Revelation 20:1-3 The Thousand Years

When it comes to eschatology, the doctrine of the end times, Bible-believing Christians hold differing views about the thousand years referred to in Revelation 20:1-9. In order to handle the material in chapter 20, we must come to conclusions regarding the nature and timing of the thousand years, which is mentioned six times in verses 1-9. Since premillennialism has been the most popular evangelical approach in recent years, we will begin with this understanding of the millennium.

The premillennial view of verses 1-2 holds that Satan is bound for a thousand literal years after the second coming of Jesus Christ. Thus, Christ’s return is premillennial. According to the premillennial view, Revelation chapters 17-20 follow a chronological progression. Another argument employed by some premillennialists holds that the number one thousand must be interpreted as a literal period of history and that this precludes us from assigning it to the church age, which has already lasted much longer than a thousand years. A third argument concerns the language about Satan’s binding in verses 1-2. According to some premillennialists this passage requires a complete termination of Satan’s activity in the sphere of the earth. Based on these arguments – the chronology of Revelation 19 and 20, the literal view of the number one thousand, and the absolute binding of Satan – premillennialists look for a golden age on earth that follows the return of Christ.

The most powerful critique of premillennialism is made today by those holding the amillennial position, who teach instead that the thousand years of Revelation 20 is a symbolic description of the entire church age. This assessment begins by denying that Revelation 20 should be understood as following chronologically from chapter 19. Instead, it understands these visions as recapitulating the history of the spiritual opposition to Christ.

Revelation 19 shows the judgment of spiritual opposition to Christ. Revelation 19 shows the judgment of the enemies of Christ who were introduced in the symbolic histories of chapters 12-14. In reverse order from their appearance, the harlot Babylon is first considered, and her judgment takes place to make way for the marriage feast of the Lamb, which occurs in the return of Christ (Rev. 19:6-10). Then the career of the beast and his false prophet is summarized, and they are destroyed by Jesus, returning on His white horse (19:11-21). At this point there is one more enemy to be defeated, the dragon Satan, and chapter 20 reveals his defeat and final judgment in the return of Jesus. These visions therefore follow one another not chronologically, but topically: the judgment of Babylon, then the beasts, and finally Satan.

Next, consider whether the thousand years of Revelation 20 should be viewed as a literal period. We have noted all through Revelation that these visions beg to be interpreted symbolically, not literally. This is true of numbers, such as seven, ten, and a thousand, just as it is true of features in this passage as the angel’s chain and the image of Satan as a dragon. Satan is by nature an angelic spirit who could not be bound by a physical chain, however stout. If the chain and the dragon imagery of these verses is manifestly symbolic, it makes little sense that the number one thousand is literal. The symbolic meaning of this number is not difficult to discern, since a thousand years represents a long but definite span of time. Moreover, noting that a thousand is a perfect cube of the number ten, we see that this number represents perfect completeness. Thus, the millennium is a long but definite time in which the work of the gospel is completed.

The most important premillennial (and postmillennial) argument pertains to the actual binding of Satan in verses 1-3. Their view states that this binding cannot describe the situation of the entire church age. Both hold that this binding must be understood as an action that completely curtails the actions of Satan which plainly is not yet the case. This is why postmillennialists ascribe the thousand years to a golden age of total victory at the end of the church age, rather than the entire church age itself. Amillennialists reply that this binding of Satan in fact describes the entire age of the gospel with great accuracy, showing the spiritual results of Christ’s first coming with His conquering death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. The key to understanding the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church in this age is the binding of Satan as a result of Christ’s saving work.

Christians today may not realize how much of a revolution resulted from the first coming of Jesus. When one asks how Satan can be described as being bound during our present age, there are two answers. The first answer notes that verse 3 specifies the particular effect of Satan’s binding: “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer.” This verse does not state that Satan is bound in every way, or that he is physically kept in a chained cell, but it symbolizes that he is bound in the particular way of no longer being able to prevent belief in Jesus.

