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, 2 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.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” 6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Big Idea: The focus of Scripture, the very purpose of all history, is the revelation of the love of God in Jesus Christ. That love is revealed in this passage through Christ’s judgment on sin as well as His marriage to you.
- By Judging Sin (vv. 1-5)
As counter-intuitive as it may sound, the first reason disciples of Jesus Christ will praise their Savior throughout eternity is that He judges sin. While someone caught for a crime may initially be grateful for an authority who lets it slide, eventually, that same person will realize that such a leader makes for a chaotic culture. While justice sometimes stings us when we do wrong, in the end it should be welcomed because it provides safety to the weakest, reward to the innocent, and joy for the repentant. Jesus loves all His image bearers too much not to punish sin. His love is proved by keeping us from self-destruction. This is why God is praised for His judgements that are “true and just” in verse 2. At the return of Christ, all His saints will finally, fully be who they were always meant to be. God’s truth and justice will have been shaping them bit by bit into more of that image while they await Christ's return, when the true image will be realized.
God’s standards for judging sin are His truth and righteousness. That Christ upholds truth and justice for His abused followers should warm our hearts to love Him. God has amply warned that mistreatment of His people will be one of the three major reasons he destroys the world (Rev. 18:23). No matter how history has been revised, of what you have been falsely accused, how hidden the stories of the persecuted have been—God remains the guardian of the truth and will ensure that it is established eternally. His righteousness will be the standard against which all thoughts, words, and deeds will be measured. His righteousness will further be revealed as the only explanation of every righteous act and that which must be substituted for our sinfulness to even make it possible to live in His presence. This is the only New Testament passage in which “hallelujah” occurs, reminding us that it is a unique praise reserved for the final victory of righteousness over evil (vv. 1, 3, 4, 6; cf. Ps. 106, 111-13, 117, 135, 146-50).
God’s strategy for getting sinners from their former bondage to the devil in the city of destruction, through a dangerous world, and into the kingdom of heaven is called salvation. We have mistakenly come to refer only to our initial conversion as salvation. But the Bible calls the whole redemptive plan of God "salvation." Isaiah referred to the strategy by which God walks us through the dangers of this world into heaven as the “walls of salvation” (Isaiah 26:1). Those walls are made up of pastors, youth directors, teachers, parents, peers, legal authorities, institutions, all the various means of grace, spouses, siblings and thousands of other "building blocks" that serve to keep us on the narrow road of Christ. Sometimes it hurts to bump into these walls, but the alternative is to go over the edge and onto the other road, the wide road, that leads to destruction. God’s goal for His elect is for each one to be brought home to heaven; the highway of His salvation is walled, for our protection and prospering, all the way to the celestial city.
- Can you think of any times where judgment for sin (“getting caught”) in your life or someone else’s life turned out to be a good thing? How does this illustrate Jesus’ purpose for judging sin?
- By Marrying Sinners (vv. 6-10)
Here we encounter the most beautiful picture in all of Scripture of the love of Jesus for us, His people (Is. 54:5-7; Mt. 22:2; Ep. 5:32). Despite who we have been and who we remain, Jesus dares to betroth himself to us (Hos 2:19). He chose us knowing we had nothing to offer Him, and He is taking all of redemptive history to prepare a great celebratory feast to announce to the whole cosmos that we are His bride.
John grasps for similes to describe the deafening shouts of those gathered in Heaven as Christ celebrates the final redemption of His bride the Church. He calls to mind the loudest phenomena He has experienced in creation—the triumphant shouts of an uproarious crowd of people, a mighty waterfall, and terrifying peals of thunder. He combines all of these in a desperate attempt to convey how loud and triumphant the worship in Heaven will be.
Why this unprecedented, deafening celebration in Heaven? Because of what is being revealed about the manner of God’s salvation of His Church. All redeemed humanity, all the angels of heaven, and all creation will revel in God’s beautification of sinners such as us. Of course, we will all be overjoyed that the “marriage supper of the Lamb has come,” but we will be even more amazed at the readiness of the “Bride.”
Years ago, my friend Kim, a physician in Philadelphia, was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of liver cancer. Soon after diagnosis, this once vibrant, athletic, brilliant young woman showed the signs of this devastating disease wreaking havoc upon her body. However, something dramatic and unheard of occurred in the middle of her battle: She got married! A man whom she had known for several years came back into her life and said, “I want to marry you.” During the proposal in her hospital room, Kim took his hand and put it on one of the tumors now protruding from her body and said, “Do you feel that? That is going to kill me. Do you still want to marry me?” He said, “Yes! I am going to marry you. Will you marry me?” That is love! I can guarantee you that she never questioned that her husband loved her and was committed to loving her—come what may.
You and I have been loved even more extravagantly than that by God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. By keeping His love in the forefront of our minds, we will never cease to worship Him.
- Can you think of a beautiful wedding ceremony you have attended (perhaps even your own) where the image in this passage was particularly vivid? What are some of the practical implications for your life when you consider how beautiful earthly marriages and wedding ceremonies are meant to image your covenant relationship with Christ?