The most well-known and recognizable piece within the musical masterpiece Handel’s Messiah is the “Hallelujah Chorus.”[1] Even if you’ve never heard this chorus or any of the composition before, or have just heard parts of it, it’s highly likely you’ve heard the famous chorus before in a movie or on TV. Within the chorus itself the word ‘hallelujah’ appears 56 times! Now, you could perhaps make the mistake of thinking Handel was inspired and influenced by the Psalms to write this, but he wasn’t. Where then did he get his inspiration? Our text this evening, Revelation 19 where we see a vast multitude resounding in praise to God singing one hallelujah after another. Those hallelujah’s will be our focus this evening.

Let’s think about this word briefly.[2] The word ‘hallelujah’ is one of the few words that has passed from the original Hebrew directly to English. It’s a combination of two Hebrew words. Hallel the Hebrew verb meaning to praise, and Yahwhich is short for Yahweh, put them together and you have hallelujah, or ‘Praise the Lord.’ Knowing how prominent this word is do you know it only shows up in the Bible in two places? It occurs twenty-four times in the Psalms and four times in Revelation, all in chapter 19. And more so, the word hallelujah is present in the last line of the Psalms and is present in the last grouping of songs in Revelation. Because of that many view the end of the Psalms and the end of Revelation as parallel passages. Just as Israel’s praise to God closes with God’s people singing “Hallelujah” to God, so too the New Israel of God, the Church, at the end of time will once again be singing “Hallelujah” to God.

But, the great question as we approach Revelation 19 is this: why is this vast multitude singing these hallelujah’s to God? To answer that question we need to go to the text. There are four hallelujah’s in chapter 19, tonight we’ll look at three of them and, Lord willing, we’ll look at the fourth one next week.

First Hallelujah (v1-2)

“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.”

John begins by once again saying “After this…” indicating this great multitude he heard in heaven crying out praises came after the visions of chapter 17 and 18 about the destruction of the mystery woman who is Babylon. While you could interpret chapter 19 as a new section beginning for John it really isn’t. Rather v1-5 serves not only as a continuation of chapters 17-18, but as the conclusion of chapters 17-18.[3] We’ll see why in just a moment.

Notice first, the praises of this multitude in v1, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…” Their praise attributes three things to God: salvation, glory, and power because these things belong to and come to God’s people from God and God alone. These three words are rich with meaning, such that you cut any of them open and the other two come flowing forth. So, what do we behold in the salvation God brings? God’s glory and power. Or, in what do we behold in God’s glory the brightest? God’s salvation and power. Or, what reveals the power of God the clearest? God’s salvation and glory. Man might be able to be a kind of savior to others in various ways, men may have a kind of glory or power to boast of, but insofar as they exist within us they’re nothing but shadows of the true reality found only in God. It is then, entirely fitting and right to give this kind of praise to God.

In 1907 Herman Bavinck said the Holy Spirit was given so that man would see these exact things and praise God for them. He said, “The Spirit of God was poured out precisely so that the Church would come to know the wonderful works of God, to glory in them, and thank and praise God for them.”[4] Blaise Pascal would use this truth to describe the miserableness of man saying man longs for truth but is false by nature, pants for eternal bliss but seizes on the pleasure of the moment, and seeks for our Creator but finds his rest in the creature.[5] But what a scene before us in v1 here. These are not miserable men, but satisfied men. The Spirit has been poured out on them, they’ve seen, gloried in, and are caught up in praising God for who He is and what He has done. They long for truth and prove true by their praise. They pant for eternal bliss and seize upon God the fountain of it. They are keenly aware of the great difference between the Creator and the creature, and are rejoicing that there is no God like God, and there is no God but God.

Notice second, the reason for the praises of the multitude in v2, “…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.” Why does the great multitude cry out in praise in v1? Because the true and just judgment of God has come. Now we see why 19:1-5 is a continuation and conclusion of the past two chapters, because the mystery woman who is the city of Babylon, who deceived the nations into drinking the wine of her immorality (chpt. 17), has not only fallen (chpt. 18), now she is judged because she has corrupted the earth and killed the saints. God gives back to her what she doled out to His Bride, the Church, and by doing so He avenges the blood of His servants who’ve been crying out around the throne (6:10-11).

