy is to bear testimony to Jesus. The language does not mean, of course, that this is the only design of prophecy, but that this is its great and ultimate end. The word "prophecy" here seems to be used in the large sense in which it is often employed in the New Testament - meaning to make known the divine will (see the notes on Romans 12:6), and the primary reference here would seem to be to the preachers and teachers of the New Testament. The sense is, that their grand business is to bear testimony to the Saviour. They are all - whether angels, apostles, or ordinary teachers - appointed for this, and therefore should regard themselves as "fellow-servants." The design of the angel in this seems to have been, to state to John what was his own specific business in the communications which he made, and then to state a universal truth applicable to all ministers of the gospel, that they were engaged in the same work, and that no one of them should claim adoration from others. Thus understood, this passage has no direct reference to the prophecies of the Old Testament, and teaches nothing in regard to their design, though it is in fact undoubtedly true that their grand and leading object was to bear testimony to the future Messiah. But this passage will not justify the attempt so often made to "find Christ" everywhere in the prophecies of the Old Testament, or justify the many forced and unnatural interpretations by which the prophecies are often applied to him.
11And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
And I saw heaven opened - He saw a new vision, as if an opening were made through the sky, and he was permitted to look into heaven. See the notes on Revelation 4:1.
And behold, a white horse - On the white horse as a symbol, see the notes on Revelation 6:2. He is here the symbol of the final victory that is to be obtained over the beast and the false prophet Revelation 19:20, and of the final triumph of the church.
And he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True - He is not designated here by his usual and real name, but by his attributes. There can be no doubt that the Messiah is intended, as he goes forth to the subjugation of the world to himself. The attributes here referred to - faithful and true - are especially appropriate, for they are not only strongly marked attributes of his character, but they would be particularly manifested in the events that are described. He would thus show that he was faithful - or worthy of the confidence of his church in delivering it from all its enemies; and true to all the promises that he has made to it.
And in righteousness he doth judge - All his acts of judgment in determining the destiny of people are righteous. See the notes on Isaiah 11:3-5.
And make war - That is, the war which he wages is not a war of ambition; it is not for the mere purpose of conquest; it is to save the righteous, and to punish the wicked.
12His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
His eyes were as a flame of fire - See the notes on Revelation 1:14.
And on his head were many crowns - Many diadems, indicative of his universal reign. It is not said how these were worn or arranged on his head - perhaps the various diadems worn by kings were in some way wreathed into one.
And he had a name written - That is, probably on the frontlet of this compound diadem. Compare the notes on Revelation 13:1; Revelation 14:1.
That no man knew but he himself - See the notes on Revelation 2:17. This cannot here mean that no one could read the name, but the idea is, that no one but himself could fully understand its import. It involved a depth of meaning, and a degree of sacredness, and a relation to the Father, which he alone could apprehend in its true import. This is true of the name here designated - "the Word of God" - the "Logos" - Λόγος Logos; and it is true of all the names which he bears. See Matthew 11:27. Compare a quotation from Dr. Buchanan in the Asiatic Researches, vol. 1, vi. p. 264, as quoted by Rosenmuller, Morgenland, in loco.
13And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood - Red, as if dipped in blood - emblem of slaughter. The original of this image is probably Isaiah 63:2-3. See the notes on that passage.
And his name is called The Word of God - The name which in Revelation 19:12, it is said that no one knew but he himself. This name is Ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ Ho logos tou Theou, or "the Logos of God." That is, this is his unique name; a name which belongs only to him, and which distinguishes him from all other beings. The name "Logos," as applicable to the Son of God, and expressive of his nature, is found in the New Testament only in the writings of John, and is used by him to denote the higher or divine nature of the Saviour. In regard to its meaning, and the reason why it is applied to him, see the notes on John 1:1. The reader also may consult, with great advantage, an article by Prof. Stuart in the Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. vii. pp. 16-31. The following may be some of the reasons why it is said Revelation 19:12 that no one understands this but he himself:
(1) No one but he can understand its full import, as it implies so high a knowledge of the nature of the Deity;
(2) no one but he can understand the relation which it supposes in regard to God, or the relation of the Son to the Father;
(3) no one but he can understand what is implied in it, regarded as the method in which God reveals himself to his creatures on earth;
(4) no one but he can understand what is implied in it in respect to the manner in which God makes himself known to other worlds.
It may be added, as a further illustration of this, that none of the attempts made to explain it have left the matter so that there are no questions unsolved which one would be glad to ask.
14And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
And the armies which were in heaven followed him - The heavenly hosts; particularly, it would seem, the redeemed, as there would be some incongruity in representing the angels as riding in this manner. Doubtless the original of this picture is Isaiah 63:3; "I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me." These hosts of the redeemed on white horses accompany him to be witnesses of his victory, and to participate in the joy of the triumph, not to engage in the work of blood.
Upon white horses - Emblems of triumph or victory. See the notes on Revelation 6:2.
