Revelation 19 Commentary

v.2 “The outburst of praise rests upon the fact that the judgments of God – specifically, his judgment of the great harlot – are true and righteous […] Constant reference to her corrupting influence upon the kings of the earth (14:8; 17:2; 18:3) stresses the extent of her guilt.  Her fornication is her seductive and unholy alliances with the entire civilized world.  By the utter destruction of Babylon God has avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.  Early in the history of Israel God was portrayed as one who avenges the blood of his servants and takes vengeance on his adversaries (Deut 32:43).”[1]

v.6 “In the historical context of a proud and powerful Roman Empire, for John to call God ‘the Almighty’ is an act of extreme confidence.  Domitian had conferred upon himself the title ‘Our Lord and God’ (Duetonius, Dom. 13).  Literally the word means one who holds all things in his control.  Nine times in Revelation the Seer uses it of God, while only once is it found elsewhere in the NT.  The multitude declares that this all-powerful being who has entered into his reign is a personal God – he is the Lord our God.”[2]

v.7 “The bride is the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem (21:2, 9), which is the symbol of the church, the bride of Christ the community of those redeemed by Christ’s blood. The wedding imagery, including the wedding supper, was for the Jews a familiar image of the kingdom of God. Jesus used wedding and banquet imagery in his parables of the kingdom (Matt 22:2 ff.; 25:1-13; Luke 14:15-24). The OT used the figure for the bride of Israel (Ezek 16:1 ff.; Hos 2:19), and NT writers have applied it to the church (2Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25 ff.). Heaven’s rejoicing has signaled the defeat of all the enemies of God. The time of betrothal has ended. Now it is the time for the church, prepared by loyalty, and suffering, to enter into her full experience of salvation and glory with her beloved spouse, Christ.”[3]

v.8 “The bride is attired in fine linen, bright and pure.  In contrast, the harlot was arrayed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, jewels, and pearls.  The following clause explains that the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  The plural (‘acts’) may indicate that the bride’s garment is woven of the innumerable acts of faithful obedience by those who endure to the end.  This does not deny the Pauline doctrine of justification based on the righteous obedience of Christ (Rom. 5:18-19), but suggests that a transformed life is the proper response to the call of the heavenly bridegroom.  Note that it was given to her to array herself in righteous acts: believers are created for divinely prepared good words (Eph 2:10).”[4]

v.9 “This beatitude is the fourth of seven (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14) in Revelation. In each beatitude there is a subtle contrast to those who are not loyal and faithful followers of the Lamb […] The wedding supper began toward evening on the wedding day, lasted for many days, and was a time of great jubilation. Here in Revelation, the wedding is the beginning of the earthly kingdom of God, the bride is the church in all her purity, and the invited guests are both the bride and people who have committed themselves to Jesus.  To assure John and his readers of the certainty of the end of the great prostitute and the announcement of the wedding supper of the Lamb, the angel adds, ‘These are the true words of God’ (cf. 1:2; 17:17; 21:5). A similar sentence later seems to give the same assurance for the whole book (22:6).”[5]

v.10 “The angel links himself with John by calling himself a fellow servant with you.  There are not unimportant differences between angels and men, but the really significant thing is that they are both ‘servants’ of their common Lord.”[6]

v.11 “The white horse reminds the hearer-reader of the first apocalyptic horseman of 6:2, the two images thus bracketing the intervening depiction of the last plagues, but the rider on the white horse of 19:11-16 is not to be identified with that of 6:1-2.  Here, there can be no doubt that the figure is Jesus: he has the same flaming eyes as in the vision of Christ in 1:14, the same sword of the word of God proceeds from his mouth (1:16; 2:12), he is named by the same names as in his messages to the churches (‘Faithful and True,’ 3:14; cf. 1:5), he bears the name of the definitive self-revelation of God, ‘Word of God.’”[7]

