And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power…
When Handel wrote the "Hallelujah Chorus" he endeavoured, so he said, to picture to himself what the great gladness of the glorified must be. He rightly and reverently sought - and, it seems to us, sought not in vain - to imagine the whole scene as it is recorded here. And it is good for us to muse much on a scene like this. It is a veritable sursum corda for poor sin and sorrow laden men such as we are. It helps us to obey the word, "Be not weary nor faint in your minds." Let us, then, observe -
I. TO WHOM THIS TRIUMPH IS ASCRIBED. The "Alleluia" and all the resonant rejoicing praise is "unto the Lord our God." When we consider who join in this praise, we shall see amongst them many who were eminent in service, who did heroic work for Christ and his cause - prophets, apostles, martyrs, and ministers of God of all degrees. They had not stinted their toil, nor grudged aught they could do and be for their Lord; but not to them, not even to the greatest, is the praise of heaven ascribed, but all "unto the Lord our God." There and then will it be seen, as it is not now, how insignificant in comparison with his work was that of any of his servants, and how even that was only in his strength. This vision, therefore, endorses our Saviour's words, "When ye have done all, say, We are unprofitable servants."
II. BY WHOM. A goodly company is presented to our view. For:
1. "Much people in heaven" were seen by St. John, and he heard the "great voice" of their united praise. And as they beheld the proof of their ancient adversary's utter overthrow, in that "the smoke" of the fire by which his city was consumed "rose up forever and ever," then their praise burst forth again: "and again they said, Alleluia" (ver. 3).
2. And next, the representatives of the whole Church of God, "the twenty-four elders," and the representatives of the creation of God, "the four living creatures" - join in this praise, and prostrating themselves worship him, saying, "Amen; Alleluia."
3. Then is heard "the voice of a great multitude" (ver. 6), and the sound of their praise was as vast in volume and force as that of the many waters of the much-resounding sea, or the deep reverberating thunders which roll amidst the clouds of heaven. Blessed it is to see the great throng of those who render this praise; let us be thankful for the multitude of the saved, but mindful, too, that not one was there, whether small or great, but were "servants" of God, and feared him.
III. How. The words which express their gratitude and joy are worthy of our careful heed.
1. Alleluia. Here alone in the New Testament is this word found, where it is repeated four times. It is borrowed from the Psalms, of which fifteen either begin or end with "Hallelujah." In Psalm 104:35 it is first found, and allusion seems to be made here to that passage. "The sinners shall be consumed from the earth, and the wicked shall be no more. Praise the Lord, O my soul. Hallelujah." Thus in the dark times of old the Church sustained her faith by these holy songs, and now the redeemed in heaven, having realized what then was but hoped for, lift again their "Hallelujah." The praises of earth are prophetic of and preparatory to the praises of heaven.
2. Then comes the ascription to the Lord of salvation. It is meant to affirm that salvation is of the Lord. There had been times when their faith faltered and well nigh rafted amid the darkness and distress of their earthly lot. But now they know and they acknowledge that salvation is of the Lord. And of him only. It is all due to him.
3. Glory. Of this, too, there had at one time been sad misgiving. For the cause of God seemed to be everywhere suffering defeat. The world seemed everywhere to win, and the Name of God to be held in contempt. The glory did not seem to belong to God, but to some other. But now all doubt was gone. The glory was the Lord's. His foes had made war with him, but had suffered complete overthrow at his hands.
4. Power. This also was now evidently the Lord's. Sometimes it had seemed as if the might and malice of the devil were too strong to be overcome. But now it was certain. "Salvation, and glory, and power belong to our God." And all this they repeat, and with them the elders and the living creatures unite. Thus in innumerable throng, with loud acclaim and with deepest, holiest love, they render praise to the Lord, to whom they owe their all, and to whom, therefore, all praise is due. Let us listen to this glorious praise, this heavenly hallelujah, and learn to doubt our doubts and deny our denials; learn that salvation is of the Lord, and glory and power likewise, however much our unbelieving hearts may question and fear and faint.
