It has been pretty obvious to me over the last number of months that the church of Jesus Christ, at least as far as I can discern on a public level, has become preoccupied with the issues at hand and has allowed itself to be sucked into the vortex of the world’s problems and is making an effort to be a friend of the world, which, as we read in James, is a very dangerous thing to do. As I assess some of the reasons for this, one glaring reason for the church to be preoccupied with the world is the absence of any vibrant expectation for the return of Jesus Christ. Weak eschatology leads to worldly church when people lose sight of the fact that this is a fallen world careening ever deeper and deeper into sin, disintegrating continuously toward more and more evil. And when the church thinks that its role in the world is to stop that, it is living with a delusion. Our hope is not in fixing the world, our hope is in the return of Jesus Christ.
I want to speak to you again this morning on that subject, and even for the next few weeks, and I want to draw your attention to the nineteenth chapter of Revelation, Revelation chapter 19. This is really where we need to place our eyes and our minds and our hearts and find our hope, Revelation 19, and I’ll read the opening verses down through verse 16.
“After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His slaves on her.’ And a second time they said, ‘Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’ And a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Give praise to our God, all you His slaves, you who fear Him, the small and the great.’
“Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’ Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’”
That is a stunning vision. It marks the end of man’s day. Will things in the troubled world ever be better? Will there ever be an end to war and hostility and inequity and crime and chaos? The answer is a resounding yes, when Jesus Christ comes to rule, when He returns to be King. We’ve been waiting for this event all our lives, and all the history of the church has looked forward to this. And the brighter this hope has shined in any generation of the church, the greater the church’s joy and ability to endure the difficulties in the world. Jesus is coming. This is the culmination of all human history.
And as we learn through the book of Revelation, this glorious event does not happen without great preliminary judgment, great preliminary hostility. The Antichrist will by this time have gathered all His forces, inspired by Satan and hell’s demons. They will have gathered together to fight against the returning Christ. They will engage in a final fury of battle at Armageddon as the darkness tries to stop the King of light from establishing His kingdom.
At the head of that unified force, that world army will be the Antichrist who marches in hostility against God’s anointed. In the sixteenth chapter of the book of Revelation the scene is described with these words, verse 17: “Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, ‘It is done.’ And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And huge hailstones, about a hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.”
Where did the horrors of that happen? Back to verse 16: “They gathered together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon,” in the valley of Magedon, Megiddo. “The beast” – as chapter 19, verse 19 says – “and the kings of the earth and his armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.” This is the final conflict as the Antichrist and his demonic and earthly forces fight against the returning Christ.
The prior passage, as we read, verses 7 to 10, describes the wonderful marriage of the Lamb. That’s an event that takes place in heaven. The church is raptured into heaven prior to these events; meets with the Lamb, the Bridegroom; establishes the marriage, a wonderful time of blessing and joy and reward. But before the Bridegroom can take His bride to the new earth to dwell as her dwelling place with the saints of all the ages, there has to be a great battle. The Bridegroom becomes the warrior King. He can’t fulfill His marriage promise until He returns in victory and faces the greatest battlefield ever. The daring challenge of the Antichrist is accepted as the heavens opened and Christ in flaming fire comes to take vengeance.
Babylon, by now, has been destroyed. Babylon is a term that speaks of the final form of the world system, described in chapter 17 in its religious character; in chapter 18, in its economic character. Babylon has been destroyed. The world’s economic and religious systems devastated. The seven seals have been opened, and out of the seven seals seven trumpet judgments have been broken and delineated basically horrific death all across the planet. At the seventh trumpet, seven bowls of rapid-fire wrath were poured out. The final one, I just read you in chapter 16. Everything begins to disintegrate. Everything has come apart under the force of this judgment.
After all of this divine wrath, there is one last effort of the blaspheming world against Christ. Man’s day is about to end. By the way, this has been the plan from the beginning. This has been God’s plan all through redemptive history, that He would bring back His Son, the great King, King of kings, Lord of lords, to take back this earth.
Lest you think this is something that finds a place only in the book of Revelation, let me take you back to Isaiah chapter 11, the prophet Isaiah seven hundred years before Christ came the first time. Listen to the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah.
