The marriage supper in Revelation 19
In the gospels, and in Revelation, Jesus is described as the bridegroom, and the Church is his bride. The marriage supper is featured in the parable of the ten virgins, [Matt. 25:1-13] and in a parable about the wedding garment. [Matt. 22:1-14] In Revelation 19, the marriage of the Lamb is announced:
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
Christ rides a white horse, and those who follow him also ride on white horses.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
A sharp sword goes out of Christ’s mouth.
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
The following is a commentary on this verse: (from Augustus Clissold, The spiritual exposition of the Apocalypse v. 4. p. 324-325);—
Pareus, Apocalypse, chap. xix., p. 491;—
“This Captain hath only a sword (very sharp indeed), not in his hand, but in his mouth; which shews that it is no material sword, which is guided not with the mouth, but the hand. Therefore this spiritual sword, proceeding out of the mouth of the Captain, if we respect the time next going before the last judgment, what is it, save the Word of God, of which the apostle, Eph. vi., 17; ‘Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God:’ and Heb. iv., 12; ‘The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword?’ With this sword he both strikes the adversaries himself; as also commands us therewith to fight against all spiritual powers, and in special against Antichrist. But if we respect Christ’s last coming, of which is here treated; then this sharp sword proceeding out of his mouth, is the Spirit of his mouth, with which (according to the prophecy of the apostles) the Lord will destroy that wicked one; to wit, his divine power, by which at his pleasure Antichrist and all adversaries shall be consumed.”
“‘That with it he should smite the nations.’ He adds the use of the sword, viz., not therewith to defend himself or his armies (for they are subject to no dangers), but to smite the adversaries, whom he calleth Gentiles, or the nations; because Antichrist under the name of Christianity imitates the heathens in religion, life, and tyranny: in this sense, chap. xi., 2, the inward court was said to be given to the Gentiles, that is, to Antichrist and his clergy; and at the sounding of the seventh angel, the Gentiles were angry, that is, Antichrist and his followers did fret against Christ: but wrath without power is vain: neither shall the holy city be always trod under foot, because our Captain will slay the nations with the sword.”
In Revelation 19, birds are invited to the supper.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
On the interpretation of fowls in these verses, Clissold cited Da Sylveira:
So Da Sylveira; who also remarks that, according to the general opinion, by the fowls which are here mentioned are signified the faithful and the servants of God. These fowls are invited to the supper of the great God.
In one of the parables of Jesus, the saints are represented by birds.
Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.
Compare John’s prophecy to Peter’s vision of a great sheet full of all sorts of creatures.
On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: and he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
Peter’s interpretation of his vision, in the house of Cornelius, was as follows:
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
In Acts 10, Peter was encouraged to kill and eat some of the animals in the sheet; they represented Gentile believers who were to be incorporated into the church. Peter being told to kill and eat the creatures in the vision did not mean such creatures were to be literally eaten, but that Gentile saints were to be accepted as brethren. In the supper of Rev. 19:17-18, birds are invited to feast upon those who Christ slays with the sword proceeding from his mouth.
And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
Peter’s vision in Acts 10 and Rev. 19:17-18 may have similar meanings. Clissold quoted from Jurieu, who argued that since the sword is spiritual, the slaughter in the prophecy must also be spiritual.
Jurieu, Accomplishment of the Prophecies, part ii., p. 273;—
“I will only make the observation upon this chapter, which I made upon the foregoing. That we must not understand literally the expressions of war and destroying that are used here: for example, that Jesus Christ must tread the winepress of the wrath of God, that he must give to be eaten by the fowls, the flesh of kings, of captains, of mighty men, of horses, of free, and bond, &c. These are metaphors borrowed from war, and must be understood suitably to the nature of this spiritual war, which Jesus Christ must make against idolatry, superstition, heresies, and tyranny; his quarrel is with these, and not with men. Besides the reasons alleged, we have here a convincing one, that the instrument of so many victories, and which must make such a slaughter, is the sharp sword, that comes out of the mouth of him who sitteth upon the white horse. And the remnant was slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, . . . and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. Now all know, that this sharp sword, that comes out of the mouth of Jesus Christ, is the Word of God; a spiritual sword, which must act only spiritual slaughters, and which does not destroy the lives of men, but their manners and idolatries. So that I fear, lest those are mistaken who hope to render to Babylon that which we have received from her; and in the cup which she hath filled, to fill to her double, i. e., to give her blood for blood, torment for torment. This is not the spirit of the true church.”
If “the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven” refers to the saints, the expression: “all the fowls were filled with their flesh” in verse 21 could mean that those represented by kings, captains, mighty men, horses, and their riders will repent, receive God’s Spirit, and become included in the church. The horses probably allude to the horses of the second woe.