The voice from heaven ends as it began, with a direct appeal to God's people: Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you (v. 20). The use of heaven alongside three terms for Christian believers—saints and apostles and prophets—suggests that heaven refers here not to a place but to those who live there (as in 12:12, "Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!"). In much the same way, "earth" can mean "the inhabitants of the earth" (as in 13:3-4, "the whole earth . . . followed the beast").
Heaven, therefore, includes all the angels, the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders and the great multitudes surrounding the throne of God. The cry Rejoice over her, O heaven! will be answered explicitly in 19:1-8. The presupposition of all John's visions is that angels and humans together form one community dedicated to the worship of God. As for the people of God on earth, they are commonly divided into saints and prophets (11:18; 16:6; 17:6); apostles are less often mentioned in the book of Revelation. Apostles here are not the twelve who traveled with Jesus, but missionaries sent out either to evangelize or to minister to existing congregations spread over a wide area (see 2:2, "those who claim to be apostles but are not"). The voice from heaven concludes by inviting all who belong to God on earth or in heaven to rejoice in their vindication.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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