And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power…
And after these things I heard a great voice of much people, etc. "Babylon" in this book I take as the symbol of moral evil on this earth, or, in other words, of all that is corrupt in human life. From its establishment on this globe, it has been "falling." It is "failing" now, and will continue to fall until its mighty mountain shall become a plain, and there will be found "no place" for it. In the preceding chapter the effect of its fall was seen. How the bad howled lamentations! and how the good shouted its jubilations! Looking at this chapter, not as a verbal critic, a prophetic interpreter, or as a sensuous pietist, but as a practical man, it suggests and portrays to me the Eternal in the universe, and his Representative to man. We have here -
I. A SYMBOLIC ASPECT OF THE ETERNAL IN THE UNIVERSE. How does he appear here? As receiving the highest worship. "After these things I heard [as it were] a great voice of much people [a great multitude] in heaven, saying, Alleluia," etc.
1. The worship was widely extensive - "much people," "elders" (vers. 1-3), "beasts," "small and great," "a great multitude." In this worship, the "four and twenty elders," the representatives of the sainted dead who have reached the heavenly state, and the "four beasts" [living creatures], unfallen spirits through all ages and worlds, all these unite in the one grand "Alleluia," "Praise our God [give praise to our God]." Worship is the vital breath and inspiration of all holy intelligences. On the Eternal their eyes are fixed with supreme adoration, and their hearts with intensest love turned in impressive devotion.
2. The worship was supremely deserved. "True and righteous are his judgments" (ver. 2). He is true and righteous, absolutely so in himself is he. "He is light, and in him is no darkness at all." Not one dark thought has ever passed through his infinite intellect, not one sentiment of evil has ever ruffled the immeasurable sea of his emotionality. The Father of lights is he; all the beams of holy thoughts and ideas stream from him, as rays from the central sun of immensity.
"O holy Sire, O holy Sire,
Sole Fount of life and light!
Thou art the uncreated Fire.
Burning in every pure desire
Of all who love the right." Not only is he absolutely "true and righteous" in himself, but it is suggested that he is so in his procedure against the wrong. "He hath judged the great whore [harlot], which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath [he hath] avenged the blood of his servants at her hand" (ver. 2). This "great whore" stands, I think, the same as Babylon, for the moral evil in the world. Her description is given in Revelation 17. It suggests and illustrates three great evils in the world:
(1) Political subserviency;
(2) worldly tendency; and
(3) religious intolerance.
Is he not "true and righteous" in crushing such a moral monster, such a curse to the earth, so that her "smoke rose [goeth] up forever and ever" (ver. 3), which means utter destruction? Now, were he not "true and righteous," both in himself and in his procedure, who could worship him? Moral mind is so constituted, that to worship the false and the wrong would be an impossibility. You may urge me to do so with the threat of eternal damnation, but I could not bow my knee to such; nor ought I, if I could. But the worship of an immaculate God meets the moral cravings of my soul, and brings out all the faculties of my nature in harmonious play and rapturous delight.
3. The worship was intensely enthusiastic. "Alleluia," "Praise our God," etc. "In the present episode," says Moses Stuart, "trichotomy as usual is plainly discernible. In the first division, all the inhabitants of the heavenly world are represented as uniting in a song of triumph and of thanksgiving on account of the righteous judgments of God which are about to be inflicted (vers. 1-4). In the second, a voice from the throne in heaven speaks, and requires of all his servants everywhere, renewed praise, which accordingly is shouted (vers. 5-8). In the third, a glorious prospect of suffering martyrs is disclosed. They will be guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb; the Church is indeed the Lamb's bride, and the exaltation of the Messiah is vividly sketched in the declaration of the angel interpreter, at whose feet John, in a state of astonishment, falls. Jesus, the angel declares, is the Object of worship by him; and therefore he (the angel) cannot claim the worship of his fellow servants, who, like him, are merely instruments in making known the prophecies respecting the triumph of redeeming grace (vers. 9, 10)." The "Alleluias" seem to wax louder and louder as they are repeated, until they become as "the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings [thunders]" (ver. 6). The voice seems as loud as the vociferous noise of a mighty army when victory has been won, or as the boom of old ocean when lashed into fierce storm.
II. A SYMBOLIC ASPECT OF THE ETERNAL IN HIS REPRESENTATIVE TO MAN. "Let us be glad and rejoice [rejoice and be exceeding glad], and give honour to him [let us give the glory unto him]: for the marriage of the Lamb is come," etc. (ver. 7). As Christ is in other places of the Bible represented as the "Lamb of God," and also as being wedded to his genuine disciples, the symbolic language here suggests him to our minds in some of his grand relations to mankind. He appears here:
1. As the loving Husband of the true. "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (ver. 7). By the true, I mean his genuine disciples, those of Christly character. In various places elsewhere, his relation to such is represented as the foundation to a building, as the root to a branch, as the head to a body. But his relationship here represented varies from these in at least three respects.