IV. WHEREFORE. A threefold cause is given.
1. The judgment of the harlot city. For
(1) she had made others sin; she had corrupted the earth with her abomination. She had, by her emissaries, spread her deadly influence far and wide, poisoning the springs of life, making them fountains of evil and sin. Ah, how differently we judge here on earth! If a bad, depraved, vicious man - a corrupter of youth, a poisoner of men's moral life - live amongst us, and he be but wealthy as this harlot was, and has, like her, pleasing and attractive manners, we condone his wickedness and make all manner of excuse for his sins. But not so with the saints of God. And
(2) she had shed the blood of God's saints. Those who were the salt of the earth she had put out of the way; those who were the light of the world she had ruthlessly extinguished as far as she could. They who would have been as breakwaters, buffeting back the inrushing floods of sin, she put to death. All her power had gone to make earth like hell. That such a one should be judged was indeed good cause for heaven's hallelujahs. Have we sympathy with such joy? Would the like reason excite in us like delight? Do we hate such as Heaven hates, such as this harlot was and is evermore?
2. The marriage of the Lamb. (Ver. 7.) Marriage festivals are ever, and rightly, regarded as joyous seasons if the marriage be worthy of the name. How much more, then, the marriage, the consummation of the union betwixt Christ and his Church! There is joy on account of the Bridegroom. The bride he has so long and truly loved he possesses at last. "He that hath the bride is the Bridegroom." But, long ere this, this Bridegroom had sought his bride, had loved her from the first, had shed his blood to save her. But he had a formidable rival. Another suitor sought his bride, and endeavoured by every beguilement to win her for himself. The world wooed her, and sometimes it seemed as if it had really won her. But at length the Bridegroom told of here won her heart. That was at length fully, freely given, so that when he asked, "Lovest thou me?" the answer came back, "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee." But with all this love she was not yet ready for her Lord. And the preparation was a long process. But her Lord waited for her patiently; visiting her often in her earthly home, loading her with tokens of his love; and at length, dearer to him than ever, she stands at his side, for the marriage day is come. May not the friends of the Bridegroom rejoice on his account? And there is joy because of the bride. That she should have been led to give her heart to One so worthy; that she should have been chosen by him who was so worthy, when she herself was so unworthy; oh, what wondrous happiness was that for such as she was! And now that she should be deemed worthy, and through his grace be worthy. And that at last, made ready, she should stand by his side to whom her heart has been so long given, and know now that they can never be separated any more. No wonder, then, when we remember who the bride is, and who the Bridegroom, that at this marriage there is great joy. The union of Christ and his Church, which has of necessity been so imperfect and interrupted here, now perfected forever. Well may the bride put on the lustrous linen raiment, white and glistering in the sheen of its exquisite beauty, and the symbol of the purity and righteousness with which she had been spiritually endowed! For:
3. The preparation of the bride is named as another spring of the heavenly joy. "His wife hath made herself ready." But never could she have done this had it not been "granted to her" to array herself in the bright and pure spiritual raiment which became her marriage dress. So that it is both true that the Church makes herself ready for Christ, and that it is Christ who makes her ready. But for him she could not make herself ready, and without her consenting heart he will not make her so. She works out her own salvation, because he worketh in her both to will and to do. But no matter how the blessed work has been accomplished, there is the unspeakably joyful fact that it is accomplished. His wife is "ready." The vision is yet future. The robing of the redeemed, the making ready of the bride, is yet going on. This is the meaning of all our disciplines and trials, of all the pleadings of God's Spirit, of all the means of grace which we are bidden employ, of all the strain and toil of heart which we often have to bear; it is all the making "ready" of the bride. But when it is all complete for all the redeemed, all done that had to be done, all borne that had to be borne, and God shall have wiped away all tears from off all faces - that, too, may well call forth, as it assuredly will, another of the hallelujahs of heaven. See to it that we are present at that marriage; for "blessed are they which are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb." - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And 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: