Jesus Wins! – Part 34: Hey, Beast? Get Some! Rev. 19:11-21

//Jesus Wins! – Part 34: Hey, Beast? Get Some! Rev. 19:11-21

Jesus Wins! – Part 34: Hey, Beast? Get Some! Rev. 19:11-21

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. [1]

From 1949 to 1957 ABC’s highest rated television series was The Lone Ranger staring (for most of its run) Clayton More and his white horse, Silver. By the time I began my formative TV-watching childhood in the early 1960s, The Lone Ranger was in syndication and available every afternoon for all us red-blooded impressionable young Texas boys to watch. Not a few of us had stick ponies named “Silver.” Every afternoon, the Lone Ranger, his identity cleverly concealed by a black mask, would ride into a town and serve up justice to bad guys in black hats.

At the end of each episode with the bad guys vanquished, someone would ask, “Who was that masked man?” The town sheriff or mayor would answer, “Why, that’s the Lone Ranger.” The camera would cut to the masked man astride his white horse and yelling, “Hi-Yo, Silver, away!”  The ranger and his trusted side-kick, Tonto, would ride off toward the horizon on their way to serve up more justice to more black hats. Tune in tomorrow for another adventure. Silver, the white horse, was a powerful symbol for truth, justice, goodness, and manifest destiny.

Military leaders throughout history have prized white horses because they stood out in battle. Willian the Conqueror, Joan of Arc, El Cid, Napoleon, Ulysses Grant, and Robert E. Lee rode white horses. The white horse was the symbol of the conquering war hero. It’s no accident, then, that Messiah Jesus is pictured on a white horse riding into battle against the great armies of the satanically-controlled beast of governmental-military power arrayed against the church at the end of the age. Jesus, however, doesn’t wear a mask. Everyone will know who he is when he rides into town on his white horse. John promised in 1:7, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.[2]

As we continue our walk through Revelation, John has shown us how worldly government and culture combine to persecute, oppress, and seduce God’s people to prevent them from worshipping Christ alone. John has seen three cycles of visions outlining how the world, the flesh, and the devil oppose God’s people and the judgments of warning God sends to the earth-dwellers, causing repentance in the elect and hardening the hearts of the reprobate. Each of these cycles were simply different camera angles of the same period of history between Christ’s first and second coming. Each end with a scene of the final judgment at the end of the age.

From Rev. 16:17 to 19:10, John focuses on the judgment of the idol-worshipping culture of the city of man, pictured as Babylon the Great, a seductive harlot. He has described its judgment as being split into three pieces by a great earthquake and as being thrown into the waters of judgment like a giant millstone. But the literal means of her final judgment comes at the hands of the beast, the governmental-military powers that turn upon and destroy her. The Harlot of Babylon falls to the beast. Now, it is the beast’s turn to get some. Judgement comes directly from Messiah Jesus himself riding in on a white horse.

The Lamb’s wedding feast we heard announced last week follows God’s judgment upon the earth-dwellers and his great demolition project of all that is touched by sin’s curse. So, we know that John has now circled back again to the final judgment to show us another camera angle of that great event. This time the focus is on the destruction of the governmental-military complex that drew its power and support from the God-rejecting culture Revelation calls the Harlot of Babylon. We have more camera angles of this same final judgment coming in these last few chapters. Revelation doesn’t depict a confusing series of multiple returns of Christ and multiple final judgments unless you insist on reading the book as a chronological sequence of separate events.

CONTRASTS

This return to another aspect of God’s final judgment is a contrast to the benediction of 19:9, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.[3] Now, vultures are invited to come feast on the carcasses of God’s enemies (19:17-18). Remember, John is writing in a pastoral context to believers being persecuted, some even put to death, by a satanically-controlled government in league with the prevailing economic-religious culture and local authorities who act as both a harlot and a false prophet to tempt its victims deeper and deeper into idol worship. Revelation serves to encourage oppressed Jesus-worshippers with the sure and certain knowledge that the beast and all aligned with him will be judged. Thus, Jesus rides in on a white horse symbolizing victorious conquest, righteousness, and holiness. Verse 11 says of the rider, “The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.[4]

Not only is there a contrast between the wedding feast and the vultures’ feast, there is the contrast between the beast and the Lion-Lamb on the white horse. In Revelation 13, we saw the beast depicted as the image of Satan the dragon. Now, we see Messiah as the image of God (Col. 1:15). The beast has ten crowns, indicating that his kingdom is limited, while Christ wears many crowns (Revelation 19:12). The beast has blasphemous names written upon him while Christ has worthy names written upon him.

