Before the praise begins, here's a recap of where we've been.
There have been seven years and seven seals and seven trumpets and seven bowls of wrath. Over and over again people have been given opportunity to repent, turn from their sin, and be saved. Many will believe and be saved. We've seen political and economic systems crumble and fall. We've seen people bow their knee to Christ. Many have been martyred for their faith. From chapter one to chapter eighteen, we've seen the judgment of God and the salvation of God.
We have turned a corner. Chapter nineteen begins the last of the seven visions of heaven. We are now ushered into heaven to hear hallelujahs and praise. There is an outpouring of joy. Economic and political systems have collapsed, as Jesus returns to establish his kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.
Before we look at the first ten verses of chapter nineteen, let's do a word study of a term that figures prominently here.
The word "Hallelujah" occurs only four times in the New Testament, all of them here in chapter nineteen. Heaven is filled with Hallelujahs. The word "Hallelujah" is made up of two Hebrew words. Halal means "praise," and Jah means "Yahweh." So "Hallelujah" means "Praise Yahweh."
As noted in verse one, God is praised for bringing salvation. And this is salvation in its broadest sense. It is personal deliverance, true, but it is more than that. Our Christian faith has always been about more than our personal feelings, experiences, and outcomes. This also celebrates the vindication of God's salvation plan set forth from before the foundation of the world. Remember, in earlier chapters, how the martyrs cried out, "How long, O Lord?" How long until their deaths are given meaning? How long until the wicked are punished? Here there is praise because God's entire redemptive program has come to fruition.
"Hallelujah" kicks things off with something you might want to write
WHILE THE DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD BRINGS LAMENT ON EARTH, IT BRINGS JOY TO HEAVEN.
While that sounds a bit odd, the only heavenly response to evil being crushed is an outburst of "Hallelujahs."
Turn with me now to verses one through ten:
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 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.”
Once more they cried out,
“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”
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,
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 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; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” -
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
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.” 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.
Evil fails. Right there in verse two…judgment and punishment. Everything corrupted by sin fails. That is a good thing. Why wouldn't you cry out "Hallelujah?"
And don't miss the emphatic nature of verse three. "The smoke from her goes up forever and ever." The smoke from what? The destruction of the great prostitute. Someone has called this phrase "a ghastly contrast with the incense of heaven." Here's a reminder of Revelation 5:8, "And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Quite the contrast with the
joyful worship in heaven. The smoke rising from the ash heap of history, while not literally smoldering forever and ever, does signal that the destruction of the wicked city is absolutely final. There is no turning back. There is no rebuilding. It is over and done. That's why the heavens cry out, "Hallelujah."
So, right from the start, there is rejoicing in heaven. An outburst of praise. Some might think it strange, maybe even a bit insensitive or cruel, to rejoice over this final and decisive calamity. Remember, Babylon has fallen. People who bear the mark of the beast have been utterly annihilated. Should this heavenly response be more subdued? Is it unloving? Absolutely not. Those in open rebellion against Jesus Christ were warned. God pleaded with them to turn from their wickedness. They had their opportunity to repent. They had their opportunity to believe. But they allowed themselves to be hardened into absolute and irreversible unbelief. We've all known people like that. They're proud atheists. They wear their rebellion like a badge of honor. It's as if atheism is their religion. Here in these first few verses, and it exists even today, we see people hardened into hatred of God and hatred of Jesus Christ.
And so heaven cries "Hallelujah," not because of damnation of the wicked, but because in righteous glory, Jesus Christ will remove all hard-hearted sinners from the world. Then will all of creation be restored to its lost glory. Heaven rejoices, not because of damnation. No pleasure is taken in the death of the wicked. Heaven rejoices singularly and solely over the coming glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Hallelujahs" ring out because Christ will be exalted as he returns to fill the earth with righteousness and wisdom and truth.
Think about it this way. We all know people who aren't devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They've heard the gospel. They've heard about Jesus, from many sources. Yet they remain in their rebelliousness. These include people you've known for a long time. You love them. They have rejected Jesus. Is it your fault? Is it the church's fault? There will be consequences for willful disbelief. When we stand in the presence of our glorious Lord and Savior, we will rejoice. We will sing "Hallelujah," not out of a sense of triumphalism because we're not the ones being punished. We know we did nothing to earn or deserve our place in glory. We will sing "Hallelujah" because what else could we possibly do?
Not only has God rained punishment down on tyrants but He has delivered victory to those whose names have been written in the Lamb's Book of Life. This observation from Charles Spurgeon is quite fitting:
"The battle and the storm, the strife and the victory, the depression and the uplifting, and all else that betides us in a varied and eventful life, shall help to make our eternal rest and glory the more sweet to us."
Let's finish up this morning with a second word study. Verse six says, "For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns." I love the Greek word translated Almighty. It is such a muscular word. "Pantokrator." It literally means one who holds all things in his control. How sweet is that? God, the Pantokrator, has established His universal reign on earth. So let us rejoice and be glad. The only other place in the New Testament where these two verbs are joined together - rejoice and exult - is Matthew 5:12:
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Those who persevere…no matter what they experience or go through
in life…the reward for their faithfulness to Jesus Christ is joyous happiness
in heaven. There is no hope or promise greater than that.
While awaiting our heavenly reward, what do we do? Verse eight gives direction. We engage in acts of faithful obedience. In other words, the transformed life leads to good deeds. Now, don't misunderstand. This does not deny what Paul said in Romans 5:18-19:
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
Verse eight suggests that believers are prepared for good works. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." So, until either we die or Christ returns, we are to be busy serving him with love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control.
Here's a paraphrase you might want to write down:
BELIEVERS ARE CREATED FOR DIVINELY PREPARED GOOD
Here's another to put it - "We are not saved by good works…We are saved for good works."
Finally, let's close with five quick reasons why heaven is rightfully jubilant.
Full Salvation Has Come.
Justice Is Meted Out.
Rebellion Has Ended.
God Is In Control.
The Church, The Bride, Has Been Joined To Christ, The Bridegroom.
HEAVENLY FATHER, KEEP US FAITHFUL TO YOU UNTIL EITHER WE DIE OR JESUS RETURNS. HELP US TO PURSUE THE RIGHTEOUS DEEDS OF THE SAINTS. WE REJOICE THAT SOMEDAY WE WILL BE JOINED TO OUR SAVIOR. UNTIL THAT DAY, KEEP US FAITHFUL, WE PRAY, FOR OUR SAVIOR'S SAKE. AMEN.