Revelation – the end…or the beginning… Rev 19 – Wedding Feast
What would you do with a billion dollars? That’s a lot of money. Don’t we all wish this wasn’t a theoretical question but something we had to seriously ask ourselves and wrestle with! What should I do with this billion dollars sitting here? Hmmm… Would you invest it? Buy your dream home-or buy multiple dream homes? Buy a yacht, go on a long vacation, quit your job (that’s a given!), maybe buy a small island somewhere, or even give lots of money to charity and try to make a difference in the world. There’s countless ways to spend a billion dollars-but would you spend it on one day? Not spend it all in one day-like you bought the house, the yacht and the island all in the same day-but spend it on one day, for one day? Well that’s exactly what one couple did back in March of 2016-exaclty 5 years ago-they spent a billion dollars on their wedding. It was actually the groom’s father who spent the money-Russian billionaire and oil tycoon, Mikhael Gutseriev-and it was actually closer to $1.3 billion. Just try to imagine that! I don’t think any of us could even come close to the .3 for a wedding. But his son the groom was 28, the bride was a 20 year old dentistry student, and the wedding took place in Moscow. Apparently the wedding dress itself cost over $25,000-and was so embellished with beads it weighed 28 pounds! Can you imagine that! They said she needed help moving in it! But the bulk of the money was of course spent on the reception-here’s a few pictures. This is incredible-and then for entertainment there was a variety of famous performances from Sting, Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias-and then the night ended with their own personal fireworks show. Wouldn’t you want to be a guest at this wedding-they said the cake was taller than the guests! That’s a lot of cake! But what a feast and celebration! A billion dollars for one wedding reception-it boggles our minds-who would do such a thing!
And yet as we come to the next section in Revelation this morning we are going to literally read about a wedding reception that far surpasses this one. We’re going to read about a wedding reception with far more grandeur, far more elegance and luxury and celebration and rejoicing which makes this one look like a backyard BBQ. Because the father paying for this reception isn’t just a billionaire oil tycoon-but our Father in Heaven who made and created the entire universe. And the groom is His perfect Son and our Savior Jesus Christ. This wedding reception has been a long time in coming-and when we turn to Rev 19 it’s finally here-Rev 19:9. Not blessed are those invited to a billion dollar wedding-although I’m sure none of us would turn that invitation down. Who wouldn’t want to attend a billion dollar wedding reception and enjoy all that fine food and luxury-but ironically so many people do turn down this wedding reception. So many people hear this invite, they get the save the date card and ignore it. They brush it aside and don’t bother to rsvp. But for all who do hear it and respond-there is a celebration that’s coming which is so incredible all else pales in comparison-because this is the feast of the ages. This is the wedding history has been waiting throughout the centuries-because let me say this-the beginning of God’s kingdom is described by one image-a wedding reception. What more celebratory event is there in our world than that? What’s the best part of a wedding? What do people most enjoy-the reception! Where is there more fun than when friends and family are all gathered together, dressed up, eating a sprawling feast of fine foods and dancing the night away, all to celebrate the relationship of the Bride and Groom. And that’s what describes the beginning of God’s kingdom-when the Bride who is the church-meaning believers, are forever joined to the Groom who is Christ our Savior. That is the cause for the greatest wedding celebration ever!
But before the wedding bells begin to sound, the funeral of the world begins. If you remember from last week we left off with a big rock-Rev 18:21-22a. All the music is now being saved for the wedding feast of the Lamb-because for Babylon it’s nothing but silence and despair as it sinks to the bottom of the sea. And we said that Babylon wasn’t necessarily an actual city that will be rebuilt and rise up in the end times-but instead represents the world’s system of politics, power, philosophy and false religion all rolled into one. That Babylon is the culmination of the world’s achievements begun way back in Genesis with the tower of Babel. But here at the end of the world, at the end of the bowls of God’s judgement, Babylon is destroyed and wiped out, never to return. It’s like if you literally picked up a rock from the beach and threw it into the water and thought-wonder if I can go get that rock back? No way-once it’s sunk in the sea it’s gone-you’re not going to fish it out or determine which rock it was-it’s lost for good. And that’s the image of the world-by rebelling against God and rejecting the saving message of the gospel it’s lost for good. And that can’t be more clearly stated than in Rom 6:23. That’s what each of us has to wrestle with in our lives-the result of my sins, the wages of my sin is death-but if I turn to Jesus and trust Him the gift I receive is eternal life. That’s the gospel-and it’s a thought you have to wrestle with and decide to believe in-but one day it’s no longer a thought but a destination. Because the death being talked about is the funeral of Babylon when this world ends for all who reject the gospel-and the eternal life being talked about is the marriage feast of the Lamb when God’s kingdom begins. Everyone’s headed to 1 of 2 destinations-either a funeral or a wedding; something silent and somber, or something joyous and festive-but there’s nothing in-between.