The dragon gives power to the beast, while Christ’s power and authority is that of his Father. The beast seeks to imitate Christ through a fatal wound that is apparently healed. The beast seeks the worship of the inhabitants of the world. But Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and one day the whole world will confess him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And then there is the contrast which is most apparent in our text. The beast has been waging war on the saints. Christ now makes war on the beast.[5]

The final battle is the confirmation of the great victory Jesus Christ has already won over Satan through his death and resurrection. All the great battles between Christ and the Antichrist throughout redemptive history–from God’s defeat of Pharaoh and his armies in the sea, to God’s crushing of the city of Jericho which blocked the entrance into the promised land, to the divinely-ordained destruction of the Canaanites who occupied the land God promised to Abraham–all of these things point to this final battle when Jesus Christ destroys all God’s enemies with his flashing sword. This is the day of God’s vengeance, foretold by all the prophets and apostles.[6]

Some teachers, holding to a position called Postmillennialism, interpret this text not as a great final battle between Christ and the devil’s forces, but as a figurative picture of how the gospel subdues all God’s enemies and creates a world-wide paradise of Christendom in which all humans, saved or not, will be influenced to live according to God’s moral and civil laws. While the propositions of Messiah’s gospel do indeed beat back the forces of darkness wherever they are preached and wherever the Spirit breathes life into dead hearts, that is NOT the thrust of this picture of the final judgment in chapter 19.

The obvious and frequent parallels between this passage and the sixth seal judgment, the seventh trumpet judgment, and the sixth and seventh bowl judgments, as well as the scene of judgment in Revelation 20:7-10, indicate that John is not depicting something which goes on throughout the course of present age, but is instead describing an event which brings the present age to its end. This vision is not a reference to the gospel spreading throughout the present age but is a reference to the final battle associated with the day of judgment when both Law and Gospel are vindicated.

HEAVEN OPENS

In verse 11, John writes he sees heaven open. The opening of heaven is a signal that another literary segment has begun (4:1; 11:19; 15:5) and a scene of judgment will be introduced. This is a color painted from Ezekiel 1:1 where the prophet sees heaven opened and begins to write his prophetic message.[7] But when heaven opens here in chapter 19, it is not so John can come up but so that all the remaining earth-dwellers can see Messiah come down in judgment.

That which was previously hidden and could only be seen by the saints will now be witnessed by the whole world. The divine warrior rides the white horse to vindicate his name through his just judgments. He is Faithful and True, covenantal language reinforcing the worthiness of the rider to bring judgment upon the earth (Zech. 9:10; Ps. 2). Only this rider can both judge and make war without sinful human emotions or passions. His judgments are just and altogether righteous. His judgments are those of God himself. And his judgments are final.[8]

His eyes blaze like fire because only he sees the hidden secret sins of each earth-dweller. His blazing eyes is a reference to Rev. 2:18-23 where he warned the make believers of Thyatira to repent from their pretending to worship Messiah while indulging in the idols of their culture. Jesus sees every pretense. Unlike the dragon and the beast who only wore seven crowns (indicating limited power for a limited time), Messiah wears the crowns of every kingdom of the earth because he alone is the true ruler. His authority to rule all things is without limit and without pretense. He alone is the real deal; he alone is worthy of worship.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

His many crowns and the fact that “he has a name written that no one knows but himself[9] are images painted from Isaiah 62:2-3. There Isaiah sees a time when:

The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. 3You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. [10]

In Isaiah, God is speaking of his city, Jerusalem, being vindicated. He fulfills that promise in Christ who is the eternal glory of the new Jerusalem. Christ has no one else’s names but his own and only the Godhead knows the depth of his person and nature (his hidden name). Recall that back in Revelation 3:12, John spoke of the New Jerusalem and its identification with the “new name” given to believers mentioned in Revelation 2:17. The point is this: not only have we been invited to the bridal feast, we have been given the groom’s secret name known only to him.[11]

Christ’s “name” will be known to his people when they experience the fulfillment of prophecy in a new, consummated covenantal marriage relationship with him.[12] This is further explained in verse 16, where we learn more about the mysterious name. “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” This is a fitting name for the one who brings judgement upon the earth depicted in the images that follow. It is also a great blessing for the bride to be united to a husband who possesses such a regal and glorious title.

