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 YAH (Yahweh).” Hallelujah, as a transliteration, appears four times in the NIV and NASB (Revelation 19:1–6)—it takes the form “alleluia” in the King James Version. In modern parlance, both hallelujah and alleluia mean “praise the Lord,” a phrase that appears, in English, over fifty times in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament.
The word hallelujah in Revelation 19 is used in heaven, where a great multitude has gathered before the throne in the immediate presence of God Himself. It is the wedding supper of the Lamb. The enemies of God have been overthrown, and the gospel has triumphed. In a victory celebration, all heaven renders praise, a song of thanksgiving uttered by all holy beings united. Reasons for this glorious outpouring of praise are God’s righteous victory over His enemies (Revelation 19:1–3), His sovereignty (verses 4–6), and His eternal communion with His people (verse 7). The sound of the outpouring of praise and worship is so overwhelming that the apostle John can only describe it as “like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder” (verse 6).
So great is the rejoicing by God’s people at the wedding feast of the Bridegroom (Christ) and the bride (the 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!”