Come to the Feast!
I found it useful to compare at least three prior Biblical images with Revelation 19. The first, in Joshua 5:13-15, refers to the time when Joshua was about to lead the Israelites into battle to conquer the Promised land for the Israelites. He is met at his camp by a man with a drawn sword. When challenged about being either friend or foe, he responds that he is the captain of the armies of God (what we would now call a General), and that he is now standing on holy ground. The statement about standing on holy ground is the same as what God had told Moses from the burning bush. Joshua responds by worshipping and asking what he can do to serve Him. The drawn sword represents God’s intent to conquer on behalf of His chosen people as He had promised them centuries before.
The second and third Biblical images are related to each other and are found in Daniel 2:31-45 and Matthew 21:33-46. In Daniel, God has promised to destroy the idol representing Gentile world-dominating empires by crushing its last incarnation with a “stone not cut out by human hands.” This stone would crush the Gentile empires to a powder, then fill up the whole world with God’s Kingdom. In Matthew Jesus is essentially telling the Jewish religious and civil rulers that their rule would also come to a similar end by similar means. Each of these prophetic words suggest that only Jesus’ true followers, whether Israelite or Gentile, will have a place in the new order to come. Matthew 22 follows, beginning with the parable of the great wedding supper invitation.
Here is an irony. Nebuchadnezzar’s response is to worship the messenger. The response of the Jewish leaders is to try to kill the messenger. John ends up trying to do the same as Nebuchadnezzar in Rev. 19:10 after he hears a similar proclamation.
The sword of the rider of the white horse in Revelation 19:11-16, while seemingly coming out of his mouth, is certainly not in a sheath. It gives “an edge,” as it were, to the proclamations of the destruction of Babylon the Great in Revelation 18. As the Commander of the Armies of the Lord, Jesus has come to conquer on behalf of His saints to establish them in peace and security in a world He has reclaimed for His own proper abode. Not even the gates of hell are going to be able to stand up against this Conqueror!
The Beast and False Prophet are cast into the lake of fire, and all of their minions are killed by the sword of the rider of the white horse. Interestingly enough, He seems to do all the fighting, just like in the days of Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah in ancient Israel. His robe is dipped in blood, but His armies wear the “armour” of simple white linen.
Revelation 19 begins with two great responses by the heavenly armies to the announcements of the destruction of Babylon the Great. The first, 19:1-4 is about God’s justice in avenging His martyred saints. The second, 19:6-9 is a praise proclamation with a choral-like response of the multitude that becomes an invitation to join the great marriage supper of the Lamb to the Bride who has made herself ready (the saints as a whole body of believers). (The marriage imagery is straight out of prophetic commentary about Israel’s covenant-relationship with Yahweh, such as Jer. 31:32 and Is. 54:5) Like the parable in Matt. 22, those rejected by the world are the “guests of honour” (actually, the bride) at the wedding.
Meeting a far different fate, however, are Jesus’ adversaries – those who murder and persecute Jesus’ emissaries. John ironically invites the birds of the air to attend “the great supper of God.” (19:17-18) Those who worshipped the Beast and its image are “invited” for the main course.
So, for the original readers of this letter in the seven churches John once again offers the choice. The invitation to the Banquet is out. Who are you going to be? Bride or buffet?
What about us, today?