By William R. Newell
Part One: Judgment
Revelation 19 is full, with two tremendous events:
1. The marriage of the Lamb celebrated in heaven; and the marriage supper in heaven.
2. The advent of the Lord in the Great Day of Wrath, as King of kings; and the slaughter on earth, and the frightful “supper” connected therewith.
As the Day of Wrath at Armageddon is the most fearful, so is the marriage of the Lamb the most blessed and happy of all events that have occurred so far in creation.
Introduction—The Four Hallelujahs—(Revelation 19:1, 3, 4, 6)
Hallelujah is the Hebrew expression frequently occurring in the later Psalms and meaning “praise to Jehovah.” The last five Psalms, 146-150 (R. V.) begin and end with this wonderful word, hallelujah. Others, like Psalm 106, set forth the spirit of millennial anticipation and praise, as does the shortest—Psalm 117. Only in these four verses of Revelation 19 does this mighty praise-word occur in the New Testament.
But this is what we would expect; for there is no place today (except in the life of individual saints who rejoice in the assembly, under the movement of the Holy Spirit) for this great word of high exultation unto God.
Because the Messiah when He came to Israel, although received by the wise men with exceeding joy, and gladdening the hearts of the poor shepherds, was rejected by Israel, and crucified; victory was postponed, and hallelujah can be uttered only by faith when the Church is filled with the Holy Spirit and becomes a prophetic testimony of grace. Personal hallelujahs can be given to God, but the triumph that brings the universal hallelujah to all holy things is yet in the future! Indeed, mercy and grace were too soon forgotten, and papal bondage entered into by the Church itself. The harlot Babylon rises—the woman drunken with the blood of the saints (Revelation 17). It is not the time for hallelujahs.
Not until Babylon, the harlot, is completely overthrown, swallowed up in divine indignation, as we see in Revelation 17; and not until literal Babylon (Chapter 18) is completely gone, and all Babylonian things have disappeared forever, does hallelujah burst forth from all holy hearts.
Notice that the first two hallelujahs are drawn forth by Babylon’s judgment:
Indeed, verse 4, including the third hallelujah, with the word “Amen” preceding it, may well be joined with the hallelujahs of verses 1 and 3, as expressing the utter consent of those most intimately connected with the divine throne—the twenty-four elders and the four living beings.
There is now a call from the throne itself, for universal jubilant praise, such as it seems has never been issued before:
Notice that this call is given to all whose warfare is over, for it is a heavenly scene.112
We now come to the mightiest verse of response to God in all Scripture:
In our poor feeble spiritual experiences and aspirations, it is most difficult even to imagine the delight in God heard now in heaven. A great multitude—many waters—like mighty thunders: such is the voice!
The Marriage of the Lamb
Now, at last, we are coming to that inexpressible climax, that glorious event awaited by God the Father, and the Bridegroom, His Son; and the Blessed Spirit. Yes, and all holy beings, who like John (the Bridegroom’s friend) can say, “this my joy therefore is made full.” And so we read:
Let us reflect that this “marriage of the Lamb” has been the longed-for and looked-for event of age upon age. It is not necessary that this great event of blessing should have been continually referred to in Scripture to make it important. The virgin birth of our Lord is not frequently referred to, but of how vast eternal consequence! And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are true words of God. And I fell down before his feet to worship him. And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Certain questions arise immediately concerning this great revelation of the marriage of the Lamb and the marriage supper.
1. When does this event occur? Evidently directly upon the overthrow of Babylon on earth; for the celebration of that judgment-event in Revelation 19:1-5 was immediately succeeded in verses 6 and 7 by the mighty praise attending the reigning of the “Lord our God the Almighty,” which brings in the marriage.
2. Where is the marriage, with its attending marriage supper, celebrated? The answer can only be—in heaven; for the scene is wholly heavenly. No one can read verse 6 without coming to this conclusion.