“A shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” Jesse was the father of David. The Messiah will be a son of Jesse through the line of David. And then it describes Him: “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear;” – no superficial judgment – “but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
“Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. For they will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious. Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people.”
Enough to say that Isaiah saw the coming of the Messiah in judgment and establishing His kingdom. And His kingdom would reverse the curse so that children could play in snake dens. No one needed to fear wild animals. The character of life on this earth would change dramatically.
Again, Isaiah in the sixty-third chapter, verse 1: “Who is this who comes from Edom, with the garments of glowing colors from Bozrah,” – Edom stands for the world. Bozrah once a capital of Edom. Edom is a symbol of paganism.
“Who is this who comes from Edom, with garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, the One who is majestic in His apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength? ‘It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.’ Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? ‘I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come. I looked, and there was no one to help, and I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; so My own arm brought salvation to Me, and My wrath upheld Me. I trod down the nations in My anger and made them drunk in My wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.” This is a picture of exactly what we read in Revelation chapter 19, the bloody judgment at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One more Old Testament prophet to look at is Zechariah. Zechariah prophesied the first coming of our Lord in chapter 9, verse 9. He said this: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” And that is how He came the first time, the first time. The next time He comes it’ll be very different.
Over to chapter 10 and verse 6: “I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I’ll bring them back, because I have had compassion on them; and they will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them. Ephraim will be like a mighty man, and their heart will be glad as if from wine; indeed, their children will see it and be glad, their heart will rejoice in the Lord. I will whistle for them to gather them together, for I have redeemed them; and they will be as numerous as they were before. When I scatter them among the peoples, they will remember Me in far countries, and they with their children will live and come back. And I will bring them back from the land of Egypt and gather them from Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon until no room can be found for them. And they will pass through the sea of distress and He will strike the waves in the sea, so that all the depths of the Nile will dry up; and the pride of Assyria will be brought down and the scepter of Egypt will depart. And I will strengthen them in the Lord, and in His name they will walk,” declares the Lord. God says, “Someday in the future I’m going to bring Israel back to the land. I’m going to be their Savior.”
Go to chapter 12, verse 1: “The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, ‘Behold, I’m going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the nations; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.’ – that’s Armageddon – ‘In that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the nations with blindness.” This is judgment.
Go down to verse 8: “In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord before them. In that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.
“The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; and all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves.” Chapter 13: “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.” In the end when the world comes to fight against Jerusalem, God will redeem His people Israel, defeat the nations, and establish His kingdom on the earth.
Look at chapter 14, Zechariah chapter 14: “Behold, a day is coming for the Lord when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fought in a day of battle. In that day” – and here’s His second coming – “His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.” Literally the splitting of that mountain. “You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!
“In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle.” We see that in the book of Revelation when all of the stars and the moon and sun go out. “It will be a unique day which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.” Verse 9: “And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.”
Amazing prophecies. Isaiah said it, chapter 9, “The government of the world will be on His shoulders.” Before the Lord establishes His kingdom He will have redeemed Israel, and He will have necessarily defeated the forces of hell at Megiddo. The battle is identified at Megiddo, but it also encompasses Jerusalem and essentially runs the full length of the land of Israel.
How did all this come about? The Antichrist has established himself in Jerusalem, and he endeavors to become the dictator of the world; he accomplishes that by making a pact with Israel, which he violates and breaks, and by allowing himself an alliance with Satan and demons that gives him control over the world. That is to say that the state of the world now is bad, but it isn’t as bad as it will be. It’s at it worst then. A conflict is set. By the time you get to this hour, all golden eras of human history are long gone, long gone.
The Antichrist has fully established himself. It’s described back in chapter 13: “The dragon stood at the sand of the seashore,” verse 1. “I saw a beast coming up out of the sea,” – this is the Antichrist – “having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.” He is multiplied as a blasphemer and as a king. He is a blasphemous king that has had no equal in human history.
He’s described as being like a leopard, like a bear, and like a lion. “And the dragon” – who is Satan – “gave him his power and throne and authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast.” Apparently he pulls a false resurrection.
