Revelation 19.1-10 - "He is Righteous"
A king was engaged to a beautiful princess.
Well, a commoner.
Actually, not very pretty. // But she stole his heart.
This King went on a journey. // To a battle.
Warning: Others will try to sit on my throne. Try to entice my people.
BUT I WILL COME BACK…Only after I secure your freedom
The King left. He was gone weeks. Months. Years.
We have been looking at several portraits of Jesus in Revelation these last four weeks. We have done this because in our day and age it’s really easy for people to shape Jesus into who they want him to be. The problem is that these pictures of Jesus don’t come from how he has revealed himself. Instead, people make Jesus soft and gentle and weak. Someone who never demands anything. Surely, he loved everyone and revealed God’s mercy and grace in touching lepers and in healing the sick.
It’s easy to forget that we are in the midst of a battle. A battle for not only our hearts and minds. But a battle for the hearts and minds of those we come into contact everyday.
We have seen that Jesus’ resurrection has won victory over our greatest enemy in chapter 1 as Firstborn of the Dead. That he is worthy to open the scroll of God’s plan from the beginning of time in chapter 5. That he reigns completely and benevolently in chapter 7. And now we are at the end of the book where we see that he is righteous and just in all he does. The great multitude of the redeemed people of God we saw last week show up again here.
V.1: After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
After what? Chapters 17 and 18 speak about the great Beast and the Prostitute who is defeated by the slain Lamb of God. Who are they? They are equated with the great and awful city of Babylon. But Babylon was not in power at the time of this revelation to John. So why Babylon? This forces us to go back to the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel and Jeremiah and Isaiah. They were the great prophets during the time of the Babylonian Exile of God’s people.
Because God’s people had broken his law. The law we heard in Leviticus 19. Loving our neighbor as ourselves. Not being greedy. Not looking out for only ourselves, but looking to the needs of others. Because they had found security in the promises of other kings and found their security in their bank accounts. In their relationships. In good things that became more valuable to them than God. God sent them into Exile to cleanse them.
Babylon, therefore, isn’t simply the socio-political entity of Babylon. It had already been destroyed. It represents anything that we would find our confidence in. This was the issue for Israel. They had put their confidence in political alliances with Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt. They had fooled themselves into thinking that anything other than God would give them the security and life they longed for. The Church was at risk of this same thing. As it looked around and saw Christians being crucified and burned and torn apart at the hands of Rome, you can rest assured that they were anxious.
They needed to have the veil lifted from their eyes to see not only that God reigns in spite of what they saw. They needed to see his nearness. Though hidden. That’s the great temptation we all have. Egypt and Babylon and Rome were glorious. Their kings ate off plates of gold. Drank from goblets with jewels. They were the epitome of success and power.
We haven’t traveled too far. Scripture makes it clear that we ought never to trust what we see with our eyes. This is what Revelation is at pains to reveal to us. Just consider how many times John says he saw. God wants to drill into our hearts the unseen and hidden reality. We trust our perceptions far too readily.
This is what Satan is depending on to win our attention. And by winning our attention. Winning our affection. That’s what Babylons do. Just listen to Rev. 18.16-17: “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! 17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”
Let me ask you a question. Is it wrong for the King to destroy the wicked? Is it wrong for Jesus to wipe out the sin in all the earth? No. In fact, our faith depends on this glorious fact. What hope do we have if evil is not dealt with? Honestly, what hope do we have if the evil we hear about everyday and that which goes on behind closed doors is never dealt with? God is not in the business of turning a blind eye to the evil in the world. He promises that all of it will be dealt with. Dealt with justly. Dealt with eternally.
V.3: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
Eternal peace depends on eternal judgment. God shows up and is angry. Love gets angry when the object of its affection is threatened. When the king returns to his betrothed, love requires that he be angry!
Until that peace is won by the blood-drenched sword of Jesus, there can be no celebration. This idea is not new to John. This was the very paradigm in Isaiah 34 and 35. Listen to a few representative passages: 1 Draw near, O nations, to hear, and give attention, O peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that fills it; the world, and all that comes from it. 2 For the LORD is enraged against all the nations, and furious against all their host; he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter…For the LORD has a day of vengeance…Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever.
So what happens after the judgment of the evil of Babylon? Isaiah 35.1: The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; 2 it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Is. 35:5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water…
Is. 35:8 And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
9 No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Is this not what happens in our passage? There is a great wedding. The wedding Jesus spoke about in Matthew 25 that we heard. How shall we prepare? By always being ready for his return. By loving our neighbor as ourself. By not being greedy for selfish gain. By not believing that all that glitters is gold that will last. To not trust what our eyes see. But what faith demands from us. To lay down our tendency to put me first. Instead trusting that God is more valuable than anything we could gain in this world.
But let me make this utterly clear. We do not do righteous deeds to earn his favor. All are invited to the feast. And the robes that the multitude are covered in…do you remember why they are white? Because they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.
The righteous deeds we do are based upon the righteousness of Jesus. Day by day we are called to reflect his goodness and grace and love. Listen to what John also wrote in 1John 3: And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
He is Righteous. We are righteous because we have been forgiven. And in being forgiven we are freed from the slavery to Babylon and all its temptations. Temptation to sell our birthright for paltry porridge.
Have you ever considered why Scripture calls the return of Christ a Marriage? I believe its due to the fact that there is no more intimate relationship on earth. No other relationship that angers us more. That changes us more. That accepts us more.
Another marriage in Scripture. God loves the unlovely. Not just a plain commoner. He destroys the Beast and Prostitute in our passage—which represents Satan and his schemes. But we see another prostitute in Scripture. The Prophet Hosea marries a Prostitute. He clothes her. He cares for her. She runs away from him. How does the Lord respond—end at Hosea 14?
4 I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily;
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
6 his shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
7 They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
And it is at this Marriage Supper that all the evil in the world will be cleansed and we will celebrate. The righteous judgment on the evil in the world levels the high places of idolatry. And in so doing, we find that all that we longed for was waiting for us as his Table.