A second way to see that this binding of Satan depicts the church age is to note how this vision echoes the language used elsewhere of Satan’s defeat in Christ’s first coming. Consider Matthew 12:29, where Jesus spoke of Satan in this same way. The word for bind is the same here as in Revelation 20:2 and the plundering of Satan’s house undoubtedly refers to the salvation of sinners through the gospel. There are many other New Testament passages that use similarly forceful language in describing the victory of Christ’s first coming. All this language unmistakably speaks of the stripping of Satan’s power by Christ’s death and resurrection and the granting of authority to Jesus in His ascension so that His gospel may go forth through the church.

In light of this overwhelming biblical evidence, a careful study of the binding of Satan reveals the thousand years as symbolically depicting the church age of gospel expansion. This argues for the amillenial view, as opposed to premillennialism, which ascribes this situation to an earthly reign after Christ’s coming, and also the postmillennial view, which sees Satan as bound only at the end of the church age.

The vision of Revelation 20 begins with John seeing “an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon” (vv. 1-2). In chapter 9, we saw the Abyss as the dwelling place of evil spirits, which, in that case, was opened by an angel to allow calamities on the earth (9:1-5). Now, Satan is symbolically locked in the Abyss. The angel brings a chain that Satan cannot break, with a key that locks the dungeon, so that the devil is thrown in, shut in, and sealed in (20:3). This vision shows the complete and sovereign control that is being exercised over Satan. God’s plan for salvation must be fulfilled, and to this end, God’s spiritual enemy is placed under wraps.

The binding of Satan is not permanent, however, since after the thousand years “he must be released for a little while” (v. 3). This statement also confirms to the general New Testament teaching and confirms that the thousand years describes the church age. Paul wrote that before Christ’s return “the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed” (2 Thess. 2:3). This describes the beast whom the dragon was seen calling out of the sea in Revelation 13:1, who wages a worldwide persecution of Christians and gathers the nations for the last battle. Paul is clear that this final time of great tribulation, characterized by Satan’s “wicked deception” (2 Thess. 2:10), occurs at the end of the gospel age, just before Christ’s return. This corresponds to the “little while” after the thousand years when Satan is released so as to deceive the nations briefly before the final battle.

From this perspective, Christians look back on history, knowing that in Christ’s first coming He defeated the devil and limited his authority. We look to the future and know that “for a little while” Satan will return to deceive the nations and persecute the church. What is most important now is our awareness of the current situation, when Satan is bound “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended” (v. 3). This defines our great opportunity in this life, our great calling as the church of Christ in the world, and our glorious privilege in service to the strong Savior who has defeated and bound our dreaded enemy. This was precisely Jesus’ emphasis as He commissioned His disciples before ascending into heaven (Matt. 28:18-20). As Jesus put it at the end of John’s gospel “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).

Revelation 20:1-3 Study Questions:

What happens to Satan in verses 1-3?

We must not forget that Satan was initially a member of the heavenly council. Though he has fallen from his position, he may still, by God’s permission, play a role. Satan’s job was always to “accuse” where accusation was due to make sure that all wrongdoing was exposed. In what ways has Satan abused and distorted this role?

In what specific ways does Satan try to lead us astray?

Revelation 19:17-21 The Last Battle

One reason Christians are to seek the salvation of the lost is our awareness that the offer of salvation will end when Christ returns. Although we are called hatemongers for our witness of God’s wrath against sin, Christians are motivated by the forewarning of destruction for those who deny Jesus and reject His salvation. The horrific nature of that destruction was foretold to John with an image of an angel summoning carrion birds to the future battlefield (vv. 17-18).

The angel stands in midair, an appropriate place from which to summon the eagles and vultures to descend on those slain by the judicial sword of Christ. This image is symbolic, but what it represents is correspondingly devastating: the utter shame, destruction, and condemnation suffered at the end of history by those who opposed Christ and afflicted His people during history. Divine retribution for sin is just as certain as the arrival of vultures to devour flesh that dies in the desert.

