A Heavenly Hallelujah

Posted: April 3, 2011 in Revelation

Revelation 19:1-10, “A Heavenly Hallelujah”

Can you imagine the day?  The day when all of the saints throughout all history join together with one voice and give praise & honor to the Lord…  It’s coming!  Right now, we see through a glass dimly, and we praise God with only partial understanding of His glorious nature.  But one day we will see Him for who He is, and praise Him in marvelous splendor!  It’s incredible & it’s what God truly deserves.

When Babylon fell, the world mourned, singing out in 3 sorrowful laments.  They didn’t mourn over the sin of the city or the murderous persecution of the saints of God, but they mourned the ability of the city to make them wealthy.  Basically they mourned the constant funding of their bank accounts.  Rejecting God until the end, they wept & threw dust upon their heads in sorrow for a city (and system) that had experienced the righteous judgment of God.

So what should their response have been?  What is the response of God’s people to the righteous judgment of God as He lovingly and powerfully protects His people?  Praise!  Those who belong to God erupt in praise for God as they watch the powerful work of God.  Rev 18:20 gave us a taste of this as the call went out to heaven to rejoice…  Ch 19 picks up with that rejoicing as all of heaven breaks out into the ultimate Hallelujah chorus.

Although the reasons could be endless, these 10 verses show (at least) 10 different reasons for which to praise God.  There are multitudes of reasons for which God is worthy of our praise – what’s yours?

Revelation 19:1–10 (NKJV)

1After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!

  1. After which things?  The fall of Babylon & the lamenting of the world over it.  There’s a definite chronological progression here as the heavenly hallelujah is contrasted with the weeping of the nations.
  2. John heard the “multitude” – likely speaking of the great multitude of martyrs from the Great Tribulation (Rev 7:9)…  It’s fitting that they are the first to lift their voices in praise after Babylon’s judgment because they were the ones killed by Babylon’s actions (as inspired by Antichrist).  Some have interpreted this multitude as being the angelic host, but the wording is exactly the same as the earlier reference to the great multitude of Rev 7.  It also shows a progression in praise among those in heaven, starting with the multitude & eventually reaching to every human & angelic being there.  (We saw something similar as the visions of heaven began in Rev 5, when Jesus was revealed as the only one worthy to open the scroll.  1st the 4 creatures & 24 elders worshipped, then the angels, then all of creation.)
  3. Allelujah.”  The word is repeated 4 times in this section, and this is the only place in the NT where it is found – it’s worth defining.  This is actually a Greek transliteration of the familiar Hebrew word “hallelujah,” = “praise the Lord.”  Hallel + Yah… Using a shortened version of the covenant name of God, “Yahweh.”  Psalms 113-118 are known as the “Hallel Psalms” & are generally recited at Passover, giving thanks to God for His deliverance from their oppressors.  Psalms 146-150 are sometimes known as the “Daily Hallel” & are calls to praise (mostly) for daily miracles: the sovereignty of God, His covenant love, etc.  Ps 149 is especially interesting in light of Babylon’s judgment & the wedding feast: Psalm 149 “(1) Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, And His praise in the assembly of saints. (2) Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. (3) Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. (4) For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. (5) Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds. (6) Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand, (7) To execute vengeance on the nations, And punishments on the peoples; (8) To bind their kings with chains, And their nobles with fetters of iron; (9) To execute on them the written judgment— This honor have all His saints. Praise the LORD!” []  When the Lord Jesus returns on the white horse with the sword coming from His mouth, the saints of God will accompany Him (Rev 19:14).  In Ps 149, it is the armies of the Hebrews that execute judgment; in Rev 19 it is the King of Kings Himself!  So what do we do in response?  Praise the Lord!
  4. Reason to praise God #1: His person/character.  We’ve already seen much of this same language of praise in the songs of praise from the 24 elders & others in heaven as the visions began (Rev 4:11, 5:12), but also specifically just before the multitude of martyrs were revealed (Rev 7:12).
    1. Salvation: This is technically more of an act of God, rather than a description of His character, but considering how wrapped up our salvation is in the person of God, it’s fitting to include it.  Why does salvation “belong” to our God?  Because He’s the only One who can save!  We are the beneficiaries of God’s saving deliverance, but He is the Merciful Deliverer.  Outside of Christ Jesus, there is no salvation (despite the popular claims of others), but in Christ there is salvation available to all who call upon His name.