(1) There is mutual choice. There is no mutual choice of the superstructure to the foundation, of the branch to the root, of the limb to the head. But there is a mutual choice in the connection between husband and wife, bridegroom and bride. In true marriage, which, I trow, is somewhat rare amongst what are called the marriages of the race, the true are brought together, not by coercion, or accident, or blind passion, but by mutual selection; the one offers, the other accepts, freely and fully. Christ says to all of us, "Will you accept me as your Husband, your Guardian, Protector, and Friend?" Whilst the millions say, No, there are some who say; Yes, and the two become one; there is a vital identification.
(2) There is mutual sympathy. Not convenience or passion, but pure, disinterested love - the love of admiration on the one side, and the love of condescending pity on the other.
(3) There is a mutual aim. Christ's aim is to promote the glory of his Father, in advancing his benevolent plans and the best interests of the human race. This is also the grand purpose of those who in very soul wed themselves to him. They accept him as their Bridegroom, not from selfish motives, not from the dread of hell, nor for the hope of heaven; not to escape Gehenna, and reach a Paradise; but in order to promote the true well being of humanity, and the glory of their Maker. The scene here suggested is that of a bridal feast, a banquet to celebrate the sublime union of souls. "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come." Observe:
(1) The bridal costume on this occasion. "And to her was granted [it was given to her] that she should be arrayed [array herself] in fine linen, clean and white [bright and pure]: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints [righteous acts of the saints]" (ver. 8). The bridal garment here described agrees with that worn by the bride at the Jewish nuptials. And here it must be regarded as a symbolic representation of the soul's attire. The pure, refined, righteous character, which covers and adorns the spirit of the bride - "the ornament that covers a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." Moral character is evermore the garment in which the soul is clad. If the character is impure, its apparel is but filthy rags; if holy, it is clad in the "robes of righteousness." There is no bridal union with Christ when souls are not thus enrobed.
(2) The happy guests on this occasion. "Write, Blessed are they which are called [bidden] unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (ver. 9). All the guests themselves are brides; all of them have on the wedding garment; with hearts of joyous gratitude, they have come to welcome one or more of those who have just entered into the blessed community. "These are the true sayings [words] of God." They are not fictions, not poetic rhapsodies; they are attested by the dictates of nature and the facts of experience. "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."
(3) The suggestive talk on this occasion. "And I fell at [down before] his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant [with thee], and of thy brethren that have [hold] the testimony of Jesus: worship God," etc. (ver. 10). John, in this vision or dream of his, seems so enraptured, so transported with ecstasy at the scene, that his devout emotions overcome him, and he falls down at the feet of the angel interpreter, the man who bade him "write" the words, "Blessed are they," etc. The words which this interpreting spirit addressed to John as he prostrated himself before him are very beautiful and suggestive. "He saith unto me," says John, as I lay overwhelmed with emotion at his feet, "See thou do it not;" my relationship to thee forbids it: "I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren." We are engaged in the same work and members of the same family. "See thou do it not." It is the characteristic of small men that they require their fellow servants to worship them, to render them homage. Hence their assumptions, their glitter, their pomposity, and parade. The greatest man is ever the most humble. "That have [hold] the testimony of Jesus: worship God." His testimony is the spirit of all true teaching and "prophecy." John and his coadjutors are both sent on the same errand, engaged in the same work, partakers of the same prophetic spirit; the one must not, therefore, worship the other.
"The more thy glories strike my eyes,
The lower I shall lie;
Thus while I fall my joys shall rise
Immeasurably high." How sublimely blessed the condition of all genuine disciples of Christ! They are wedded to him; he is their spiritual Husband, and each can say, "I am his, and he is mine."
2. As the triumphant Conqueror of the wrong. Earth is the arena of a tremendous campaign, the battle of the right against the wrong, of the true against the false, of the benevolent against the selfish. As a Chieftain in this grand moral campaign against wrong, the following points are suggested as worthy of note. Observe:
(1) The instrumentality be employs, and the titles he inherits. "And 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" (ver. 11). A portion of the machinery (perhaps the greatest) which this great Hero uses is represented as a "white horse." In the sixth chapter of this book, which we have already noticed, there is a similar picture of the implements employed. "And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer." A "horse," strong, swift, daring, manageable, like the war horse in the Book of Job. "White," emblem of the pure and the right. The campaign in which Christ is engaged and the methods he employs are all right and pure. "He that sat on him" - the triumphant General - "had a bow: and went forth conquering, and to conquer." The bow projects the arrow, and the arrow penetrates the heart of the foe. See what titles this Hero inherits. He is called "the Faithful;" he never breaks a promise. "True" - true in his conceptions of realities, and true in his representation of those realities; ever in lip and life in strict conformity to eternal facts. "In righteousness he doth judge and make war." All his campaigns are right; he fights not against existence, but against its evils. He never strikes a blow but to crush a wrong, and to save a soul. "His name is called The Word of God" (ver. 13). The Revealer of the Absolute, and his Representative to man. Here are titles how unlike those which ignorant men confer on their fellows - titles which disgrace alike the donors and the donees!