“They worshiped the dragon” – Satan – “because he gave his authority to the beast. They worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’” So the whole world bows to Satan and his Antichrist.
“It was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months,” that’s half the seven-year tribulation, three-and-a-half years. “He opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.
“It was also given to him to make war with the saints to overcome them; authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” So this Antichrist is the final global world ruler. And he is successful because of his demonic power. Verse 8: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” If your name is not written in that book, you’re going to follow him, you’re going to worship him.
Antichrist will operate in full power openly blaspheming, blatantly defying God. The whole world will be worshiping Satan, worshiping him. All men and all women will have survived unbelievable, indescribable carnage for forty-two months, three-and-a-half years. As the judgments of God blast the earth on top of the horrors of Satan and his demons. But in the process of all of that there will be people saved from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation; and Israel will be regathered to salvation. That all leads up to the final end.
In Psalm 83 we read this, and it perhaps is the very psalm that people in Israel may quote in this future moment of history. “Keep not silent, O God. Do not remain quiet. Do not be still. For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, and those who hate You have exalted themselves. They make shrewd plans against Your people, they conspire together against Your treasured ones. They have said, ‘Come, and let us wipe them out, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.’ For they have conspired together with one mind; against You do they make covenant.” That would be a description of the final covenant that the world makes under Antichrist to blaspheme God and to win a victory over the returning Son of God.
The martyred saints are pictured in the book of Revelation chapter 6, verse 10, and they’re saying this: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood? How long is this going to go on? How long are You going to allow efforts against the king? How long are You going to allow blasphemy?”
In the little epistle of Jude, verse 14: “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” Ungodly, ungodly, ungodly people will feel the fury of final wrath.
Now all of that leads us to verse 11 where the scene opens: “And I saw heaven opened.” This is that moment. Speedily and triumphantly the gates of heaven burst open, and the Lord appears. A catastrophic collision is about to occur when He arrives on the earth – mark it. History – mark it – does not quietly gradually merge into some environmental meltdown. History does not quietly and gradually merge into the kingdom of Christ as the post-tribulationalists, the reconstructionists, the theonomists in kingdom theologues would like us to believe. The kingdom comes with fury and viciousness in a cataclysmic, divisive intervention from heaven that happens in split seconds.
The end of human history will come with violence, fiery judgment, the whole earth bathed in blood on that great day of God Almighty. The prophets called the day of the Lord the last blow to a world already experiencing slaughter, murder, bloodshed, violence, satanic presence. Sin has run rampant. And the prophets agree that the main battle will be in Palestine, although it surely may extend far beyond that, because the Lord will slay His enemies over the whole earth. But the final battle, the main battle focuses in Palestine in the land of Israel, and particularly from Jerusalem north to Megiddo. Megiddo has very significant history: there, Barak and Deborah fought Sisera; there, Gideon fought the Midianites; there, Saul was slain by the Philistines; there, Pharaoh Neco slew Josiah, et cetera – a blood-bathed valley in history. And through the years, every battle fought there even since biblical times, whether it was fought there by the armies of Napoleon or by the Turks is only a harbinger of the final battle, the great day of the battle of God Almighty.
This is the end of man’s day, the glorious return of Christ. This is, by the way, the same Jesus who ascended in Acts 1. “This same Jesus,” – says Acts 1:11 – “whom you’ve seen go into glory, will so come in like manner as you’ve seen Him go.” Despised, rejected, spit on, mocked, and ridiculed. From that treatment, He ascended; but He returns to reign.
Now I want you to look at this passage before us, verses 11 to 16. The whole picture seems like it was based on Isaiah 11, particularly verses 3 to 5 in Isaiah 63 that I read to you earlier. This isn’t the first mention however of the second coming in the book of Revelation or in the New Testament. In the Olivet Discourse our Lord said much about His second coming, Matthew 24 and 25. But in the book of Revelation I want you to notice the text that anticipates chapter 19. Go back to chapter 11.
“The seventh angel sounds the seventh trumpet; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,” – and here is the hallelujahs anticipated that we see realized in chapter 19 – ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are, who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your slaves the prophets and saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.’ And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.” The return of Christ is being anticipated. The war machine in heaven is cranking up right there in chapter 11.