3. What saints constitute “the bride, the wife of the Lamb”? The Church! See Ephesians 5:22-32.
In Israel as a nation the high priest was expressly forbidden to marry a “divorced woman” or “a widow” (Leviticus 21:10, 13, 14). Israel is spoken of both as divorced (Jeremiah 3:8) and as a widow (Lamentations 1:1; Isaiah 54:4). When Jehovah returns to Israel in millennium blessings, Isaiah 62:4, 5 will be fulfilled, as will 54:4, 5, etc., but it will be “Jehovah delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married,” for, “as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee; and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” This is an earthly scene, and must be contrasted with the marriage of the heavenly Bride, the wife of the Lamb.
In Revelation 21:10, the angel reveals the wife of the Lamb to John, thus:
“He carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.” We read concerning the patriarchs, that they desired a better country, that is a heavenly; therefore, “God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God,” for He prepared for them a city. Also, that Abraham “looked for the city,” with the foundations, whose architect and maker is God. And in Galatians 4:26 Paul declares concerning Church saints that “the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother.”
This heavenly Jerusalem is seen in Revelation 21:24-27 to have come down to the new earth (upon a great and high mountain), with the “nations” walking amid the light thereof, and the kings of the earth bringing their glory into it—the gates never being closed, and admitting the holy inhabitants of earth freely.113
That Abraham, the patriarchs, and all who were given by God a heavenly hope, will share in the bliss of the New Jerusalem, appears scriptural.
But that Abraham or any other Old Testament saint will form part of the Body of Christ, we cannot for a moment believe! The great mystery of the Church, His Body, committed to Paul in such a sense that he called himself minister thereof (Colossians 1:24-27), a ministry so very distinct, definite and exclusive as to call for the great passage of Ephesians 5:23, cannot be merely an opening up to Old Testament saints of a calling, character and privileges which they possessed and of which they did not know! That is unthinkable. No one was “baptized” into that one Body until Pentecost. When that Body, the Church, is presented by Christ to Himself “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing,” it will be composed only of the saints from Pentecost to the rapture.
4. Are the marriage and the marriage supper distinct? It certainly appears so, for in Revelation 19:9, you have those that are “bidden” to the marriage supper of the Lamb. These guests most certainly do not constitute the Bride. No bride needs an invitation to her own wedding!
In John 3:29, John the Baptist says, “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, that standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice; this my joy therefore is made full.” Now, here is a saint concerning whom the Lord Jesus testified: “Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater.” And yet he is not of the Bride. Nevertheless, he is at the marriage supper, for he is the friend of the bridegroom—a place of singular honor! In divine, sovereign arrangement, he is not of the Bride.
5. Who will be the guests at the marriage supper? Evidently not all the saints; otherwise, why the special blessing pronounced (verse 9) upon those that are bidden to the marriage supper?
I. The Prime Importance of This Marriage Scene
1. This event is the great delight of God, to which He has looked forward from all ages. It is a fulfilment of our Lord’s words of Matthew 22, “A certain king … who made a marriage feast for his son.” The relationship of the Father and the Son is one of infinite, eternal tenderness. All marriage joys of earth were planned by God and given to mankind in love that they might understand somewhat of heaven’s feeling at this marriage; for, “love is of God.”
Let us seek to enter, if we may, into the contemplation of that delight of the Father—“from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14), when the time at last has come for His Son to “present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing”; for God the Father gave the Church to Christ. Read John 17: “I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me.” There is no meditation so exalting as that upon the relationship and affections of the Persons of the Godhead, one to another.
2. This marriage is the great anticipation of Christ. Paul tells us the story in Ephesians 5—“Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself up for it.” His love for the Church is immeasurable, unchanging, infinite. It is in the very nature of the case, peculiar love. Christ wept over Jerusalem, for there was, and is, a special tenderness of our God toward those to whom He was the Messiah, and over whom He will be King on David’s throne. He had “compassion on the multitude” as He does today. He gave Himself a ransom for all. But His love for His Bride, the Church, is, as it must be, and that, eternally, a peculiar, particular, husband’s affection, and that without measure!
