Question: "What is the meaning of the word hallelujah?"

The word hallelujah is most familiar in the context of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. Hallelujah is a Hebrew word meaning “praise ye JAH (Jehovah).” Hallelujah appears four times in the NIV and NASB (Revelation 19:1-6), and is translated “alleluia” in the King James Version. In modern parlance, both words mean “praise the Lord” or “praise Jehovah,” phrases which appear over 50 times in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament. It is interesting to note, however, that in none of the places where “praise the Lord” or “praise Jehovah” appear are they a translation of the Hebrew hallelujah.

What, then, is so special about the word hallelujah that it is only used in Revelation 19? The scene in this passage opens in heaven where a great multitude has gathered before the throne in the immediate presence of God Himself, after the final overthrow of the enemies of the church and the triumph of the gospel. In such circumstances, it was fitting that all heaven should render praise and that a song of thanksgiving should be uttered in which all holy beings could unite. Reasons for this glorious outpouring of praise are God’s righteous victory over His enemies (vv. 1-3), His sovereignty (vv. 4-6), and His eternal communion with His people (v. 7). The sound of the outpouring of praise and worship is so overwhelming that the apostle John can only describe it as the roar of rushing waters and loud peals of thunder.

So great is the rejoicing by God’s people at the wedding feast of the Bridegroom (Christ) and the bride (the true church) that hallelujah is the only word grand enough to express it. Handel’s version of the great chorus in heaven, as glorious as that music is, is only a feeble foreshadowing of the magnificence that will be expressed by the heavenly chorus as we sing “Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigns!”