Revelation 19:11-21, Behold, He Is Coming!

11] Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And he who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  12] His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns.  He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  13] He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  14] And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, clean and white, followed Him on white horses.  15] Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.  He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  16] And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:


17] Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, 18] that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”

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.  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.  21] 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.

We’ve arrived back at the narrative interrupted by the description of the great whore and her admirers and of her judgment and destruction.  We pick up from chapter 16:21 and the great earthquake and hail which strikes mankind.

Remember that everything seems hopeless.  The entire world has been engulfed in idolatry, wickedness and immorality.  The Jews have been harassed and tormented in a way which will make the Holocaust seem like a picnic.  Indeed, as we saw, Zechariah 14 indicates that Jerusalem will be taken and great atrocities will be committed against her people.  As we said, we’re not sure of the “time” involved in all this.  Revelation seems to indicate that these things will take place rather quickly; Zechariah indicates some time will elapse.  I will say that the “time” probably doesn’t include the whole church age, as the historicist view requires.  Indeed, at the time spoken of by John, the “church age” is over.  This age, the church age in which we live, is “the day of salvation,” 2 Corinthians 6:2, a time when the heavens are silent and men seem to get away with doing pretty much as they please.  However, Revelation 19 describes the end of “the great day of His wrath mentioned in Revelation 6:17, (emphasis added) and they don’t “get away with it” at all.

Regardless of the time involved, the rebellion of this world will come to an end and our Lord will return to this world, as promised in Acts 1:11.  Revelation 19 describes some of what will happen when He does.

John sees heaven opened, v. 11.  He had earlier seen a door standing open in heaven, 4:1 (emphasis added).  Now he sees heaven itself opened up.  I don’t know what will happen or how – it doesn’t matter – but men will suddenly see that we are not “alone” in this universe, after all, but it won’t be aliens and spaceships men discover, but the God who created and sustains this world.

Out of this scene, John focuses on a horse and its Rider, who is called Faithful and True, v. 11.  This is in opposition to the deceit and falsehood of an earlier rider on a white horse, the counterfeit rider, the Antichrist, Revelation 6:2.

Further, in righteousness He judges and makes war.  There will be no negotiations, no “diplomacy,” to try to persuade men to do what He wants.  Zechariah 14 describes the strictness with which He will govern this world.  He has many crowns, to go along with the name written on His thigh:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.  No longer is He “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” but the absolute sovereign and ruler of this world.

His clothing is bloody, to go along with the idea of “war,” also the last part of v. 15.  This brings to mind Isaiah 63:1-6:

Who is this who comes from Edom,
With dyed garments from Bozrah,

This One who is glorious in His apparel,
Traveling in the greatness of His strength? –

“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

2] Why is Your apparel red,
And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?

3] “I have trodden the winepress alone,
And from the peoples no one was with Me.
For I have trodden them in My anger,
And trampled them in My fury;
Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments,
And I have stained all My robes.
4] For the day of vengeance is in My heart,
And the year of My redeemed has come.
5] I looked, but there was no one to help,
And I wondered
That there was no one to uphold;
Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me;
And My own fury, it sustained Me.
6] I have trodden down the peoples in My anger,
Made them drunk in My fury,
And brought down their strength to the earth” (emphasis added).

His return will not be uncontested, but it will be victorious.

He will not be alone, v. 14, but will be accompanied with the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, clean and white.  There’s some discussion about who these people are.  Some say they are angels.  I think Paul refers to them in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

13] But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as other who have no hope.  14] For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

15] For this we say to you by the word of the Lord (that is, he’s not just making it up), that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  16] For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  17] Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  18] Therefore comfort one another with these words. 

Though Paul seems to refer to New Testament saints, I think Old Testament saints are included, as well.  These all make up “the armies of heaven.”

And notice, they are described with no weapons.  They won’t need them.  Their “warfare,” Ephesians 6:12, is over.

The only “weapon” belongs to the Rider, a sword with which He will strike the nations. Further, John says, He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.  If, as so many believe, “the kingdom” is simply Christ’s rule over “the church,” why the necessity of a “rod of iron”?  And who are “the nations?”

