Dr. Richard L. Strauss
July 8, 1979
When the Lord Jesus walked on this earth as a man, His supreme divine glory was veiled. The writer to the Hebrews tells us it was veiled with His flesh. On one occasion, on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17, the veil was drawn aside and three disciples beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. The King of kings and the Sovereign of all the earth. But generally speaking, those were years of humiliation--years of rejection, culminating in suffering and death.
But when we reach the scene in Revelation 19, all that changes. Before us now is the Lord of glory in all His majesty and sovereignty; this is the revelation of the King of kings and Lord of lords returning in splendor and triumph. The story of the Book of Revelation has built to this exciting moment, the moment of Christ's return to earth. We are ready to see the revelation of the Lord of glory. Having described the downfall of Satan's false religious system, having reported the praise of the hosts of heaven on the eve of this great event, having announced that Christ's kingdom is about to be established--called in this chapter the marriage feast of the Lamb--we are ready for His appearance. This is the second coming of Jesus Christ.
"And I saw heaven opened and, behold, a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war" (Revelation 19:11).
This is it, folks. Here is the apex of the ages, and high point of human history, the manifestation of the Son of God in all His glory. It is the beginning of the end for the forces of evil, the initiation of the greatest era since the beginning of time: the Millennium, 1000 years of righteousness and peace on earth.
It all begins when heaven opens, and John sees a white horse, the one sitting upon it called Faithful and True. Back in Revelation 4:1, John saw a door opened in heaven, but this seems to be a much broader thing--"I saw heaven opened." Could it be the answer to Isaiah's prayer in Isaiah 64:1-2, "Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence--as fire burns brushwood, as fire causes water to boil--to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence!"? What a fantastic prayer, made thousands of years before this event in Revelation. Isaiah prays for God to open the heavens and that God would come. That's what happens in Revelation 19:11, "And I saw heaven opened and, behold, a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True."
Keep in mind now that the rider on the white horse is not the same one as in Revelation 6:1. When we studied that passage we came to the conclusion that that rider was the Antichrist, Satan's man, the man of sin, full of deceit and lies. He began to make his conquests at the beginning of the Tribulation period. But this rider in chapter 19 is a different rider. He is called "Faithful and True." The same titles are applied to the Lord Jesus in the letter to the Loadiceans (Revelation 3:14). He goes forth to judge and to make war in righteousness at the end of the Tribulation period, for that is where we are chronologically in the book. There is no question about the identity of this rider. He is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Before we go any farther in this passage, I think it is necessary to establish clearly what return this refers to. There is a distinction made in the New Testament between Christ's coming for His saints at which time He takes them back to heaven (John 14:3), and His return with His saints to earth (Jude 14-15).
The first one we call the Rapture, a word describing what happens in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 when believers are "caught up" in the clouds. That term "caught up" is what we mean by the name Rapture, which comes from the Latin word rapio. That occurs before the Tribulation, I believe, in view of several promises to believers of this age, such as 1 Thessalonians 5:9, which says that God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain deliverance through our Lord Jesus Christ. Deliverance, not wrath. And this is the great day of God's wrath according to Revelation chapter 6. In our Lord's message to the church at Philadelphia in Revelation 3:10, we shall be kept from the hour. Not just kept from the wrath, but kept from the very hour of testing which shall try all those on the face of the earth.
The second one we call the Second Coming, since He will literally return to the earth. It occurs after the Tribulation. Jude talks about it in his one-chapter book, in verses 14 and 15. This is the return we're talking about in Revelation 19.
The Rapture is imminent; it could happen at any time. James 5:8 says the coming of the Lord draws nigh, and James used a word that means the coming of the Lord is proximate. It is imminent. It could happen at any time. There are no events that must occur before this prophetic event.
But this event in Revelation 19--the Second Coming--is preceded by definite signs. According to Matthew 24:33, the Lord Jesus said that when you see these things you will know that the coming of the Lord is here. There are also some events that the Scripture tells us must transpire before the Second Coming, such as the judgment seat of Christ, where believer's works are burned so that we may return with the Lord Jesus, clothed in garments of white linen, clean and white, which are the righteousnesses of the saints: those works (of believers) that survive the purging fire at the judgment seat of Christ. And the marriage ceremony of the Lamb so that when Christ returns we are ready for the marriage supper, which is His kingdom on earth.
Now, His return. When heaven opens in Revelation 19, the Lord is ready to return to earth. Revelation 19:12 says, "His eyes were like a flame of fire." That's a reference to one of His prime duties at His return, that is, the judgment of sin. In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was in His role as judge that John first saw Him in the opening vision of this book, and there also his eyes were like a flame of fire (Revelation 1:14).