The details of verses 17-18 are worth noting. First, there is a clear and ironic contrast with the earlier summons of believers to the wedding feast of the Lamb. This carnage is named “the great supper of God” (v. 17), making the point that God is glorified in judgment just as in salvation. One of these destinies is the end toward which every single person is heading, depending in his or her response to the saving offer of Jesus Christ. The ungodly, whose sins are not forgiven because of their unbelief, “will go away into eternal punishment,” Jesus said, “but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).

Second, this fundamental contrast pertains equally to every single person. The carrion birds are summoned to devour all walks of life. This proves that whatever earthly distinctions we may recognize, the entire human race is united in the guilt of sin and in our need for a Savior in order to escape God’s judgment. When that judgment comes, those who have refused Jesus will find that no earthly status matters at all, but only their guilt before the scorned Savior who has now returned to judge.

Verse 19 presents the final battle itself, which was described earlier in Revelation as the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). Revelation 17:14 foretold that the beast and his vassal kings “will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them.” Revelation 19:19 presents the same epic final confrontation. Jesus’ teaching clarifies that this great battle symbolizes a worldwide persecution before His return: “There will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved” (Matt. 24:21-22).

John is shown the immediate aftermath of the last battle and the devastating effects of Christ’s coming in verse 20. Here in the end, the final beast and false prophet will be captured by Christ, leaving only Satan to face his judgment in the very end. Having been disarmed, the beast and false prophet “were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur” (v. 20). This is the first of four references to the “lake of fire” at the end of Revelation. The lake of fire manifests the wrath of God, inflicting the burning punishment of hell.

John specifies that the beast and false prophet “were thrown alive” into the lake, making the point that their punishment will consist not of eradication but of eternal suffering as the just penalty of sin. When the devil receives his punishment, he too, is cast “into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). Whether or not we like the idea of such a hell, the fact is that God’s revealed Word teaches it. Hell is part of the reality we must face, and to deny reality is a disaster for us, sooner or later.

Verse 21 makes clear that the beast and false prophet will not suffer alone. All their allies “were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” Later in Revelation 20:15 it states that all who worship the beast and serve in his army will be cast into the lake of fire, together with everyone who has not believed in Jesus Christ. The slaying sword appears here to represent a decree of death as the punishment for sin. The New Testament teaches that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and these images depict that death in terms of eternal condemnation, eternal suffering, and eternal shame.

These symbolic images – the lake of fire and the carrion birds who eat the flesh – combine to show the torment and shame that God will inflict on His enemies when Christ returns. The solemn scene with which Revelation 19 concludes confirms the warning of Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

According to the Bible, you can avoid a destiny of punishment in the lake of fire in one of two ways. The first is to live a life of perfect obedience to God’s law, never sinning in the least degree and doing all things over the entirety of your life for the glory of your Creator. If you have not done that – if you have sinned in the least degree (and Solomon reminds us that “there is no one who does not sin” [1 Kings 8:46]) – then you need a second way of salvation. You need a Savior to deliver you from God’s holy justice. The only Savior available is the very Son of God, who did live a perfect life to provide righteousness for His needy people, and who died a sin-atoning death so that those who believe in Him may be forgiven of their sins.

Notice that verse 20 speaks of the people who bore “the mark of the beast and those who worship its image.” According to Revelation, there are two marks that determine one’s ownership and destiny, and everyone bears either one or the other. Revelation 7:2-3 says that God has marked His servants with a seal, a mark that only He can see and that signifies true and saving faith. Revelation further teaches that “those people who do not have the seal of God” (Rev. 9:4) all bear the “mark” of the beast (14:9, 11). These are those who worship the beast’s false gods – pleasure, power, wealth, and beauty – and belong to the world in rebellion to Christ.