If you go to chapter 14 you see in verse 14, “I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.” He’s ready to reap.
Go down to verse 18. Another angel, one who has power over fire came out from the altar; called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Putin your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.’ So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and thew them into the great wine press of the wrath of God.”
And then over in chapter 16, verse 13: “I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs;”- they’re spirits of demons – “performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.” And then verse 16: “They gathered them to Har-Magedon.” So even in the book of Revelation this is being anticipated. And finally in chapter 19 we arrive at John’s vision of this future event.
I just want to point out three things here. Number One: The return of the conqueror. The return of the conqueror. Verse 11: “I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.” So the doors of heaven swing open. It is the last time for the full glorious revelation of Jesus Christ on this earth. The very point of the book of Revelation has been reached. Judgment has reached its final act. And the Lord will judge, and then He will establish His everlasting, sovereign rule and His earthly kingdom.
Listen to what our Lord said about this back in Matthew chapter 24, verse 27: “Just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” When heaven’s opened, this is how fast He comes, like lightening.
Verse 29: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” So this is the picture: everything has gone black with the final seventh bowl, darkness covers the earth. And then there’s a flash of lightening, and in that flash of lightening, verse 30 says, “The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds,” – to gather into the kingdom – “from one end of the sky to the other.” He comes. He comes, first, to gather His own.
Down in verse 42 our Lord said, “Be on the alert, you don’t know which day your Lord is coming.” Be ready. If you’re not ready, you have a description of that. “The Master of the slave will come in a day when he doesn’t expect Him and an hour which he doesn’t know,” – verse 50; verse 51 – “and cut him in pieces, assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” If you’re a believer, you look for this glorious hope. If you’re an unbeliever, you are warned.
So as believers we fix our eyes on this majestic, regal, mighty writer and we note some details about him: heaven opens, Jesus ascended into heaven seated at the right hand of the Father. To receive the kingdom promise, however, He has to come back. He has had the marriage supper with His bride. The redeemed saints are with Him; He is now married. He leaves His Father’s house to come down and establish His rightful dominion and His kingdom.
Back in chapter 5, you remember, don’t you, that we were taken into heaven. And when we got to heaven we heard this. We heard that there was praise, praise offered to the Lamb. Verse 9: “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
Way back in chapter 5 the hosts of heaven were readying for this moment when the Lord comes back. Really, this is a prayer that was first prayed in Isaiah 64. Isaiah 64:1 and 2 says, “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence, that nations may tremble at Your presence.” That was the prayer of Isaiah 64; it’ll be fulfilled when the event of Revelation 19 takes place.
It shows him surprisingly, that’s why the word “behold” is there, on a white horse. He’s not a lamb. He’s not riding the foal of a donkey. He’s not coming in humility, He’s coming as a conquering general, and the white horse was a symbol of a conquering Roman general, a general returning from triumphant war would ride a white horse, leading his legions up the Via Sacra in Rome, the main street of Rome, to the Forum, to the Temple of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill, where everyone would hail him as the conquering hero. He would be followed by all his troops.
So we see the Lord coming, riding on a white horse. White is not only the color of war chargers, but it’s a symbol of purity. And the word “white” here is leukos, which means brilliant or dazzling. It’s not a flat white, it’s a dazzling white like light. He comes now to destroy what is left of the world’s demonic wickedness. The horse is symbolic, the coming is real.
As the psalmist wrote of His return in Psalm 45: “And Your sword upon Your thigh, O Most Mighty, with Your glory and Your majesty! Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies, whereby the people fall under You. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” Psalm 45 even anticipating this. He comes in glory, the Son of Man in glory. He comes visibly. Revelation 1:7, “Every eye will see Him.” He comes powerfully, we read here: “He comes to judge and make war.”
