ALLELUIA ! THE LORD GOD OMNIPOTENT REIGNETH
Rehoboth Chapel, Coventry
Dr. P. M. Rowell
6th April, 1969
“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.”
Revelation 19, 6.
These words constitute the song at a marriage; for the next verse says, “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.” Often in scripture you find that this relationship between the Lord and His church is likened to that between a man and his wife; but we should remember that, according to the Eastern custom, a marriage in those days was rather different from a marriage in our own day. Today, first of all, there is an engagement, followed by a period, long or short, before the marriage, but our engagement is only a matter of a word of promise between two people, and in one sense there is not that legally binding nature to an engagement that there is to a marriage, and we focus our attention very particularly upon marriage. Now in the Eastern way of ordering these affairs there was rather a difference, because the betrothal (somewhat like our engagement) was much more serious and legally binding, and the two people betrothed were rightly and properly joined. But then there was a period which followed, usually a period in which the groom would present certain dowries to the parents of the bride; and after that interval there would be the marriage proper, from which time the two people would live together as man and wife.
Now this really is the figure used in scripture. I believe it is the figure which we have before us in these words, because this is the marriage of the Lamb. You see, the Lamb was betrothed to His bride before the time of the marriage; and this is the marriage supper. In the East they made a great celebration. Usually there was a procession, and the groom walked in procession to the house of the bride, and there was much feasting and rejoicing. And what a blessed occasion this is! “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 so that time which
stretches from the Lord’s appearance here on earth to His second appearance, is like that time of waiting between the betrothal and the marriage. There was all the force and power of a legal engagement when Christ undertook to suffer on behalf of His bride and bought her with a price immeasurable. They are bought with a price which we can never fully understand, the price of His own heart’s blood; and so that binding settlement is sealed in blood. And most certain and sure will be the marriage settlement; and whilst in these gospel days there is a widespread preaching of the word, whilst it is still true that many are called, it is solemnly true that few are chosen; and it will be an unspeakable favour to be found at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Everyone at this marriage supper is rightly dressed; dressed as a bride should be dressed, in the pure white linen, “fine linen clean and white.” The words there seem to indicate something glistening in its beauty and whiteness,Â—”clean and white.” There is something unearthly about this robe which she wears. Why? Because it is “the righteousness of saints;” it is God’s gift; it is the gift of the Groom to His bride, a wonderful gift that she should be so arrayed in fine linen.
It also says, “His wife has made herself ready.” She has not been an onlooker in this; she has been personally engaged in spiritual concern in the matters which lead up to the marriage supper. You would think a woman, betrothed to a husband, who showed no interest or concern in the coming event was a very miserable specimen of womanhood; and so it would be if it were possible in these spiritual things; but it is not, for it says, “His wife has made herself ready.” O, we must not forget that aspect of it, friends! Whilst the preparation is wholly by divine grace through the sovereign love and favour of God, yet the bride herself is actively engaged in these matters. “His wife has made herself ready.” She has been seeking in every way that the word of God sets before us that she might be fitted for this great and sacred occasion. You know very well that a woman engaged to a man and hoping to become his wife, even in our Western way of doing things, is very concerned that she should be prepared for that time;
she is very intimately concerned in everything connected with the future household. Now spiritually, friends, the Lord’s people will not be disinterested onlookers in regard to this; for “His wife,” we read, “has made herself ready;” that is, by constantly repairing to the source of all help and strength and blessing and comfort, she has been prepared. She has made herself ready.
“And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white.” There is need that she be washed and cleansed and sanctified. Ah, friends, think of it! We noticed in the week those words concerning the Lord Jesus when the soldier pierced His side, and thenceforth flowed water and blood. Now, friends, the wife who is making herself ready desires to be washed in that water, to be cleansed in that water; she desires to know the
power and the purging effect of the blood, to be cleansed from guilt. “His wife hath made herself ready.” And then constantly through this intervening period she desires to be kept in readiness. What a terrible thing it would be if in that intervening period, because perhaps the one to whom she is betrothed delayed his coming, she went away with another man! O, friends, this is one of the things which scripture speaks of most solemnly, spiritual adultery! The prophet Hosea particularly speaks of it as a most sad and solemn thing.
Well, here it says, “His wife hath made herself ready.” The word here really emphasizes the importance of watching over our spiritual condition; as John says, writing that beautiful first epistle, “My little children, keep yourselves from idols,” as one betrothed to God, as one under the most solemn vows. The professing church, if her profession is real and genuine, professes to be under the most solemn vows to Christ, joined, with those bonds which will not be broken, to Him Who will one day come to welcome her to the marriage supper. O, friends, as we go on, then, through life, it may seem sometimes the Lord delays His coming, it may seem to us that it is a long time before He shall return. You say, “Many are laid in the grave who hoped and trusted in Him, and yet He has not come.” “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” It may appear to us as a delay, but the time is rapidly approaching and the time is fixed.