Clothed in fine linen, white and clean - The usual raiment of those who are in heaven, as everywhere represented in this book. See Revelation 3:4-5; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:13; Revelation 15:6.
15And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword - See the notes on Revelation 1:16. In that place the sword seems to be an emblem of his words or doctrines, as penetrating the hearts of people; here it is the emblem of a work of destruction worked on his foes.
That with it he should smite the nations - The nations that were opposed to him; to wit, those especially who were represented by the beast and the false prophet, Revelation 19:18-20.
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron - See the notes on Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5.
And he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God - This language is probably derived from Isaiah 63:1-4. See it explained in the notes on that place, and on Revelation 14:19-20. It means here that his enemies would be certainly crushed before him - as grapes are crushed under the feet of him that treads in the winevat.
16And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
And he hath on his vesture - That is, this name was conspicuously written on his garment - probably his military robe.
And on his thigh - The robe or military cloak may be conceived of as open and flowing, so as to expose the limbs of the rider; and the idea is, that the name was conspicuously written not only on the flowing robe, but on the other parts of his dress, so that it must be conspicuous whether his military cloak were wrapped closely around him, or whether it was open to the breeze. Grotius supposes that this name was on the edge or hilt of the sword which depended from his thigh.
A name written - Or a title descriptive of his character.
King of kings, and Lord of lords - As in Revelation 17:5, so here, there is nothing in the original to denote that this should be distinguished, as it is, by capital letters. As a conspicuous title, however, it is not improper. It means that he is, in fact, the sovereign over the kings of the earth, and that all nobles and princes are under his control - a rank that properly belongs to the Son of God. Compare the notes on Ephesians 1:20-22. See also Revelation 19:12 of this chapter. The custom here alluded to of inscribing the name or rank of distinguished individuals on their garments, so that they might be readily recognized, was not uncommon in ancient times. For full proof of this, see Rosenmuller, Morgenland, vol. iii. pp. 232-236. The authorities quoted there are, Thevenot's Travels, vol. i. p. 149; Gruter, p. 989; Dempster's Etruria Regalis, t. ii. tab. 93; Montfaucon, Antiq. Expliq. t. iii. tab. 39. Thus Herodotus (vol. ii. p. 196), speaking of the figures of Sesostris in Ionia, says that, "Across his breast, from shoulder to shoulder, there is this inscription in the sacred characters of Egypt, 'I conquered this country by the force of my arms.'" Compare Cic. Verr. iv. 23; LeMoyne a.d. Jeremiah 23:6; Munter, Diss. a.d. Revelation 17:5, as referred to by Prof. Stuart, in loco.
17And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;
And I saw an angel standing in the sun - A different angel evidently from the one which had before appeared to him. The number of angels that appeared to John, as referred to in this book, was very great, and each one came on a new errand, or with a new message. Everyone must be struck with the image here. The description is as simple as it can be; and yet as sublime. The fewest words possible are used; and yet the image is distinct and clear. A heavenly being stands in the blaze of the brightest of the orbs that God permits us here to see - yet not consumed, and himself so bright that he can be distinctly seen amidst the dazzling splendors of that luminary. It is difficult to conceive of an image more sublime than this. Why he has his place in the sun is not stated, for there does not appear to be anything more intended by this than to give grandeur and impressiveness to the scene.
And he cried with a loud voice - So that all the fowls of heaven could hear.
Saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven - That is, to all the birds of prey - all that feed on flesh - such as hover over a battlefield. Compare the notes on Isaiah 18:6; Isaiah 56:9. See also Jeremiah 7:33; Jeremiah 12:9; Ezekiel 39:4-20.
Come and gather yourselves together - All this imagery is taken from the idea that there would be a great slaughter, and that the bodies of the dead would be left unburied to the birds of prey.
Unto the supper of the great God - As if the great God were about to give you a feast - to wit, the carcasses of those slain. It is called "his supper" because he gives it; and the image is merely that there would be a great slaughter of his foes, as is specified in the following verse.
18That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
That ye may eat the flesh of kings - Of the kings under the control of the beast and the false prophet, Revelation 16:14; Revelation 17:12-14.
And the flesh of captains - Of those subordinate to kings in command. The Greek word is χιλιάρχων chiliarchōn - "chiliarchs" - denoting captains of a thousand, or, as we should say, commanders of a regiment. The word "colonel" would better convey the idea with us; as he is the commander of a regiment, and a regiment is usually composed of about one thousand people.
And the flesh of mighty men - The word here means "strong," and the reference is to the robust soldiery - rank and file in the army.
And the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them - Cavalry - for most armies are composed in part of horsemen.
And the flesh of all men, both free and bond - Freemen and slaves. It is not uncommon that freemen and slaves are mingled in the same army. This was the case in the American Revolution, and is common in the East.
