And the angel said to me, Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carries her…
This is a description of the best appointed army that was ever brought into the field — the army of Christ Jesus. It has been the presumptuous boast of many earthly generals that their soldiers were invincible — such as no enemy could overthrow. This may, however, be with truth affirmed of this army. They carry, as it were, this inscription on their banners, "Conquering and to conquer!"
I. THE CAPTAIN OF THIS HOST OF THE LORD. The success of every ordinary army depends mainly, under God, upon the skill and valour of its general. But of this spiritual army it may with truth be said that every hope of victory they have arises altogether from Him who leads them to the battle. They have an Almighty leader at their head, One whose presence insures victory to all His followers. In the former part of the verse this "Captain of the Lord's host" is called by two different titles, which seem, at first sight, scarcely reconcilable.
1. One of these titles is, "the Lamb" — a name which might seem, at first, little suited to the leader of an army. But what does the term signify in the case of Him to whom it is applied? Not that He is weak and feeble as the tender animal which bears this name. But He is a "Lamb" in reference to the death He died for His people, when He was "led as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is dumb before its shearers so He opened not His mouth." It is a title, too, of endearment. The Lamb is not more meek and gentle than He is to His faithful followers.
2. But if the epithet "Lamb" represents His gentleness and tenderness towards His people and the death which He has died for them, He has another name which describes, as strikingly, His majesty and power — "Lord of lords and King of kings."
II. HIS SOLDIERS. "They that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful."
1. They are "called" — just as the soldiers of an earthly army are enlisted for the service. The soldiers of an earthly warfare were called into the ranks they fill from very different occupations: some from the shop, some from the plough. Christ's soldiers, too, were very differently occupied when the call of grace was given them. They were then mere children of the world, "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind" — each busily occupied in his own favourite and cherished sins. Various, too, were the circumstances under which the call was given to them, and various the means employed by the great Captain of salvation to make them hear that call. But in every case it was the Saviour's "Follow Me!" which brought His soldiers to His side.
2. They are not "called" only, but "chosen." There is a difference, even in earthly armies, between being called and being chosen, between being merely enlisted and being what is called "picked men," men in whom the general can place his confidence. Look at Gideon's army (Judges 7:1-7). Two-and-thirty thousand then were called; three hundred only chosen. It is just thus in the camp of Jesus. What multitudes flock into it! But how many of all these become in after life true soldiers of the Cross? Alas! but a small remnant; for "many are called, but few are chosen." But they that are really with the Saviour, and who constitute His "Church militant here on earth," are, all of them, "picked men." Whatever exploits Christ's soldiers may perform when they have entered on the fight of faith, "by the grace of God they are what they are."
3. They are faithful. The word may be taken in two senses, in each of which it is equally applicable to the armies of the Living God.
(1) They are "faithful" inasmuch as they are full of faith and confidence in the Captain of their salvation. The soldiers of the Lamb of God place their entire confidence in the Commander whom they follow.
(2) A man is said to be faithful who lives up to his engagements, and who adheres with constancy and perseverance to the person whose service he has undertaken. Faithfulness, in this understanding of the word, is most essential to the character of a good soldier. One part of his faithfulness consists in his remaining true to his commander until he be disbanded or dismissed. To run from his colours, or desert the service of his king and country, is amongst the soldier's greatest crimes. In this point, too, the soldiers of the Lord are faithful. "They follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth," and nothing shall ever separate them from His love and from His service.
(A. Roberts, M. A.).
Parallel VersesKJV: And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.