We see, in the first two verses, another repetition of the completion of the judgment on Jerusalem and Israel. In verse 3, we see that her smoke goes up forever and ever. This is, again, a symbolic way of saying complete and permanent destruction of what we know in the physical realm as in passages such as Isaiah 66:24.
In verses 4-6, we see praise given to God in heaven.
In verses 7-9, we see the preparation of the bride and the marriage feast. The bride, as discussed before, being the New Jerusalem. We see this marriage about to happen immediately after the destruction of the old Jerusalem, but first…
In verses 11-16, we see the vivid imagery of Jesus riding on the white horse. This seems to be him coming in his Kingdom as he states some of the apostles would be alive to see (Matt 16:27-28), and that he would come back to get them (John 14:3).
Here’s an interesting point of contention though. We don’t really have any historical verification that any of the early Christians were bodily taken up into heaven. In addition, if all the Christians were taken up to the marriage feast, who was left to spread the gospel? We do have passages in the Bible itself that might explain what happened.
Here we see where parables, such as the 10 virgins (Matt 25:1-13), make much more sense. The first century Christians were told to hold vehemently to the faith and keep watch in preparation for the bridegroom’s arrival. Those that didn’t, while considered Christians, seemed to not have been taken up. Like in the parable, all were virgins (made pure by the blood of Jesus), but only those who kept watch, during this oppressive era, would be taken up. The rest would have to wait out their time here on earth, but weren’t shut out of the Kingdom forever (only the marriage feast). This parable also continues from the prior chapter’s Olivet discourse. It seems Matt 25 directly correlates with the judgment and coming of Jesus that he was explaining. It seems the next parable in that chapter, the parable of the talents, relays a similar message to the early church—those that do nothing with what they’ve been given (the gospel and prophetic warnings) would not be rewarded when Jesus came. We see this same theme communicated in Rev 2 and 3 to the churches of Asia Minor.
In addition to this, we have a strange cessation of the apostles’ writings at this point (after the fall of Jerusalem). We could consider that they had all been martyred by now, but this would discount Jesus’ own statement that some he was speaking to would in no way taste of death until they saw him coming in his Kingdom (Matt 16:27-28). That is, his Kingdom came after the Old Covenant kingdom was judged, destroyed, and delivered up to the Father (1 Cor 15:24).
It would seem these were extreme times for the inception of the Kingdom and much work was to be done. However, when the full Kingdom was manifest, dressed in the acts of the saints (Rev 19:8), the journey for us as children now became less heavily contested. I don’t want to delve much further into these topics in this post as the ideas are starting to cross into chapters 20 and 21.
Chapter 19 Continued
In verses 17-18, we see an angel standing in the sun calling all the birds to an earthly “great supper of God.” This is their feasting of the corpses of those who died in the preceding war. Again, this affirms the time period we’re still dealing with.
In verse 19, it would seem the beast (again representing the Roman empire) along with its constituents (the armies from all over the “known” world subjugated by Rome) were gathering to war against Jesus. To understand what this verse is relaying, we can look to when Paul was on the Damascus road (Acts 9:4-5). As we see with Paul’s early actions, these armies seemed to be marshaling to persecute Jesus through the slaughter of the Christians. It would appear these armies, now that they were done with Jerusalem and Palestine, were now turning their attention to the Christians.
However, in verse 20, we see that Jesus seizes the beast and tosses him and the second beast (aka the false prophet) into the lake of fire. Now we get to an interesting consideration. We know from history that Vespasian and Titus both continued on after the close of the war (73 AD). We don’t see them being plucked from the earth to be thrown alive into the lake of fire. To understand this specific verse, we have to compare it to the correlating passages in Daniel.
In Daniel Chapter 7, we see these same scenes presented but with more detail. Daniel 7:11 shows the first hints of what is taking place in Rev 19:20. The beast (animal) was slain, its body destroyed, and it was to be burned with fire (i.e. the river of fire in verse 10). Daniel seems also confused about this (v15-16). In verse 26, this is further explained though—the dominion of the beast (or it’s rule) would be taken away and destroyed. This is the power and dominion of the beast itself, but not those individuals who incorporated it, that was thrown into the lake of fire.
Returning to Rev 19:21, we see the others involved in the war being killed by the sword of Jesus’ mouth. While we may not have much historical reference to this in the physical realm, we do know that both Vespasian (79 AD) and Titus (81 AD) died within a decade of the end of the war (73 AD).
Putting it all together
While persecution of Christians continued for another two centuries, no war of extermination was launched against them (though based on these passages, it seemed intended). During this period, as may be common knowledge, Christians laid down their lives, just as Jesus did, for love. This laying down of their lives in love worked from within the Roman kingdom and eventually overtook it. This seems to have been God’s intent for Israel, yet instead of laying down their lives in love, even for their enemies, they vehemently held to their code of laws and condemned everyone else that wouldn’t conform to their loveless religion. Eventually, as we see throughout the book of Revelation, judgment came on them based on the Old Covenant penalties that they insisted on receiving by their unrepentant state. Jesus fulfilled and removed that entire covenant once the final judgement was finished. The new Kingdom, ruled by Jesus, then began overtaking the world. This Kingdom, however, isn’t about military might; it’s about love. This Kingdom still continues today, though many under the flag of Christendom are still trying to further the Kingdom by politics, military might, manipulation, etc…instead of love.
Again, these are my views of these scriptures as they pertain to the Bible overall. I encourage everyone to research these things for themselves.
The rest of this series can be found here.