The point is that unless you are gathered to Jesus for salvation, having believed on Him in this life, you must in the day of His return be consigned to the judgment reserved for the servants of rebellion to Christ’s kingdom. Jesus said that when He returns, He will gather His people into eternal glory, but that to those who refused Him He will declare, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). With this punishment looming before you, the most urgent issue in your life is to act on the counsel given by the apostle Paul: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

The outcome of the last battle not only urges us to believe, but also teaches believers not to fear the power of evil in this world. The Bible says that Christians will face tribulation and, in the end, a dreadful conspiracy of worldwide persecution. Yet the last battle will bring a stunning end to all evil. The appeal of the writer of Hebrews aptly suits the exhortation of Revelation: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).

Revelation 19:17-21 Study Questions:

What is the ultimate fate of the beast and the false prophet (v. 20)?

Why do they face such a harsh judgment?

Many in our own day are still oppressed by monstrous forces, and the local propaganda machines that promote their cause. Equally, many otherwise well-intentioned people are taken in by the lies and deceits which these systems continue to put out. Revelation 19 stands as a promise to the first, and a warning to the second. Once you understand who Jesus was and is, and the significance of the victory which He has won in His death, there can be no doubt about the final outcome. Monstrous regimes may come and go. Lies and deceits will continue to be spread. We must be on our guard. But the King of kings and Lord of lords will be victorious. In the meantime, there must be no compromise. How can we help each other to be on guard against falling prey to the lies and deceits of the world system?

Revelation 19:11-16 The Rider on a White Horse

We remember that Revelation presents a series of visions depicting the church age and final judgment. The seven seals, trumpets, and bowls each provide a perspective on Christ’s reign throughout the age of the gospel to restrain, warn, and finally punish evil. Each of these cycles concluded at the very brink of Christ’s return. In chapter 6:12-17, the sky was rolled up like a scroll and the wicked vainly hid from the wrath of the Lamb. When the seventh trumpet blew, angels sang, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Rev. 11:15). Later, a cloud appeared with “one like the son of man” who harvested the earth with a sharp sickle (14:14-16).

These were veiled allusions to the second coming of Christ to overthrow and judge evil once and for all. In Revelation 19:11, the veil is lifted and John writes: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!” No longer do we look through windows or doors into heaven, but this time heaven itself opens so that the Lord and His armies may come out.

The Christ who comes forth from heaven is the Warrior-Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. This was the Savior who slew the hosts of Pharaoh after parting the Red Sea for Israel to pass through. Moses sang, “The Lord is a man of war; the Lord in his name” (Ex. 15:3). This is the battle captain who appeared to Joshua “with his drawn sword in his hand” (Josh. 5:13). “I am the commander of the army of the Lord,” Jesus declared, and Joshua worshiped Him (Josh. 5:14). Here in Revelation 19:11, the heavenly Warrior Jesus arrives on a white stallion, wielding a sword to slay the enemies of His church. The white horse symbolizes victorious conquest in battle. In His first coming, Jesus dealt with sin by offering His own blood in sacrifice. He now returns in glory, “and in righteousness He judges and makes war” (v. 11).

At first glance, we might think that this vision shows only Christ’s victory in bringing judgment to the unbelieving world. But just as Christ wears a crown of “many diadems” (v. 12), the victory that He comes to proclaim has a number of facets. For instance, Jesus arrives as the Savior who has already conquered by His cross. John sees Him “clothed in a robe dipped in blood” (v. 13). Some scholars argue that Christ’s robe is spattered with the blood of His enemies. Isaiah 63:1-6 supports this view as it presents the Lord as “mighty to save” and clothed in crimson garments.

Yet there are also good reasons to this blood as representing Christ’s own atoning blood for the cleansing of His people. Here in Revelation 19:11-13, Jesus presents Himself before entering into battle with His enemies. He is joined by “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure,…following him on white horses” (v. 14). This army includes the assembled host of the redeemed, who are cleansed and arrayed in white because Jesus shed His blood for their sins. Also, Revelation has emphasized that the saints conquered the dragon Satan “by the blood of the Lamb” (12:11). The blood on His robe will always remind us of where the victory was actually won, on the cross.

