March 21, 2021
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts around 20:10 in the audio file.
Series: Just Conquer #51
What sort of message could you imagine receiving that would cause you to fall on your knees and start worshipping the messenger? Imagine you were the apostle John, and you had already been given visions of heaven and of the worship of angels and the redeemed, as well as visions of beasts and falling stars and great earthquakes, what remains that could surprise you or excite you to bow down and worship the messenger? What if I told you that this exact thing happened…about a wedding supper invitation?
The metaphor of a bride and bridegroom is a metaphor of joy. In the Old Testament Israel is betrothed to God, and in the New Testament the Bride of Christ is the church. The Father has chosen a Bride for His Son, and His Son loves her and has sacrificed for her and is preparing her for presentation to Himself in holiness and blamelessness (Ephesians 5:25-32). It is a relationship of love, a relationship of fellowship, a relationship that will be consummated. We would count down the days if we knew the exact day (see Matthew 24:36).
Beginning in Revelation 19:6 we meet the Bride, a truly glorious woman compared to the great prostitute introduced to us in 17:1, who has occupied the prophecy in her painted on beauty and deceptive immorality. The scene has been about judgment. Now the scene shifts to joy. The prostitute is left with nothing, the Bride will be forever loved by the Lamb.
I think the climax of The Odyssey is not when Odysseus kills the suitors who have been spoiling his house, though that is a crucial and necessary part of the plot. The goal of his getting home is his getting back to Penelope. When his wife finally recognizes him, the story is complete. When the Bride in Revelation 19 is presented to the Lamb, the great redemptive love story will be consummated. This will be the event of the eschaton. Though the wedding itself doesn’t happen in these two short paragraphs, the invitations have gone out.
How long have these wedding preparations taken? In one sense, longer than human history, no matter how long human history still has to go before the wedding day. How many angels have been waiting to see the Father’s Son in his glory ad Bridegroom? In John’s vision the Bride is ready. No Bride has been more ready, EVAR. She is dressed in white, and dinner is staying hot in the chafing dishes and the champagne is on ice.
The scene of praise continues from the start of the chapter, and the fourth Hallelujah is shouted. But the mood shifts from avenging the blood of the servants to recognizing the Bride.
There is nothing quiet about this response of praise.
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!
The great multitude returns from verse 1. There they had a loud voice, here the voice is compared to crashing tidal waves, to a Niagra-sized waterfall, and to a thunderstorm. They begin with “Praise the Lord!” the translation of the Hebrew word, Hallelujah!
For the ninth time in the Apocalypse, God is the Almighty, the παντοκράτωρ, the All-Powerful, the Omnipotent One. The Lord our God the Almighty reigns, also part of the chorus in Revelation 11:15, “he shall reign forever and ever.” This anticipates the Millennial reign on earth (20:1-6) but will continue forever.
Now we get to the particulars of the paragraph:
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, land his Bride has made herself ready; (verse 7)
Rejoice and exalt (or “be glad” NASB) are jubilant imperatives. A few things about this. First, this is the way that God receives glory: not quietly. Second, this is the way that weddings (or at least receptions) should be: not quiet. Third, this wedding is the promise of those who rejoice and exalt when they are slandered, and the point is their joy.
These images of celebration are not new.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest
with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown
in it to sprout up,
so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.
(Isaiah 61:10–11 ESV)
What a day of rejoicing that will be when Israel is restored (Beale).
We really ought not take any of these things for granted. There is something about rejoicing that is divine, not disconnected from the joy of the LORD being our strength (see Nehemiah 8:10). We taste rejoicing now, as in weddings. A wedding means the consummation of not just a thousand decisions and decoration touches, but of the preparing of lives. A wedding means the crown of longing, the fulfillment of parents’ prayers and counsel as well as the hopes of the couple. A wedding means the the fruition of love, and how is love best expressed? Self-flaeggelation, physical or even emotional, isn’t the way of love. Pride is a burden of orderly fussiness, love rejoices.
This wedding is going to be loud. It’s a waterfall of laughter and singing. A wedding is the community culmination of joy, or it ought to be, and that’s why the desolation of Babylon in Revelation 18:23 says that “the voice of the bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more.”
The only other time both verbs are used next to each other in the New Testament is when Jesus told His disciples, “Rejoice and be glad.” It was the final Beatitude of Matthew 5:3-12, and belonged with being reviled and lied about and persecuted. By this point in Revelation 19 God’s people have been shamed by the world, now they will be vindicated.
This collective Bride is ready.
it was granted to her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
She was given, which has been a regular way in Revelation of referring to God’s sovereign action. What she was given is the outfit, which is explained as her sanctification. She was given to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure, white without blemish as Paul wrote to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:27). White symbolizes persevering purity. The Bride has not defiled herself by compromising with the world.
The clothes are her righteous deeds, which says more about this preparation. If the Bride is the elect, and if you are elect, then, by God’s grace, every obedience belongs with what will make this wedding more glorious.
The picture switches from a corporate to an individual emphasis. The saints are both collectively considered as the Bride, and personally invited to the feast. The images are not of two separate groups any more than Christ is two separate beings, Lamb and shepherd (see Revelation 7:17)(Thomas). An angel speaks to John again.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
This is the fourth blessed in the book, and the third time John was told to write. Both pieces seem over the top. This is an announcement about a dinner invitation. This needs to be written down? It’s that big of a deal. It echoes the prophet Isaiah:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make
for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears
from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away
from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him,
that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
(Isaiah 25:6–9 ESV)
Revelation 19:9 is the only place in the Bible that uses the phrase, the marriage supper of the Lamb. One of my favorite books is titled, The Supper of the Lamb, and one of my favorite quotes from that book is: “A silent lover is one who doesn’t know his job” (Capon, Location 87). There is too much love for this supper to be silent.
Those who are invited (οἱ…κεκλημένοι) perfect tense and passive voice, completed and divine.
And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
It’s not as if John had been thinking that the previous words were from God but these weren’t. The angel still gives the authorized version; depend on this. And it caused John great excitement.
Then 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.
After all the visions John has seen, this announcement about the wedding supper caused him to worship the messenger.
The angel, of course, refuses the worship. He said, You must not do that!” or “See not!” (from Ὅρα μή, YLT). I am a fellow servant (σύνδουλος) with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.
In the vision the Bride is ready, and dinner will start shortly. There are some other things to do before the wedding takes place, including the return of the Lamb to conquer and defeat the Antichrist and bind Satan and reign for a thousand years. Yet this glimpse of glory makes us long for the day, and reminds us to get prepared.
The opportunities to be lied about are opportunities for rejoicing, as they are opportunities that prepare us for that great day of rejoicing. Faithfulness to the Bridegroom makes the Bride radiant. Endurance through difficulty makes ready.
Here we have an exuberant epithalamium, a song or poem celebrating a marriage. It is feast, it is festival. This will not be a time to count calories. As when the crew arrives at Ramandu’s Island Voyage of the Dawn Treader and the feast laid out on Aslan’s Table, meat and pudding, fish and fruits, cheese and cakes, noodles and bread and honey butter, nuts and pies and wine. It will be a celebration. Hell will be sad, not so with heaven.
The Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him the glory. Do your good deeds not only so that others may see them, do your good deeds by His grace in order to be without spot or wrinkle for the Lamb.
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:12–13, ESV)