Just a brief note. There is an event promised to believers called the rapture of the church. We read about it in 1 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, John 14. It’s different than this event. It’s why we believe that the church will already be removed by this time. Why? Because at the rapture, Christ meets His own in the air; here, He brings them with Him to the earth. At the rapture, there is no judgment; here, it is all judgment. The rapture is a time of blessing, this is a time of cursing. The rapture takes His own to heaven, this event brings His own to earth. The rapture has no preliminary signs. This event is proceeded by carefully revealed signs from chapter 6 to 19. So we believe that the church will have been taken out, and this is what will be left for the world. Many will be saved during that period as well who will then enter into His kingdom from Israel and the nations.
The coming King is identified as Faithful and True, because He keeps His word and He always speaks the truth. His name, by the way, is in vivid contrast to Satan the liar, the deceiver, and to demons, and to those who follow them. Jesus tells the truth. He is God who cannot lie. He is faithful and true. The dragon is the deceiver. The beast is a false Christ. The second beast is a false prophet. The earth is filled with false worshipers. But Jesus is Faithful and True, and He comes in righteousness, righteous reaction against sin. That is to say He reacts rightly to sin. And sin has taken over the world in a way that is beyond anything in human history before this, and so His righteousness leads to this final judgment. And John writes, “He judges.” Once a Savior, now a Judge.
When He was here, wicked people judged Him; then He will judge them. The people were the judge and executioner; but when He returns, He will be the Judge and Executioner. The apostles warned about this in their preaching. An illustration of that is found in the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts, and verse 31: “God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Who is the Judge? The one whom God raised from the dead. And back in verse 2 of this chapter, “His judgments are true and righteous, true and righteous.” Too late for rejectors who have already given final blasphemy.
Secondly, it says He comes to make war, wage war – polemei, present active – to go to war. Once He came to feed the hungry, minister to the needy, heal the sick, cast demons from the oppressed, give peace to troubled hearts; not this time. At the Red Sea, you remember, when Jehovah destroyed Pharaoh and his hosts, Israel sang Moses’ song in Exodus 15:3, and what they said is this: “The Lord is a man of war. The Lord is a warrior.”
I love what [John Phillips] wrote: “The Lord is a man of war. In righteousness He judges and makes war. The judging has been going on throughout the breaking of the seals, the blowing of the trumpets, and the pouring out of the bowls. Now He makes war. He who for long centuries has endured patiently scoffings, the insults, the bad manners of men who for ages have contemplated Calvary and all that it displayed of human hatred and contempt and who, through the millennia, has made peace through the blood of that cross now makes war over that blood. For human sin has reach high water mark and must be put down by force of arms. But there will not be much fighting when the battle is joined. It will all be over in a flash.”
Heaven cannot be at peace with sin. Iniquity cannot be tolerated. You think because God hasn’t acted by now He’s tolerant? No, He’s just patient, “not willing that any of His own should perish, but that all whom He has chosen should come to repentance,” as Peter put it. He is waiting until He has gathered His redeemed together. When sin reaches the final incorrigible and incurable moment, it and all who participate in it will be destroyed. Mercy abused brings the executioner.
Here comes the sword of insulted majesty, the wrath of rejected grace. And this conqueror comes not like other conquerors out of covetousness, pride, ambition, power, but in righteousness and strict accord with every holy interest to do what is right. His eyes are a flame of fire, as they were way back in chapter 1 and chapter 2. We saw His eyes as a flame of fire as He looks at His church and discerns the reality of the condition of His church. It speaks of His omniscience. And when He comes, He will see things the way they really are. His eyes now flash with fire – penetrating, burning eyes. To judge rightly He must see all. Nothing can escape Him. He also comes with many crowns, many diadems, royal rank and regal authority. This is the symbol of His sovereignty. He is a warrior, He is a judge, He is an executioner, and He is the sovereign King.
Earlier we saw crowns on the head of the Antichrist, crowns on the head of the dragon. Now they are vanquished, like David when he conquered the Ammonites, back in 2 Samuel, put the crown of the vanquished king on his head in addition to his own crown; or, when Ptolemy conquered Antioch, he set two crowns on his head – one of Asia and the one of Egypt – to show that he had conquered both. The dragon had seven crowns in Revelation. The beast had ten. When Jesus comes, He has all the crowns, all the crowns – a fair exchange for a crown of thrones.
