The title of this post, Hallelujah-A White Wedding might fool you. It’s actually a mash up of Revelation 19 where the Apostle John’s vision segues into a series of three subjects: the shouting of Hallelujah from heaven after the fall of Babylon, a wedding announcement and invitation, and a warrior on a white horse. I’m compelled to comment on all of them.
In the first six verses, Hallelujah! is shouted out three times and cried out once by a great multitude and when I read it I thought, “Don’t we usually sing Hallelujah!? Even non Christians know the Hallelujah Chrous!” The Hebrew word Hallelujah means Praise Yah(weh) and is commonly used in the Old Testament (BC), however, in the New Testament (AD), the word Hallelujah is only found in this chapter. The inspiration for the famous Hallelijah Chorus is found here.
Since my preference is to use the NIV Bible (New International Version), the following verses are a smidge different from Handel’s Messiah. The actual lyrics are noted below in parentheses.
The kingdom of the (this) world has(is) become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah (Christ), and he will (shall) reign for ever and ever. Revelation 11:15
Hallelujah! For our (the) Lord God Almighty (Omnipotent) reigns (reigneth). Revelation 19:6
King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Revelation 19:16
I learned much of Handel’s Messiah for high school Easter concerts which are now referred to as spring concerts. Anyone who has participated in a concert choir is likely to have learned at least parts of Messiah and the Hallelujah Chorus is probably the section most recognizable. I’m feeling incredibly motivated right now to brush up on the alto part.
Getting back to Revelation, the prostitute is being consumed by fire and a multitude is shouting, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” (Revelation 19:3). They’re praising God for overcoming Babylon, a symbol of evil.
It occurs to me that this may have been a section of the Bible sited during the Inquisition to justify burning people at the stake; not very Christ-like behavior by the supposedly pious. Biblical scholars have many opinions about the word multitude and who or what the group includes. I dare say that during the Inquisition, multitude meant violent mob. Surely, Revelation was not intended to be translated in this way.
The fourth Hallelujah!, is different; we begin to find wedding imagery. For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given to her to wear.” (Revelation 19:7). The Lamb is Jesus and the bride is meant to represent God’s people. This passage predicts a time when God’s people will become one with Jesus. A bride is very often used to represent the people of God who are pure in thought and action, clean, untouched. Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people (Revelation 19:8). Note that the people of God are also referred to in the Bible as the Church with a capital “C” or the Body of Christ. I love the imagery of a bride and how it sharply contrasts the imagery of a prostitute.
Next we are given an invitation. Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! (Revelation 19:9). As with any invitation, we have free will to accept or decline the offer. I thought of those occations when I enjoyed myself after accepting a dreaded invitation out of obligation. Has that ever happened to you? It’s fun to be bad, but accepting a divine invitation to choose loving thought and action may surprise you.
Then John’s vision shifts to a white horse with a rider named Faithful and True wearing a robe dipped in blood. The rider is also called the Word of God. He leads an army uniformed in white linen and riding white horses; he judges and wages war. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword (the word (s)word often represents the Word of God in the Bible) with which to strike down nations … On his robe and on his thigh he has his name written: king of king and lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). Okay, so the King of Kings and Lord of Lords has his name tattooed on his thigh. How many tats like this do you think there are out there? Argh!
In anticipation of the carnage of war, an angel proactively calls the birds (meat eaters) to clean up the mess. Gross! John says, Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. (Revelation 19:19). Once again, Revelation depicts the destruction of evil; the beast and the false prophet are captured and thrown alive into a fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest are overcome by the (s)word in the rider’s mouth; Faithful and True, the Word of God, saves the day.
It is now very clear to me where all those fairy tales come from about handsome men on white horses rescuing fair maidens from evil witches (Babylon) and dragons (the beast). If you are among the segment of the population who believe God is genderless, go ahead and put a female rider on the white horse. In the battle between good and evil, right and wrong, or love and fear, anyone can command the winning side. Go for it!
What have I learned this week? Bible content and symbolism seem to be everywhere; the more I read, the more I find. There are obvious connections throughout history and literature and music and art, but there are instances where the connections are not as obvious. Without actually reading the Bible, I would never have been able to understand the references. It’s exciting to uncover meaning at a deeper level. It’s sad so many people are turned off from this incredible collection of writting simply because of another reader’s translation.
When I started my literary study of this book two years ago, I was one of those turned off people. The root of my restistance was assumption. Specifically, assumptions I made about the Bible and its role in manmade doctrine and oppressive religion. A lot of my time was invested reading books on spirituality written by people who avoid referencing the Bible when their concepts clearly align with biblical content. Some of these books have value, but I’m finding most of what I need to know about life is in this one place. There’s a reason the Bible is considered the greatest book of all time.
Don’t be like me and resist reading the Bible because of what other people have done with it. There’s something for everyone in there.