Do not miss what’s plain to see here. In the end God will be praised and glorified for two reasons: saving His people and judging the wicked.[6] These two realities are connected, because God saves His people by bringing judgment onto His enemies. In this lies a great test of whether a Christian is true or false: do you find this agreeable? Or does the thought of God receiving praise for judging the wicked something you find embarrassing or appalling? No doubt the world surely thinks its awful, and embarrassing is probably the least they think of this. They’d prefer to say a God being glorified for judgment is horrid, unfair, even vindictive.[7] They say this even though they ironically cry out for justice again and again when they see injustices occur. Why do they cry out for justice? Because it’s ingrained within us to desire it. But when you’re blinded to the reality and beauty of God the desire for justice and how it should come and where it should come from is bent out of whack. The saints, though, are not blinded to the beauty of God, and thus we have a different opinion on the matter. It might be cloudy to us now on this side of eternity because we’re still battling our sinful disposition. But when the very presence of sin is gone and we for the first time in our existence see God as we ought to, without hindrance – without limitation, we’ll see His judgment, understand it, conclude God to be just and true, and praise God for it. So if you see this and grow uncomfortable, perhaps you do so because you’ve allowed worldly wisdom to shape your thoughts about sin and God and judgment instead of God’s Word.[8] After all, wouldn’t God be unjust is He did not bring Babylon to judgment?[9]

This should not only sober us here and now, but comfort us here and now. This world often dupes into thinking it is always making great progress to brighter ends and a more glorious future. But is it? No, and this text reminds us of that. The world is progressing, yes, it’s progressing toward destruction, and all those who buy into worldly thinking and live according to worldly ways will go to destruction with it.[10]

What is the proper response to this? Hallelujah!

Second Hallelujah (v3)

“Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

This second shout of hallelujah is very similar to what we just saw in v2, but this time the language used is a bit more graphic. As the mystery woman, as Babylon, is destroyed smoke will rise forever and ever. In hearing this you’d be right to go back to Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 19 as God destroyed those wicked cities it said smoke rose to the heavens like the smoke of a furnace (Gen. 19:28). And later on Isaiah would speak the same way about God’s judgment against Edom saying in Isaiah 34:10, “Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever.” John uses this language because these former judgments of God against Sodom, Gomorrah, and Edom are ancient foreshadows of what will occur on a cosmic scale as God pours out His judgment on His enemies in the end. And as before, this reminds us of the end of all sin. It may promise all kinds of life, pleasure, and satisfaction but in the end it all comes to death. Lesson? First, you will always regret giving yourself over to the world and its ways. Second, you will never regret giving yourself over to Christ and His commands.

I ask again, what is the proper response to this? Hallelujah!

Third Hallelujah (v4-5)

“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.”

Now the twenty-four elders and four living creatures we’ve seen before in Revelation join the great multitude and bring their hallelujah to the chorus of the redeemed. After this it keeps amping up as a voice comes out from the throne with a call to praise. Earlier I mentioned how the word hallelujah is one of the few words to come from Hebrew straight over to the English, well here we see another of those words, amen. This is a word of whole-hearted agreement, so that when it comes out of the mouth one is in effect saying “May it be so!” or “Yes, that is true!” So, that amen is coupled here with hallelujah makes a wondrously robust expression of praise to God not only by agreeing with God in His judgment but by praising God for it! But this is not the only time when these two words, amen and hallelujah, are coupled together. In Psalm 106:47-48 we find this, “Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to Your holy name and glory in Your praise. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, ‘Amen! Hallelujah!’” What a passage right? Giving thanks to God and glorying in His praise? The covenant community of old boasted in this way, and here we see the covenant community in the end will boast this way as well! May this be said of us here in the in between. Once again I ask…

What is the proper response to this? Hallelujah!

Conclusion:

Three takeaways for us as I wrap this passage up.[11]

First, notice the timing of the hallelujahs. They come after the judgment not before. This is important to notice. While we will be caught up in praise to God as He brings and after He brings His judgment to pass, we’re to be caught up in witness before He brings His judgment to pass. As long as unbelievers are alive, as long a worldly governments and systems reign in this world, the Church is to be active in spreading the message of the gospel from shore to shore, diligently laboring and pleading with God to add more and more souls to the chorus of the redeemed.

Second, God’s judgments are just. The punishment of Babylon, and all the worldly minded, here in our text is like the punishment of Nazi Germany. Anytime an evil empire falls and is destroyed the response ought to be one of rejoicing.

Third, when God brings His judgment to pass remember that means salvation for the saints, relief and rest for those made righteous by Christ, and freedom for all those forgiven.

So for the last time I ask…what is the proper response to this? Hallelujah!


[1] Joel Beeke, Revelation: The Lectio Continua: Expository Commentary on the New Testament (Reformation Heritage Books, 2017), 471–72.

[2] Richard D. Phillips, Revelation (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2017), 521–22.

[3] G. K. Beale and David Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary (Eerdmans, 2015), 399.

[4] Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (Glenside, Pennsylvania: Westminster Seminary Press, 2019) xxxi.

[5] Blaise Pascal, quoted in Bavinck, 6-7.

[6] Phillips, Revelation, 524.

[7] Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, First Edition (Phillipsburg, N.J: P&R Publishing, 2001), 261.

[8] Phillips, Revelation, 527.

[9] Dennis E. Johnson and Robert L. Plummer, ESV Expository Commentary: Hebrews-Revelation, ed. Iain M. Duguid, Hamilton Jr James M., and Jay Sklar (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018), 713.

[10] Beeke, Revelation, 472–73.

[11] Johnson and Plummer, ESV Expository Commentary: Hebrews-Revelation, 714.

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