Rev. 19:1 – After this I heard something like the loud voice of a vast multitude in heaven, saying: Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God, 2 because His judgments are true and righteous, because He has judged the notorious prostitute who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality; and He has avenged the blood of His slaves that was on her hands. 3 A second time they said: Hallelujah! Her smoke ascends forever and ever! 4 Then the 24 elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who is seated on the throne, saying: Amen! Hallelujah! 5 A voice came from the throne, saying: Praise our God, all His slaves, who fear Him, both small and great! (HCSB)
Salvation, glory, and power
John hears a “vast multitude” in heaven praising God. Some commentators say these “heaven dwellers” make up a choir that sings of the Lord’s attributes and great works. This likely is the vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language we encounter in Rev. 7:9. They are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night (Rev. 7:15). They also may be the ones the beast from the sea speaks against as he blasphemes God’s name and His dwelling (Rev. 13:6). But the evil one and his minions cannot harm these saints or disrupt their joyous celebration.
“Hallelujah” is a transliteration of a Hebrew word exhorting people to praise the Lord (Heb. halelujah = praise Yah). It is rendered Allelouia in the Greek text and is found 22 times in Ps. 104-150 and four times in Rev. 19:1-6. It is a familiar term in Old Testament prayer language that is documented here in a Christian sense for the first time, according to Jurgen Roloff in Revelation: A Continental Commentary: “Its original meaning was that of a call to praise God, which the worshipping community answers with its praise. However, gradually it developed in Judaism into an independent formula of praise (e.g., Tob. 13:17; 3 Macc. 7:13). The original meaning still flickers through here: the singers summon themselves and others to praise God by means of the Hallelujah. In postbiblical Judaism the perception was represented that this acclamation was reserved for the end time” (pp. 210-11).
Some commentators note that while David spoke 103 sections of the Psalms, he only uttered Hallelujah when he saw the fall of the godless. This fits well with what we see in Revelation 19. Those who witness the fall of Babylon are summoned to join the praise of God, who has defeated His foes.
A thunderous chorus
The vast multitude joins in a thunderous chorus, exalting the Lord for His salvation, glory, and power. We have seen similar celebrations around the throne before:
- The four living creatures cry “Holy, holy, holy” in Rev. 4:8.
- The 24 elders cast their crowns before the throne in Rev. 4:10-11 and sing a new song in Rev. 5:9-10.
- The angels, living creatures and elders declare the worthiness of the Lamb in Rev. 5:11-12, and every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and on the sea praises the One seated on the throne and the Lamb in Rev. 5:13.
- A vast multitude cries out, “Salvation belongs to our God” in Rev. 7:9-10.
- All the angels, the elders, and the four living creatures fall facedown before the throne and worship God in Rev. 7:11-12.
- Loud voices in heaven respond to the seventh trumpet with words of praise in Rev. 11:15, followed by the reverent thanksgiving of the 24 elders in Rev. 11:16-18.
- A loud voice in heaven declares that salvation, and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have now come after Satan is thrown out (Rev. 12:10-12).
- Those who have won victory over the beast stand on a sea of glass and sing the song of God’s servant Moses and the song of the Lamb in Rev. 15:2-4.
- The angel of the waters shouts of God’s righteousness as the third bowl is poured out in Rev. 16:4-6, followed by “someone from the altar” confirming the righteousness of God’s judgments in Rev. 16:7.
And now in the opening verses of chapter 19 the vast multitude celebrates the true and righteous judgments of Almighty God. The petitions of the saints have been answered and now are transformed into praises of the One who does all things right. Truly salvation is God’s alone; He has redeemed sinful people through the finished work of His Son and will soon redeem fallen creation in the new heavens and earth. Glory is uniquely His in that there is no one like Him.
His exalted position on the throne of heaven is the focal point of all eternity; it is that heavenly glory, not His deity, which Jesus temporarily set aside to put on the veil of the flesh and become our Savior. Finally, all power belongs to Him and always it is wielded in perfection. Any power residing in angelic beings or human beings is granted by God and will be called into account. The vast multitude truly can extol the salvation, glory, and power that belong to our all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present God.
True and righteous
Those in heaven offer three reasons for their praise. First, “because His judgments are true and righteous.” Second, “because He has judged the notorious prostitute who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality.” Third, because “He has avenged the blood of His slaves that was on her hands” (v. 2). The vast multitude again sings, “Hallelujah! Her smoke ascends forever and ever!” (v. 3).
Matthew Henry writes, “The effect of these their praises: when the angels and saints cried Alleluia, her fire burned more fiercely and her smoke ascended for ever and ever. The surest way to have our deliverances continued and completed is to give God the glory of what he has done for us. Praising God for what we have is praying in the most effectual manner for what is yet further to be done for us; the praises of the saints blow up the fire of God’s wrath against the common enemy” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Rev. 19:1-4).
We should not lose sight of the fact that the rejoicing multitude exults not merely in the defeat of God’s enemies – and theirs – but in the just and true nature of His judgments. The destruction of the great prostitute is a proper act of vengeance for her martyring the servants of God. This judgment, however, is only the beginning of the everlasting punishment of the wicked, as testified by the statement that her smoke “ascends forever and ever” (v. 3). “We do not rejoice at the sinfulness of Babylon,” writes Warren Wiersbe, “or even the greatness of Babylon’s fall. We rejoice that God is ‘true and righteous’ and that He is glorified by His holy judgments” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Rev. 19:1).
The 24 elders and the four living creatures join the Hallelujah Chorus in verse 4 as they fall down and worship God, who is seated on the throne. They cry, “Amen! Hallelujah!” And then a voice comes “from the throne,” saying, “Praise our God, all His slaves, who fear Him, both small and great” (v. 5). This cannot be the voice of the Lord for he refers to “our” God. This must be the voice of one of the elders, living creatures or an angel near the throne. In any case it is an invitation to universal praise because the caller addresses “all” God’s slaves, “both small and great.” These slaves fear God, not in a sense of terror as the wicked fear His retribution, but as servants who deeply revere the One enthroned above the heavens. Rather than hide themselves in caves and beneath the rocks to escape the wrath of God (Rev. 6:15-17), these servants stand proudly and proclaim the greatness of Yahweh.
Regarding the use of the word “fear” (phobeo), Paige Patterson points out that it is used in reference to the appropriate response to God. The word “does not denote so much a quaking fear as a reverential awe….Though all human analogies break down, the observation of a child who has a done wrong fleeing in tears into the arms of his father, even though he knows that his father will administer justice, is probably the closest one can get to a picture of the concept of the biblical fear of God.” (The New American Commentary: Revelation, p. 342).
One other note before we move on. The 24 elders and four living creatures say, “Amen!” This little word should not escape our attention. It is seen first in Num. 5:22 and is a special word of holy acquiescence. W.A. Criswell comments, “It is the heavenly word of avowal, of committal to truth. It seals, it affirms, it binds. It is the highest word of praise that human speech can utter…. The ‘Amen’ is the highest word of sealing affirmation. Human utterance could go no higher. It is thus with the twenty-four elders and the four cherubim, who are most intimately connected with the Throne of God. They express their utmost consent to the razing of wicked Babylon” (Expository Sermons on Revelation, Vol. 5, p. 27).
Next: The marriage of the Lamb has come – Revelation 19:6-8