With all of this, what must be discerned is that the Revelation is not necessarily here looking to a future event in the sense of a prediction. Rather, in the midst of a world dominated by Rome, its Caesar, its armies, and its self-exaltation, which is the same world in which Jesus has undergone Rome’s greatest punishment and assertion of its own authority and claim to all-encompassing dominion and been resurrected from the dead, and in which the kingdom of the Creator God is said to have been on the march through the Gospel proclamation of Jesus as the true King of kings and Lord of lords (rivaling Caesar’s claim), what can be seen here in this apocalyptic triumphus of Jesus is a confirmation that the God of Israel, through His Christ, has already conquered the conqueror (whoever and whatever that conqueror may be).
Not only has Rome and its supposedly divine ruler been judged and defeated, but the power that stands behind Rome, which was that of death, has been judged and defeated as well. Therefore, the church of the Christ (in the first century and indeed for all time), to whom the work of Revelation is addressed, need not fear any temporal claims to power or persecution. Those who claim allegiance to the world’s true King need not be downcast, though they may find themselves in the midst of oppression and persecution, and even though they may experience a continuous flow of evidence that seems to run contrary to their claim.
Most definitely then, with Rome squarely placed within the Creator God’s purview as the entity that has fallen under His judgment, which was evidenced by the author of Revelation co-opting the familiar language of the Roman “triumph,” followers of Jesus must not celebrate the idea or ideals of Rome, nor can they allow the church of the Christ and the kingdom of the Creator God to become identified and co-terminus with Rome and its ways. Doing so would mark a failure on the part of the church. One of the larger points that is being made throughout Revelation, as one puts aside futurist concerns and grapple with the message of the Revelation as it is addressed to real people in real churches in real places in a real time in history, is quite well-demonstrated by the triumphal scene of the nineteenth chapter.
Indeed, as the Roman “triumph” is merely a parody of the “triumph of Jesus,” so too is any earthly empire, together with its ideals or ideologies, nothing more than a poor parody of the empire of the covenant God that has been somehow and mysteriously established and which also is to come. Here then, it is possible to read the Revelation’s “triumph of Jesus,” doing so as an understanding hearer of the first century church, and then make the appropriate response in applying the words to the situations of any day, so as to shape a response to the world with its rulers, its empires, and its gods. All of Revelation asks to be read in this way, so that abiding concerns about some time in the distant future while reading the work, quite simply, are well out of play.