The Book of Revelation – Lesson 10
10 - Chapters 19 & 20
(The triumphal return of Christ - The millennium Kingdom)
Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65]
I heard a loud voice of a great multitude - Whose blood the great whore had shed. Saying, Hallelujah - This Hebrew word signifies, Praise ye Jah, or Him that is. God named himself to Moses, EHEIEH, that is, I will be, Exo 3:14; and at the same time, "Jehovah," that is, "He that is, and was, and is to come:" during the trumpet of the seventh angel, he is styled, "He that is and was," Rev 16:5; and not "He that is to come;" because his long - expected coming is under this trumpet actually present. At length he is styled, "Jah," "He that is;" the past together with the future being swallowed up in the present, the former things being no more mentioned, for the greatness of those that now are. This title is of all others the most peculiar to the everlasting God. The salvation - Is opposed to the destruction which the great whore had brought upon the earth. His power and glory - Appear from the judgment executed on her, and from the setting up his kingdom to endure through all ages.
For true and righteous are his judgments - Thus is the cry of the souls under the altar changed into a song of praise.
And the four and twenty elders, and the four living creatures felt down - The living creatures are nearer the throne than the elders. Accordingly they are mentioned before them, with the praise they render to God, Rev 4:9-10; Rev 5:8, Rev 5:14; inasmuch as there the praise moves from the centre to the circumference. But here, when God's judgments are fulfilled, it moves back from the circumference to the centre. Here, therefore, the four and twenty elders are named before the living creatures.
And a voice came forth from the throne - Probably from the four living creatures, saying, Praise our God - The occasion and matter of this song of praise follow immediately after, Rev 19:6, &c.; God was praised before, for his judgment of the great whore, Rev 19:1-4. Now for that which follows it: for that the Lord God, the Almighty, takes the kingdom to himself, and avenges himself on the rest of his enemies. Were all these inhabitants of heaven mistaken? If not, there is real, yea, and terrible anger in God.
And I heard the voice of a great multitude. So all his servants did praise him. The Almighty reigneth - More eminently and gloriously than ever before.
The marriage of the Lamb is come - Is near at hand, to be solemnized speedily. What this implies, none of "the spirits of just men," even in paradise, yet know. O what things are those which are yet behind! And what purity of heart should there be, to meditate upon them! And his wife hath made herself ready - Even upon earth; but in a far higher sense, in that world. After a time allowed for this, the new Jerusalem comes down, both made ready and adorned, Rev 21:2.
And it is given to her - By God. The bride is all holy men, the whole invisible church. To be arrayed in fine linen, white and clean - This is an emblem of the righteousness of the saints - Both of their justification and sanctification.
And he - The angel, saith to me, Write - St. John seems to have been so amazed at these glorious sights, that he needeth to be reminded of this. Happy are they who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb - Called to glory. And he saith - After a little pause.
And I fell before his feet to worship him - It seems, mistaking him for the angel of the covenant. But he saith, See thou do it not - In the original, it is only, See not, with a beautiful abruptness. To pray to or worship the highest creature is flat idolatry. I am thy fellowservant and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus - I am now employed as your fellowservant, to testify of the Lord Jesus, by the same Spirit which inspired the prophets of old.
And I saw the heaven opened - This is a new and peculiar opening of it, in order to show the magnificent expedition of Christ and his attendants, against his great adversary. And behold a white horse - Many little regarded Christ, when he came meek, "riding upon an ass;" but what will they say, when he goes forth upon his white horse, with the sword of his mouth? White - Such as generals use in solemn triumph. And he that sitteth on him, called Faithful - In performing all his promises. And True - In executing all his threatenings. And in righteousness - With the utmost justice. He judgeth and maketh war - Often the sentence and execution go together.
And his eyes are a flame of fire - They were said to be as or like a flame of fire, before, Rev 1:14; an emblem of his omniscience. And upon his head are many diadems - For he is king of all nations. And he hath a name written, which none knoweth but himself - As God he is incomprehensible to every creature.