Vs. 17, 18 paint what many might consider a grotesque picture, an angel crying with a loud voice to all the birds, “come and gather together for the supper of the great God….”  What in the world is this?

Ezekiel 39:17-20 tells us:

17] “And as for you, son of man, thus says the LORD GOD, ‘Speak to every sort of bird and to every beast of the field:

“Assemble yourselves and come;
Gather together from all sides to My sacrificial meal
Which I am sacrificing for you,

A great sacrificial meal on the mountains of Israel,
That you may eat flesh and drink blood.
18] You shall eat the flesh of the mighty,
Drink the blood of the princes of the earth,
Of rams and lambs,
Of goats and bulls,
All of them fatlings of Bashan.
19] You shall eat fat till your are full,
And drink blood till you are drunk,
At My sacrificial meal
Which I am sacrificing for you.
20] You shall be filled at My table
With horses and riders,
With mighty men
And with all the men of war,” says the LORD GOD. 

These scavengers will help in cleaning up the mess that’s left from the destruction of those who gather to oppose the Lord at His coming, cf. Ezekiel 39:4.  The beast and the kings of the earth may gather their armies to oppose the return of our Lord, but there is no battle.  It’s no contest, as Ezekiel 38 and 39 clearly show.

Their armies destroyed, the beast and the false prophet are thrown bodily into the lake of fire burning with brimstone, where they will remain forever.

Thus ends the final rebellion before the Lord Jesus returns to this world.

It may be at morn, when the day is awaking,
When sunlight thro’ shadow and darkness is breaking,
That Jesus will come in the fullness of glory,
To receive from the world “His own.”

It may be at midday, it may be at twilight,
It may be, perchance, that the blackness of midnight
Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory,
When Jesus receives “His own.”

O Lord Jesus, how long, how long
Ere we shout the glad song,
Christ returneth!
Hallelujah! hallelujah!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Hebrews 2:5-9, “Not Yet”

In these verses, the writer gives the final “proof” of the superiority of the Lord Jesus over angels:  they have not been given authority over “the world to come.”  We’ll look at all these verses in a minute or so.  For now, the words “not yet” are some of the most precious in the Word, at least to my thinking.  As I look at the moral and spiritual deterioration of our world and the chaos that seems to be enveloping it on every level, these words give me hope that there is something better coming.

As I look in the mirror, the one on the wall or the one in the Word (James 1:23), and see the faults and failures it shows, these words give me hope that something better is coming.  The Word itself gives me that assurance:  Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2 (emphasis added).

Outside, the weather is starting to cool down a little, a taste of what is to come in a few weeks and putting an end to the promise of Spring, when the earth struggles to shake off the deadness of winter and bring forth that life and abundance the Scripture speaks of in Amos 9:13, “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” 

And Paul wrote that the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now, Romans 8:19-22.

“The days are coming,” when that “earnest expectation” and “groaning” will be satisfied, but “not yet.”

Even for our Lord, there is a “not yet,” Hebrews 2:8.  While it might perhaps be said that this verse refers to man himself and God’s original intent that man be His vice-regent over creation, Genesis 1:26-28, still Hebrews 2:8 refers to our Lord’s kingdom.

There is a lot of discussion about that kingdom.  There are many ways in which that kingdom is viewed, but Scripture prophesies a time when God will make new heavens and a new earth, a time in which human life will be greatly extended.  At the same time, there will still be sin and death, Isaiah 65:17-25. Though some folks pair verse 17 with Revelation 21:1, Isaiah and John do not speak of the same event.

Revelation has something to say about this.  Describing the return of our Lord, Revelation 19 says, Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on it was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns.  He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed him on white horses.  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron, Revelation 19:11-15.

We’re all familiar with Revelation 20 and its declaration of our Lord’s reign of 1000 years.  Many teachers and scholars, following the early Church fathers, say that this can’t possibly refer to an actual 1000 years.  However, the anti-Semitism of the early fathers is well-documented.  They simply could not accept that Israel had any further blessing coming, since she had rejected and crucified her Messiah.  They and those who follow them say that God is done with her.  However, it’s through that very rejection and crucifixion that the way was paved for Israel’s eventual restoration, to say nothing of the fact that the Gospel was given to us Gentiles.  Further, I believe there is a reason why the Holy Spirit led John to write a thousand years 6 times in 6 verses.  It’s to impress on us that He means 1000 years, and not just some vague period of time.  Isaiah 65 refers to this time.  Revelation 21 describes eternity.

