By Steve Butera
The book of Revelation almost always evokes a reaction from people. Some see it akin to fortune telling and others find it difficult to understand and would rather avoid it. For sure, it is filled with symbols and realities that require us to pay attention and ask for God’s help in understanding it. One thing I do feel sure about is that there isn’t any part of the Bible that we can ignore, overlook, or pass by. Every word, from the very first to the very last is necessary and has the power to transform us. Each word is intentional by God and is life for us. So, I pray that I don’t ignore any of it…not the lineage of Jesus in Matthew, the complex descriptions in Numbers, or the vision of Revelation.
Revelation was written by the apostle John to Christians in the first century. Christians who were facing great persecution, fears, and even death. Rome, being the epitome of Godlessness and opposition to the Gospel made it very difficult for them. So, Revelation was written for these Christians to help them in their challenges, suffering and fears. But like the entire Bible, it is written for us now as well. The Bible is timeless in that way. Revelation is also about the final destruction of Godlessness and the final destiny of the Church of Jesus Christ. Both of these are associated with the return of Jesus Christ. Chapter 19 is approaching that final moment in all of history when Jesus is returning in Glory. So when you think about it this way, it’s a part of God’s word we as Christians want and need to know about.
If you back up to chapter 18, you see in verses 21-23 that there is an intense, almost haunting finality to God’s judgments. We read, 21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a huge millstone. He threw it into the ocean and shouted, “Just like this, the great city Babylon will be thrown down with violence and will never be found again. 22 The sound of harps, singers, flutes, and trumpets will never be heard in you again. No craftsmen and no trades will ever be found in you again. The sound of the mill will never be heard in you again. 23 The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The happy voices of brides and grooms will never be heard in you again. For your merchants were the greatest in the world, and you deceived the nations with your sorceries.” How wonderful that evil is finally being destroyed. Yet, think about this more deeply, and you realize that this also means there is no more possibility ever of any repentance…how terribly unsettling this is.
So in chapter 19 John’s attention is turned from earth to heaven, and there are some really interesting observations I make in this chapter. First I notice the reaction of heaven to the fierceness that is going on down on the earth. They are not ignoring the unfolding judgments. No, they are singing a chorus about them. They are rejoicing about them. So we see that heaven is not uncomfortable with the judgment of God. If you ponder that, you realize that God’s judgment actually lies at the heart of heaven’s glorying in who God is.
One other thing that’s interesting is that it appears that Heaven is not always a place of undisturbed tranquility. John says “I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in Heaven shouting.” Think about a huge stadium filled to capacity and everyone roaring with shouts. Then multiply that 1000 fold. Can you imagine? Later he says “then I heard again what sounded like a vast crowd or the roar of a mighty ocean.” Notice how he describes it by saying “what sounded like.” It is as if it’s indescribable to him. God and heaven are so beyond our human understanding; John can only give us a sense of what he is seeing and hearing. The reason heaven has this reaction is that God has vindicated His own honor. He has displayed his power.
I see this is getting long, and I try not to do that, but what God is revealing to us through Revelation is so amazing, that it is hard for me to encapsulate it succinctly. So, I will try to wrap this up.
Going back to the persecuted Christians I mentioned initially, you know how it is when you face persecution and great fears? You begin to wonder “how is God going to deal with this?” “Is He aware of what I’m going through?” You ask yourself “Is God involved, does he really care, is evil going to win in my situation?” I think we can see Revelation as being about hope. You may ask “what are you talking about?” Revelation is filled with judgments, horror and destruction. Hope? Yes, hope! For the simple reason that God is showing us in Revelation how things are going to end. We get to see that God is the one who has the final word, that evil does not triumph, but God does. Think about it, all the questions we have about God’s justice, his faithfulness, and whether evil or God will win in the end are answered. We are assured that God has the last word. This is what the chorus in heaven is all about, that God has demonstrated His salvation in His judgment.
If you think of salvation as rescuing people from the bondage of Satan and the powers of darkness, we see that God has saved us; he has defeated our enemy, he has broken the power of satin and cast him down. So it is like salvation and judgment go together in a sense. We see that God is true to His word. God has vindicated His name and glory is brought to Him. We see GOD has control. So Revelation is both a comfort to me and also helps me stay motivated to be set apart from the world. As I think of all of these things, all I can really do is be in awe of God’s awesome, wonderful, and incredible plan that will unfold. It makes me want to worship Him and give Him the Glory that is due Him! Praise God!