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Hallelujah: an advent devotional

Stan Key has served for decades as a pastor, missionary, author, and now as OneWay's minister-at-large. He is a longtime friend of the ministry who shares decades of experience and wisdom to encourage and challenge many.

Advent devotional — week 4

Word for the day: HALLELUJAH

by Pastor Stan

For many people, the Christmas season is incomplete unless they have attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah. 

Composed in 1741, the music is magnificent and the lyrics, taken from the Bible, convey the very heart of what Christmas is all about: the coming of King Jesus, the Messiah! The climactic moment of the oratorio is when the audience spontaneously stands and the choir sings the Hallelujah Chorus. The words are taken from the book of Revelation.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Hallelujah!

The kingdom of the world is become

the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ

and he shall reign forever and ever.

King of kings, and Lord of lords; Hallelujah!

The word hallelujah transliterates a Hebrew expression meaning “Praise the Lord!”

The four uses of the term in Revelation 19 are the only time the word is used in the New Testament. As the angelic chorus bursts into song, it seems that one “Hallelujah!” is not enough.

They need a word that they can sing over and over to enable them to adequately express their praise. 

But notice that they are singing hallelujah in Revelation 19 because of what has happened in Revelation 18. There we learn about the doom and destruction of Babylon, the Great Whore. Her seductions and temptations have been the ruin of many and now, finally, the wrath and judgment of God have fallen upon her.

Although Revelation 18 speaks of a future reality, the author is so sure of what he is describing that he writes as if it has already happened. As the wicked city of Babylon is destroyed, the redeemed in heaven and on earth are encouraged to rejoice over her fate, “for at last God has judged her for your sakes” (Rev. 18:20 NLT). 

Then an angel took a great millstone and threw it into the sea saying; “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more” (Rev. 18:21). That was the cue a great multitude of the redeemed in heaven had been waiting for. Loudly and spontaneously they began to sing the original Hallelujah Chorus

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” ... 

“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne. And they cried,

"Amen. Hallelujah!”.... 

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, 


For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him the glory!

For the marriage of the Lamb has come, 

and his Bride has made herself ready...

(Rev. 19:1-7)

Although Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus is recognized by millions, most listeners are unaware of what has provoked this jubilant outburst of praise. They don’t know the story of the destruction of the Great Whore in Revelation 18.

But George Frederick Handel does!

Just before the choir sings the Hallelujah Chorus, he has a tenor soloist sing words taken from Psalm 2:9, a prophesy about what will happen when the Messiah comes to reign. The lyrics are short and to the point: 

Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;

Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. (Ps. 2:9). 

It is only after these ominous words are sung that the choir stands and sings: “Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Hallelujah! And he shall reign forever! Hallelujah!” 

Understood in this light, we recognize that singing the Hallelujah Chorus at Christmas is not for the faint of heart! When the Messiah comes, Babylon’s doom is sealed. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not!

No one made the meaning of Christmas more clear than King Jesus himself: “The time promised by God has come at last! The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mk. 1:15 NLT). 

Isaac Watts (1719) captures the true meaning of Christmas in his hymn Joy to the World. Let these words help you to shout Hallelujah! as you celebrate the arrival of earth’s true king. 

Joy to the world,

The Lord is come!

Let earth receive her king;

Let every heart prepare him room,

And heaven and nature sing.


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