Revelation 20 gives us the length of that kingdom.  Revelation 19 describes its character.  The word translated “rule” in 19:15 is interesting.  It’s isn’t the usual word used of ruling, but means “to shepherd.”  It gives the same thought as the word used by our Lord in John 10 as He describes His care of His sheep. So, Revelation 19 tells us that He’s going to “shepherd” the nations.  They’re not going to like it, based on the fact that His rule will be with “a rod of iron.”  Zechariah 14 gives some more details about this.  Hence, the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed, Isaiah 65:20.

But “not yet.”  Where is there a nation on this earth that truly seeks to live by the Word of God and to honor and obey the Lord Jesus?  That can’t even be said of a lot of churches anymore.

But why is it – “not yet.”

Because our Lord didn’t come the first time to reign, but to redeem.  This is what Hebrews 2:5-9 is telling us.

God’s original intent in creation was that man was to be His administrator, as it were, over this new planet and all it contained.  However, man rebelled against this idea and decided that he would be the boss.  The result is that not only doesn’t man have dominion over this world, he doesn’t even have dominion over himself.

Lord willing, We’ll have more to say about this in our next post.

“…on earth…”

This is a follow-up to my last post, in which I asked the question, “In praying ‘thy kingdom come,’ what are we praying for?”  In that post, I connected the request for the coming of the kingdom to the request that God’s will be done on earth in the same way that it is done in heaven.  In other words, isn’t praying for the kingdom praying for something that happens or will happen on the earth?

I understand that there is a lot of discussion about “the kingdom.”  Some simply cannot accept the idea of what they consider to be “an earthly, carnal, political” kingdom.  According to these folks, it’s a “spiritual kingdom,” that is, the rule of Christ in the hearts of His people.  It’s already happening, because He’s ruling in Heaven.  But that in itself is nothing new.  “Relationship with God,” as it’s called today, has always been about God’s rule in the lives of people.  Even under the Law, obedience was the prime requisite, and disobedience was severely punished.

As far as the “earthly, carnal, political” part is concerned:  I’ve never been able to understand why it’s alright for the Lord Jesus to sit on a throne in Heaven, but not for Him to sit on a throne in Jerusalem.  What difference does it make WHERE the throne is?  It’s about the Occupant, not what He’s sitting on, or where!  For my own part, I’d much rather have Him, say, in the White House than its current occupant – or any of its previous occupants.

It seems to me to be a great insult to our Lord to say that an “earthly” kingdom of His would be “carnal” and/or “political.”  Scripture says that His scepter, His royal insignia, is a scepter of righteousness, Psalm 45:6; Hebrews 1:8.

We just recently completed elections here in the US.  But when the Lord sets up His kingdom, there won’t be any campaigning.  There won’t be any signs out in the front yard or any TV commercials.  There won’t be any of the back room deals or the wheeling and dealing associated with current politics.  There won’t be a Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Green or Prohibition party.  [Yes, there used to be a Prohibition Party candidate on the ballot in Colorado, long after Prohibition itself was gone.]   There won’t be any voting about it.  Daniel 2:44 says, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom….  And there won’t be any focus groups or polls about how He should do it!

Yes, but didn’t our Lord say that His kingdom was not of this world, John 18:36?  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that from the pulpit or read it as a “proof” that there will be no “earthly” kingdom.  But clearly, the Lord was talking about the source of the kingdom, not where it will be located or operate.  He said this Himself in a part of v. 36 that’s never quoted, “My kingdom is not from here.”  Otherwise, He said, His disciples would fight.  But the kingdom God will set up will not be set up in any manner remotely similar to other earthly kingdoms.