BLOOD SPLATTER

In verse 13 John writes, “He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.[13] Some see this as a reference to Messiah’s own blood shed as the Lamb of God. It was his shed blood that made him worthy to break open the seals of judgment in 5:6-10. It is only by the Lamb’s blood, his sacrificial death at Calvary to pay fully for the sins of his people, that his people acquire their white robes of righteousness by washing them in the blood of the Lamb (7:14).

But John has been painting this vision with colors taken from Isaiah. He has just referenced Isaiah 62. Now he uses hues from Isaiah 63:1-4 where the warrior Messiah brings vengeance and redemption:

Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” 2 Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? 3 “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. 4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. [14]

We saw this imagery in chapter 14:19-20 describing the final judgment as a harvest of good grain and of grapes of wrath. We see it here because, again, John is seeing a different camera angle of the same final event at the end of the age. Isaiah was speaking of God’s judgment upon the Gentiles nations. Israel’s redeemer is also a warrior covered with blood, just as though he had been in a winepress. Given the fact that the context here is one of judgment, the point is that Israel’s God–now revealed in Jesus Christ–is stained with the blood of the nations he has now slain. The predominate imagery of judgment–not redemption–is reinforced by the balance of the chapter.[15]

In verse 14, John sees Messiah riding in with a mighty army dressed in white. In Matthew 13:40-42 we read:

As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But given the fact that these people are clothed in white garments and given the statement in Revelation 17:14 that the Lamb “will overcome [his enemies] because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers,” it is likely we the saints accompany Christ and his angelic armies on the day of judgment. Notice too, these soldiers do not fight in the great battle. But they do accompany the one who slays the wicked, who will strike the nations with his rod of judgment.

In fact, not even Jesus does any actual fighting. He simply speaks judgment upon the beast with the sharp, two-edged sword of his mouth and the Godly authority of his iron scepter (v. 15; Ps. 2). The war language is symbolism used to describe a judicial proceeding in the same way similar language is used in Isaiah 11:4:

But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, /And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; /He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, /And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.[16]

God’s judgment is so deadly it’s pictured as a feast for the vultures. On the menu are, “the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.[17] The invitation to come “to the great supper of God” is a macabre parody of the invitation to come “to the supper of the Lamb’s wedding.”[18]  It comes from Ezekiel 39:4, 17-20 where God promises judgment upon Israel’s enemies by turning them into a sacrificial meal for the animals.

The final scene in the passage is that of God feasting in judgment upon the beast and its puppet rulers who, like Babylon, function as a false prophet. In John’s day, the false prophet would have been the local rulers of Roman Asia who enticed and or threatened their people to worship Caesar and the demons of the Roman pantheon. The beast made divine claims and the false prophet supported those claims. Now God has claimed them for eternal judgment. And all those who serve them will be judged. In the next chapter, we will watch as the dragon suffers the same fate as do all his henchmen. Jesus Christ will triumph over all of his enemies and he will vindicate his bride, those he as marked with his secret name. But all of those who wear the mark of the beast will suffer the full fury of God’s eternal wrath![19]

For those trusting into the perfectly-lived, law-keeping life and sacrificial, blood-shedding death of the risen and glorified Messiah Jesus as their only hope of white-robed righteousness, the wedding feast of the Lamb is pure good news, pure gospel. But for those who reject the Lion-Lamb in pursuit of their own self-generated happiness and self-worship, Messiah Jesus’ second coming is all Law. It is the day everyone outside of Christ should dread. On that day, Jesus will crush every idol-worshipping earth-dweller like grapes in a wine press simply by the word of his judgment.

If you are not trusting into Christ, you cannot and will not stand against his wrath. But it is not too late to hear his invitation to the great wedding feast of the Lamb. Flee to him as your savior and join his feast or continue in your rejection and become a part of God’s feast for the vultures.

To you with ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.[20]

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:11–21.

[2] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Re 1:7.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:9.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:11.

[5] Kim Riddlebarger, A Robe Dipped in Blood (Revelation 19:11-21). http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/downloadable-sermons-on-the-bo/A%20Robe%20Dipped%20in%20Blood%20edited%2027.pdf

 

[6] Id.

[7] Beale, 949.

[8] Riddlebarger, op. cit.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:12.

[10] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Is 62:2–3.

[11] Beale, 953; Riddlebarger, op. cit.

[12] Beale, Id.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:13.

[14] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Is 63:1–4.

[15] Riddlebarger, op. cit.

[16] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Is 11:4.

[17] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:18.

[18] Beale, 965.

[19] Riddlebarger, op. cit.

[20] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Re 22:17.

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