3. This heavenly wedding is the great prospect of all holy beings. (We mean, of course, of all those in heaven; for this marvelous scene is wholly heavenly, as is evident.)
From the time in Revelation 5, when the Lamb takes the seven-sealed book of the kingdom, His actions as well as His Person have been the constant jubilant delight of heaven (Revelation 5:8-14; 7:9-17; 11:15). But now the climax has been reached. In an earthly wedding, especially a wedding of the favorite one of the house, how all the relatives and also the servants of the household are stirred! Now Jehovah God appointed and directed the first wedding, in Genesis 2, and our Lord’s first miracle at Cana of Galilee celebrated with “the best wine” another wedding. But Ephesians 5:25, 31 and 32 proclaims that every marriage sets forth anew the relationship of Christ and the Church! It is, therefore, the height of holy joy to every heavenly being, this marriage of the Lamb!
4. To bring in this festal day in heaven, Satan’s earthly system was overthrown.
This marriage could not be celebrated while the harlot Babylon, the false church, who pretended infamously to be the Bride of Christ, remained unjudged.
5. Review the expressions of rapture with which all holy, heavenly beings celebrate this wedding.
First, “The voice of a great multitude saying, Hallelujah!” (Revelation 19:1). Then you have the four and twenty elders, and the four living creatures of verse 4, with “Amen, Hallelujah.” Then comes the call from the throne: “Give praise to our God, all ye his servants, ye that fear him, the small and the great.” Then follows the most mighty voice of heavenly acclamation in the whole Bible: “The voice of a great multitude” rises like “many waters” and “mighty thunders,” saying, “Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reign-eth. Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” Through age on age, the heavenly hosts have burned with ever-increasing expectancy toward this culminating day of divine joy!
II. Identifying the Church as the Bride of Christ
1. The Church is the Bride—“The wife”—as seen in:
2. Fix in mind the difference between the marriage of the Lamb and the marriage supper of the Lamb. One is the occasion itself, the other the celebration by others than the Bride of the occasion. In the marriage, it is the wife; in the supper, the guests, that are in view.
III. The Marriage Bliss of the Lamb and His Wife
The bliss of the marriage of the Lamb is without limit. It is the Personal Delight of Him who created all things! No other love has the person-toward-person character of marital love. Parents love their children because they are their children. Brothers and sisters alike have a love of natural relationship. Friendships are based on common interests. But the love of bridegroom and bride is a delight each in the person of the other. This is why marital love is so often so wholly unexplainable! We say, “What did he see in her?” or, “Why did she choose him?” There is no answer but one—love. This love of Christ’s for His Bride is the love that is “strong as death … a very flame of Jah,” that “many waters cannot quench,” of the Song of Songs (8:6, 7— margin).
Let us dwell upon the words, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for it.” He values His Bride as Himself. And upon her, He lavishes His personal affection, without limit, constantly, and for evermore! For we read in Revelation 21, after the thousand years have passed, that she is still “as a wife adorned for her husband.”
Here then is a marital love, a tenderness, an appreciation, and a delight, that will grow for ever and for ever. Oh, wonder of wonders, that such a record can be written! Christ will never change in His affections! What must the ages hold for the wife of the lamb!
And the love of that Bride, the wife of the Lamb, will correspond to that of her husband—unceasing, increasing, for ever and for ever!
Have you known a husband and wife whose love deepened as the years went by, whose satisfaction with each other was such as to keep them together constantly, of their own mutual will; whom neither “society” nor “business,” nor outside pleasures could separate? Let such a happy marital existence be a whisper to you of what Christ and the Church will enjoy more and yet more for evermore!