And he is clothed in a vesture dipped in blood - The blood of the enemies he hath already conquered. Isa 63:1, &c
And he shall rule them - Who are not slain by his sword. With a rod of iron - That is, if they will not submit to his golden sceptre. And he treadeth the wine press of the wrath of God - That is, he executes his judgments on the ungodly. This ruler of the nations was born (or appeared as such) immediately after the seventh angel began to sound. He now appears, not as a child, but as a victorious warrior. The nations have long ago felt his "iron rod," partly while the heathen Romans, after their savage persecution of the Christians, themselves groaned under numberless plagues and calamities, by his righteous vengeance; partly, while other heathens have been broken in pieces by those who bore the Christian name. For although the cruelty, for example, of the Spaniards in America, was unrighteous and detestable, yet did God therein execute his righteous judgment on the unbelieving nations; but they shall experience his iron rod as they never did yet, and then will they all return to their rightful Lord.
And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh - That is, on the part of his vesture which is upon his thigh. A name written - It was usual of old, for great personages in the eastern countries, to have magnificent titles affixed to their garments.
Gather yourselves together to the great supper of God - As to a great feast, which the vengeance of God will soon provide; a strongly figurative expression, (taken from Eze 39:17,) denoting the vastness of the ensuing slaughter.
And I saw the kings of the earth - The ten kings mentioned Rev 17:12; who had now drawn the other kings of the earth to them, whether Popish, Mahometan, or pagan. Gathered together to make war with him that sat upon the horse - All beings, good and evil, visible and invisible, will be concerned in this grand contest. See Zac 14:1, &c.
The false prophet, who had wrought the miracles before him - And therefore shared in his punishment; these two ungodly men were cast alive - Without undergoing bodily death. Into the lake of fire - And that before the devil himself, Rev 20:10. Here is the last of the beast. After several repeated strokes of omnipotence, he is gone alive into hell. There were two that went alive into heaven; perhaps there are two that go alive into hell. It may be, Enoch and Elijah entered at once into glory, without first waiting in paradise; the beast and the false prophet plunge at once into the extremest degree of torment, without being reserved in chains of darkness till the judgment of the great day. Surely, none but the beast of Rome would have hardened himself thus against the God he pretended to adore, or refused to have repented under such dreadful, repeated visitations! Well is he styled a beast, from his carnal and vile affections; a wild beast, from his savage and cruel spirit! The rest were slain - A like difference is afterwards made between the devil, and Gog and Magog, Rev 20:9-10.
Here is a most magnificent description of the overthrow of the beast and his adherents. It has, in particular, one exquisite beauty; that, after exhibiting the two opposite armies, and all the apparatus for a battle, Rev 19:11-19; then follows immediately, Rev 19:20, the account of the victory, without one word of an engagement or fighting. Here is the most exact propriety; for what struggle can there be between omnipotence, and the power of all the creation united against it! Every description must have fallen short of this admirable silence.
And I saw an angel decending out of heaven - Coming down with a commission from God. Jesus Christ himself overthrew the beast: the proud dragon shall be bound by an angel; even as he and his angels were cast out of heaven by Michael and his angels. Having the key of the bottomless pit - Mentioned before, Rev 9:1. And a great chain in his hand - The angel of the bottomless pit was shut up therein before the beginning of the first woe. But it is now first that Satan, after he had occasioned the third woe, is both chained and shut up.
And he laid hold on the dragon - With whom undoubtedly his angels were now cast into the bottomless pit, as well as finally "into everlasting fire," Mat 25:41. And bound him a thousand years - That these thousand do not precede, or run parallel with, but wholly follow, the times of the beast, may manifestly appear, 1. From the series of the whole book, representing one continued chain of events. 2. From the circumstances which precede. The woman's bringing forth is followed by the casting of the dragon out of heaven to the earth. With this is connected the third woe, whereby the dragon through, and with, the beast, rages horribly. At the conclusion of the third woe the beast is overthrown and cast into "the lake of fire." At the same time the other grand enemy, the dragon, shall be bound and shut up. 3. These thousand years bring a new, full, and lasting immunity from all outward and inward evils, the authors of which are now removed, and an affluence of all blessings. But such time the church has never yet seen. Therefore it is still to come. 4. These thousand years are followed by the last times of the world, the letting loose of Satan, who gathers together Gog and Magog, and is thrown to the beast and false prophet "in the lake of fire." Now Satan's accusing the saints in heaven, his rage on earth, his imprisonment in the abyss, his seducing Gog and Magog, and being cast into the lake of fire, evidently succeed each other. 5. What occurs from Rev. 20:11-22:5, manifestly follows the things related in the nineteenth chapter. The thousand years came between; whereas if they were past, neither the beginning nor the end of them would fall within this period. In a short time those who assert that they are now at hand will appear to have spoken the truth. Meantime let every man consider what kind of happiness he expects therein. The danger does not lie in maintaining that the thousand years are yet to come; but in interpreting them, whether past or to come, in a gross and carnal sense. The doctrine of the Son of God is a mystery. So is his cross; and so is his glory. In all these he is a sign that is spoken against. Happy they who believe and confess him in all!