John goes on to say in Revelation 19:12 that on His head were many crowns. There are two types of crowns in the New Testament. The stephanos, which is the crown of the victor, and the diadem, the crown of a sovereign. The word used here is diadem, an indication that He is coming to rule as the Sovereign of the earth.
"And He had a name written that no one knew except Himself" (Revelation 19:12c). There are four titles given to the Lord Jesus in this brief passage of Scripture: Faithful and True (verse 11), one that no one knows but Himself (verse 12), the Word of God (verse 13), and King of kings and Lord of lords (verse 16). This one in verse 12 must depict something very unique. No one else knows that name--except the Father, which the Lord Jesus said Himself in Matthew 11:27 that no one knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son. This is evidently a name which in some way portrays the unique eternal relationship between the Father and the Son.
In verse 13, His vesture was dipped in blood. It's another picture of judgment. This is probably a reference to the impending bloodshed. It was described in Revelation 14:20 as splashing up to the horse bridles. "And His name is called the Word of God" (Revelation 19:13b). Only the Apostle John uses this title of the Lord Jesus. He uses it here, and in his gospel (John 1:1, 14), and in his first epistle (1 John 1:1; 5:7). A word is an expression of personality and character and thought. So Jesus Christ is the only perfect expression of the eternal God. And on this occasion He is expressing the holiness, righteousness and justice of God, assuming His role as judge.
In verse 14, we read of the armies that accompany Him. "And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses."
The obvious question that arises here is of whom this army is composed. Some say that it is only the church, the Bride of Christ, because they are clothed in fine linen, white and clean. But I do not think we can set limitations like that. It is true that the saints will be included in that army. Jude approvingly quotes an extra-Biblical prophecy of Enoch in Jude 14-15 that makes it perfectly clear that the saints will be in that number, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." You and I will be there, dear Christian!
The Lord Jesus makes it clear, however, that angels will also be in that company. "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory" (Matthew 25:31). And so the hosts of heaven, angels and men, will compose the army of the Lord at His second coming.
Let me tell you, folks, this is the poorest equipped army in history, by human standards, and yet the best equipped by divine standards. There is only one weapon for the whole army, and it is described in verse 15. It is a sharp sword, that goes out of the mouth of the Son of God. It may be that this sharp sword is nothing else than the Word of God which is likened to a sword in Hebrews 4:12. Jesus Christ absolutely annihilates the enemy with the word of His mouth. In 2 Thessalonians 2:8, it says that the lawless one, the Antichrist, specifically will be destroyed by the spirit of His mouth. Right here in Revelation 19:21, the rest of the unbelievers were slain with the sword which proceeded out of His mouth.
None of the rest of us will even get an opportunity to fight. The Lord Jesus wins this battle alone. He smites these godless nations with the sword of His mouth. And the next statement says that He shall rule them with a rod of iron. A rod was a shepherds instrument. He used it in caring for his sheep. It was usually made of wood. When the Lord returns, He's going to have a rod, but it will be a rod of iron. In other words, once His kingdom is established, He shall tolerate no open rebellion against His will.
This concept is taken from Psalm 2:8-9. Verse 9 says, "You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel." That same statement is repeated to the church at Thyatira. "He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels" (Revelation 2:27). A similar idea is found in Isaiah in a clear passage concerning the Millennial kingdom; "He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked" (Isaiah 11:4b). As the Millennium progresses, and people are born, it will be possible that some may not trust Jesus Christ. But anyone who dares to resist Him openly will be immediately destroyed.
Look back again at Revelation 19:15. The next sentence says, "He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." This is a repetition of what we read of the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation 14:19-20. The cup of iniquity is full, the grapes of wrath are ripe, and now God is about to put in the sickle, and gather the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress and crush it in judgment. It is an awesome picture. It, of course, was the inspiration for that great hymn: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He tramples out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored." And here it is again. The men who have rejected God's grace shall feel the terror of His wrath against sin.
If the Lord Jesus comes back for His own soon, and the Tribulation period begins shortly, people living today could still be alive at this awful day described here. That is a horrible thought. There could be some people listening to this message or reading it, fully aware of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the good news that He died for our sins and rose again on the third day. They may reject that message and be on the losing side of this battle. They could experience this wrath and judgment. If I had never trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and I read a passage like this, I think I would want to receive Him immediately, and get on the winning side. If we reject His grace, we experience His wrath.
In verse 16, we have the last title ascribed to the Lord in this chapter, "And He has on his vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords." If the first title revealed His eternal character, faithfulness and truth, and the second revealed his eternal relation to the Father, and the third title His incarnation as the visible expression of the Father, this one portrays Him in His future glory: the sovereign ruler of the earth.