We no longer marvel at the effect upon John the Seer, as he views and tastes in the Spirit the ecstasy of this unutterable occasion. It is a sign of the overwhelming blessedness of the marriage of the Lamb and the festal supper thereafter, that this apostle, who had been on the transfiguration mountain; and had been filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; and had seen the glorious Son of God, and the heavenly throne itself; and all the wonders of the seals, the trumpets, and the vials; and who had heard the thunders of the heavenly hallelujahs—that he is now at last suddenly so enraptured by the bliss of the Church’s coming marriage day that he falls to worship at the feet of the revealing angel!
IV. The Marriage Supper
In Psalm 45:1-5 we have a marvelous description of Christ’s second coming as King. He is called “King of kings” in Revelation 19, and here in this Psalm, He is “the King”—“fairer than the children of men.” His triumphant advent and victory over His enemies is portrayed, and His personal majesty and beauty make a glorious and thrilling picture. God the Father is, in verses 6 and 7, speaking to Christ (compare Hebrews 1:8, 9), “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever … God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Here the Bridegroom’s companions are seen and then the Bridegroom’s personal presence: “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia.” Then the gladness and joy of the day to the Lord Himself: “Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made thee glad. Kings’ daughters are among thy honorable women.” (This is a scene, of course, after the Lord and His Bride, the Church, have come down to earth and inaugurated the millennial reign.)
“At thy right hand doth stand the queen in gold of Ophir.”
And then this divine word to her in that glad day:
“Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house” (the things of the first creation are left behind forever!).
“So will the king desire thy beauty.” (“The king,” here, is Christ, the Husband.)
“For he is thy lord; and reverence thou him.”
“And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift”—earthly gifts.
“The rich among the people (Israel) shall entreat thy favor”—that is, of the Queen, the Church, in the new Jerusalem, her home (Revelation 21).
“The king’s daughter within the palace is all glorious”: that is, in the new Jerusalem which will be tabernacling above the earthly Jerusalem in the 1000 years; and afterward upon the new earth.
“She shall be led unto the king upon broidered work.
“The virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee.
“With gladness and rejoicing shall they be led:
“They shall enter into the king’s palace.”
The virgins, her companions, may be represented by the five wise virgins in Matthew 25. We see them again in the Song of Solomon, where the “daughters of Jerusalem” delight in the bride. But those “daughters” are not the bride. The beloved Shulamite, espoused by King Solomon, is the type of the Church as the Bride of Christ in that coming day (Song of Songs 3:11; 6:8, 9). Here we find several companies: First, the Bride; next, the “guests” at the high festival in heaven; then, the “virgins” who enter the marriage feast of Matthew 25:10; again, those ready and looking for their Lord “when He shall return from the (heavenly) marriage feast,” an evidently earthly scene. See the passage in Luke 12:35-40.
We know that some insist the five wise virgins represent the real saints, who are raptured up to the heavenly marriage feast; that the “foolish virgins” are not “known” by Christ, and so represent unsaved professors; and that this marriage feast the five wise enter (inasmuch as but one marriage feast seems to be described), may be the heavenly feast; and that the “ten virgins” parable is surely meant to instruct and warn all who profess to belong to Christ.
However, the festivities of our Lord’s coming back to earth, described in Psalm 45 as following the Great Day of Wrath, certainly constitute a celebration as well as a prolongation of marriage bliss and joy, consequent upon the marriage of the King. The earthly and Jewish character of Matthew’s gospel, together with the fact that the “ten virgins” scene is evidently connected with our Lord’s return to earth and as “Son of man” (Matthew 24:37, 39, 44, and the opening word of Matthew 25, tote—“at that time”); considered in connection with the feast and the marriage of Revelation 19, which is not directly connected with Christ’s coming, all make me believe that the “ten virgins” enter the celebration after the heavenly marriage and are thus connected with Psalm 45.
V. What Is the Bride’s “Making Herself Ready”?
We read, “It was given unto her.” The preparation for this marriage, “the supreme event for which the ages are waiting,” is an absolute bestowal of divine grace. It is not, of course, salvation, since those who constitute the Bride were saved long before, while on earth. But it is a special granting from God to prepare herself for this great climax.