Jesus further conquers by means of His covenant faithfulness in obedience to God the Father. John says that the rider of the white horse “is called Faithful and True” (v. 11). Jesus appears as the new and righteous Adam who receives the nations as His inheritance (see Ps. 2:8). Paul notes in Philippians 2:8-11 that Jesus took up a human form and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Furthermore, Christ appears, having conquered by His Word. John writes that “the name by which he is called is The Word of God” (v. 13). It seems that “Word of God” is used here to signify Christ’s authority to exercise the will of God for His redemptive conquest. Revelation 5 showed that only the Lamb could open the scroll of God’s will. It is in view of His obedience in suffering death and His righteousness in fulfilling God’s covenant that Jesus is now granted the right to wield God’s omnipotent decree. As God’s appointed and faithful Messiah, Jesus has authority to proclaim God’s final judgment against His foes.

Jesus appears from heaven to meet His wicked foes, having already conquered by His death, by fulfilling God’s covenant, and as the Word who bears God’s decreed will. Appearing this way, Jesus then achieves the victory highlighted in this passage: the conquest of His final judgment over evil. Riding the white horse of victory, Jesus “is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war” (v. 11).

Numerous details are provided about Jesus’ victory in judging His enemies. Some of them emphasize Jesus’ person and the attributes that enable His conquest. For instance, it is in His “righteousness” that “he judges and makes war” (v. 11). Christ makes war in perfect righteousness and true justice. This is especially important when we realize that His chief battlefield is not one of literal warfare but rather a legal contest in the courts of God. Justice is on Jesus’ side, in both His righteousness and His just condemnation of sin. The ungodly will suffer conquest in the shame of knowing that Jesus is right to slay them with the sword of His righteousness.

Jesus is further seen with eyes “like a flame of fire” (v. 12). This may speak in general of Jesus’ deity, but it specifically depicts His penetrating sight that discovers all sin. Hebrews 4:13 speaks this way about God’s Word: “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Because of this, faithful preachers are sometimes accused of prying into people’s private affairs to discover and expose their secret sins in a sermon they are preaching, when what actually happens is that the Word of God penetrates to expose the secret corruptions of the heart. How complete will be the exposure of all sin when Jesus returns with eyes of flaming fire to judge all whose sins are not forgotten.

Jesus’ authority is further seen in His command of the mounted hosts of heaven (v. 14), which include the legions of angels Paul wrote about in 2 Thessalonians 1:7. And according to Revelation 17:14, they are joined by those who “are called and chosen and faithful,” that is, the glorified church. The spiritual power of this army is seen in the fine white linen of their holiness before God and their righteousness in Christ, the saints wearing the uniform of their priestly status in Christ’s kingdom.

The authority of Christ to judge is especially emphasized in the title written on His robe at the thigh: King of kings and Lord of lords” (v. 16). The thigh symbolizes manly strength, and thus Christ’s robe bears titles upon His thigh that proclaim His supreme rule. Not only is Jesus qualified to judge by His person and His authority, but He also appears with overwhelming power to destroy His enemies completely and immediately. John says, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations (v. 15). We know from 1:16 that the “sharp two-edged sword” of His Word comes from Jesus’ mouth. Wielding this weapon, Jesus doesn’t trade blows with the powers of evil but immediately slays them.

Jesus’ power also “will rule them with a rod of iron” (v. 15). This weapon is the rod of the shepherd by which he protects his sheep from predatory animals. Jesus wields this rod to shatter all opposition, fulfilling the promise of Psalm 2:9. It was because of this punishment of the wicked that Paul commanded Christians not to retaliate against evil in Romans 12:19. As a rod of iron, Christ’s vengeance on the oppressors of His people is mighty and unyielding. Evil must in the end be crushed and destroyed if Christ’s flock is to lie down in the green pastures beside the still waters of eternal glory.

