A. Past Lessons
- The Lamb and 144,00 at Mt. Zion (Rev 14:1-5)
- Three Angels Fly Through the Air (Rev 14:6-13)
- The Earth Is Harvested (Rev 14:14-20)
- The Song of Moses and Seven Last Plagues (Rev 15)
- The First Through Fifth Bowl Judgments (Rev 16:1-11)
- The War of Armageddon (Rev 16:12-21)
- Five Views on the Identity of Babylon in Revelation 17-18
- Judgment on the Great Prostitute (Rev 17:1-8)
B. Text of Rev 19:11-21
“11Then I looked and I saw heaven being opened. And behold, a white horse and the one riding it was titled, ‘Faithful and True.’ In righteousness he was judging and waging war. 12His eyes were like flames of fire, and many crowns were on his head. He had a name written which no one could understand except himself. 13He was wearing clothing dipped in blood, and the name he is called is, ‘The Word of God. 14The armies in heaven were dressed in fine linen that was white and clean. They followed the rider on the white horse. 15He had a sharp sword coming out of his mouth so that he could use it to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, he will walk on the wine of the winepress of the God Almighty’s angry wrath. 16He had a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’ 17Then I looked and I saw an angel standing in the sun and he cried out in a loud voice saying to all the birds flying in the mid-heaven, ‘Come! Gather for the great feast of God. 18Gather so we can eat the flesh of the kings, captains, powerful, horses, those who live with them, both free and slaves, small and great.’ 19Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth gathered to war against the one who sits on the horse and against his army. 20The beast was seized along with his false prophet who had done signs on behalf of the beast. He led those astray who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his statue. The two of them were thrown into the lake of fire of burning sulfur. 21The rest were killed by the sword that came out from the mouth from the one riding the horse. Every bird was full on their flesh.” (Rev 19:11-21)[ref]Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own based on the NA28 Greek text[/ref]
Photo Credit: Waiting for the Word
C. General Remarks
“The Word of God marks plain that God so loved the world that He gave His Son, and that all who avail themselves of the grace of God are immeasurably blessed in time and eternity. On the other hand, the same Word of God states plainly that those who spurn God’s mercy must experience His judgment without mercy.” (Walvoord, Revelation, 294)
“There is nothing more dear to God’s people and more clearly stated in the Bible than the fact that Jesus Christ is coming again.” (Hitchcock, The End, 384).
“It is as though the wholeness of God is a sharp scalpel in the hand of a skilled and loving surgeon. As the surgeon seeks to cut through our flesh to the cancerous growth that is destroying us, we could easily perceive the surgeon as a spiteful, sadistic, ogre who is seeking to inflict pain and suffering upon us when, in reality, the surgeon, the scalpel, and the suffering they cause are all directed toward our healing and wholeness.” Mulholland, “Revelation” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 574.
“This passage contains one of the most graphic pictures of the second coming of Christ to be found anywhere in Scripture.” (Walvoord, Revelation, 287)
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II. THE RIDER ON THE WHITE HORSE (Rev 19:11-16)
1A. Passages Predicting Christ’s Return
“Who is this who comes from Edom, from the city of Bozrah, with his clothing stained red? Who is this in royal robes, marching in his great strength? “It is I, the LORD, announcing your salvation! It is I, the LORD, who has the power to save!” Why are your clothes so red, as if you have been treading out grapes? “I have been treading the winepress alone; no one was there to help me. In my anger I have trampled my enemies as if they were grapes. In my fury I have trampled my foes. Their blood has stained my clothes.” (Isaiah 63:1–3, NLT)
“The LORD will appear above his people; his arrows will fly like lightning! The Sovereign LORD will sound the ram’s horn and attack like a whirlwind from the southern desert.” (Zechariah 9:14, NLT)
“Then the LORD will go out to fight against those nations, as he has fought in times past. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem. And the Mount of Olives will split apart, making a wide valley running from east to west. Half the mountain will move toward the north and half toward the south.” (Zechariah 14:3–4, NLT)
“For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near. “Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.” (Matthew 24:27–31, NLT)
“Jesus replied, ‘You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Matthew 26:64, NLT)
There were many people thinking about and writing about the coming of the Messiah during Jesus’ time and before his time. One of the views from the Dead Sea Scrolls seems to indicate that there would be two Messiahs: a royal Messiah and a priestly Messiah (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 172). Meanwhile, other writings around Jesus’ time indicate that they were expecting a royal and wise king like Solomon, others suggest the king would be a military leader.