Again, to “array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” The King James version falls utterly short of the meaning, by translating the Greek plural word dikaiomata, which means “righteous things” or “acts” as if it were dikaiosunee, “righteousness.” These bridal saints were declared righteous in Christ when first they believed. The bridal array for the wedding, is something absolutely different.
Garments are woven little by little; and thus were woven the materials for her, the Bride of Christ.
The Holy Spirit who indwelt the Church wrought what Paul calls in Philippians 1:11 “the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ”; or, as in Ephesians 2-10, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.”
Now, although for our service each one in the kingdom will “receive his own reward according to his own labor,” yet all the works wrought through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit in and by the saints of the Bride will all belong alike to that holy Bride: for the whole Church is the Bride. Linen represents manifested righteousness, and this is “fine linen, bright and pure.” It has that same “exceeding white and glistering” appearance as her Lord’s raiment had on the transfiguration mount—of glory as well as purity.
In other words, the Church will appear, all of it, in raiment wholly befitting Christ, her glorious Bridegroom. She herself had no righteousness; Christ Himself is her righteousness and her standing. She is one with Him. But now all those blessed Spirit-led works, those “righteous acts” of the saints while on earth, are wrought to produce an array manifestly befitting the Bride, herself, without “spot, blemish or any such thing”—in this unspeakable scene!
VI. Exactly What Is the Marriage?
Is it not Christ’s presenting “the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing,” described so rapturously by Paul in Ephesians 5? We constantly read in Scripture (where alone we dare read here) of a man taking a wife unto himself. We get our attention, at an earthly wedding, fixed on the ceremony: forgetting that the real marriage is “this man taking unto him this woman” to be his wedded wife. The “ceremony” only proclaims and pronounces it; as the wedding feast only celebrates it. The perfect picture of Christ’s taking the Church as His Bride is seen in Gene- sis 24, where Abraham would “make a marriage for his son.” He sends Eliezer, his steward, to far Mesopotamia, to find and woo Rebekah by showing her the “things” of Abraham and Isaac (as the Holy Spirit shows us “the things of Christ”); and Rebekah says, “I will go.” And then, the journey over, “Isaac took Rebekah; and she became his wife; and he loved her.”
112 It is, we believe, evident that at the moment this great call comes for praise on the part of all God’s servants and those that fear Him, the small and the great, there are still on earth, in great trouble, those whose warfare is not yet accomplished. Hear Luke 18:8, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on earth?” There will be those on earth who are really God’s elect, but have not yet received faith. It will not be given until the first three verses of Isaiah 60 are fulfilled “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee… and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the nations shall come to thy light.” This is not until the Lord Himself is revealed in Jerusalem unto beleaguered Israel, until they “look unto him whom they have pierced.” “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven,” which is His pierced Person, and they shall at last, like Thomas, believe because they have seen. Moreover the whole scene of Revelation 19:1-10 is heavenly, not earthly, and it precedes the coming of the Lord with His heavenly armies to destroy His enemies.
113 Those who teach that Revelation 21, 9, ff, goes back to the millennial order, before the last judgment and the new creation, claim that “nations” will not exist in the new earth. But these seem to forget Isaiah 65:17, 18 as well as 66:22, where the creation of the new heavens and the new earth is connected with the perpetuation of the seed and the name of Israel. There are many prophecies setting forth the eternal perpetuity of that elect nation. And if of Israel, the elect nation, then also of other nations. Also, as seen in Revelation 21:26, “And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.” We know that the formation of nations arose out of a judgment—at Babel. But the establishment of Israel as a kingdom under David arose from the judgment upon Israel’s rejection of Jehovah as their king! Our Lord’s royal title lies in the covenant with David, the king, His father. The idea that nations will cease to exist does not seem to be borne out in Scripture. (See notes on Chapter 21.)