The Great Supper of God: Revelation 19:17–19

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f) Rev 19:17–19: These verses form the preface to the destruction of the ungodly world system which will begin with the devastation of a city identified as Babylon in Rev 18:1–3.[1]

John wrote, “And I saw an angel standing in the sun, and it cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in mid-heaven, ‘Come. Gather for the great supper of God.’”

By standing in the sun, this angel stood in a position of appropriate splendor.[2] The herald made the announcement before the battle occurred, portending certain victory.[3]

In stark contrast to the wedding celebration of the lamb and his bride (Rev 19:7–8; Isa 25:6–9; Matt 8:11),[4] this feast by predatory birds will create a grim spectacle.[5]

Ironically, the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish describes a scene after the great battle against rebel gods and the completion of Babylon.[6] It says:

The three hundred Igigi (gods)…all of them gathered, the lord being on the lofty dais which they had built as his abode, the gods, his fathers, at his banquet he seated, [saying], “This is Babylon, the place that is your home! Make merry in its precincts, occupy its broad [places].” The great gods took their seats, they set up festive drink, sat down to a banquet.[7]

The birds in John’s vision will feast upon flesh with no concern for human rank or social status.[8]

The angel called them together, “that you might eat flesh of kings, and flesh of generals, and flesh of [the] mighty, and flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and flesh of all free [people], and also of slaves, even the small and the great.”

John’s readers recognized the image of birds scavenging the corpses of people killed in battle (1 Sam 17:44–47; Jer 16:4; Ezek 29:3–6).[9]



People in the ancient world considered that a horrendous, dishonorable fate.[10]

In Jewish and Greco-Roman view of deaths, a person’s image continued to endure in the underworld (1 Sam 28:11–14).[11] Therefore, they regarded such mutilation as a fate worse than dying.

Homer (ca. 750 BC) wrote this speech to a warrior:

Hector, my dear child, abide not…alone with none to aid thee, lest forthwith thou meet thy doom, slain by the son of Peleus, since verily he is far the mightier—cruel that he is.

I would that he were loved by the gods even as by me! Then would the dogs and vultures speedily devour him as he lay unburied; so would dread sorrow depart from my soul, seeing he hath made me bereft of sons many and valiant.”[12]

The apostle’s original audience likely perceived this despicable end as the fulfillment of Ezek 39:1–6, 17–20.[13] Thus, they recognized Gog and Magog as the beast, the false prophet, and their armies whom Christ would vanquish.[14]



As in Rev 19:11–16, Ezek 39:7–8, 21 stresses the importance of God making known his holy name.[15] Jesus shall accomplish this by delivering his people and rendering judgment to their oppressors.[16]

John’s list of those who would die parallels the one in Rev 6:14–17.[17] His depiction of devastation coming upon the oppressors of God’s people encouraged persecuted believers.[18]

The apostle described what he saw next, writing, “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies having been gathered together to make the war with the one sitting on the horse and with his armies.”

This fulfills the prophecy of Rev 16:13–14. That a definite article (“the”) appears with the word “war” in the Greek texts of Rev 16:14, Rev 19:19, and Rev 20:8 indicates that all three verses speak of one battle.[19] Battle in Armageddon shall commence.[20]

The beast will join Satan and his demonic forces to assemble kings and their armies. Although they will believe that they act of their own accord, God will muster these armies (Ezek 39:1–2; Zech 14:2–5).[21]

This great battle will swiftly put an end to all evil and usher in the long-awaited new era of righteousness.[22]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Rev 19:17–19. What will the angel call the birds to do? Why did John’s original readers consider such mutilation a fate worse than death? How do Old Testament texts specify that the Lord will assemble these armies?




Go to Cast into the Inferno (Rev 19:20–21)

[Related posts include Faithful and True (Rev 19:11); Ruler of All Nations (Rev 19:12–13); The Armies in Heaven (Rev 19:14); Striking the Nations (Rev 19:15); King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 19:16); Cast into the Inferno (Rev 19:20–21); The Waters Prevail (Gen 7:17–20); The Breath of Life Extinguished (Gen 7:21–24); The New Holy City (Rev 21:10–11); A Return to Paradise (Rev 22:1–5, 20); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 7: God Opens the Heavens and the Earth (Genesis 7:1–24)]


[1]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 965.

[2]Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 357.

[3]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 965.

[4]Aune, Revelation 17–22, 1063.

[5]Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 357.

[6]Aune, Revelation 17–22, 1063.

[7]Speiser, trans., “Enuma Elish (The Creation Epic),” in ANET, 6:69–75, 69,

[10]Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 358.

[11]L. Wächter, “שְׁאוֹל ” (sheol) TDOT 14:239–48, 241–2.

[12]Homer, The Iliad, 22:38–44,

[13]Keener, Revelation, 455.

[14]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 966.

[15]Beale and McDonough, “Revelation,” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1144.

[16]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 966.

[17]Aune, Revelation 17–22, 1064.

[18]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Rev 19:17–18.

[19]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 967–8.

[20]Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 358.

[21]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 967.

[22]Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 358.