And set a seal upon him - How far these expressions are to be taken literally, how far figuratively only, who can tell? That he might deceive the nations no more - One benefit only is here expressed, as resulting from the confinement of Satan. But how many and great blessings are implied! For the grand enemy being removed, the kingdom of God holds on its uninterrupted course among the nations; and the great mystery of God, so long foretold, is at length fulfilled; namely, when the beast is destroyed and Satan bound. This fulfilment approaches nearer and nearer; and contains things of the utmost importance, the knowledge of which becomes every day more distinct and easy. In the mean time it is highly necessary to guard against the present rage and subtilty of the devil. Quickly he will be bound: when he is loosed again, the martyrs will live and reign with Christ. Then follow his coming in glory, the new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem. The bottomless pit is properly the devil's prison; afterwards he is cast into the lake of fire. He can deceive the nations no more till the "thousand years," mentioned before, Rev 20:2, are fulfilled. Then he must be loosed - So does the mysterious wisdom of God permit. For a small time - Small comparatively: though upon the whole it cannot be very short, because the things to be transacted therein, Rev 20:8-9, must take up a considerable space. We are very shortly to expect, one after another, the calamities occasioned by the second beast, the harvest and the vintage, the pouring out of the phials, the judgment of Babylon, the last raging of the beast and his destruction, the imprisonment of Satan. How great things these! and how short the time! What is needful for us? Wisdom, patience, faithfulness, watchfulness. It is no time to settle upon our lees. This is not, if it be rightly understood, an acceptable message to the wise, the mighty, the honourable, of this world. Yet that which is to be done, shall be done: there is no counsel against the Lord.
And I saw thrones - Such as are promised the apostles, Mat 19:28; Luk 22:30. And they - Namely, the saints, whom St. John saw at the same time, Dan 7:22, sat upon them; and Judgment was given to them. Co1 6:2. Who, and how many, these are, is not said. But they are distinguished from the souls, or persons, mentioned immediately after; and from the saints already raised. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded - With the axe: so the original word signifies. One kind of death, which was particularly inflicted at Rome, is mentioned for all. For the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God - The martyrs were sometimes killed for the word of God in general; sometimes particularly for the testimony of Jesus: the one, while they refused to worship idols; the other, while they confessed the name of Christ. And those who had not worshipped the wild beast, nor his image - These seem to be a company distinct from those who appeared, Rev 15:2. Those overcame, probably, in such contests as these had not. Before the number of the beast was expired, the people were compelled to worship him, by the most dreadful violence. But when the beast "was not," they were only seduced into it by the craft of the false prophet. And they lived - Their souls and bodies being re - united. And reigned with Christ - Not on earth, but in heaven. The "reigning on earth" mentioned, Rev 11:15, is quite different from this. A thousand years - It must be observed, that two distinct thousand years are mentioned throughout this whole passage. Each is mentioned thrice; the thousand wherein Satan is bound, Rev 20:2-3, Rev 20:7; the thousand wherein the saints shall reign, Rev 20:4-6. The former end before the end of the world; the latter reach to the general resurrection. So that the beginning and end of the former thousand is before the beginning and end of the latter. Therefore as in Rev 20:2, at the first mention of the former; so in Rev 20:4, at the first mention of the latter, it is only said, a thousand years; in the other places, "the thousand," Rev 20:3, Rev 20:5, Rev 20:7, that is, the thousand mentioned before. During the former, the promises concerning the flourishing state of the church, Rev 10:7, shall be fulfilled; during the latter, while the saints reign with Christ in heaven, men on earth will be careless and secure.