Both small and great - Young and old; of small size and of great size; of those of humble, and those of exalted rank. The later armies of Napoleon were composed in great part of conscripts, many of whom were only about eighteen years of age, and to this circumstance many of his later defeats are to be traced. In the army that was raised after the invasion of Russia no less than one hundred and fifty thousand of the conscripts were between eighteen and nineteen years of age (Alison's History of Europe, vol. 4, p. 27). Indeed, it is common in most armies that a considerable portion of the enlistments are from those in early life; and besides this, it is usual to employ mere boys on various services about a camp.
19And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
And I saw the beast - notes on Revelation 13:1, Revelation 13:11. Compare Revelation 17:13.
And the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together - There is allusion here to the same assembling of hostile forces which is described in Revelation 16:13-14, for the great decisive battle that is to determine the destiny of the world - the question whether the Messiah or antichrist shall reign. There can be no doubt that the writer in these passages designed to refer to the same events - the still future scenes that are to occur when the Roman, the pagan, and the Muhammedan powers shall be aroused to make common cause against the true religion, and shall stake all on the issue of the great conflict. See the notes on Revelation 16:13-14.
Against him that sat on the horse - The Messiah - the Son of God. notes on Revelation 19:11.
And against his army - The hosts that are associated with him - his redeemed people. See the notes on Revelation 19:14.
20And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
And the beast was taken - That is, was taken alive, to be thrown into the lake of fire. The hosts were slain Revelation 19:21, but the leaders were made prisoners of war. The general idea is, that these armies were overcome, and that the Messiah was victorious; but there is a propriety in the representation here that the leaders - the authors of the war should be taken captive, and reserved for severer punishment than death on the battlefield would be - for they had stirred up their hosts, and summoned these armies to make rebellion against the Messiah. The beast here, as all along, refers to the papal power; and the idea is that of its complete and utter overthrow, as if the leader of an army were taken captive and tormented in burning flames, and all his followers were cut down on the field of battle.
And with him the false prophet - As they had been practically associated together, there was a propriety that they should share the same fate. In regard to the false prophet, and the nature of this alliance, see the notes on Revelation 16:13.
That wrought miracles before him - That is, the false prophet had been united with the beast in deceiving the nations of the earth. See the notes on Revelation 16:14.
With which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast - notes on Revelation 13:16-18. By these arts they had been deceived - that is, they had been led into the alliance, and had been sustained in their opposition to the truth. The whole representation is that of an alliance to prevent the spread of the true religion, as if the papacy and Mohammedanism were combined, and the one was sustained by the pretended miracles of the other. There would be a practical array against the reign of the Son of God, as if these great powers should act in concert, and as if the special claims which each set up in behalf of its own divine origin became a claim which went to support the whole combined organization.
These both were cast alive into a lake of fire - The beast and the false prophet. That is, the overthrow will be as signal, and the destruction as complete, as if the leaders of the combined hosts should be taken alive, and thrown into a pit or lake that burns with an intense heat. There is no necessity for supposing that this is to be literally inflicted - for the whole scene is symbolical - meaning that the destruction of these powers would be as complete as if they were thrown into such a burning lake. Compare the notes on Revelation 14:10-11.
Burning with brimstone - Sulphur - the usual expression to denote intense heat, and especially as referring to the punishment of the wicked. See the notes on Revelation 14:10.
21And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
And the remnant - The remainder of the assembled hosts - the army at large, in contradistinction from the leaders.
Were slain with the sword - Cut down with the sword; not rescued for protracted torment. A proper distinction is thus made between the deceived multitudes and the leaders who had deceived them.
Of him that sat upon the horse - The Messiah, Revelation 19:11.
Which sword proceeded out of his mouth - notes on Revelation 19:15. That is, they were cut down by a word. They fell before him as he spake, as if they were slain by the sword. Perhaps this indicates that the effect that is to be produced when these great powers shall be destroyed is a moral effect; that is, that they will be subdued by the word of the Son of God.
And all the fowls were filled with their flesh - notes on Revelation 19:17. An effect was produced as if the fowls of heaven should feed upon the carcasses of the slain.
The general idea here is, that these great anti-Christian powers which had so long resisted the gospel, and prevented its being spread over the earth; which had shed so much blood in persecution, and had so long corrupted and deceived mankind, would be subdued. The true religion would be as triumphant as if the Son of God should go forth as a warrior in his own might, and secure their leaders for punishment, and give up their hosts to the birds of prey. This destruction of these great enemies - which the whole course of the interpretation leads us to suppose is still future - prepares the way for the millennial reign of the Son of God - as stated in the following chapter. The "beast" and the "false prophet" are disposed of, and there remains only the subjugation of the great dragon - the source of all this evil - to prepare the way for the long-anticipated triumph of the gospel. The subjugation of the great original source of all those evil influences is stated in Revelation 20:1-3; and then follows the account of the thousand years' rest of the saints, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment.