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Buist Fanning: This vision anticipates the overwhelming defeat of all the forces that futilely resist his coming (cf. vv. 19-21), but it is a gruesome sight even when recounted indirectly, as done here.  The imagery is drawn directly from Ezekiel 39 as a typology of judgment, where God predicted a rout of the forces of Gog that will invade Israel (Ezek 39:4). . .

Such a grotesque “feast” represents the crushing defeat of all these enemies of God as well as the ignominy of dying in a dishonorable, profane cause.  Leaving bodies unburied to be eaten as carrion constituted the worst dishonor (cf. 1 Sam 17:44; 2 Kgs 9:36; Ps 79:2).

G.K. Beale: But why allude to Ezekiel at this point, especially since other OT prophetic passages concerning the end-time defeat of evil forces could have been drawn from (e.g., Daniel 2, 7–12, Zechariah 14)? The portrayal of Ezekiel 39 has been included because its main point is that God will make His holy name known both to Israel and to Israel’s oppressors during captivity by means of defeating Gog and Magog. The goal of revelation of the divine name introduces (Ezek. 39:7) and concludes (39:21-29) the description of the slaughter (39:8-20). God will save Israel and judge His enemies. The same dual theme with respect to the revelation of Christ’s name has been the overriding concern in Rev. 19:11-16. The allusion to Ezekiel 39 confirms the presence of this concern and underscores the defeat narrated in 19:19-21 as the means by which Christ will reveal His name in deliverance to His people and in judgment to their oppressors.

Daniel Akin: This supper is much different from the marriage supper of the Lamb in 19:9.  There the saints are called to come and celebrate with the Lord.  Here sinners are called and condemned by the Lord for a “bird feast,” a vulture’s banquet where they are the entrée.  It is a great supper because all rebellious sinners on earth will be present.  Try as they might, there is no escape.

David Harrell: So, knowing his allotted time is up, the antichrist assembles his vast armies consisting of a 10 nation confederacy and they prepare to do battle foolishly thinking that they can somehow thwart the purposes of God and defeat the lamb who would be lion. We see, according to Isaiah 14, of Zechariah 12 and Zechariah 14 and Joel 3 and other passages that the antichrist is going to amass his forces and then launch one final assault against Jerusalem and be utterly destroyed.

Now, to enhance the drama here and the suspense of this scene and to depict the absolute folly of the enemy, notice what the whole world will suddenly see. Verse 17. “And I saw an angel standing in the sun.

Obviously the sun temporarily pierces the darkness of the fifth bowl judgment long enough now for the angel to appear before it and before the sky goes black again in preparation for the Lord’s return.  But the sun will not be a welcomed sight as this colossal angel evidently eclipses it. And I find it fascinating because his position will make him impossible to go unnoticed.  And the enemy forces will hear this terrifying proclamation.

John MacArthur: Now following the vision of Christ with His armies, John is given another striking vision which may be divided up as follows:

(1)  The carnage for the birds (vss. 17-18)

(2)  The conflict with all the armies of the earth (vs. 19)

(3)  The captives thrown into the lake of fire (vs. 20)

(4)  The conquest of the remaining ones (vs. 21)


A.  (:17) Invitation to the Great Supper of God to the Vultures of the Sky

  1. Conspicuous Invitation

And I saw an angel standing in the sun;

Tony Garland: Standing is estota, perfect tense: having stood. The angel had taken his position prior to John seeing him. Fausset suggests his position in the sun is “so as to be conspicuous in sight of the whole world.  Though some have taken this as a very unusual phenomenon, the most natural explanation is that the angel is standing in the light of the sun with the angel himself possibly shining with even greater brilliance.”

David Thompson: The fact that he is standing in the sun demonstrates a heavenly bright radiance that says to the world all that is happening is coming from the glorious, sovereign, shining God.

  1. Call to the Vultures

and he cried out with a loud voice,

saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven,

James Hamilton: Note that the call for the birds to come happens before the battle, announcing the certainty of the victory.

John MacArthur: His invitation to the birds is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:27–28:For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather” (cf. Luke 17:37).

David Thompson: Normal birds fly in the first heaven, our atmospheric heaven. The highest level that certain flying birds can reach for a brief time in migration is 20,000 to 30,000 feet.

Now it is estimated that the oxygen level for us to be able to breathe is somewhere around 30,000 feet. There have been climbers who have gone above 29,000 feet at Mt. Everest without oxygen.

So we assume that to be a mid-heaven bird means it is not a normal bird. So this angel, who is standing in the sun, which is the stellar heaven or mid-heaven, calls out to all birds that are in the stellar heaven or mid-heaven.

J. Hampton Keathley, III: He is not just talking about birds which fly, but about those that are noted for soaring high in the sky and noted for eating flesh, i.e., vultures, buzzards, and perhaps even hawks and eagles (cf. Matt. 24:28the Greek word used there means “eagle, vulture,” cf. Job 39:26-30). . .

There are two other passages that seem to parallel Rev 19:17 because of the reference to the vulture-like birds (Ezek. 39:17-20 and Matt 24:28). If Ezekiel 39 occurs before the millennium (some take it to be equivalent to Revelation 20:8 which occurs after the millennium), it is only an apparent parallel for it refers to an earlier battle of the Armageddon campaign, i.e., phase one and the destruction of Gog and his allies on the mountains of Israel. But in Rev 19:17 the great supper of God involves all the armies of the earth. Matthew 24:28 is an actual parallel, and refers to the carcasses which fall in battle when Christ returns, and the gathering of the birds to eat them.

Care must be exercised when interpreting passages which are similar. The rule is, similarities do not necessarily prove identity. Other factors must be considered. Birds of prey are always in evidence where there is death, and the presence of the birds does not mean we have the same event, only the same kind of event.

  1. Celebration of the Great Supper of God

Come, assemble for the great supper of God;

Buist Fanning: likely to be a gruesome parody of the messianic banquet that the blessed will enjoy (cf. Rev 19:9).  Instead of rich foods and wine at the messianic banquet, this feast for the carrion birds of the wild will consist of the slain bodies of the vast armies mustered by the beast (19:19; cf. 13:4; 16:14; 17:14) to fight against the Lord and his Messiah, and none will be spared from the least to the greatest of them (v. 18).

John MacArthur: This will not be the first time birds have feasted on human carrion in Scripture. Isaiah 18:6, describing the results of judgment on Cush (modern Ethiopia), reads, “They will be left together for mountain birds of prey, and for the beasts of the earth; and the birds of prey will spend the summer feeding on them.” Jeremiah relates that, after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, “the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the sky and for the beasts of the earth; and no one will frighten them away” (Jer. 7:33). In a striking parallel to the present passage Ezekiel wrote,

As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord God, ‘Speak to every kind of bird and to every beast of the field, “Assemble and come, gather from every side to My sacrifice which I am going to sacrifice for you, as a great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, as though they were rams, lambs, goats and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan. So you will eat fat until you are glutted, and drink blood until you are drunk, from My sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. You will be glutted at My table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all the men of war,” declares the Lord God.’” (Ezek. 39:17–20)

The brief but catastrophic Day of the Lord destruction will result in an unprecedented slaughter, with uncounted millions of dead bodies strewn throughout its entire two-hundred-mile length (14:20). Even after the birds have gorged themselves, it will still take seven months to bury the remaining corpses (Ezek. 39:12).

Tony Garland: Supper is δεῖπνον [deipnon], the same word which describes the marriage supper of the Lamb. Both suppers are hosted by God, but with dramatically different guests and foods. Those who are slaughtered for this supper share in the curse of Deuteronomy 28:26.

B.  (:18) Menu of the Great Supper of God = the Dead Flesh of All the Forces of Antichrist

Joe Beard: The word flesh is repeated 5 times in this passage and while the angel’s immediate reference is to the human bodies that will be eaten by the carrion birds, there is certainly a deeper meaning here, man will fail in his opposition to God because he is flesh and he is relying on his flesh.  These men who oppose the Lord Jesus Christ chose to walk after the flesh spiritually and now their flesh must be eaten literally.

  1. Flesh of Political and Military Leaders

a.  Kings

in order that you may eat the flesh of kings

David Thompson: These were the major political leaders of the world. God is causing birds to eat their dead bodies. Death does not play favorites and neither does judgment. The vast majority of political leaders who are big names of the world will have their flesh eaten by these birds.

b.  Commanders

and the flesh of commanders

c.  Mighty Men

and the flesh of mighty men

  1. Flesh of Horses and Their Riders

and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them

  1. Flesh of All Men

and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.

Daniel Akin: Just as our God is indiscriminate in His offer of salvation (Acts 10:34), He is also without discrimination in His judgment.  A day of universal, righteous reckoning is coming.  Everyone will be held accountable for their rejection of the Lamb.

Tony Garland: Normally, men are to offer up animals in sacrifice to God. Here, as when God judges Gog on the mountains of Israel, He reverses the normal roles and offers up men as a sacrifice to animals (Eze. 39:17-20 cf. Isa. 34:6-7).  Goliath threatened David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” (1S. 17:44). David replied, “This day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1S. 17:46).


A.  (:19) Targeting the Beast and His Loyal Followers

  1. Forces of Evil

And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies,

  1. Futile Objective

assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse,

and against His army.

G.R. Beasley-Murray: The army of heaven has no need to fight.  It simply witnesses the judgment executed by the Christ on the leaders of the revolt.  The antichristian forces have no opportunity even to make a show of strength.

B.  (:20) Throwing the Beast and the False Prophet into the Lake of Fire

  1. Seizing the Beast and the False Prophet

a.  The Beast

And the beast was seized,

b.  The False Prophet

and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast

and those who worshiped his image;

Robert Mounce: The false prophet is again described in terms of his two characteristic functions: he deceives by performing miraculous signs (cf. 13:13–15), and he brands with the mark of the beast all but those who are willing to die for their faith (cf. 13:16–17).

  1. Throwing Them Alive into the Lake of Fire

these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.

John MacArthur: Hell has always existed, but this is its final form. Unlike Hades, the lake of fire is not a temporary holding place (cf. Luke 16:23) but a permanent place of incarceration and punishment. Brimstone is frequently associated with the fire of judgment (cf. 9:17; 14:10; 20:10; Luke 17:29). That the beast and the false prophet are still in the lake of fire a thousand years later when Satan is cast there (20:10) is a convincing refutation of the false doctrine of annihilationism. As the two most evil, vile, blasphemous people who have ever lived, it is only fitting that these two be the first to arrive in that awful place. The New Testament is clear on the eternality of punishment (cf. 14:10–11; Matt. 13:40–42; 25:41; Mark 9:43–48; Luke 3:17; 12:47–48)

Buist Fanning: The description of the lake “burning with sulfur” connects back to the pattern of judgment seen at Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24).  But here the pattern is intensified to denote eternal condemnation as in 20:10 and 21:8 (cf. 14:10-11).  The savage beast’s destruction, foreshadowed in 17:8 and 11, has now been accomplished.

G.K. Beale: The fact that they are said to have been cast into the lake of fire while alive (these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone) suggests not absolute annihilation but an everlasting, conscious punishment. That is, they will continue to live in the lake of fire. This interpretation is confirmed by the further statement concerning them in 20:10: “They will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (see also 14:10-11 on the final end of one who worships the beast: “He will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night.”). Note that fire and brimstone are part of God’s judgment on Gog and Magog in Ezek. 38:22. Allusion is also made to Dan. 7:11: “I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.”

J. Hampton Keathley, III: The most dramatic part of the verse is the last part where it tells us these two were “thrown alive” into the lake of fire. Literally it says, “Alive, they were thrown, these two, into the lake of fire.” The reason for the emphasis is that this is not the ordinary sequence of the doom of unbelievers. The normal sequence is death (Luke 16:22), torments in hades (Luke 16:23), the second resurrection that leads to the second death (Rev. 20:11, 13a), the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-12), and then the lake of fire or the second death (Rev. 20:14-15). The armies of the beast, for instance, will be killed, and will go to torments and follow the above sequence. “The beast and his false prophet will be the first occupants of the lake of fire; other unbelievers, now in hades, will join them at the end of the Millennium.”

There seems to be one other exception to this sequence which is the judgment of the living Jews and Gentiles. This takes place after this battle is over. In these two judgments, believers and unbelievers are separated. The believers remain (25:34) to inherit the kingdom, and unbelievers seem to go directly to the lake of fire (Matt. 25:41). This judgment on earth appears to take the place of the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20 for living, unbelieving Jews and Gentiles after Christ returns to earth.

C.  (:21) Termination and Desecration of Antichrist’s Evil Forces

  1. Termination – Sudden Slaying

And the rest were killed with the sword

which came from the mouth of Him who sat upon the horse,

Tony Garland: The rest emphasizes the unique treatment of the previous two in comparison with these. Unlike the Beast and the False Prophet, the rest of those who war against Christ are killed. Their destination is Hades (Luke 16:22-23) where they undergo immediate torment while awaiting the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11+). They will be in Hades awaiting judgment for the one thousand year period of the Millennial Kingdom.

Kendell Easley: The world’s armies that gathered so mightily to oppose the rider on the horse did not put up a fight after all. They were killed with the sword that came out of the King’s mouth. This symbolizes that his power alone won the final victory. There was, after all, no “battle of Armageddon,” only massive bloodshed. If the phrase “the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great” (v. 18) is taken at face value, then the rest of them were killed means that the entire human race—all who had the mark of the beast—were slaughtered. In the end, the whole world will be divided into two groups: the Lamb’s armies and the beast’s armies. Only one group will survive. The rest become bird food: all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. This verse depicts in other imagery the horrible scene of the winepress with its 180-mile blood flow (14:20) and the outpouring of the seventh bowl of judgment (16:17–21).

  1. Desecration – Disgusting Buffet

and all the birds were filled with their flesh.