Previously: Salvation, glory, and power – Revelation 19:1-5
Rev. 19:6 – Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying: Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, has begun to reign! 7 Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. 8 She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. (HCSB)
The marriage of the Lamb has come
In verse 6, John once again hears something like the voice of a vast multitude, further described “like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder.” Likely, this is the same heavenly choir we encounter in verses 1-3, but it is singing a different tune. Rather than praise God for his righteous judgment of the notorious prostitute, the multitude now exults in the coming reign of the Lord and the marriage of the Lamb.
“Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, has begun to reign!” the choir sings. We should not imply from these words of celebration that our eternal and omnipotent God has ever failed to reign. The earth – indeed the whole universe – is always under His watchful eye and sovereign hand.
However, these heaven dwellers know full well that Satan, too, has a kingdom. He rebelled against God and took a vast number of fallen angels with him. He usurped the dominion God entrusted to Adam through deceit. As the god of this age and the prince of a dark kingdom in opposition to God, he is the “strong man” of whom Jesus speaks in Mat. 12:29. But in coming to earth and putting on the veil of the flesh, Jesus has entered the strong man’s house and bound him.
Since His finished work on the cross 2,000 years ago, the Lamb of God has been plundering the strong man’s goods – the souls of people – and bringing them into the kingdom of heaven. The judgment of Babylon the Great signals the complete collapse of Satan’s rebellious kingdom. Yet we should comfort ourselves in knowing that the reign of God over all creation has never been in jeopardy.
Rev. 18:11 – The merchants of the earth will also weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their merchandise any longer – 12 merchandise of gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls; fine fabrics of linen, purple, silk, and scarlet; all kinds of fragrant wood products; objects of ivory; objects of expensive wood, brass, iron, and marble; 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, and frankincense; wine, olive oil, fine wheat flour, and grain; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and slaves and human lives. 14 The fruit you craved has left you. All your splendid and glamorous things are gone; they will never find them again.
15 The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand far off in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, 16 saying, Woe, woe, the great city, dressed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls, 17 for in a single hour such fabulous wealth was destroyed! (HCSB)
The merchants’ lament
The merchants’ lament echoes that of the kings but focuses on the prostitute’s costly apparel and accessories. They mourn the fact that such wealth is laid waste in so short a time.
The Greek word translated “weep” in verses 9 and 11 means a loud lamentation as opposed to private grief. Those who built their empires with merchandise cannot buy a storehouse large enough to contain their anguish. Take note that the merchants do not sorrow over the fate of the prostitute but over the loss of their business with her. It is a most excruciating grief because it is completely self-absorbed.
Rev. 18:6 – Pay her back the way she also paid, and double it according to her works. In the cup in which she mixed, mix a double portion for her. 7 As much as she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, give her that much torment and grief, for she says in her heart, “I sit as a queen; I am not a widow, and I will never see grief.” 8 For this reason her plagues will come in one day – death and grief and famine. She will be burned up with fire, because the Lord God who judges her is mighty. (HCSB)
Pay her back
The voice from heaven calls, “Pay her back the way she also paid, and double it according to her works. In the cup in which she mixed, mix a double portion for her” (v. 6). To whom is the Lord speaking? Perhaps His angels, who execute judgment, or perhaps the earth’s wicked who unwittingly carry out God’s justice, thinking they are conquering a vanquished foe.
Twice there is a reference to double payback. We have seen this before in scripture. The Lord speaks through Isaiah that Judah will be comforted after she has received from the Lord’s hand “double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:2). This is a way of saying that Judah’s sentence is fully satisfied before God. In a similar manner, the Israelites are promised in Isa. 61:7, “Because your shame was double, and they cried out, ‘Disgrace is their portion,’ therefore, they will possess double in their land, and eternal joy will be theirs.”
We are continuing to work through the Book of Revelation with a focus on four major views of the so-called Apocalypse of John. You may read the commentary to date by clicking here.
Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era; a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history; a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled; or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book.
We would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.
With that in mind, and to make it easier to keep our notes together, we have captured the commentary into single Adobe files (pdfs) that you may download, print and share. Click on the links below to capture notes on chapter 17. If you missed the link to notes on any other chapters to date, links are provided as well.
Rev. 17:9 – Here is the mind with wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated. 10 There are also seven kings: Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes, he must remain for a little while. 11 The beast that was and is not, is himself an eighth king, yet he belongs to the seven and is going to destruction. 12 The 10 horns you saw are 10 kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they will receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 13 These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (HCSB)
The seven heads
The angel now explains the meaning of the beast’s seven heads: “Here is the mind with wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated. They are also seven kings: Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes, he must remain for a little while. The beast that was and is not, is himself an eighth king, yet he belongs to the seven and is going to destruction” (vv. 9-11).
The seven mountains probably symbolize Rome, built on seven hills. In John’s day, the Roman Empire is living in luxury, exporting false religion, corrupting its conquered people with idolatry, and persecuting the church. But the angel says the seven heads also symbolize seven kings or kingdoms, five of them past, one present, and one to come. The identity of the kings is highly disputed. Some interpreters say this refers to seven successive Roman emperors, but more hold that it refers to seven consecutive world empires.
If kingdoms are meant, then from John’s perspective the five past kingdoms are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece. The present kingdom is Rome, and the future kingdom is that of the beast. If kings are meant, the five Roman rulers who have fallen are Julius Caesar, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. Domitian is the one that is (assuming Revelation is written in the 90s), and the one yet to come is the king of the revived Roman Empire. For those who say Revelation is written prior to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, Vespasian is “the one who is” and Titus is the one who will come for a little while to lead the destruction of Jerusalem. Or, the one to come is Nero, referencing the legendary expectation that he would return from the grave.