I am often asked—especially in my new believers class that I teach at church—why do the Jesus reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Well, it is because the passages I’ve listed above seem to indicate a Messiah that would be a military leader.
While Jesus did come to fight a battle, it was not the battle that many thought he was going to fight. He came to conquer death.
A. Faithful and True (v. 11)
Καὶ εἶδον τὸν οὐρανὸν ἠνεῳγμένον, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἵππος λευκὸς καὶ ὁ καθήμενος ἐπʼ αὐτὸν [καλούμενος] πιστὸς καὶ ἀληθινός, καὶ ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ κρίνει καὶ πολεμεῖ.
“Then I looked and I saw heaven being opened. And behold, a white horse and the one riding it was titled, ‘Faithful and True.’ In righteousness he was judging and waging war.” (Rev 19:11)[ref]Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own based on the NA28 Greek text[/ref]
1. Similar to the First Seal
The first seal reveals a white horse, a rider which carries a bow, and a crown was on his head. He rode out to win many battles (Rev 6:2).
2. Wage War
“He will delight in obeying the LORD. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment. In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow.” (Isaiah 11:3–7, NLT)
3. Jesus Rides the White Horse
“In John’s vision he sees a person who can be no other than the Lord Jesus Christ on a white horse” (Walvoord, Revelation, 289).
B. Many Crowns (v. 12)
οἱ δὲ ὀφθαλμοὶ αὐτοῦ [ὡς] φλὸξ πυρός, καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ διαδήματα πολλά, ἔχων ὄνομα γεγραμμένον ὃ οὐδεὶς οἶδεν εἰ μὴ αὐτός,
“His eyes were like flames of fire, and many crowns were on his head. He had a name written which no one could understand except himself.” (Rev 19:12)
1. Eyes of Flames of Fire
This is the same description of Jesus given in Rev 1:14 and 2:18.
2. Crowns on His Head
Some translations don’t just say “many crowns” but instead will make the translation more explicit saying, “many diadem crowns” (NET) or “many diadems” (NASB, ESV, NRSV, RSV). The diadem crowns were a type of crown used to symbolized the highest ruling authority in an area. They were often associated with kingship. And, according to Bruce Metzger, it was common for a king to wear more than one crown in order to show that he was king of more than one country (Metzger, Breaking the Code, 90).
The important point to note is that the dragon and the beast also were wearing diadem crowns (Rev 12:3; 13:1). Yet, Jesus here is the final victorious king! He’s more powerful than the beast and dragon.
I disagree with Metzger about the supposed “symbolism” in this passage. Metzger writes, “All this is symbolism at its highest. No one imagines that such statements are literal. Never shall we see the ‘white horse,’ or the sword projecting from the mouth of the conqueror, or the birds gorged with the flesh of fallen warriors. The descriptions are not descriptions of real occurrence, but of symbols of the real occurrences” (Metzger, Breaking the Code, 91-92). For me, I think it is perfectly okay for many of these descriptions to be literal descriptions that John sees.
C. Titled “Word of God” (v. 13)
καὶ περιβεβλημένος ἱμάτιον βεβαμμένον αἵματι, καὶ κέκληται τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ.
“He was wearing clothing dipped in blood, and the name he is called is, ‘The Word of God.” (Rev 19:13)
1. Who’s Blood?
My first impression when reading this verse is that the “blood” that soaked Christ’s clothing is his own blood from his sacrifice on the cross. However, there is another view. Here’s a brief outline of the views:
- Christ’s Own Blood. This is supported from the idea that Jesus triumphed over evil and death by his own blood on the cross. This is supported from the book of Revelation itself (Rev 1:5; 5:9; 7:14; 12:11). This view is held by Metzger, Breaking the Code, 91; Mulholland, “Revelation” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 571.
- Christ’s Enemies’ Blood. This view believes it is the blood of Christ’s enemies in the end times that has soaked his clothes. This view relies on Isa 63:2-3 as the prophecy for these end times events. Also see Rev 14:20. This view is held by Walvoord, Revelation, 290.
2. Word of God
Jesus is called the Word of God in John 1:1, 14; 1 John 1:1.
D. Followed by the Armies of Heaven (v. 14)
Καὶ τὰ στρατεύματα [τὰ] ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ ἐφʼ ἵπποις λευκοῖς, ἐνδεδυμένοι βύσσινον λευκὸν καθαρόν.