                                                                          i.      Of course when we think of God’s salvation, it’s impossible not to wrap it up with God’s love.  The love of God is one of His primary reasons to provide salvation.  … What a reason to praise!

  1. Glory: The glory of God is often thought of (and expressed) as light (which we’ll see in Ch 21 as the glory of God lights up the entire New Jerusalem), yet another way of thinking of glory is “splendor.” (Kittel TDNT), “it denotes “divine and heavenly radiance,” the “loftiness and majesty” of God, and even the “being of God” and His world.”  We can praise God for His majestic wonder…His very being…
  2. Honor: The idea speaks to the worth of God.  When speaking of material things, something was honored because it had value.  When speaking of God, what limit could possibly be placed on His value?  God is of infinite worth, and thus worthy of everlasting honor.  There is none in all the universe more deserving of honor than the Lord our God. …

                                                                          i.      And yet what did this God of infinite worth do?  He put on lowly human flesh to dwell among us.  He suffered pain, rejection, betrayal, torture, and bore the wrath we deserved due to sin.  He died the death of a criminal & shed His blood on our behalf.  The God of infinite worth humbled Himself to the lowest depths – all because of you & me.  Is God worthy of praise because of His honor?  You bet!

  1. Power: (δύναμις) This is the capability to “exert force in performing a function” (Louw Nida).  When the disciples were to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, it was that they would receive power in order to be Jesus’ witnesses (Acts 1:8).  Without the power of God, the disciples had no capability of being good or effective witnesses for God.  What does God have the power to do?  Anything & everything!  Power belongs to God because God is omnipotent.  He declared to Jeremiah, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh.  Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jer 32:27)  Nothing is too hard for infinite God! 
  2. These are just 4 of the many attributes of God.  Once you start to look at His infinity, His grandeur, His knowledge, His love, His immutability, and much more, it’s easy to start to understand why it will take eternity to give God the praise that He deserves!

 

2For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.”

  1. Reason to praise God #2: the fact of God’s judgment.  The primary motivation for the multitude erupting in praise was the judgment of Babylon.  Antichrist’s city had systematically murdered those who claimed the name of Christ & refused to worship the Beast.  During the 5th seal, the 1st group of these martyrs had asked God, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6:10)  That prayer has now been answered, and the martyrs sing out in praise because God has wrought His holy vengeance upon the persecutor.
    1. We often think of God’s salvation as a reason for which to praise God (and is, per vs 1!), but we sometimes have a harder time with God’s judgment.  Yet if there’s anything we’ve seen in Rev 15-18, it’s that God is holy in His judgments & His judgments are a reason to give Him praise.  There IS an answer to the terrible sin of mankind – there is a response to those who murder the church, enslave children for perversity, oppress the poor, and more.  God is not blind to any of these injustices.  Those who do not humble themselves before Jesus Christ (who already received our judgment) will themselves be judged as God acts in His holy righteousness.  Think of it – if we can breathe a sigh of relief anytime a human judge passes correct justice in a courtroom, how much more can we praise God for His perfect justice in eternity?
  2. Reason to praise God #3: the nature of God’s judgment.  God’s judgment upon Babylon is described as “true and righteous.”  Amen!  If God’s judgments were anything but true & righteous, His judgment would be something for which all of us (even the Church) would be uncertain.  But God’s judgment is not random or scattered or partial or biased or uncertain…it’s true.  When God judges, it is the right judgment – the proper just decision based upon the holiness of God.  God’s judgment can be trusted, which makes it a judgment for which we can praise God.
    1. Imagine it – for every person throughout history, God’s judgment will be absolutely righteous.  Every “grey” area for us is easily seen for God.  We wonder sometimes about certain people groups that perhaps have seen the witness of God in creation (Rom 1), but never had a missionary travel to them.  Well, God knows their circumstances exactly, and His judgment will be right & true.  Or the serial murderer who gave lip service to Christ, but never truly submitted to Him.  Well, God knows the heart & God’s judgment is righteous & true.  Every scenario that can be imagined for which we would think it’d be impossible to judge is indeed possible with God.  All justice will find it’s answer in Him!