I believe we can see in this word another truth, too, that the Lord is waiting that time when the whole number of His people is complete. There would be something lacking in the bride if there were not every part there; and so in this spiritual sense of the word, the Lord awaits the time when every part is joined to His church, when there is not one member missing. In that sense “His wife hath made herself ready.” Friends, do you and I, as members of His church, desire most earnestly in prayer before God that His wife might be made ready? I believe a longing desire that the Lord will call and quicken His own beloved people is a right and proper, indeed an essential part of the experience of God’s people. “His wife hath made herself ready.” There would be something incomplete if there were one missing. It cannot be. So she prays constantly that that time may come: “Even so, come. Lord Jesus.” The words of the closing part of this book of the Revelation are very beautiful: “The Spirit and the bride say come.” You see, there is the united testimony. They wait for the coming of the Bridegroom. “The Spirit and the bride say. Come. And let him that heareth say. Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” And so there is a waiting, an anticipation of that great day.
To come back, then, to our text: this is, as I said, a wedding song. It is the song of praise and thanksgiving at the marriage supper of the Lamb; the song which is going to fill the heart of every one of God’s redeemed people; and they will sing, “Alleluia:
for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
Now this morning I mentioned that this was not a song which represented something new, something that had just happened, because it is a truth from eternity to eternity. They do but sing of something which was ever true: “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Now to look at it in another way this evening: those people who sing this song do not sing it as a first experience. No; they do not sing it as something which they have known nothing about before. I believe they sing this out of a heart’s experience of the truth of it, whether that experience has been long or short;Â—as short as the dying thief’s experience was, I believe he sings in heaven the same words as the greatest saint that lived the longest in his profession on earth. It is the same song: “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” What a wonderful song for that dying thief to sing! But how he could sing it from his heart! There he was, a ruined, dreadful character, deserving to be where he was. He said, “We indeed justly for we receive the due reward of our deeds.” Not like the One beside them who had ‘done nothing amiss’. And yet, in spite of a life of crime and violence, the Lord welcomed him. As that request of faith comes to his lips, “Lord, remember me,” there immediately is the response of Christ’s grace and power: “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” “Alleluia!” Ah, friends, he had good cause to sing, “Praise ye the Lord,” for a wonderful deliverance, a deliverance at the very end of a life of wickedness, and yet a perfect salvation. He could sing those words of the first verse, “Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God,” just as well as those who had spent years proving the saving power of Christ. “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
This is a song, then, that comes out of a heart’s experience of divine power. It cannot be sung by anyone else; and there will not be anyone else in heaven, apart from the holy angels, to sing like this. Those who know nothing of the power of Christ in this life will only know the power of Christ in the form in which we viewed it this morning in the life to come. There is a solemn contrast between the two kinds of power which Christ wields. The first shows He is omnipotent; but think of it like this, friends: in regard to His enemies, and those who are careless of His glorious position as King, His power will be the power of conquest, the power of wrath, the power of judgment, the power of condemnation, the power of force, so far as these are concerned. The power of His omnipotence is so strikingly different in regard to His bride and is summed up in only one word, just as the strange, mysterious force which works between a man and a woman. What is it? Why, it is love!
Now these people sing, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” They sing it in thankfulness and praise in a very solemn way, because Christ now shows His power over all His enemies. They sing it from a heartfelt experience, because His love has conquered them. This is His omnipotence, I believe, in regard to these saved by grace. It is the power of His love which has
conquered them; it is the power of His love which holds them; it is the power of His love which maintains them and keeps them; and it is the power of His love which will present them faultless at the marriage supper of the Lamb. No wonder the apostle says, “The love of Christ constraineth us.” So I do believe they sing this song out of a sense of the omnipotent power of Christ as they themselves have felt it.
Now look back in your life and ask this question: Have you felt and known the omnipotence of Christ? I believe in a humble way all the Lord’s people would testify to the truth of this:
“He saw me ruined in the fall,
Yet loved me, notwithstanding all.”
What a wonderful, blessed power is put forth in the calling of every one of these wayward, rebellious people! Many are called, but how few, comparatively, hear that call in an effectual way! How few have their ears opened! How few, then, have their ears bored to the doorposts of God’s house under the influence of divine calling! Well, those who do, sing this song, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” You look back, and some of you can testify of this, there was a time when you shut your ears against the word, when you did not want to hear it, when your heart was hardened against the truth, when you wanted to go the way of the world just as it is described in the previous chapter, when, if left to yourself, you would still have been in Babylon. Or perhaps some of you have to look back unto a time of your life when you were outwardly religious, but really religious in a wrong way, under the influence of the one we read of later in the chapter, the beast and the false prophet, under a false, man-made system of religion, relying on your own works or your own free will and choice, whatever it was. Is this the way? Well, then, if God has ever awakened you to a true sense of what you are, and brought you to plead for mercy for Christ’s sake, free and sovereign mercy and favour, then you will sing this song, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” You know, Lot was down in Sodom, he was in a very solemn and dangerous condition; and so are those who are in Babylon; and God’s sovereign mercy freed Lot out of the city;
He sent heavenly messengers to lay hold upon him and draw him out of this place of danger. What a mercy if God has laid hold upon our souls and brought us out of the place of danger! “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!”