At last, in our study of Revelation, He has come. At last He has put down sin and Satan. At last he has assumed His rightful place as King of the earth, and every living being will bow to His Lordship. This is the event that all of human history looks forward to.
This is the fulfillment of great Old Testament prophecies such as Isaiah 9:6-7, that great Christmas passage which says that the government shall be upon His shoulders and His name shall be called the Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. And in Daniel 2:44-45, where the rock is hewn out of the mountain and it comes and breaks in pieces the kingdoms of men, and itself is the kingdom of God which shall stand forever. The Psalmist looked forward to this day when he wrote, " Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory" (Psalm 24:7-10).
This is the fulfillment of the prophetic cry at the sounding of the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:15, "The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever."
2. The Annihilation of Antichrist's Kingdom
It remains for us to read the description of the absolute devastation of the Satanic world kingdom of the Antichrist. It comes by way of an invitation from an angel to the birds of the heavens, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great" (Revelation 19:17-18).
This is the second feast mentioned in this chapter, but it is not nearly so happy as the first one. The first one was the marriage supper of the Lamb. In this second one, the birds of the air are going to feast on the carcasses of the godless nations of the earth. These are the people who rejected the message of God's grace, who submitted themselves to the will of the Antichrist. These are the kings who gave him their power, the captains of his army, the horses on which they rode. These are the hoards of people from every walk of life who received the mark of the beast. The picture is not a pleasant one, but it emphasizes the all-important fact that our God is not only a God of love, but a God of holiness and justice who must punish sinners who reject His offer of salvation.
Look at the folly in verse 19. "And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army."
Can you believe the Antichrist--this godless world leader--thinks he can defeat the Son of God? He actually gathers his puppet kings and his armies together to fight against the Lord. The book of Revelation does not give us the details of his movements during these last days of the Great Tribulation, but the prophet Daniel does. He reveals in chapter 11 of his book that the world empire of the Antichrist is in grave danger. Bushfire rebellions are breaking out in various places. When he moves south to extinguish one, he hears rumors from the north and east, possibly an invasion of the holy land by the kings of the east. He returns to Jerusalem where his worship is centered to put down this new resistance. The inhabitants of Jerusalem feel the pressure of these world powers opposing one another in their environs.
This seems to be the picture we get in Zechariah 14, another major passage concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ. Read verse 2-4 and see how the Lord Jesus returns to destroy these powers before they have an opportunity to completely destroy the city and its inhabitants.
The result of the battle is described in verse 20. "Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh" (Revelation 19:20-21).
This is the first mention of the lake of fire which becomes a prominent part of the narrative of this book from this point on. These two Satanic world rulers are the first inhabitants of that awful place. Satan himself shall be cast there 1000 years later (Revelation 20:10). Then every unbeliever--whose name is not written in the book of life--is cast into the lake of fire after the Great White Throne judgment in Revelation 20:14-15. But the thing I want to impress upon you, folks, is that 1000 years after this event in Revelation 19:20, these two are still in the lake of fire, still being tormented day and night. This is conclusive Biblical evidence that the lake of fire does not annihilate its inhabitants (Revelation 20:10).
You see, God's purpose is not to annihilate and it's not to purge sin and fit people for heaven. His purpose is punitive. It involves conscious torment. That's not a pleasant thing, and I don't enjoy talking about it--I have to be honest with you. I get no pleasure preaching about hell, and God gets no pleasure consigning people to hell. He's a God of love. He longs for people to repent and trust His Son as Savior from sin. But He's likewise a God of holiness and righteousness and judgment, and His very character demands that He punish sin and eternally separate it from His presence, that it be eternally condemned. And if you do not accept God's grace, then someday you shall experience God's judgment. The day will come when you will stand before God and hear His sentence pronounced, consigning you this place of eternal punishment. It's not a pleasant theme, but it is the Word of God.
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
If you've never put your trust in the Lord Jesus as your Savior from sin, it is our sincere desire and prayer that today you will be willing to acknowledge your sin and to believe that Jesus Christ died on that cross in your place and paid for your sin, and to place your trust in Him alone--not in any deed you can do--but in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Let's pray.
Our heavenly Father, we ask You that by Your grace you may draw some to the Lord Jesus today. We pray that this revelation of the second coming of our Lord Jesus to forever judge sin and to forever rule in righteousness, will be the impetus that some need to open their hearts to Him. And God, it is the desire of our hearts, who know You and have trusted Your Son as Savior, that His return to receive His bride be soon. And so we cry with the Apostle John, "Even so come, Lord Jesus." It's in His name we pray. Amen.
Continue to RV-14A: Peace on Earth