So take at how this contrast unfolds in our main passage this morning-Rev 19:1. Now this is joyous-because the great multitude includes all the believers from the past who’ve died in this life-all who’ve gone before us, it includes believers who’ve been raptured by Jesus during the Tribulation (and we talked about that earlier in this series about when), and it includes all the believers who’ve come to faith and died during the Tribulation. So this is the great assembly of God’s people in His presence. And they’re doing exactly what you think they ought to be doing-which is praising God for his salvation, power and glory. And just think about that for a minute because we do it all the time on this earth to a far lesser degree-isn’t this the very way we praise our favorite sports team? They’re powerful on the field as they play, they brought us glory by winning the championship, and they saved the day when we thought we were going to lose-they made a huge comeback-it was awesome! So we praise our favorite team-at least until next season when they start to lose and then we complain-these guys are terrible-we’ve got to make some trades! But in heaven there is zero complaining-and complete praise to God for His salvation and glory and power-and it’s initiated by that famous word-Hallelujah! It’s a Hebrew word that literally means Praise the Lord-and interesting enough-it’s only found 4 times in the NT-all in this chapter! Have you ever realized that before? Hallelujah is used lots of times in the OT-particularly in the Psalms-but here in the NT it doesn’t show up until now when the systems of the world have ended and God’s kingdom has begun. As if heaven is saying-Now we can finally say this word because the wickedness of the world is no more.
And that’s exactly how it’s used the first time in this chapter-Rev 19:1-2. And we saw the identity of that prostitute last week as Babylon was riding atop the Beast. The systems of the world have led people astray into idolatry and sin, into an immoral, unfaithful relationship with the world-just as a prostitute does. And because Babylon has done that and seduced the nations of the world to love her and reject God-she is now receiving her just punishment-hence the funeral of Babylon-and that’s the reason for Hallelujah #1:God’s judgement: is just-sin mocks God. The praises of heaven, the praise of believers, begins by recognizing how God is just and true-and not unfair or mean. Now people often think God’s mean and struggle in being comfortable with how harsh and severe His judgements are-and these judgments in Revelation are really severe-from the boils to the locusts to the earthquakes to the 100 lb hailstones! I don’t think we should ever be comfortable with them-but we have to recognize that they are perfectly just and true. And the reason-which we often forget-is because sin mocks God. We tend to think of sin as no big deal. As long as no one noticed, or no one got hurt or the consequences weren’t too bad, we think we got away with something. And at it’s core-that’s what sin is-God, you’ve said not to do this-but I’m going to do it anyway because I want to-and the happiness I get out of this is far better than any consequences it might bring. Every time we sin we’re mocking God’s authority and holiness, thinking we know better and ought to be the ones making the rules, not Him. Every time we persist in sin we think we’re getting away with it-assuming God’s too busy to notice or care. I like what one author says-Babylon has exercised stolen power in God’s world, but power belongs to God alone. Have you ever thought about it that way? God made the world to be ruled by men and women who follow Him-Adam and Eve would have been the first and then humanity down through the centuries. But Babylon stole that power and tried to rule herself. Babylon thought she got away with it. The world today thinks it’s getting away with sin. Terrible things are taking place as people completely ignore and suppress the reality of God. We’re the ones who make the rules and define what’s right and wrong! But in the end nobody gets away with sin-nobody defines right and wrong but God alone-and so all wrongdoing and sin will be justly punished. And that’s what God’s people in heaven are praising Him for.