This is something that the prophet Ezekiel saw back in Ezekiel. And I’m only giving you samples of what the prophets say about this event. But back in Ezekiel chapter 21, a couple of verses, verses 26 and 27: “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Remove the turban and take off the crown; this will no longer be the same. Exalt that which is low and abase that which is high. A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I will make it. This also will be no more until He comes whose right itis, and I will give it to Him. Take off your crowns, they all belong to Christ.’” Ezekiel even anticipates that day.
Listen to Psalm 45, verses 3 and 4: “Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One, in Your splendor and Your majesty! And in Your majesty ride on victoriously, for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let Your right hand teach You awesome things. Your arrows are sharp; Your peoples fall under You; Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.” Unassailable sovereignty, no more kings.
Now it says, “He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.” Can’t tell you how many times people have asked me, “What is that name?” It is a name that no man knew. Well, what is that saying to us? We think we know everything there is to know about Christ. We think that because we know what is told to us about Him in the Old Testament and what is told to us so completely in the New Testament, that we fully understand Him. That is far from the reality. To say He has a name that no man knew is to say that there is about Him an incomprehensibility about which we know absolutely nothing, which is to say that He is far beyond what we imagine Him to be. There are unknowable realities in His nature, we could never fathom the full mystery.
Verse 13: “He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood,” – the blood of His enemies, the blood of His enemies, the blood we saw in Isaiah 63. These are battle clothes, and they are bloodstained.
This is not His first battle. Who but He cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Who fought for Israel in the days of Joshua? Who fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo? Who vanquished all the world powers of the past and all the nations that have fallen? It is the same Almighty Conqueror who battled sin at the cross, who shed His blood on that cross, who will again be bloodstained; only it won’t be His blood, it’ll be the blood of His enemies on His battle clothes.
Back in chapter 14, verse 20, “When He treads the wine press, the blood came out from the wine press to the horses’ bridles for a distance of two hundred miles.” When Jesus comes back the slaughter will run for two hundred miles. North and south, east and west, a bloodbath of eternal judgment.
It says that “He will come from heaven” – 2 Thessalonians 1:7 – “with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus; and they will pay the penalty of eternal destruction.” Final judgment is a bloodbath. We’ll see more about that next week when we get to verses 17 and following.
“His name” – verse 13 – “is called The Word of God, The Word of God.” We know who that is, John 1: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” – John 1:14 – “and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” His name is called the Word of God: it means He is the one who is the Word, whom John introduces to us. He is the Divine One.
So He has a name that no one knew, that’s His incomprehensibility; He has a name that we can know, The Word of God, which speaks of His comprehensibility because He’s revealed Himself in His Word; and He is consummately given the name at the end of verse 16: KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And so we see the return of the conqueror.
Verse 14, we see the regiments, the regiments of the conqueror: “And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.” Who are they? The hosts of heaven. The church, because it says, “They were clothed in fine linen,” – go back verse 8. The marriage of the Lamb, the bride – the bride is the church in the New Testament: “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen,” symbol of perfect righteousness.
So we know the church is there clothed in fine linen white and clean. We know the tribulation saints are there because those who died in the tribulation have been glorified. We know the Old Testament saints are there because they too have been gathered into the presence of the Lord. And we know the angels are there, from Matthew 25:31, “returns with His angels.” So He comes with saints and angels, and all the hosts of heaven coming down to earth at the moment of judgment and the establishment of His kingdom, to reign with Him on earth for a thousand years. They’re all on white horses. They’re all part of His triumph. The great warrior is mounted, and so are all His armies. So all the hosts of heaven come down for His glorious reign.
Psalm 149:5, “Let the godly ones exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the people, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written; this is an honor for all His godly ones. Praise the Lord!” What is that saying? We’re going to be there. All the godly ones are going to be there. We’re coming to reign with Him. We’re coming to reign with Him. We’ll see more details of that in chapter 20.
