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Revelation 19 - IVP New Testament Commentaries

John and the Angel

The interpreting angel has not been heard from since 17:18, yet no other angel has provided John with any interpretations since then. That same angel, therefore, is probably the one who concludes the vision with the command Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! and the assurance, these are the true words of God (v. 9). The vision ends as it began with a private encounter between John and this interpreting angel. Impressed by the fulfillment of the words of God (compare 17:17, "until God's words are fulfilled"), John falls at the angel's feet to worship. But he is told, Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! (v. 10). Once again he falls victim to the temptation of false worship. In one sense his desire to worship the angel is less serious than his admiration for Babylon the prostitute (17:6-7), for the angel is God's agent, not God's enemy. Yet in another sense it is more serious, since John actually falls down to worship someone other than God. The angel's warning is therefore more urgent: Do not do it! (literally "see not" or "see that you don't," v. 10).

In telling the story, John does not hesitate to make himself a negative example. He is as ignorant as Cornelius was when he fell down to worship Peter and was told, "Stand up . . . I am only a man myself" (Acts 10:26) or as the people of Lystra when they tried to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas and were told, "We are only men, human like you" (Acts 14:11-15). John's angel, who obviously cannot claim to be a mere mortal, reminds John instead that they share a common position as servants of God and custodians of the testimony of Jesus, and God's servants do not worship each other. God alone is worthy of their worship.

The angel offers one last interpretation: For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (v. 10). The form of the pronouncement matches exactly that of the interpretation given in verse 8 (literally, "for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints"). The apparent meaning is that those who have the testimony of Jesus--the angel, John and John's brothers (fellow believers)--are all prophets. Prophets are bearers of the word of God, and in this book "the word of God" and "the testimony of Jesus" are inseparable (see 1:2, 9; 20:4). We learn now that the testimony of Jesus is not only a message about Jesus but also a message from Jesus the risen Lord. His is the one voice behind the many prophetic and angelic voices echoing through the pages of this book. So the testimony of Jesus is the spirit or essence of Christian prophecy. Whether it is also "the spirit of the prophecy," referring to the book of Revelation itself (1:3; 22:7, 18-19), is more difficult to say (it does have the definite article in Greek). If it is, then the testimony of Jesus is virtually equivalent to the title "revelation of Jesus Christ" at the beginning of the book (1:1). In any event, we have finally come to know the "angel" so mysteriously introduced in the opening verse of the book. Angels and humans function together here as prophets, just as their voices join together in John's visions in the worship and praise of God.

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