 

3Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”

  1. Reason to praise God #4: the extent of God’s judgment.  God’s judgment is a fact, it’s righteous, and it’s also eternal.  Babylon (specifically those who took part in its murders) would be judged “forever and ever.” Note this cannot be referring to the physical city any longer.  Cities don’t burn forever; but the lake of fire does.  Those who lived among Babylon will be forever condemned in Hell, and the results of it will endure for eternity.
  2. Why is the eternal nature of God’s judgment a reason for praise?  Two reasons: (1) it speaks again to the righteous judgment of God.  Because God is infinitely holy, rebellion against Him is an infinite offense which requires an infinite response.  For the judgment to be truly righteous, it needs to equal the level of offense – and outside of the cross of Christ, eternity is the only thing equal to the task.  (2) It speaks to the nature of deliverance for God’s people.  Think of it – if Babylon (the system & city) is forever destroyed, will God’s people ever be systematically murdered again?  No.  The fact that the extent of God’s judgment is total & eternal underlines the idea that our salvation is total & eternal.  We will be the ones praising God forever & ever – eternally free from the threats of Antichrist because his wicked system is forever judged.
    1. If that doesn’t sound so great now, try to put yourself into the shoes of the persecuted church around the world…

 

4And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, “Amen! Alleluia!” 5Then a voice came from the throne, saying, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!”

  1. The song moves from the multitude of martyrs to the 24 elders & 4 living creatures.  Recall that the 24 elders likely represent the Church – the 4 living creatures are cherubim that continually surround the throne of God giving Him praise.  These are the 1st groups that John originally saw in his visions.  We’ve come full circle now from wondering how judgment was going to come, to seeing it carried out.
  2. Who had the voice that called for further worship?  The voice came from the throne, so some might assume this is the voice of God.  Yet the call is to “praise our God,” so God’s voice is unlikely.  Remember that the 4 living creatures continually flew around the throne of God – this is probably one of them, exhorting all of heaven to praise.
  3. Reason to praise God #5: the invitations to be servants of God.  Who are the ones invited to praise God?  “All you His servants (δοῦλοι) and those who fear Him, both small and great.”  Those who fear God (reverently & in humble respect) are the servants of God.  Whether we had a huge visible ministry or we just humbly served in the background is irrelevant.  Whether we were faithful with 10 talents or faithful with 2 doesn’t matter – all who serve the Lord, small and great, are called to give our God praise.  What a glorious invitation it is to be called to be a servant/slave of God!  Objection: “How can it be good to be a slave?!”  Easy, when the Master is God.  To be a slave of God is to be purchased out of the mire & muck of our own sin.  To be a slave of God is to be redeemed away from the old master of death.  To be a slave of God is to be brought into the household of God & receive the benefits of an all-benevolent King.  To be a slave of God is to be forever sealed with the Spirit.  To be a slave of God is to even receive the rights of adoption and inheritance as we’re made co-heirs with Jesus Christ.  To be a slave of God is wonderful!  Psalm 84:10 “(10) For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” []  Praise God for the invitation to be His servants/slaves!

 

6And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!

  1. By this point, all of heaven is rejoicing.  All the OT saints – all the NT Church – all the Tribulation martyrs – all of the heavenly host of angels.  No wonder the sound was like many waters & mighty thunderings!  Many times, the voice of many waters is the voice of God Himself, but there’s no doubt here that the voice is one of many voices joining together in a thunderous song of praise.
  2. Reason to praise God #6: the power & reign of God.  The corrupt religious & political system of the world has been overthrown, and the long-awaited Millennial rule of Christ will have begun.  The age when Christ will personally reign as the Son of David will have arrived & all of heaven is overjoyed at the fact. []  Even today, we can rejoice in the power & reign of our God!  “Omnipotent” is most often translated “Almighty” & contextually is a title that kings often took to themselves proclaiming their right to rule over all things in their domain.  What is the domain of the Creator God?  All of the universe!  He is the ruler of all things & all power & authority in heaven and earth has been granted to Jesus Christ.  Already we are citizens of His kingdom, even if we wait for the days that His kingdom will fill the whole earth.