So we see the return of the conqueror, we see the regiments who were with Him, and finally, the rule of the conqueror, verses 15 and 16: “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” This is graphic: “From His mouth comes a sharp sword.” We saw that back in chapter 1 and chapter 2, as the sword that defends His church. Now it is the sword of judgment. “He comes with the sword to strike down the nations.” John wrote that, “The Son of Man was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil.” And that’s what He will do.
Remember what I read in Isaiah 11: “He will smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.” Smite the earth, rule them with a rod of iron in His kingdom with precise justice.
Psalm 2; become familiar with that. Tells us what He’s going to do with the nations. “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed. He who sits in the heavens laughs. He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, ‘But as for Me, I’ve installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.’” When God installs Christ on the holy mountain He’ll scoff at the nations who defy Him.
“I will tell of the decree Lord: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I’ll surely give the nations as Your inheritance, the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, you shall shatter them like clay pots.’” He treads the wine press of the wrath of God; that was described – and I won’t take time – back in chapter 14. He crushes the grapes of wrath to produce the cup of wrath that the sinners must drink, and establishes His rule. He will rule them with a rod of iron, having crushed them under His fierce wrath.
And then, finally, “On His robe and on His thigh He has a name,” – what is it? – ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’” All foes are vanquished, a massive global slaughter. Mercy abused, grace rejected; a murderer preferred over the Prince of Life, and Satan preferred over the Son of God through human history. God openly blasphemed. Even under judgment after judgment, after judgment, after judgment, in the preaching of the gospel during the time of the tribulation, the world ends up blaspheming His name; and so He comes.
I think a fitting way to end this is to end where we began. Go back to Isaiah chapter 32, Isaiah chapter 32, verse 1: “Behold, a king will reign righteously and princes will rule justly.” Who are the princes? That’s the believers; 1 Corinthians lets us know that. We come back to reign with Him. So does Revelation 20, as we’ll see. “A king will reign righteously and princes will rule justly. Each” – each one who rules – “will be like a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land.”
Look at chapter 33: “Woe to you, O destroyer, while you were not destroyed; and he who is treacherous, while others didn’t deal treacherously with him. As soon as you finish destroying, you will be destroyed; as soon as you cease to deal treacherously, others will deal treacherously with you.
“O Lord, be gracious to us; we’ve waited for You. Be their strength every morning, our salvation also in the time of distress. At the sound of the tumult peoples flee; at the lifting up of Yourself nations disperse. Your spoil is gathered as the caterpillar gathers; as locusts rushing about men rush about on it. The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness. And He will be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is his measure.
“Behold, their brave men cry in the streets, the ambassadors of peace weep bitterly. The highways are desolate, the traveler has ceased, he has broken the covenant, he has despised the cities, he has no regard for man. The land mourns and pines away, Lebanon is shamed and withers; Sharon is like a desert plain, and Bashan and Carmel lose their foliage.
“Now I will arise,” says the Lord, “Now I will be exalted, now I will be lifted up. You have conceived chaff, you will give birth to stubble; My breath will consume you like fire.” That’s a prophecy that ties so beautifully with the nineteenth chapter of Revelation.
Just a couple verses to finish at the end of that chapter, or near the end, verse 21: “There the majestic One, the Lord,” – I love this – “will be for us a place of rivers and wide canals on which no boat with oars will go, and on which no mighty ship will pass – for the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; He will save us.” That’s the believer’s hope, and that is the promise of the Word of God.
Our Father, Your Word exceeds all that we could expect in its consistency and clarity and power as it reveals the absolute truth, not only when it speaks of what has happened in the past, but when it speaks regarding what will happen in the future. We want to live in the light of Your return. We don’t want to put our hope in this world. We don’t want to be seduced by trying to fix a world that is careening at warp speed toward divine judgment, we just want to be faithful to preach the gospel to all we meet so they can escape the wrath to come.
As a church, we are looking for and hastening the glorious return of Christ. We are waiting for Your Son from heaven who delivers us from the wrath to come. Let the world be the world. Let it go on in its death dive. May we keep our focus on the glorious promise that our Lord will return, and we with Him, to reign in truth and righteousness. May we do all we can to proclaim the gospel so that many through our influence and faithfulness will be a part of the glory of that return. We ask these things in His name and for His honor. Amen.
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