Look at their next round of praise-Rev 19:3. Back to those words harsh and severe. God’s judgement is harsh and severe-and yet that’s the nature of their praise. I think being in God’s presence in heaven is where we finally see how bad sin really is. We just got done saying that all sin mocks God, all sin is an affront to His holy character. And here on earth we don’t often see that-even as believers. We smirk at sin and laugh about it and accept it as normal. Our vision is cloudy as we struggle with our own sin. Not until heaven, when God’s transforming work is complete in us will we really understand how bad it is. In His presence we’ll finally see how infinitely holy and perfect God is, how He gave the most infinite price to pay for our sins in His Son Jesus, and so anyone who’s rejected that has to spend an infinite amount of time paying it themselves-v. 3-4. Their punishment smolders infinitely-and yet it’s praiseworthy! What a contrast. But we’ve said it before-you can either trust in Jesus to pay for your sins which took Him 3 hours on the cross, or you can spend all of eternity trying to pay for your sins yourself-but either way somebody pays. So if you reject Jesus and leave it to yourself-then Hallelujah #2-3:The World’s punishment: is fair-a man reaps what he sows. The world has rejected the eternal hope of Jesus, so now it has an eternal punishment to bear. It is harsh and severe-and it makes me think of some of the harsh and severe teachers I had in my life-Mrs. Fixmer for 7th grade English-and she’d fix you if you were messing around! I experienced it-she was harsh and severe-but completely fair. And that’s exactly the case with God. His punishments-no matter how severe-are praiseworthy because they’re fair. This last point comes from Gal 6:7-8. And that’s the difference between the funeral of Babylon and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. One group has sown to the flesh and is now receiving destruction, the other has sown to the Spirit and is receiving eternal life. And because of that God’s people are full of praise. God is going to set all things right in the end. Injustice will not endure. The destruction of the innocent won’t continue. The wicked won’t be rewarded while the righteous get punished. God’s goodness will endure. For those who’ve rejected Christ, their evil will be punished-and punished severely. For those who’ve received Christ, the grace they’ve been given will be celebrated-and celebrated joyously.
Look at the final Hallelujah in the Bible-the best is saved for last-Rev 19:6-7. The funeral lament for Babylon turns into a distant memory, because the wedding bells of the Lamb are ringing forth. And this imagery of a wedding has been used throughout Scripture. I want to take a quick journey on this. If you think back to the days of Abraham God initiated a covenant with Him promising that Abraham would have a son and be the father of a great nation which would bless the whole world. That son was Isaac, and the nation was of course Israel-and under Moses’ time God established His people with a set of vows for the covenant at Mt Sinai-those being the 10 Commandments. These were were sort of like the wedding vows-and the nation of Israel was in a sense God’s bride-but unfortunately we know how the story goes-because it wasn’t long before Israel grumbled against God, they turned to idolatry and worshipped the gods of the other nations and violated His commands. Israel broke her marriage vows to her husband. So God had every right to divorce her-Israel was unfaithful to Him so why should He be faithful to her? But then a prophet comes along called Hosea-a good, God-fearing man. And of all things God told him to go and get married-that’s great-but He said marry a prostitute. You might be wondering what in the world. If you’re Hosea you’re wondering if you heard God correctly-or did you get your signals crossed-should’t I look for someone better? But follow this thread-Hosea 1:2-3. This was to be that beautiful picture of how God would never forsake His bride, no matter how bad she became-Hosea 2:16, 21. This marriage isn’t going to be broken, God’s saying. Despite His bride’s unfaithfulness, God would always be faithful-Hosea 3:1. That’s the picture God wanted to drive home-His love for His people despite their sin and idolatry-and that’s never changed. God continues to always love His people-and we continue in sin and idolatry despite His love.
