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:
KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS.
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,
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.