Finally, John writes that Jesus comes with power to vent the fury of God’s wrath on the wicked rebel powers of the earth: “He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (v. 15). Like a man trampling grapes in a winepress, the Warrior-Messiah will trample the wicked in His divine strength, with their blood pouring out in floods of just retribution for evil and sin. Of course, this is symbolism. But the reality it depicts ought to terrify sinners as they ponder having to suffer the judgment of the righteous and avenging Jesus Christ. These verses show that Jesus is not squeamish when it comes to judgment, nor is He aloof from the inflicting of God’s personal wrath.

Not only is Christ going to judge the world by the sword of His Word, but He is going to judge you by His truth. If you are wise, you will stand under that judgment now, confessing your sin, believing His gospel offer of salvation, and embracing in faith the mercy that forgives you through the loving sacrifice of Jesus’ blood. It is by the Word that believers are called (John 10:27), born again (1 Pet. 1:23), sanctified (John 17:17), enlightened (Ps. 19:8), and in the end finally delivered (2 Thess. 2:8). In His gospel, Jesus comes humbly on a colt of a donkey, signifying mercy to sinners who repent and believe (Matt. 21:5). He returns riding on a white horse to slay the wicked and cleanse the world of sin. Let us call Him Faithful and True now. Let us invite His gracious rule into our hearts. And let us joyfully anticipate His coming by crowning Him with our faith and love, joining the praise that is sung by His church.

Revelation 19:11-16 Study Questions:

What is the significance of the names given to the One riding the white horse (vv. 11, 13)?

What do the images in verses 14-16 symbolize, if not an actual military battle?

How do we participate in the victory that Jesus has won?

Revelation 19:6-10 The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

We know that God’s wrath is both just and glorious, but hell remains less than a cheerful thought. Now as the heavenly choir sings “Hallelujah,” we find more positive reasons to rejoice in God’s final judgment. The overthrow of the ungodly is a means to the glorious, universal, and unimpeded reign of Jesus Christ over all things. “Hallelujah!” heaven sings, “For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns” (v. 6).

The title “Lord our God the Almighty” emphasizes the sovereignty and omnipotence of God. In an important sense, there has never been a moment when God has not been reigning. God’s plan for history merely permitted sin so that in the end His Son, Jesus Christ, would reign in grace with a people purchased by His blood. When this victory is achieved, when the opposition of Satan, sin, and death is conquered and put away, leaving nothing to hinder the blessed kingdom of Christ in all creation, no wonder that heaven rejoices.

When believers seek to understand the blessings that await us in glory, the Bible provides a variety of images. What Christian has not reveled in blessed anticipation of Psalm 23’s final verse? Revelation 19:7 adds a glorious vision of a wedding banquet after Christ has taken His bride. The choir sings: “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.” All throughout the Bible, salvation is presented as a love relationship between God and His people.

So how can sinners from this world, who have ourselves betrayed God in sin and idolatry, ever qualify to be Christ’s spotless and radiant bride? The answer is given in verse 8: “It was granted her to clothe herself with fine lines, bright and pure.” This sums up the Bible’s gospel teaching, that God so loved the world, and Christ so loves His bride that He came to cleanse His chosen people from sin by dying on the cross. Jesus further achieved a perfect righteousness on our behalf by means of His own spotless life. Sinners are justified by means of the imputed righteousness that Jesus gives, so that through faith alone we receive the spotless garment of the righteousness of Christ (see Rom. 4:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Our covenant relationship with Jesus Christ equally involves His righteous work for us to justify us from sin and His sanctifying work in us, in which we participate to present ourselves beautifully to Him. In the language of our passage, a spotless wedding garment is “granted” by God to every sinner who believes. Henceforth, we are to put it on and wear it – that is, we are to live accordance with the righteous standing we have received through faith in Christ (Eph. 4:21-24). Having been saved by the blood of Christ from the judgment of the harlot world to which we formerly belonged, we are by grace alone granted a spotless wedding garment of righteousness, and henceforth we are to live as His holy people.