And that’s what brings us to the NT when Jesus makes a very interesting statement-Matt 9:14-15. At that moment the Bridegroom is here-and Jesus is calling Himself the Bridegroom. What God told Hosea to illustrate by marrying Gomer, Jesus lives out and fulfills by coming to earth. And what is more-where did Jesus perform His first miracle? At a wedding reception! The groom was on the verge of being humiliated by running out of wine and ruining the party-so Mary tells Jesus to do something-and He turns the water into wine-John 2:9-10. This bridegroom is honored not embarrassed; the wedding reception isn’t ruined, in fact it’s greatly enhanced and now full of even more joy-all because the real Bridegroom is there. Jesus’ very first miracle saves a wedding reception. That wasn’t a coincidence at all. Instead it was a tiny glimpse of where this all culminates-Rev 19:6-7, 9. None of us were at the first wedding reception Jesus saved-but all of us can be at this wedding reception if we’ve trusted in Him to save us. Have you responded to His invitation? Hallelujah #4:The Son’s Wedding Reception: is joyous-Jesus is forever united with His followers. Earthly marriages, earthy weddings exist in order to point us to this-the heavenly reality of the eternal marriage; the eternal relationship of Christ and His people. What did Paul say-Eph 5:25; 31-32. If you’re married, or plan to be married one day-it exists to reveal this mystery. Your marriage is a telescope pointing to this infinite relationship between Christ and the church, between Jesus and His followers. And that relationship begins the moment you turn to Jesus. When sinners are saved a binding relationship is formed with Jesus, it’s sealed by the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts-and it’s fulfilled on that day when the world ends and God’s kingdom begins with that great wedding reception. Back to Pt4. The big question-does that include you? Are you one of His followers? Look back at Rev 19:7. Are you ready?
Now weddings and engagements are different today than they were back then. Today a couple is engaged-and then maybe they wait 6 months or year before getting married-or maybe they don’t want to wait at all and elope and go to Vegas to married. Back then the engagement was known as the betrothal period-and it was far more official and binding than engagements today. Both sets of parents signed a contract, a bridal price was paid to the father, arrangements would be made for the ceremony-but it could be a long time in coming. Because the groom would then go and prepare the couple’s future home during their betrothal-and then didn’t come for his bride until it was complete. Wouldn’t that be great today-you ask the father for her daughter’s hand in marriage and he hands you a hammer and says build her a house! That’s what would happen back then until one day when the home was complete-and the bridegroom would then come for His bride at her old home who would be eagerly waiting with her bridesmaids because once he arrived for her the wedding ceremony could begin with the reception to follow. And right now we are in that waiting period in human history. Because what is Jesus the Bridegroom doing-He’s got His hammer and He’s working away-John 14:3. Jesus is building and preparing that home for His future bride, the church. And’s He’s been gone over 2,000 years-but that doesn’t mean He’s forgotten or isn’t coming. It means that future home is amazing and requires a lot of construction! Because one day He will return for all who’ve trusted in Him-and when He does the great wedding reception of the ages, the marriage feast of the Lamb will occur. But again the big question-does that include you? Pt5:The Bride’s Preparation: is necessary-are you ready or have you fallen asleep?
Look at one last passage-it’s a story that Jesus tells about this very question-Matt 25:1-13. The Bridegroom is coming-that’s not the question-will He or won’t He arrive. The question is whether you will be wise or foolish in preparing for His arrival? Will you be ready-or will you get a bit drowsy and sleepy? Grow a bit complacent or become apathetic? Maybe you’ll put off your spiritual life and think they’ll be time to get serious in the future, but not right now? Maybe you’ll succumb to the world’s thinking that this is all there is and put your hope in the here and now-and not in what’s to come? Maybe you’ll feel like Jesus is never returning or that it’s some old myth that you struggle to believe in? There’s a lot of ways we can be like those unprepared and unwise bridesmaids who were caught off guard. This is the entire reason Jesus is telling this story-so that no one is caught off guard. Back to Pt5. Because the reality is that one day Jesus will return for His bride. One day Jesus is coming for His people, to take all who’ve trusted Him and follow Him back to His new home where there’s going to be a marriage feast like never before. But for all who aren’t ready the door will be shut and they’ll miss it. For all who haven’t surrendered to Jesus and put their faith in Him, for all who haven’t prepared their hearts there won’t be an invite to the reception. Going all the way back to where we started this morning-none of us would turn down the invite or opportunity to attend a billion dollar wedding-that would be the event of a lifetime not to miss. You’d want to tell all your friends about it-going to a billion dollar wedding! Let us not miss the opportunity of this wedding feast-because it’s not just a billion dollars-but the destiny of our souls, the place we’ll dwell for all eternity! I close with these great words that highlight how incredible this wedding is-Hamilton, 351. Are you ready for it? Will you be there? What’s your response? No-I’m too busy right now to be bothered about that? Or-yes I will?