Then look at our impotence. Here is such a striking contrast, because those who sing this song do so having been shown their utter impotence. When the Lord works in the hearts of His people, this is one of the greatest troubles with them:
“I would, but can’t, repent,
Though, I endeavour oft.”
and ‘O could I but believe’. Every gracious exercise of a living soul you feel you are absolutely impotent to exercise; you have not
got these graces of the Spirit. Now this is part of that work of conviction, a necessary part, to teach us our utter impotence in things divine. But, friends, you might be very distressed when passing through such an experience; in fact, I am sure you will be, but you know, it is a necessary prelude to this song. So long as we are left with any imagination about our own strength and spiritual ability, so long are we strangers to this great truth. We could not sing this song sincerely in heaven unless we knew our utter impotence and dependence upon God; but those who know this realise how good and gracious the Lord is. They know that whereas they were helpless and hopeless, Christ in His love and mercy came and saved them, and so they can sing, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
The power of unbelief is a most terrible thing. We read together in that 24th chapter of Luke a few words about the power of unbelief, how it held the hearts of even the Lord’s most intimate friends, Mary and the others, and His disciples particularly. It just held them in its grip. But, you know, the time came when the Lord spoke words to them, and how their hearts burned within them when He talked with them by the way! There they felt the omnipotence of His love. Whenever the word of God has come like a blessed fire in your heart, you have felt the power of it, the warmth of it, the authority of it; indeed, in that sense you have heard the word of God; and what cause you have to sing this song, “Alleluia.” You owe a sacred and solemn debt to the Lord, friends, to praise Him if you have ever felt the power of the word. O, sometimes I believe I have blessed God that I ever felt the power of His word. That was one thing which troubled me so much over many, many years,Â—it seemed many, many years,Â—I don’t suppose it was many actually, but in the experience of it it seemed ages,Â— when I longed to feel the power of God’s word, the authority of it. I knew about it. So many of us who have been born and brought up around the word know about it, but we do not know the influence of it. You may get to the stage sometimes where you say in your own heart, “I shall never know the power of it, because I know so much about it, I know so much about religious experience by report and from my reading; but shall I ever know anything personally?” Now these people are those who will eventually know personally the power and authority of God’s word. “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
You know. God’s word leads God’s people in one direction, and that is to Christ. Here, I believe, is really the centre of their song. Should we ever have followed and loved the Person and work of the Lord Jesus in this intimate, personal way, but for His grace? I am sure we should not. I am sure we should never really have had any sense at all of the great preciousness of Christ the Saviour, except it be through the omnipotence of His love. And so the Lord, in love to His disciples. His sorrowing, despondent, unbelieving disciples, shows Himself. “Behold,” He says, “My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself.” Ah, friends, I know we see now through
a glass darkly; I know that what the Lord does show to us is not what we shall one day see; but if He has shown us Himself even through a glass darkly, or as the bride in the Song of Solomon saw Him, through the lattice, if it is only fleeting glimpses, yet it is because our eyes are opened to see; to see His form in such a way that we are drawn to Him and attracted by Him. “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
What mercy, then, have we to thank and praise God for if we have ever felt the power of the love of Christ. But particularly in regard to what the Lord showed them when He was risen from the grave: “He showed them His hands and His feet.” I am sure of this, friends, that in some measure,Â—and it varies, I know, from one to another, but in some measure the Lord is going to reveal to every one of His children His hands and His feet. It may not be through that word, it may not be just like that; but you will see something in the wounds and sufferings and death and agony of the Lord Jesus which draws and binds your heart to Him. We love Him,Â—why? “Because He first loved us.” I was very impressed by a remark made by a friend I buried this last week; she said to her husband some time ago, “If I did not feel I had a love to the Lord Jesus Christ I should be in despair.” What a mercy it is to feel in our hearts that love to Him!Â—since it is “because He first loved us.” “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
Now I know this, that in my own unloving, hard heart, it needs divine omnipotence to break down that stoniness. Nothing but the divine omnipotence of His love could break my cold hard spirit down in love and confession and repentance and affection. “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” So, in the wounds and blood of the Lord Jesus, they see His omnipotence, the omnipotence of His saving power; in His blood as the blood of the God-Man, His blood as the blood of the perfect offering, the Lamb without stain or mark; His life as the great atonement for sin. Do we ever look to this by faith?