(2) The aspect he wears, and the.followers he commands.
(a) "His eyes were [are] as a flame of fire" (ver. 12). The eye is the best mirror of the soul; one glance reveals more of the inner self than the strongest words in the most affluent vocabulary. The eyes of this conquering Hero, riding forth victoriously on his white horse, are like a "flame of fire" - all pure, all searching, ablaze with an unquenchable fire.
(b) "On his head were [are] many crowns [diadems]" (ver. 12). These crowns were the emblems of that empire of his, which is coextensive with the universe, and as lasting as eternity. They had names or titles written on them. "He had [hath] a name written, that [which] no man knew [no one knoweth], but he himself" (ver. 12). They had a significance surpassing the interpretation of all minds but his. He is "the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
(c) "He was clothed [arrayed] with a vesture [garment] dipped [sprinkled] in blood" (ver. 13). This is true of a worldly conqueror; he comes up from Edom, the scene of the campaign, with garments "dipped in blood." Of the spiritual warrior, it only expresses the vital expenditure of the struggle. The very life has been sacrificed to it. As to the followers he commands, who are they? Who are his battalions in this grand campaign? Who does this majestic Chieftain lead forth to battle? "The armies which were [are] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean" (ver. 14). Who knows the numbers of his armies? They may baffle all arithmetic to calculate; but their moral character is known. "They are clothed in fine linen, white and clean," exquisitely refined and spotlessly pure - sainted men and holy angels.
(3) The course he pursues, and the greatness of his supremacy. "Out of his mouth goeth [proceedeth] a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations" etc. (ver. 15). His force is moral. "Out of his mouth goeth forth a sharp sword." It is not by physical force, such as bayonets, cannons, swords, that he wins his victories; but moral words, His words are as a "sharp sword;" they cut down the errors, the wrongs, the miseries, of the race. Mind alone can conquer mind. His force is mighty. "With it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron" (ver, 15). How mighty is his word! It creates, sustains, and destroys universes every day. How independent is his course! "He treadeth the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (ver. 15). In the corresponding expression in Isaiah 63:3 it is said, "I have trodden the wine press alone." The "wrath" or the anger of God! What is this "wrath"? Not passion, but principle; not indignation against existence, but antagonism to all the wrongs of existence. Against these wrongs Christ fought alone. "I have trodden the wine press alone: and of the people there was none with me." Mark also the greatness of his supremacy. "He hath on his vesture [garment] and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords" (ver. 16). There are degrees of authority in the empire of God, one ruling power over another, rising up to the highest heights of being; but Christ is over all, the King of all kings, and the Lord of all lords. He is "exalted far above all heavens." There are heavens rising above heavens. No astronomy can measure the height of the lowest, the highest transcends all imagination; Christ is far above the highest. All authorities, worlds, systems, laws, events, are under his vast and absolute control. What a benediction to know that he is love, and that he "knoweth our frames, and remembereth that we are dust"! He knows man, for manhood belongs to his wonderful personality.
(4) The war he wages, and the victories he achieves. It is suggested that this war he wages deserves the attention of all. "And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls [birds] that fly in the midst of [in mid] heaven, Come and gather yourselves [be gathered] together unto the supper [great supper] of the great God [of God]" (ver. 17). Mark the author of this address. How grand his position! "Standing in the sun." Mrs. Browning, perhaps struck with its sublimity, sings of "God's archangel standing in the sun," wrapped in luminous splendour and exposed to all eyes. How earnest his effort! "He cried with a loud voice." How vast his audience! "Saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven" (ver. 17). The birds are personifications of men - men, perhaps, of genius, ambition, and celerity in movement. But the men, perhaps, especially of martial passion and purpose are meant here; hence the imperial bird. The cruel, ravenous eagle is the symbol of war. How strange and startling his summons! "Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper." "Wheresoever the carcase is, there shall the eagles be gathered together" for feasting. The ravenous vultures devour the flesh of thousands. The carrion on the battlefield is a rich feast for those armies, who, like the rapacious birds of prey, not only kill, but devour. These are the men engaged in this tremendous battle, in destroying all that makes human existence worth having - purity, freedom, kindness, friendship, worship. "Unto the supper of the great God." What is the feast of God? It is the utter ruin of all that is opposed to the interests of the soul. Does not Heaven call on all to rejoice in the fall of wrong? This feast is here represented in striking symbol as 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 [and] small and great" (ver. 18). The utter ruin of all those mighty forces, who fought for moral wrong, portrayed as a "beast," the "great whore," etc. Such a ruin is in truth a rich feast of God to all regenerate souls. Mark the victories he achieves. "And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies," etc. (ver. 19). All the abettors and promoters of wrong. The great truth suggested by these verses on to the end of the chapter is that moral evil shall one day be utterly destroyed from off the earth; even its last remnant shall be consumed. The great Chieftain came to "destroy the works of the devil," to "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," to sweep the world of it. - D.T.
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: