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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 19

 

 

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Introduction

CHAP. XIX.

God is praised in heaven for judging the great whore, and avenging the blood of his saints. The marriage of the Lamb. The angel will not be worshipped. The fowls called to the great slaughter.

Anno Domini 96.


Verse 1

Revelation 19:1.— The prophesies relating to the third period, concluded with a severe punishment of Rome, for her pride, luxury, superstition, and idolatry; and especially for her cruel persecution of all who were found faithful to their duty in preserving the purity of the Christian doctrines and worship. When Rome thus fell, like ancient Babylon, to rise no more, the heavenly church is introduced as a choir to praise God for his righteous judgments. This excellent hymn of praise, sung by the united voices of angels and saints, the whole assembly of heaven, strongly represents to all Christians, and to every church on earth, what grateful sense they ought to have of God's faithfulness in their protection, and in punishing the persecutors of truth and religion. Though for wise reasons, and for a limited time, God may permit the righteous and faithful to suffer many things from the enemies of truth and righteousness, yet the final event of things shall surely shew God's faithfulness in the blessing of his people, and justice in the punishment of his enemies:—a sufficient reason for consolation, gratitude, and praise.


Verses 1-10

Revelation 19:1-10. And after these things I heard a great voice, &c.— Instead of I am thy fellow-servant, &c. Revelation 19:10. Doddridge renders it, I am a fellow-servant with thee, and with thy brethren, who keep the testimony. Here the whole church, agreeably to the exhortation of the angels, ch. Revelation 18:20 join in praises and thanksgivings to almightyGod for his truth and righteousness, in judging this idolatrous city; (Revelation 19:1-2.) his truth, in fulfilling his promises and threatenings; and his righteousness, in proportioning her punishment to her crimes. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever; (Revelation 19:3.) which intimates, that she should be made as signal a monument of divine vengeance, as Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaiah has said much the same thing of Edom, ch. Isaiah 34:9-10.—And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch: in the genuine editions of the Chaldee paraphrase it is, And the rivers of Rome shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch:—it shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever. The Jews, by Edom, understand Rome; and the tradition of their rabbins may receive some confirmation from these words of the apostle. Such an event too may appear the more probable, because the adjacent countries are known to be of a sulphureous and bituminous soil; there have, even at Rome, been eruptions of subterraneous fire; so that the fuel seems to be prepared, and waits only for the breath of the Lord to kindle it. But God is praised not only for the destruction of the great seat of idolatry, but also, Revelation 19:5-8 for the manifestation of his kingdom, as in ch. Revelation 11:17 and for the happy and glorious state of the reformed Christian Church. She is now no longer an harlot tainted with idolatry, but a spouse, prepared for her Lord Christ: and she is no longer arrayed, like an harlot, in purple and scarlet colour; but, like a decent bride, in fine linen, clean and white, as the properest emblem of her purity and sanctity. Christ has now, as St. Paul expresses it, Ephesians 5:26-27 sanctified and cleansed his church, &c. So great is the felicity of this period, that the angel orders it to be particularly noted, Revelation 19:9 and blessed and happy are they who shall be living at that time, and be worthy to partake of this marriage-feast! St. John was in such a rapture and extasy at these discoveries, that, not knowing or not considering what he did, he fell down at the angel's feet, to worship him, (Revelation 19:10.) See what has been said on the subject of prostration, Acts 10:26. The case of St. John's throwing himself at the feet of the angel here, and ch. Revelation 22:9 is to be viewed in a somewhat different light from the transaction referred to in the Acts: St. John did nothing at all but what was conformable to the usages in his own country, when the people of it designed innocently to express great reverence and gratitude. It is astonishing therefore that so many learned men should have looked upon it as an idolatrous prostration. That they should not at all consider the Eastern usages, is no wonder; they have been, in common, unhappily neglected; but the attempt of the apostle to repeat the prostration (for he would have done it a second time,) sufficiently shewed, one would imagine, that the apostle did not think the angel rejected it as an idolatrous piece of respect. What a strange interpretation must that be, which supposes that St. John,—a Jew by descent,—that is, a mortal enemy by birth to all idolatry;—a zealous preacher against it, through a very long life; who finished one of his Epistles with these very words, Little children, keep yourselves from idols,as desirous to have this perpetually fixed on their memories, whatever else they forgot,—should, when suffering in Patmos for the Lord Jesus, and when blessed with the influences of the prophetic spirit, attempt to commit an idolatrous action, and to repeat that attempt, in opposition to the checks of a celestial teacher.—Nothing, surely, can be more inconceivable; at the same time, nothing is easier than the true interpretation. Smitten with veneration for his angelic instructor, and full of gratitude towards him for what he had shewn him, he fell, according to the custom of his nation, at his feet, to do him reverence. "See thou do it not, said the angel; it is not to me these thanks are due: I have in this been only fulfilling the orders of him, who is my Lord, as well as yours. Worship God, therefore, to whom in justice you ought to ascribe these illuminations."


Verses 11-21

Revelation 19:11-21. I saw heaven opened, &c.— It was said by the angel, speaking of the kings subject to the beast, These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, &c. ch. Revelation 17:14. and this vision is added by way of enlargement and explanation of that great event. Heaven is opened, and our Saviour cometh forth, riding upon a white horse, as a token of his victory and triumph over his enemies. He is described in such characters as are appropriated to him in this book, and in the ancient prophets. On his head also were many crowns, to denote his numerous conquests and kingdoms, which were now become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, &c. ch. Revelation 11:15. As the Jewish high-priests wore the ineffable name of Jehovah on his forehead, so he had a name written, which none could perfectly comprehend but himself; and his name is called, The Word of God; Revelation 19:12-13. His armies are mounted upon white horses like himself, and are clothed in fine linen, white and clean, as emblems of their victory and sanctity. This title,"The Word of God," makes it evident that the person designed in this vision, is the same person whom St. John in his Gospel calls by the same name: so that Jesus Christ himself is represented as riding at the head of an army, to take vengeance on the enemies of his religion and faithful servants: and HE is the Λογος, the WORD, that was with God, and was God (John 1:1 .), the eternal and supreme God, of the same substance with the Father, and of equal power and glory, majesty and eternity,—over all, God blessed for ever (Romans 9:5 .). But Λογος, or The Word, may have here also three other significations; it may signify words, actions, and commands; and Christ is also The Word of God in all these respects. I. He is his Word, because, before his incarnation, and much more since, he has been the great Angel of God, to men: II. Because he is the Minister of God the Father, to perform all works of creation, preservation, and redemption: III. As to the word signifying command, Christ is in that respect two ways the Word of God;—First, as he is the grand executor of all God's commands; secondly, as he is himself the chief commander, and sitting as mediatorial King upon the throne of God at his right hand;—the Prince of the creation, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. This account not only shews why Christ is called THE WORD OF GOD in general, as being the eternal Word, Wisdom, and Son of the Father; but why he is so called particularly in this place: I. Being the Word, as He is the great Angel, or Messenger of the covenant, he brings now the greatest errand;—the perfection of the covenant in the resurrection, first of the saints, and then of all the dead: II. Being the Word of God, as He is the great Minister, he comes now to perform the most magnificent of God's works: III. As he is the grand Executor of the divine commands, he commands and rules the universe in a peculiar sense as the great Mediator, and therefore is in this respect King of kings, and Lord of lords. In Revelation 19:16. Christ is further described as a general, at the head of the armies of heaven, about to engage his enemies; whom he is presently after said to subdue. It was a common custom among the ancient Heathens to represent their idols and the statues of their kings and heroes as dressed in royal or splendid vestments, on which, and more particularly on the thigh parts of which, inscriptions were drawn or engraved. Many instances of this practice might be given from ancient history. Consequently, the figure of a person dressed in such a vesture with an inscription thereon, was quite familiar to the ancients: and therefore, probably, for this reason among perhaps others, the adorable Jesus was pleased to appear to St. John in a manner familiar to the people of that age, in an imperial robe, with the inscription of King of kings, and Lord of lords, on the thigh part thereof, as being the only potentate, the Lord God of heaven and earth. This is the opinion of Grotius and other eminent commentators. We may here observe, that the title of King of kings, and Lord of lords, is much affected by the Eastern monarchs; and by antichrist himself, the Pope being styled king of kings, and lord of lords. An angel standing in the sun, &c. Revelation 19:17. and so conspicuous to all, in lofty strains, taken from the ancient prophets, and particularly from Ezekiel 39:17-18 . calleth the fowls to the great slaughter of Christ's enemies. These enemies are the beast, and the false prophet,—the antichristian powers, civil and ecclesiastical, with their armies gathered together,