The rest of the dead lived not till the thousand years - Mentioned, Rev 20:4. Were ended - The thousand years during which Satan is bound both begin and end much sooner.
The small time, and the second thousand years, begin at the same point, immediately after the first thousand. But neither the beginning of the first nor of the second thousand will be known to the men upon earth, as both the imprisonment of Satan and his loosing are transacted in the invisible world.
By observing these two distinct thousand years, many difficulties are avoided. There is room enough for the fulfilling of all the prophecies, and those which before seemed to clash are reconciled; particularly those which speak, on the one hand, of a most flourishing state of the church as yet to come; and, on the other, of the fatal security of men in the last days of the world.
They shall be priests of God and of Christ - Therefore Christ is God. And shall reign with him - With Christ, a thousand years.
And when the former thousand years are fulfilled, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison - At the same time that the first resurrection begins. There is a great resemblance between this passage and Rev 12:12. At the casting out of the dragon, there was joy in heaven, but there was woe upon earth: so at the loosing of Satan, the saints begin to reign with Christ; but the nations on earth are deceived.
And shall go forth to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth - (That is, in all the earth) - the more diligently, as he hath been so long restrained, and knoweth he hath but a small time. Gog and Magog - Magog, the second son of Japhet, is the father of the innumerable northern nations toward the east. The prince of these nations, of which the bulk of that army will consist, is termed Gog by Ezekiel also, Eze 38:2. Both Gog and Magog signify high or lifted up; a name well suiting both the prince and people. When that fierce leader of many nations shall appear, then will his own name be known. To gather them - Both Gog and his armies. Of Gog, little more is said, as being soon mingled with the rest in the common slaughter. The Revelation speaks of this the more briefly, because it had been so particularly described by Ezekiel. Whose number is as the sand of the sea - Immensely numerous: a proverbial expression.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, or the land - Filling the whole breadth of it. And surrounded the camp of the saints - Perhaps the gentile church, dwelling round about Jerusalem. And the beloved city - So termed, likewise, Ecclesiasticus 24:11.
And they - All these. Shall be tormented day and night - That is, without any intermission. Strictly speaking, there is only night there: no day, no sun, no hope!
And I saw - A representation of that great day of the Lord. A great white throne - How great, who can say? White with the glory of God, of him that sat upon it, - Jesus Christ. The apostle does not attempt to describe him here; only adds that circumstance, far above all description, From whose face the earth and the heaven fled away - Probably both the aerial and the starry heaven; which "shall pass away with a great noise." And there was found no place for them - But they were wholly dissolved, the very "elements melting with fervent heat." It is not said, they were thrown into great commotions, but they fled entirely away; not, they started from their foundations, but they " fell into dissolution;" not, they removed to a distant place, but there was found no place for them; they ceased to exist; they were no more. And all this, not at the strict command of the Lord Jesus; not at his awful presence, or before his fiery indignation; but at the bare presence of his Majesty, sitting with severe but adorable dignity on his throne.
And I saw the dead, great and small - Of every age and condition. This includes, also, those who undergo a change equivalent to death, Co1 15:51. And the books - Human judges have their books written with pen and ink: how different is the nature of these books! Were opened - O how many hidden things will then come to light; and how many will have quite another appearance than they had before in the sight of men! With the book of God's omniscience, that of conscience will then exactly tally. The book of natural law, as well as of revealed, will then also be displayed. It is not said, The books will be read: the light of that day will make them visible to all. Then, particularly, shall every man know himself, and that with the last exactness This will be the first true, full, impartial, universal history. And another book - Wherein are enrolled all that are accepted through the Beloved; all who lived and died in the faith that worketh by love. Which is the book of life, was opened - What manner of expectation will then be, with regard to the issue of the whole! Mal 3:16, &c.
Death and hades gave up the dead that were in them - Death gave up all the bodies of men; and hades, the receptacle of separate souls, gave them up, to be re - united to their bodies.
And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire - That is, were abolished for ever; for neither the righteous nor the wicked were to die any more: their souls and bodies were no more to be separated. Consequently, neither death nor hades could any more have a being.