“The armies in heaven were dressed in fine linen that was white and clean. They followed the rider on the white horse.” (Rev 19:14)
The armies of heaven are discussed in other parts of the Bible. Michael and his angels do war with the dragon (Rev 12:7). There were thousands of angels ready to help Jesus when he returns (Matt 13:41; 25:31). Angels are servants of Jesus and follow his lead (2 Jess 1:7; Heb 1:6-14).
In addition to angels, it could also include the saints. Some people believe the raptured church will be returning with Christ (Zech 14:5; 1 Thess 3:13; Jude 14).
E. A Share Sword to Rule the Nations (v. 15)
καὶ ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ ἐκπορεύεται ῥομφαία ὀξεῖα, ἵνα ἐν αὐτῇ πατάξῃ τὰ ἔθνη, καὶ αὐτὸς ποιμανεῖ αὐτοὺς ἐν ῥάβδῳ σιδηρᾷ, καὶ αὐτὸς πατεῖ τὴν ληνὸν τοῦ οἴνου τοῦ θυμοῦ τῆς ὀργῆς τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ παντοκράτορος,
“He had a sharp sword coming out of his mouth so that he could use it to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, he will walk on the wine of the winepress of the God Almighty’s angry wrath.” (Rev 19:15)
1. Sharp Sword
This is also discussed in Rev 1:16; 2:12, 15. Interestingly, it is Jesus’s only weapon. It is a Greek word used to describe a javelin: a lite but long sword. This is a symbol to describe how Christ will sharply strike the nations and establish his rule.
2. Christ Shall Rule
There are differing translations on the verb about what Jesus does. Some say he will “rule” (NASB, ESV, NIV, NRSV, RSV, KJV, AV, NKJV), and others say “shepherd” (LEB, HCSB). I believe “rule” fits the harshness of this context better than “shepherd.”
However, the Bible does describe Jesus as a shepherd. Except, that “shepherd” idea is along the context of believers (1 Peter 2:25; Heb 13:20).
3. Iron Rod
the “iron rod” here is a fulfillment of the Messianic Psalm 2, specifically Psalm 2:9. See Rev 2:27; 12:5. This is the method and manner in which Jesus will rule. This represents unyielding and absolute government under which everyone will follow Jesus.
4. The Winepress
Jesus stomps the winepress in Isa 63:3 as well as in Rev 14:19-20. Sadly, it is too late for people to repent. They’ve been given their chance.
F. ‘King’ of Kings and ‘Lord’ of All Lords (v. 16)
καὶ ἔχει ἐπὶ τὸ ἱμάτιον καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν μηρὸν αὐτοῦ ὄνομα γεγραμμένον· Βασιλεὺς βασιλέων καὶ κύριος κυρίων.
“He had a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’” (Rev 19:16)
The New Testament is clear that Jesus is the Messiah—the Son of God—who came to save the world. Yet, he is also equal with God and above any human power or authority. He is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim 6:15; Rev 17:14).
III. THE ANGEL STANDING IN THE SUN (Rev 19:17-18)
A. Vultures Prepare for the Banquet (v. 17)
Καὶ εἶδον ἕνα ἄγγελον ἑστῶτα ἐν τῷ ἡλίῳ καὶ ἔκραξεν [ἐν] φωνῇ μεγάλῃ λέγων πᾶσιν τοῖς ὀρνέοις τοῖς πετομένοις ἐν μεσουρανήματι·
Δεῦτε συνάχθητε εἰς τὸ δεῖπνον τὸ μέγα τοῦ θεοῦ
“Then I looked and I saw an angel standing in the sun and he cried out in a loud voice saying to all the birds flying in the mid-heaven, “Come! Gather for the great feast of God.” (Rev 19:17)
1. “In” or “On” the Sun?
Most of the English translations seem to take ἐν as “an angel standing in the sun” (NLT, NASB, LEB, ESV, NIV, NRSV, KJV, NKJV, AV, NET). Yet, the HCSB translates it as “on.” I like how the NET Bible translation notes states, “The precise significance of ἐν here is difficult to determine.” I hope you can agree that this is true!
This is the same Greek work used in Rev 19:9. It also was described in Ezek 39:17; Rev 16:16; 20:8.
3. Vultures Hungry
The idea of birds or vultures flying in the sky in the end times to devour and feast on dead people was predicted in Matt 24:28.
B. The Menu of the Banquet (v. 18)
ἵνα φάγητε σάρκας βασιλέων καὶ σάρκας χιλιάρχων καὶ σάρκας ἰσχυρῶν καὶ σάρκας ἵππων καὶ τῶν καθημένων ἐπʼ αὐτῶν καὶ σάρκας πάντων ἐλευθέρων τε καὶ δούλων καὶ μικρῶν καὶ μεγάλων.