Revelation 19 doesn’t show the actual marital bliss that Christ and His bride will enjoy in eternity: that description comes in chapters 21 and 22. But the angel did point out a particular blessing that belongs to the people of Christ even now: “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (v. 9). This is the fourth beatitude of the book of Revelation. So far, blessing has been pronounced on those who read and hear the message of this book (1:3), on “the dead who die in the Lord,” who “rest from their labors” (14:13), and on those who keep their garments on, remaining ready for the return of Christ (16:15). Now Christians are described not only as the bride of Christ but also as the wedding guests who are invited to attend the feast. We are blessed in looking forward to the wedding and the feast, both of which will continue forever.

Even though the wedding between Christ and His church is yet to come, believers are blessed now because through faith in Jesus they possess the invitation needed to reserve a seat at that feast. This makes the vital point that our present salvation through faith in Jesus renders our future salvation in the wedding feast to come absolutely secure. We know this because of the inviolable authority of God’s Word. John adds in verse 9: “And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’” Everyone who believes in Jesus now and lives as His disciple has “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5).

Knowing this, Christians do not need to wait for the wedding feast before we join the heavenly choir of praise. We may worship just as fervently now, with a present assurance of salvation in Christ. Now we await the sudden appearing of our Lord. But our invitation to His feast is certified by the Word of God and secured by the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 10 adds a surprising episode that highlights how glorious it is to anticipate our future union with Christ. Having heard God’s blessing on those invited to the wedding feast, John “fell down” at the feet of the angel “to worship him.” The angel stopped John, crying in alarm: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.” This verse reminds us that however glorious any person or angel may appear to be, we must never grant worship to anyone but God. Moreover, this verse states that having been redeemed by Christ’s blood, Christians are now “fellow servants” with the angels in proclaiming the gospel and bringing praise to God’s throne.

This kind of keen anticipation will make the rigors of the present Christian life seem as nothing compared to the glories ahead. As we grow in Christian faith, that future should loom ever clearer in our minds, so that the glory and love awaiting us become more real to our hearts than the poisoned delights of a harlot world that desires to lead us astray.

Finally, while we celebrate the coming day when “the Lord our God the Almighty” will reign (v. 6), let us never forget that Jesus reigns now through the ministry of His Word. The angel concludes: “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (v. 10). This statement can be taken in two equally valid ways. It may mean that wherever the testimony of Jesus’ love is given, there is the true spirit of prophecy. Alternatively, it may state that those who believe in the gospel testimony receive the spirit of prophecy to tell others about the saving grace of Christ.

Both as the gospel comes to us and as we bring it to others, Christ reigns in our present world, bringing sinners to Himself through faith, and securing for everyone who believes a place in the wedding feast that will resound in joy and praise forever. How exciting it is to be a Christian, even as we wait in this darkened world for the glorious light of Jesus’ soon appearing” “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory” (v. 7).

What higher love can you ever discover than the redeeming love of Jesus Christ? If you respond to His call, offering your faith and love to Him, then Jesus will take you to Himself for eternity. He will be your beloved Savior and glorious Lord, and by His grace at work in you, you will respond in faithful covenant love and worship back to Him. Every believer of the gospel will be blessed together with the Son of God, along with the entire glorious host of His blessed church, so long as you both eternally live.

Revelation 19:6-10 Study Questions:

The marriage of the Lamb and His bride is to be the focal point of the marriage of heaven and earth themselves. Who is the “bride” of the Lamb (vv. 7-8)?

John himself is so excited by all this that he begins to worship the angel who is revealing it all to him. Why is this a big mistake (v. 10)?

How are we sometimes tempted to make the same mistake John made?