 

7Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

  1. Reason to praise God #7: the marriage of the Lamb to the Church.  If wedding days today are reason to rejoice & praise God, how much more the wedding of the Son of God!  Jesus had given Himself for the Church, paying the dowry price of His own blood for us.  At the end of the tribulation, the time will have come for the wedding feast (which perhaps lasts through the entire millennial age) & heaven rejoices at the prospect of it all. []  The idea of the wedding between Jesus & the Church is a common idea in the NT.  John the Baptist had called himself the friend of the bridegroom (Jn 3:29) – Jesus had given the picture of a wedding when speaking of how He was preparing a place for us in heaven (John 14:1-3) – just as husbands are the head of the wife, so is Jesus the head of the Church (Eph 5:23, 1 Cor 11:3).  This is the whole point of Paul’s instructions to husbands in Eph 5, as every earthly marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32).  What a mind-blowing thought – that we are to be the Bride of Christ Jesus!  Obviously the Bible isn’t speaking of procreation here; this speaks of the intimacy of the relationship between Jesus & His Church.  Godly marriages that last 40-50 years go long past the point of procreation, but the intimacy between husband & wife only deepens over time as they know each other better & better.  How much more between us & our Lord Jesus as we enter eternity.  If we think worship is sweet now when we give our adoration to our King, imagine what it will be when we’re removed from the very presence of sin & we stand before Jesus as His Bride for eternity!
  2. Question: how can we as the Bride of Christ make ourselves ready for the wedding?  Brides in the ancient cultures would wash themselves & rub themselves with oil & perfume to prepare themselves for their husbands, but what do we do?  We respond to what Jesus does for us in preparation. Ephesians 5:25–27 “(25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, (26) that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, (27) that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” []  Jesus is the one that sets us apart & cleanses us – through the work of the Holy Spirit in the word of God, our lives are transformed as we become more & more the people God intends for us to be.  Our outward actions are changed as Jesus does His inward work in us.
  3. BTW – note that the “wife” has already completed her preparations by this point, which is all prior to Jesus’ 2nd coming.  This strongly points to the Premillennial Rapture of the Church.  Vs. 7 makes it plain that the bride is complete & all the preparations have been made for the wedding, all prior to the moment of Jesus’ return (which is seen later in Ch 19).  For this to be possible, the Church will have had to have been already raptured & with Christ in heaven.

 

8And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

  1. Reason to praise God #8: the righteousness of Christ that empowers us to act in righteousness. Note the balance between grace & our response to grace.  It was “granted” to the Church to be arrayed in fine linen, but the fine linen itself is “the righteous acts of the saints.”  The imagery of fine linen is often used to refer to the righteousness of Christ (that’s the idea from 2 Cor 5:21 & Isa 1:18), but here it’s specifically labeled as our own righteous actions.  The grace of God & our response to the grace of God go hand-in-hand.
  2. Objection: “But isn’t that somehow adding to the gospel?” Not at all.  Remember that (generally speaking) there are three different aspects to our salvation: (1) justification, (2) sanctification, (3) glorification (in which we’re set free from the very presence of sin in heaven).  In justification, it is the work of Jesus Christ alone that makes us righteous in the sight of God (we are “justified”)…  In sanctification, the grace of God continually molds us into the image of Jesus Christ, which is seen through our actions…  Paul strikes a perfect balance with the Ephesians: Ephesians 2:8–10 “(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” []  Jesus did not save us (justification) in order that we would become spiritual couch potatoes; He saved us in order that we would do good works (sanctification) that would bring glory to His name & witness to the world of His grace.  To continue the analogy of marriage, the actions of husbands & wives are often a reflection of one another.  We see the actions of a spouse & get an idea of what the other spouse might be like (not always, but often).  How much more ought that be true between Jesus & His Bride?  Our actions reflect upon the character of our Groom to the rest of the world – that ought to give us great motivation to walk in the good works prepared for us!

