Read with Me

 Revelation 19:17-21 (HCSB)
Then I saw an angel standing on the sun, and he cried out in a loud voice, saying to all the birds flying high overhead, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of commanders, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of their riders, and the flesh of everyone, both free and slave, small and great.”
Then I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and against His army. But the beast was taken prisoner, and along with him the false prophet, who had performed the signs in his presence. He deceived those who accepted the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image with these signs. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword that came from the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

Listen with Me

As in many apocalyptic visions, this one has both a near and a far-off meaning. This battle shows the faceoff between the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus, the all-powerful Son of God on one side, and the dragon, satan, on the other.

The battle is fought both on a spiritual level and on a physical level, with the human followers of the dragon, the beast, the prophet, and all the kings who had aligned themselves against God’s people being those who will be soundly defeated, and whose flesh will provide the food for the banquet announced by the angel in the sun.

In John’s day, this great battle symbolized the battle between God’s heavenly forces and the Roman Empire, a battle that Rome would ultimately lose. In that sense, this is the culmination and complete fulfillment of every vision that has been presented thus far in this letter.

But there is also a sense in which this scene points forward to the final battle between the dragon and the forces of heaven. Like the battle John was seeing unfolding around him in real time, this ultimate battle will involve God’s response to the persecution of His people and the large-scale destruction of the proxies of the dragon, the enemies of God’s kingdom. But unlike the battle at that time, the final battle will not be regional, but global in scale, signaling the final end of Satan and his ungodly influence in the world.

At the conclusion of this great spiritual battle, all the kings who put their trust in Rome and its power will be cast down along with her. And the beast, the leadership of the empire embodied in the emperor, and the false prophet, the whole cult of emperor worship embodied in the pagan priesthood, will be thrown into the lake of fire. This is not a temporary holding cell, but their eternal destiny where they will be tormented constantly and forever (Revelation 20:10).

Pray with Me

Father, these images of the defeat of all those who stand against Your kingdom and Your people would definitely have encouraged those who were suffering in John’s day. But it should also have struck terror into the hearts of all those who had aligned themselves with the dragon, the beast, and the false prophets. Sadly, those who had invested themselves deeply in those people and that system for the benefits they received were so deceived about the power and ability of those with whom they had aligned themselves that they could not see the danger until it was too late. Lord, help us to be encouraged by this picture as well. Wherever Your people are persecuted and killed by the power structures that are raised up against them by the dragon and those whom he deceives, even if it is a whole global government, You will prevail and Your people will be able to stand firm and keep moving forward. Thank You for that solid promise. Amen.