Furthermore, the Lord Jesus said that He Himself was not of this world, John 8:23.  He said that of His disciples, John 15:19.  Yet, clearly, He and they were located and functioned, physically and actually, in this world.

In the New Testament, there are a couple of clear references to the reign of our Lord as over more than just some ephemeral something that has no relationship to this world.  In Revelation 19:15, after a brief description of our Lord’s return to this earth in vs. 11-14, we read, Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.  If the kingdom is only related to believers, why then is “a rod of iron” necessary?  And who are the nations whom He will “strike” as well as “rule”?  Certainly not believers.  The word translated “rule” means “to shepherd,” i.e., John is saying that Jesus will shepherd the nations.  This seems to me to be a far cry from the idea that He will return, officiate at the final judgment and then usher in eternity.  For an idea of what His return and rule entails, read Zechariah 14.  We’ve done a couple of posts on that chapter.

Revelation 20, which continues ch. 19, indicates this “shepherding” will last for 1000 years.  And, yes, I’m aware of the uproar over that figure.  As one Reformed writer put it, the thousand years simply refer to the present Gospel age of 2000 years (!)  However, it seems to me that the Holy Spirit had a reason for inspiring John to write 1000 years six times in six verses.  Perhaps it was  to impress on us that He meant 1000 years, not just some indeterminate period of time.

He shall rule them with a rod of iron.

Psalm 110:2 says that Messiah will rule in the midst of His enemies.  Where is this happening today?  What kind of a king is it who rules “in the midst of His enemies,” and they don’t know it, but continue to reject, ridicule and rebel against Him? When our Lord sits on the throne of His glory, Matthew 19:28, that will not be possible.

There is so much more that we could say on this subject, but have decided to save it for other posts.  Also, we recognize that there are many good, earnest Christians who differ with us on these subjects.  Further, we recognize that the subject of “prophecy” is not considered “a fundamental of the faith” by many, not worth “fighting over” or causing controversy.  While we do believe that one’s view of prophecy doesn’t determine or deny their salvation, we also believe that it is important and not to be neglected or ignored.  After all, assuming we believe in divine inspiration and not that the Bible is just a miscellaneous collection of ancient writings, written long after the events they describe, the Holy Spirit saw fit to give it to us.  We should try to know as much about it as possible. 

What’s Ahead for Israel?

The fighting in Gaza has captured a great deal of coverage in the world’s media.  I have no idea how the current fighting will be resolved, but I am interested in the fact that the “truces” are being “timed” – so many hours or days.  I don’t want to make any rash statements, but perhaps – perhaps – this is the beginning of what will culminate in a 7-year treaty between Israel and her enemies.

Daniel 9:27 speaks of an individual who will “confirm a covenant” with Israel for seven years.  The word “confirm” may mean the confirmation of an already existing treaty, or it may mean the making of a new one.  It’s uncertain.  But there is coming a definite treaty.  How do we know it’s Israel?  Because this whole message from Gabriel to Daniel is about “your people and your holy city,” that is, Israel and Jerusalem.  How do we know that “a week” refers to 7 years?  Because the first 69 weeks refer to years and to historical events (historical to us, that is.  They were still future to Daniel).  It makes no sense whatever to say that the first 69 weeks are actual years, but the last week is just some indeterminate period of time.  Finally, who is this individual?  Nobody knows.

Anyway, however the current situation in Israel plays out, it isn’t the final act of her history.  Zechariah 14 gives us details on that.

Zechariah 14:1, 2 refer to a terrible battle in which Jerusalem will be captured and looted and the women subjected to terrible atrocities.  Many of the inhabitants will be taken captive.

It seems to me that this will cover an extensive period of time, perhaps three and a half years, or the last half of the seven years.  It will be a terrible time.  The talking heads on TV will have a great deal to say about the fact that “the Jewish problem” has finally been solved.  Learned discussions will take place on how much better off the world is now that Israel has been defeated.  I’m sure there will be parades and wild celebration, if not world wide, then certainly in Arab countries.  The thorn in their side will finally have been pulled!  Of course, this is all speculation, but I’m sure these future events in the Middle East will generate as much coverage as the current ones are making.