(Revelation 19:19.) their adherents and followers, combined and determined to support idolatry, and oppose all reformation. But the principals, as deserving of the greatest punishment, are taken and cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone, Revelation 19:20. and their followers are slain with the word of Christ, the sword which proceedeth out of his mouth, and all the fowls are filled with their flesh; Revelation 19:21. Their substance is seized for other persons, and for other uses. In a word, the design of this sublime and figurative description is, to show the downfal of Popery, and the triumph of Christianity: the true word of God will prevail over superstition and idolatry; all the powers of antichrist will be completely subdued; and the religion of Rome, as well as Rome herself, will be totally destroyed.

Inferences.—Let us learn by what we have here been reading, to adore the Lord God omnipotent, who reigneth over all, and who displays the truth and righteousness of his judgments in his vengeance on the enemies of his church, even when he inflicts on them a torment, the smoke of which rises up for ever and ever. In the certain assurance, that in due time he will plead his own cause, and rescue and exalt his people, let all his servants and people praise him, even all that fear him, both small and great, and labour to live that divine life of gratitude and joyful thanksgiving on earth, which may anticipate the pleasures and employments of the heavenly world. The time will at length come, when all of such a character shall celebrate the marriage day of the Lamb; yea, when the whole society shall appear in his presence as one chaste virgin whom he has espoused to himself; and whom, with unutterable delight, he places in his more immediate view, not only as arrayed in robes of pure and shining linen, which is the righteousness of the saints, but as perfectly free from spot, or blemish, or any such thing. He will admit them all to feast in his own presence; yea, to dwell for ever with him; so shall we ever be with the Lord. These are the true sayings of God. And, though a consciousness of our own utter unworthiness of such honours might be ready to detract from the credibility of these divine assurances, or at least prevent us from giving so clear an assent to them as we might otherwise do, yet let God be true, and every man a liar.

And in the mean time, in the mingled scenes of adversity and prosperity which attend the Israel of God, let us direct our believing eyes to him, who is faithful and true; to him, who both administers justice and wages war in righteousness. Let us reverence his penetrating eyes, which are like a flame of fire. Let us rejoice in the diadems placed upon his head, to signify the extent of his dominion; and read with awe the inscription upon his vesture, and his thigh, The Word of God, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. As such let us pay our homage to him; and let the favour of lords, and kings, be as nothing to us, where his favour or his honour is concerned. The proudest of earthly potentates oppose his dominion in vain; in vain do they marshal their captains, and their mighty men; vain is the strength of horses, and of them that sit thereon, and the combinations of bond and free, though Satan himself abet their rebellion, and inspire them with subtilty, and arm them with rage; their subtilty shall be defeated, their rage shall be repelled. The sword of the Lord shall devour them. The birds of prey shall at his pleasure be feasted with their carcases; and the sad catastrophe of their bodies shall be only an imperfect emblem of the anguish and misery of their spirits, when plunged with the evil spirit that deceived them, they sink deep into the lake that burns for ever, and feel the terrors of the second death. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings, and be instructed, ye judges of the earth, serve the Lord with fear; and, sensible of his uncontrolable dominion, and your own weakness and imperfection, even while ye rejoice before him, rejoice with trembling. (Psalms 2:10-11 .)

