Read Revelation 19
Again we hear from the great multitude in heaven as they worship God over the defeat of Babylon the Great. Chapter 19 marks an extremely important event in salvation history, one that is rivaled only by Christ’s death and resurrection. The defeat of Satan, along with the beast, the false prophet, and all the sin that is symbolized by Babylon is what has been foretold since the very beginning. God’s judgment against sin, as well as the punishment that comes along with it, is just and is a true revelation of the character of God.
People often ask the question, “how could a ‘loving’ God condemn so many people to eternal punishment?” Indeed, this is a good question, one that makes little sense on the surface. But God doesn’t condemn all people to punishment, despite our deserving of it. A loving God that gave no one a chance after the fall would be a much more difficult thing to understand. The pages of Scripture reveal the love of God in the grace and salvation that He offers through His Son Jesus who, through His life, death, and resurrection, conquered sin. Without Jesus, there is no way to God, no offer of salvation, and no reconciliation. What we see in this moment is a celebration of the ultimate revelation of God’s truthfulness, faithfulness, and love.
You may be wondering how we see that here as we mark the defeat of sin and evil. Simply put, we see it here because God accomplishes exactly what He said He was going to do. Think about it this way, if a parent threatens punishment for something that their children do repeatedly but never follows through, then that parent is made out to be a liar and their threats are meaningless. The parent doesn’t want to punish the child, but the punishment is necessary (as I’m sure any parent knows).
Others bring up the subject of fairness and justice of the discipline and punishment in this conversation, which is also something to consider. However, if the rules are clearly laid out as they are in the Bible, and the consequences are also clearly defined as they are throughout Scripture, then fairness is, one again, God following through on what He has clearly communicated. To not do so would make God either a liar, which is counter to what we know about God as being completely true, or incapable of following through or carrying out the punishment that was forewarned, making Him somehow less than all powerful which is also counter to what we know about God.
And what of those who have listened to the Word of God and have followed Jesus as their Savior? Those who speak of fairness are often those who desire the benefits of salvation without “burdening” themselves with the “work” of faith. The contrast of results is indeed fair and just, even though no punishment seems fair at the time one is being punished. If there is no difference in the outcome, why does one’s actions in the present matter? Once again, what we see here is the true revelation of God’s character on an eternal and universal scale.
With all heaven and earth watching, God works through the mighty warrior on the white horse to go out and strike the final blow, win the final victory and had been initiated in Jesus’ death and resurrection. This warrior, who is undoubtedly Jesus as He was revealed at the beginning of Revelation, captures the beast as well as the false prophet, and “strikes down” all the enemies of God with the sword coming out of His mouth. Remember that the sword represents the “Word of God” that comes from the mouth of God and is “sharper than any double-edged sword.”
This too is important because it reveals that God doesn’t simply go out and destroy anyone He pleases, but it is the Word of God that convicts the enemies of God. The same Word is that which justifies and brings to salvation those who stand with God in this moment and celebrate the victory over Satan and all those who oppose God.
One thing that I think is interesting to notice is what happens in the final battle. We had been given a glimpse of this before, seeing the armies of God and the armies of the Beast line up for war. Yet, at the climactic moment when the battle is supposed to begin, the Beast is captured and the enemies of God destroyed. The people of God do no fighting, Jesus does it all. I think this is notable because it shows truly where they power of God really lies, not in the might of an army, not in the tactics of battle, or in the number of the multitude present, but in the strength and power of Jesus Christ alone.
In the time that John was writing this, a vision of God’s power in this way would have been powerful for the Christians were experiencing extreme persecution. Their strength and power and hope, as well as ours, in the face of everything that would seek to destroy us is found only in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.