However, whatever happens, this will not be the end of the story.  Vs. 3 and 4 tell of the sudden return of the Lord Jesus to the Mount of Olives, where He will fight against those nations.  Now it could be that very little time elapses between the seeming final destruction of Jerusalem and Israel and the return of the Lord, though we have treated it otherwise.  It certainly is possible, though the preceding verses do seem to allow for a lapse of time.  Regardless, the Lord will return to Israel and that will be the end of the conflict.  Verses 12-15 describe the plague which will befall those fighting against Israel.  Some have thought this refers to the destruction of an atomic explosion.  Since God doesn’t tell us, we can’t know, just that it will happen.  Further, there will be great panic among these forces, so that they will begin to fight each other.

Accompanying the Lord’s return will be great geological changes.  We would call them catastrophes.  There will be an enormous earthquake, resulting in a very large valley, v. 4.  In addition, a very large portion of the land will be turned into a plain, v. 10.  This will make room for the things described in Ezekiel 40-48.  One of the arguments against a “literal” understanding of those chapters has been the fact that there’s not enough room in Israel for them.  The changes associated with the return of our Lord will take care of that.

Another such change will be living waters flowing from Jerusalem, half toward to Mediterranean and half toward the eastern sea, (the Red Sea?).  Ezekiel 47:1-6 adds to the description of these waters.

The geological changes from the earthquake will undoubtedly affect more than just Israel, though the immediate effects of it extend only to Azal, wherever that is.  The rift itself, which is seen in the Jordan valley, extends 3000 miles into Africa.  Whenever that goes, kind of like the San Andreas fault in California, there will undoubtedly be widespread effects.

But there will also be heavenly effects, which seem to continue beyond just the immediate return of the Lord, v. 6, 7.  We really have no idea what this will be, having nothing in our experience to compare with it.  Perhaps a similar thing happened in Joshua 10:12, 13.

There will be one thing with which we are familiar: there will still be summer and winter, v. 8.

Zechariah 16-21 describe what will happen when the LORD shall be King over all the earth, v. 9.  Mostly it describes worship, which will be mandatory, and refusal will be punished.  The Reformation Study Bible says that these verses refer to “the final state,” or eternity.  If that’s so, then why is there a need for “punishment” and “plague”?  There won’t be any rebellion in eternity.  Heaven will be filled with those who love and serve the Lord and Hell will be filled with those who don’t and won’t.

I know that there’s a lot of discussion about “the kingdom,” and what it is.  Many believe that it’s just the rule of the Lord Jesus in the hearts of His people.  While there is that part of it, Scripture says that “the Lord will King over all the earth,” v. 9.  This is more than the providential rule with which He governs this present world, or the “rule” over His people, which is imperfectly carried out,  at best.  “Imperfect,” not because of Him, but because of us.  When the Lord rules as Scripture says He must and will, there will be no doubt about it.

I just can’t understand why anyone would think it would be such a terrible thing for the Lord actually to “rule” from Jerusalem, or anywhere else on this planet.  Doesn’t the Scripture say that a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom, Psalm 45:5?  Isn’t it a great insult to Him to imply that His rule on this planet would be anything but “righteous”?

Zechariah isn’t the only one who mention the reign of our Lord.  Revelation 19:11-16 also describes His return.  V. 15 says, Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. 

Of course, part of the difficulty in interpreting Revelation is it’s use of symbols.  It’s obvious that there won’t really be a sword sticking out our Lord’s mouth, but, at the same time, the gist of the prophecy is plain.  He will come in victory and swift judgment against His enemies.  The interesting part is where “He Himself will rule them [the nations, not His people, not the Church, – the nations] with a rod of iron.”  The word translated “rule” is interesting.  It means “to shepherd,” and is also used in John 10 of our Lord’s care of His people.

He will “shepherd” the nations.  Zechariah 14:16-21 tells us something of that “shepherding.”  This is a far cry from the Reformed view that the Lord will come back, there will be the final judgment, and then He will usher in eternity.

There is one final statement in Zechariah 14:21, the last statement in the book:  In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts. 

What in the world is that all about?

I’m afraid the answer will have to wait until our next post.