“Though John uses OT language descriptive of a warrior-Messiah, he does not depict Christ as a great military warrior battling against earth’s sovereigns. John reinterprets this OT imagery while at the same time inseparably linking Christ to its fulfillment. The close proximity in v. 11 of justice and war shows us that the kind of warfare Christ engages in is more the execution of justice than a military conflict. He who is the faithful and true witness will judge the rebellious nations.”[8]

vv.12, 16 “The first thing that John records about the Rider of the white horse is that his eyes are a flame of fire.  Nothing can be hidden from the penetrating gaze of Messiah.  Upon his head are many diadems (royal crown).  Here is an obvious contrast to the seven diadems of the dragon (12:3) and the ten diadems of the beast out of the sea (13:1).  Many crowns indicate unlimited sovereignty.  As King of kings all authority is his.”[9]

vv.13, 15 “This militaristic imagery has seemed to some Christians to be too alien to be applied to Jesus of Nazareth, the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6; cf. Matt. 21:1-9).  Yet, though not all of his interpreters have remembered, John has not forgotten the definitive picture of the nature of Christ’s conquest already given in 5:1-14.  The death by which he conquers is his own, the once-for-all offering of his life on the cross.  John uses all of the traditional messianic imagery, but he consistently asks the hearer-reader to interpret the Lion as the lamb, as he himself does, even in this bloody scene.  This conqueror destroys his enemies, not with a literal sword, but with the sword of this mouth; his only weapon is his word, the Word of God which he himself is (19:13).  The word for ‘rule’ (9:15), also means ‘shepherd,’ evoking both Psalm 23 and Rev. 7:17, ‘the Lamb will be their shepherd,’ which uses exactly the same word.  The conquering rider arrives wearing a garment dipped in blood.  Before the ‘last battle’ ever begins, his garments are already bloody with his sacrifice of himself (1:5; 5:9).  In contrast to the divine warrior of Isaiah 63:1-3, the source for this imagery, this blood is not the blood of his enemies but his own martyr blood in union with the martyr blood of his followers who, like him, have suffered/testified at the hands of Rome.  This is the meaning of the fact that he treads the winepress of God’s wrath.  This view that the eschatological Divine Warrior is red with his own blood rather than that of his enemies […] is analogous to the idea that Christians wash their garments and make them white in the blood of the Lamb (7:14).”[10]

vv.17-18 “The supper of God presents a grim contrast to the marriage feast of the Lamb.  It is the supper of God in the sense that God will provide it.  The ranks of the enemy are composed not only of kings and captains, but of all men, free and bond, small and great.  Beasley-Murray correctly observes that ‘all men’ here indicates ‘all kinds of men’.  In the final conflict no preference will be given to rank or station.  The bodies will lie on the field of battle to be devoured by birds of prey.  To remain unburied for the pleasure of predators was considered by the ancients to be an ignominious fate.  The scene is one of universal dishonor and destruction.”[11]

v.19-21 “Christ and his heavenly army are on the one side, opposed on the other side by two combined groups.  (1) Opposed to Christ are rebellious human beings – not just the ‘high and mighty,’ but also the little people, even slaves (19:18; cf. same motif in 6:15; 13:16).  Revelation’s protest is more than the sociological reality of oppressed people resenting their oppressors.  Though John and his community belong to the marginal, relatively powerless victims of injustice at the hands of the powerful, the conflict he pictures is not between haves and have-nots, first and second versus third world, oppressors versus oppressed but between rebellious humanity and its Creator and Lord.  (2) The primary opposition is not the historical, finite, this-worldly human community but the transpersonal powers of evil that have inspired and deceived them, as symbolized by the beast and false prophet.  Both groups are ‘defeated’ by Jesus the Conqueror, but in different ways.  No battle is described; there could be none in John’s theology.  The decisive battle was won long ago.  The End only makes that victory effective and manifest.  Without a struggle, in a manner reminiscent of the messianic king of Isaiah 11:1-5, the transcendent powers of evil are taken and cast into the transcendent place of destruction, the lake of fire (19:20).”[12]


[1] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977) 337.

[2] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977) 339.

[3] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for chapter 19.

[4] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977) 340.

[5] Frank E. Gaebelein. Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for chapter 19.

[6] Leon Morris, Revelation,  Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity, 2000) 222.

[7] M. Eugene Boring, Revelation, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KT: John Knox Press, 1989) 195.

[8] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for chapter 19.

[9] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977) 344.

[10] M. Eugene Boring, Revelation, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KT: John Knox Press, 1989) 196.

[11] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977) 349.

[12] M. Eugene Boring, Revelation, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KT: John Knox Press, 1989) 199-200.

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