“Gather so we can eat the flesh of the kings, captains, powerful, horses, those who live with them, both free and slaves, small and great.
IV. THE BEAST AND THE KINGS OF THE WORLD (Rev 19:19-21)
A. Ready for Battle (v. 19)
Καὶ εἶδον τὸ θηρίον καὶ τοὺς βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς καὶ τὰ στρατεύματα αὐτῶν συνηγμένα ποιῆσαι τὸν πόλεμον μετὰ τοῦ καθημένου ἐπὶ τοῦ ἵππου καὶ μετὰ τοῦ στρατεύματος αὐτοῦ.
“Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth gathered to war against the one who sits on the horse and against his army.” (Rev 19:19)
Now that we’ve read a little bit I believe it’s important to look at how the background imagery of John’s time helps to elaborate what he describes. In John’s time in the Roman were there often was a celebration of “triumph.” In this celebration the Triumphator (a general or someone who just won the war) would enter Rome in a procession with a chariot drawn by four white horses. The Triumphator would be clothed in a red robe, and the crowns which the general had conquered would be displayed. This Triumphator would be followed by his army. While riding into Rome he would hold a scepter symbolizing his rule over the nations he just conquered (Mulholland, “Revelation” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 572-573).
B. Destined for the Lake of Fire (v. 20)
καὶ ἐπιάσθη τὸ θηρίον καὶ μετ αὐτοῦ ὁ ψευδοπροφήτης ὁ ποιήσας τὰ σημεῖα ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ, ἐν οἷς ἐπλάνησεν τοὺς λαβόντας τὸ χάραγμα τοῦ θηρίου καὶ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας τῇ εἰκόνι αὐτοῦ· ζῶντες ἐβλήθησαν οἱ δύο εἰς τὴν λίμνην τοῦ πυρὸς τῆς καιομένης ἐν θείῳ.
“The beast was seized along with his false prophet who had done signs on behalf of the beast. He led those astray who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his statue. The two of them were thrown into the lake of fire of burning sulfur. (Rev 19:20)
This is the first mention of hell, which we will discuss further in Revelation 20.
C. Battle Over (v. 21)
καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπεκτάνθησαν ἐν τῇ ῥομφαίᾳ τοῦ καθημένου ἐπὶ τοῦ ἵππου τῇ ἐξελθούσῃ ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ, καὶ πάντα τὰ ὄρνεα ἐχορτάσθησαν ἐκ τῶν σαρκῶν αὐτῶν.
“The rest were killed by the sword that came out from the mouth from the one riding the horse. Every bird was full on their flesh.” (Rev 19:21)
1. The Sword Delivers
The sword is not just a figurative effect for illustration of who Jesus was or what he did. Instead, it’s a powerful weapon used to harm people as seen here.
2. Jesus’s Second Coming
“The first time Jesus came, he allowed Himself to be mocked, persecuted, abused, and finally crucified between two thieves on a Roman cross. God in human flesh humbled Himself so that He could purchase a pardon for our sins and take death for every person (Hebrews 2:9). But when He comes again, the story will be much different. He will come in power and great glory. Every creature will bow before Him and be subject to His authority (Philippians 2:11). Only those who have accepted by faith what He accomplished at His first coming are ready for His second coming” (Hitchcock, The End, 392).
V. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
A. Jesus fulfills his promises
Of all of the Old Testament and New Testament prophecies of the return of Jesus, it is comforting to see that Jesus returns without any hesitation. He doesn’t come back and think, “Hey, maybe I will change my mind and not punish these evil and wicked people.” Nor does he say, “It’s alright. Grace is enough for you guys.” No, he comes back and without a doubt lays waste to the wicked and evil people on the earth who have had every single possible change to turn to him and follow him.
B. Followers are like their leader.
In the case of this passage, it is clear that those who love and follow Jesus return victories. Those who love and followed the beast end up being killed. The message is clear: followers end up like their leader. We need to know who we follow both in a spiritual sense and a practical worldly sense.
C. Holiness demands a verdict.
All throughout the book of Revelation we have had to read about the evil and wickedness that goes on. One of the struggles of a verse-by-verse study of the book of Revelation is that every week there was talk about evil and bad things. It becomes begrudging and discouraging. Yet, here we see that the holiness of Jesus demands a verdict on those who are evil and wicked. Our Lord God and savior cannot exist on an earth described in Rev 6-18. He must change it if he’s going to return to it.
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