REFLECTIONS.—1st, A command being given in Revelation 19:20. of the former chapter, to the saints of God, to rejoice over Babylon fallen, we have, in this chapter; their song of praise on that occasion. They cried, Alleluia, ascribing salvation, and glory, and honour, and power to the Lord their God; acknowledging his righteous judgments in the vengeance executed on the great whore, for her lewdness, idolatry, and cruelty; and they repeated loud Alleluias, while the smoke of her torment arose up for ever and ever. The four living creatures, and the elders, the representatives of the ministers and church of the faithful, hereupon joined in their adorations before the throne, and joyfully cried, Amen! Alleluia!

2dly, The song of triumph over Babylon being ended, a voice from the throne enjoins the whole host of the saints to unite in the praises of their common Lord: and instantly innumerable voices, loud as cataracts of water, or mighty thunders, poured forth their Halleluias: For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth; since the antichristian powers are broken, his kingdom of grace is extended through the earth. The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready; therefore let us be glad, and rejoice, and give honour to him. This includes the conversion of the Jews, who will now be brought into the church and be publicly joined to the Lord as his people.

1. The dress of the Lamb's wife is described. She is arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; which signifies the righteousness of saints, implanted in them by the Holy Spirit of God, whereby the church of the faithful becomes meet for the bosom of her Lord.

2. They are declared blessed, who are invited, and come to the marriage-supper of the Lamb; partaking of all the privileges and ordinances of the gospel, and admitted to the happiest communion with Jesus, and joined to the Lord in one spirit.

3. The angel closes with a solemn assurance of the truth of this revelation, which should not fail of its accomplishment; on which, St. John, overcome with the brightness of his glory, fell at his feet, not considering what he did: but the angel rebuked him for his inconsiderate design. He owns himself unworthy of that honour, which was due to God alone; observing that, glorious as he appeared, he was but the apostle's fellow-servant, bearing testimony to the same Jesus, and now revealing what the Saviour dictated to him, who inspired the prophets, and sent him to deliver this message to John for the church's use and comfort.

3dly, The Lord Jesus appears in majesty to execute vengeance on the beast and his adherents, now assembled to make their last efforts.

1. A most magnificent description is given of the Captain of our salvation. He is seated on a white horse, the emblem of victory: he is called faithful and true, performing all his promises to his faithful people, and in righteousness executing vengeance on his enemies. His eyes, bright as the flame, pierce into the secrets of the soul; and his many crowns of gold denote his universal dominion: his name and nature, as Jehovah, none can comprehend; his bloody vesture bespeaks his conquest over his slaughtered foes; and one of the names, whereby he hath revealed himself, is, The Word of God. Close behind him follow his faithful warriors, his saints arrayed in robes of righteousness and garments of salvation: from his mouth proceeds the sharp sword of his denunciations of vengeance, before which his foes must fall: as a potter's vessel before an iron rod, so shall they be broken in pieces; and as grapes laid in the wine-press, so shall he trample them in his fury; and on his vesture, where it hung down over his thigh, was this illustrious motto wrought, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

2. A call is given to all the fowls of the air, to assemble on this dread occasion, and feast on the corpses of all the antichristian host, both great and small, who are now about to perish together.

3. The army of the ungodly, Papist, Pagan, and Mahometan, assembles under the conduct of the beast; the battle is joined, the victory decisive; the beast and false prophet, who wrought the lying wonders, are taken; and the ringleaders in the antichristian apostacy, are cast together into the burning lake; and all their adherents fall by the sword of him that sat on the white horse, and the fowls are gorged with their carcases. And now, all foes being subdued, the glorious millennium commences, where the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 19:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/revelation-19.html. 1801-1803.

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