“There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.”
And they sing this song, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
Let us pass on a little from this. Most of the Lord’s people have to endure a great fight of affliction; and it is in these days, after their first love, when, I believe, they learn more deeply than ever before the worth and value of God Omnipotent. If the Lord is on your side, you need not fear what men shall do unto you. So many that have sung this song have been persecuted for Christ’s sake. I believe they were all like Lot to some extent; vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, they could rejoice in the doom of Babylon because they had suffered from its hands while they suffered here below. They could rejoice in the conquest of
the Lamb over all false religion and deception, because doubtless many of them had felt the painful power of these deceptive things. “We wrestle not,” says the apostle, “against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers.” Now if that is so, and we are impotent, how blessed the truth here, “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” And if we are called to a fight, a warfare, against the powers of sin from without and from within, unbelief, doubt, fear, despondency working together in our heart, Satan opposing with all his subtlety and suggestions from without, and the world calling us with its seductive voice,Â—ah, friends, a perilous path, a narrow way! But these redeemed souls sing, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Who has kept you from falling into final despair so far? You may wonder about the future; but who has kept you from making utter shipwreck of faith? Who has kept you from the action towards which Job’s wife urged him, to curse God and die? There is enough, I am sure, in every believer’s life to arouse the greatest temptation. Satan will not be slow to suggest that God does not reign because of the things which happen. You look back to the time of bitter trial and disappointment, sorrow and loss; you look back into the life of this church and the life of other churches, times when there must have been an anguished cry in the heart of members: “Has the Lord forgotten to be gracious? has He written ‘Ichabod’ across the door: the glory of the Lord is departed”? But now they sing, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Friends, what was it that brought you up out of these dark places? Nothing but omnipotent power. The poor psalmist, when he sank down in the horrible pit and the miry clay, that sort of miry clay that sucked him down, and the more he struggled the more enmeshed he became in it; but he said, “He brought me up out of the horrible pit, and the miry clay; and He hath put a new song in my mouth.” Now this is the “new song” of those whom the Lord delivers: “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Some of you perhaps have to pass through many, many days or years of spiritual bondage and uncertainty. O, if you could only see things clearly, you say! Well, I say this, friends, there is a time coming when all who cry to God for deliverance shall receive it. I do not believe anybody dies in bondage who in this life has cried for deliverance from bondage. I believe the Lord delivers every one that calls upon Him in sincerity; and if from your heart has gone the anguished cry for deliverance, the longing desire to the Lord for the blessed assurance and comfort of hope, you will not die without it. They sing, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Friends, if one trusted in the Lord and He failed them in that trust. He could not be the Lord God omnipotent. Those who trust in the Lord will surely prove that He is the Lord God omnipotent, and that He reigns. The church collectively has passed through times of grave darkness and it seemed that the light of truth was all but extinguished in the earth. I have often thought that before the Reformation in England, if there was any light of truth it must havebeen very feeble, scarcely discernible; and yet the Lord God omnipotent reigned. There comes a time when this flame burns brighter and brighter,Â—the love of the truth,Â—one characteristic of the people of God, so much so that they would live and die for it. “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” We see how the Lord revives the work in the times of darkness. My friends, if it is so in the church collectively, it will be so spiritually and individually; we shall have cause to bless God for His reviving. Maybe you are passing through a dark time at present; maybe it is so with you that the Lord appears to hide His face, and you walk in darkness and have no light. You know this is only a prelude so that you may enjoy the light more distinctly and blessedly, so that one day you can sing, “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth; He did not leave me always to walk in darkness.”
There are other ways, too, in which we prove the truth of this. Whilst I do believe that this is the song of the whole church, and so in that sense its primary meaning is that the church sings praise to God Who has delivered and saved it, yet they see His omnipotence in many ways now. I believe you see His omnipotence in your daily affairs if you have eyes to see it. I believe these people here in heaven singing this song can look back and see how God has ordered every step of their life according to His wise purpose, so that providence and grace in their lives were mingled in a mysterious way. The Lord brought them into certain places at particular times, and so they passed through experiences and they heard words which had eternal consequences. “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
How wonderful it must be to look back, then; and how wonderful and blessed it must be to look back upon a life in which we have often felt the confusion of the uncertainty of things, we have often been perplexed in decisions when we knew not what to do; and yet afterwards to look back and sing like this: “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth;” to see how He has ordered every step of the path.
“My life’s minutest circumstance
Is subject to His eye.”
O, “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!”
One last thought: the power of Christ’s resurrection is such that those who pass through death will sing, “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” These all died in faith, and they now sing this song, “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” It will be a blessed thing, friends, to come to the end of our life and rest upon the omnipotent arms of God; to rest in His omnipotent power over death and the grave. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” There is the very ring of omnipotence in this, friends, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”
“Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”