After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
3 Once more they cried out,
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.”
6 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,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 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;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 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. –Revelation 19:1-10 [ESV]
Chapter 18 of Revelation is a rehearsal of the fall of Babylon, symbolizing the complete demise of Satan’s kingdom and powers. It reads almost like one is gloating at Babylon’s downfall. And make no mistake, its downfall is horrific and cataclysmic. Complete and undeniable. Total and irrefutable. One after another judgment is pronounced in poetic form. It is a scathing judgment against all the powers, forces, conspirators, antagonists, and people who do not repent. They are utterly doomed. It is sad, and a difficult chapter for me to read.
Then come the hymns of praise to God in this chapter. Hallelujah! Again and again rings out the refrain, “Hallelujah!” Five times in these few verses goes up the shout, “Hallelujah!” And to make certain we get it, in verse 5 we have, “Praise our God!” There’s just a whole lot of praising going on. Paeans of praise have replaced laments of Judgment. Joy, delight, gladness, thanksgiving, honor, and glory have replaced gloom, despair, judgment, and damnation.
I have a theory about the meaning of the universe, and it has to do with God’s grace. In the end there will be a celebration of God’s grace. Paul writes of it in Ephesians 1:6-7 if you want to look it up. God’s justice and his righteous retribution is certainly a relief. It has been the focus of the previous two chapters or more. And even here, in the opening verses of this chapter, the justice of God is celebrated together with the vanquishing of all evil foes. But the final word is a word of praise to God because of his grace.
God has granted his bride to wear the fine white linen which symbolizes the righteous deeds of the saints. We wear these good works only by God’s grace. By his grace our sins have been washed away. Only our righteous deeds remain (cf. Matthew 25 where there is no mention of the sin and failures of the elect which are nevertheless common to all). By his grace we are permitted to put them on.
By God’s grace these righteous deeds are already prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). By God’s grace there is no more sin that clings, enslaves, weighs us down, and robs our joy. For all this we too join the cry, “Hallelujah! Praise our God!” Amen.