“May sinners vanish from the earth and wicked people be no more.
My soul, bless the Lord!Hallelujah!” (Ps 104:35).
The Psalmist’s prayer and God’s eternal intention is finally realized in the final judgment act poured forth on the earth. God’s eternal purpose is finally realized when he is united with his people at the close of Revelation. There will be no more pain. In God’s presence, only glory remains.
Following the description of judgment pronounced upon the persecutor of God’s people and the those he utilized, there is a picture of praise in Heaven for the One who has vindicated his people. At an unannounced time, the final judgment occurs and the final vision of God’s just acts was described in pictorial language. For all who had wondered (6:10), God’s judgment has been poured forth and it is just “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” (19:2).
Chapter 19 records the spontaneous praise of the people before the “marriage supper of the Lamb and the church” is begun. John has given us a typical picture of a marriage feast from the ANE in which the couple would be greeted by the welcoming party just before the actual ceremony. Before the ceremony itself, God is praised for his judgments upon the wicked (19:1-2). At the ceremony God is praised for his judgments for his faithful (Rev. 19:6-10). Then the Holy Groom makes his appearance on a white horse symbolizing his defeat of his enemies (who also rode on white horses) and the victory of God. His robe is dipped in blood. Is this his own blood or the blood of his enemies? Perhaps this is his own blood which defeated his enemies. The blood is not wiped off because it is a glorious part of the victory.
The marriage feast was pictured as a covenant meal. Covenant meals always have in mind promises and punishment in the stipulations of the covenants. Those who keep the covenant enjoy the blessings while those who break the covenant suffer the punishments made by the covenant heads. The covenant meal image is utilized hear because of the marriage feast imagery. Since the wicked have broken the covenant stipulations, they will serve as the food for the covenant meal.
THE FINAL VISION—REVELATION 20-22
Revelation 20 begins a new vision. This is a recapitulation of everything that has been said before. It does not follow chapter 19 chronologically, this is a new vision. The fact that this is a new vision is marked by the angel coming down from heaven (20:1). This has been a regular marker of a new vision throughout Revelation.
The angel opens the bottomless pit in order to throw the persecutor of mankind into his place. The devil was described as the dragon (the mythical sea monster which terrorized God’s people in the OT), the ancient serpent (the tempter in the garden), and Satan (the accuser of mankind who afflicted Job). The devil’s work is limited during this time, but he will be loosed at the end of the age to afflict God’s people in ways similar to what he had done during the first stage of the church (20:3).
The faithful reigned with Christ during this time (which we are now in). About those who reign with Christ now, John wrote, “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (20:6). The thousand year reign is most likely figurative. John has already described his present situation as being in the tribulation and in the kingdom. There are not future tribulations and kingdoms prophesied on earth. There are also highly figurative elements in this immediate context as well as in the entire book of Revelation. The 1000 years is also part of the other figurative numerology which has been utilized throughout the book. If 1000 years is taken literally, then there are several interpretive difficulties which arise. It seems best to me for us to read the 1000 year reign of Christ as a figurative description of Jesus’s reign on earth between the resurrection and return.
The final defeat of Satan is pictured in 20:7-10. After the figurative millennial reign of Christ. The final battle is pictured as an intense time of spiritual warfare. The intensity of the battle should not befuddle God’s people. God judgment is predetermined and certain. We need not fear.
Finally, all that has been touched with sin is redeemed. The consummation of this marriage feast is pictured first as a reversal of creation “the earth and sky fled away” (20:11). Then the dead stand before God for judgment. This judgment is just—it is according to the books. Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire—punishment itself is punished. Those who were not saved are “thrown into the lake of fire” (21:5).
The saved enjoy the beauty of chapters 21-22 for God’s glory. The former creation has passed away (20:11) and God has a new dwelling place with his people (21:1-8). This new dwelling place is an improved Edenic experience for the redeemed. Finally, the bride of Christ makes her long awaited appearance at the marriage feast. The bride was pictured as the holy city—new Jerusalem. It’s boundaries are determined by God’s presence (21:15-21) and it is God’s presence which makes it to be beautiful in every way (21:22-27).
Chapter 22 begins with the Edenic scenery again. The eschatological temple promised in Ezekiel is finally a reality. The tree of life and the water of life nurture the people of God forever and ever. God’s people are therefore bearing fruit for him in this glorious new perfect reality.
The book closes with an exhortation to be a part of this new relationship and marriage through faithfulness (faithful worship 22:8, faithful to the Text 22:10, faithful ethics 22:11, faithful to their salvation 22:14). Three times we hear Jesus say “I am coming soon” (21:7, 12, 20). The invitation is extended for the readers to come soon in 21:17, “The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’” John likewise says, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20). The readers who, because of the trials of life, feared estrangement from God have been reassured of their relationship with God now and they are invited to the even better relationship experience after this life which they can enjoy through faith.