(17) Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, (18) to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.”
John see another angel with another message. The angel is seen “standing in the sun,” this calls attention to several things. First, there is the exceedingly bright glory of the angel. Second, this manifests the point that this is not the night, nor a dark day, but a day that has dawned with the sun is shining brightly in the sky. This is a day to rejoice in the greatness of the Lord and his victories! Third, the angel’s message is to the birds of the sky, making the sun a glorious pulpit to deliver his message to the soaring audience.
“Come, gather for the great supper of God.” This message contrasts with the invitation of the marriage supper (19:9). This is a supper for the birds “to eat the flesh” of many people, great and small. It is common prophetic language to speak of the conquering of a foe as the picture of the birds eating their flesh (Matthew 24:28; Deuteronomy 28:26). This is the scene that God painted for Ezekiel when he discussed with him the judgment upon all who came against the house of Israel.
“As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD: Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field: ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. (18) You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth—of rams, of lambs, and of he-goats, of bulls, all of them fat beasts of Bashan. (19) And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. (20) And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors,’ declares the Lord GOD. (21) “And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them.” (Ezekiel 39:17-21).
The prophecy in Ezekiel provides more confirmation that we are not to accept this message as literal, but to understand this as all nations being a sacrifice to the new King of all. As well, there is certainly the idea that although God has judged his old covenant people, he has not forgotten the sins of all other nations, but will deal with them in his own time (see this theme developed in 14:9, 19:20, and 20:11-15).
(19) And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army.
We finally see a glimpse of the foe that the Lord and his army have been in pursuit of in this scene; it is the beast and its associates. They are not seen in terrified flight of the heavenly army, which is a point to their foolishness and blindness; rather, they have gathered themselves to make war against the Lord. This is the spiritual reality of the beast as an enemy of the word of truth. Recall that the beast is that which was raised to commit the dragon’s purpose in putting away the people of God, both old and new. The Roman empire was possessed with the purposes of Satan during part of the first century, but such purposes were destroyed by the Lamb, thus putting to death the beast – not the physical empire, but the purpose of the dragon through the empire’s actions (see this in the next verse too).