 

9Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

  1. Reason to praise God #9: the invitation to the wedding – the grace of God!  Scholars differ on who is actually invited to the wedding.  Some see those who are “called to the marriage supper” & the Bride of Christ to be one & the same – just a different description.  Others see a distinction between the two – after all, how many brides need an invitation to attend their own wedding?  Those who are invited are guests to witness the wedding between the groom & bride.  It seems best to see “those who are called” to be the saints of God outside of the NT Church: the OT saints & the Tribulation saints.  Just as God has a distinct plan for the Jewish people (as demonstrated throughout OT history & will be made clear again in the Tribulation), He has a distinct plan for the NT Church as the bride of Christ.  That’s not to say the NT Church is better than any other group; it’s simply a distinction between roles.  The Israelites were seen as the (often unfaithful) wife of God the Father; the NT Church is seen as the spotless bride of Christ.  Yet there is a special blessing to those who are called to attend the wedding!  Those who have been saved by the grace of God in OT history or the Tribulation time are blessed beyond measure as they are invited to the wedding feast of the Millennium & rejoice in the celebration.
  2. Oh the immensity of the grace of God!  That He would reach into all of the ages & bestow His blessings on all of us who are so undeserving of any dab of mercy whatsoever, but then He clothes us in the richest of righteousness that we could stand before Him at the most holiest of occasions!  We who deserved to be cast into outer darkness have been made Jesus’ Bride.  Those who deserved to be wiped from the face of the earth have been brought into the heavenly wedding hall & invited as honored guests of the Lamb.  Glorious grace!!

 

10And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

  1. We have to admire the honesty of John that he would include his failures in the book of Revelation.  (Obviously he would have been compelled by the Spirit to do so under inspiration, but it’s admirable nonetheless!)  Overcome by the visions he had received, John falls to the feet of the angel speaking to him.  Whether he thought the angel was Christ Himself or he was simply overcome by the glory of God is uncertain, but the fact is that John unwittingly committed idolatry at this point.  The angel stops him & redirects him towards God.  (Notice that God shows grace towards John in not punishing him…it’s already covered in the blood of Christ.)
    1. FYI, if the apostle John was capable of idolatry, how much more are we?  Beware the tendency of lifting anything higher than God in your heart – even things like glorious spiritual truths.  We don’t worship the doctrine; we worship the One to whom the doctrine points.
  2. Reason to praise God #10: the testimony of Christ.  The same root word from which we get our word “martyr” is used here.  The testimony of Christ = the witness of Christ.  Those who have responded to the gospel & have been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ have the witness of Jesus that we carry to the whole world.  As we witness & proclaim Jesus through the Scriptures, we are proclaiming “the spirit of prophecy.”  IOW, all Scripture ultimately points to Jesus Christ.  Whether we read with our eyes, or we proclaim it to the world in our witness, we’re preaching the testimony of Jesus Christ (1) to the nations as we preach the good news of salvation, (2) to ourselves as we’re reminded of why we glorify Christ, (3) to the rest of heaven as we all give glory to God.

 

Conclusion:

So why do you praise God?  All of heaven has reason to sing out in a Hallelujah chorus that will make Handel’s musical masterpiece pale in comparison.  Whether we praise God for His character, His judgment, His kingdom, His call, or His gospel (or any other number of things), we have an abundance of reasons to worship God & give Him praise.  So let us be those who do it!  Let your voices ring out when the Church comes together in song – let your heart sing forth when you go to your knees in devotion – let your tongue let loose the praises of God when you fellowship with one another & go out into your week.  We have an infinite number of reasons to give God praise & every reason to start praising His name now, instead of just waiting until the heavenly times.

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