If Thomas Watson correctly answers the question, “What is the main scope and end of Scripture?” with “It makes a clear discovery of Christ”, shouldn’t be a surprise to see much of Christ in this last book of Scripture. Especially true as the end (of the book and of time) gets near. In text, 8 out of 11 verses have explicit reference to Christ, portraying him as victorious warrior.
In Rev. 4:1 there was a door opened in heaven and John was invited up to heaven; in Rev. 11:19 God’s temple in heaven was opened; in Rev. 15:5 the tabernacle was opened and out came the seven angels with seven bowls; here (Rev. 19:11) heaven itself is opened and Jesus is revealed. R A Taylor
Prior to this only John was allowed to see what was happening in heaven. Now the “boundary” between heaven and earth is removed, God in person of Christ revealed for all to see. God has been present in creation all along although vast numbers of people have denied or ignored him. When that day comes, will no longer be possible to ignore his presence as he appears on world stage to have final victory over those opposed to him and his church.
Not the first time God has engaged in battle against his enemies: defeat of Egypt’s gods including Pharaoh and army, fall of Jericho and destruction of Canaanite idolaters, overthrow of Assyrian and Babylonian empires, death and resurrection of Lord Jesus. Each a victory over the dragon, beast and false prophet. What John portrays here and following chapter is last engagement when Satan and all his allies forever defeated, consigned to their eternal prison.
A casual look at history might seem to fit Taoist view symbolized by Yin-Yang – two complementary or opposing forces in constant ebb and flow without either one achieving supremacy. Forces of good and evil, always in conflict, neither one gaining decisive victory. Bible gives very different picture – two opposing unequal forces, in conflict only until the end of this age, the eternal sovereign Lord overcoming evil according to his plan. Achieved through the person of Christ sent from heaven, not in humiliation but exaltation, as the Divine Warrior.
A. the divine warrior v.11-16
character (11-13, 16)
on a white horse: victorious king, no longer “lowly and riding on a donkey” but coming in triumph; contrasted with the hideous Beast
called “Faithful and True”: the “faithful and true witness” (3:14) to Laodicean church, identifying with suffering of his church; contrasted with Dragon, et al, characterized by deception and faithlessness
in righteousness: wages truly just war; no unwarranted casualties, no unnecessary suffering, no unintended consequences. War will have perfect God-ordained conclusion – just judgment on all mankind.
eyes: ability to see all things including hearts of men and judge righteously
crowns and a name: possessing all authority and subject to no other power, with dignity and majesty expected of such a sovereign
a robe: purpose is judgment, not salvation; allusion to Isa. 63:1-3 and God’s warrior treading the winepress of his wrath
name is called “Word of God”, “King of kings, Lord of lords”: the God of creation, only ruler with truly universal authority. On his robe for all to see and know his true identity, matching name written on his person – proof he is no impostor, no pretender to his position.
armies of heaven: made up of the saints, not angelic warriors. Angels may be present but focus is definitely not on them or their role. Fine linen not used in either Old or New Testament to describe garb of angels. The bride granted to be clothed “in fine linen, clean and bright”; explanation given: “fine linen is righteous deeds of the saints”. Also told in Rev. 17:14 that those who are with King of kings and Lord of lords are those who are “called and chosen and faithful.”
attendants have limited role: on white horses, meaning victory is assured; having no weapons, they are spectators, witnesses to the great work God alone will accomplish. Union with Christ means we participate in his death and resurrection – Paul takes it so far as to say he has “been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20), we have been “buried with him in baptism”, “raised with him through faith” (Col. 2:12). Attending Christ during this final conflict means saints will participate in his victory as well even though not present as combatants.
weapon and work (15)
sharp sword: must be cautious what mental images we associate with Christ and his engaging in battle. Whatever you’ve seen at the movies, experienced in real life – this isn’t that; it’s entirely different. Jesus doesn’t wield broadsword of Damascus or any other kind of steel; his sword is his all-powerful word, already seen Rev. 1:16. (see also Eph. 6:17; Isa. 11:4; Heb. 4:12) Just as God spoke all creation into existence, as Christ sustains all things by his powerful word (Heb. 1:3), so he will speak final judgment on his enemies and what he says will be accomplished.
rule them: quotation from Psalm 2:9, context gives insight as to meaning. Christ described in role as the Lord’s anointed – breaks the nations with rod of iron, smash them to bits like a clay jar. Has come to execute justice, not govern benevolently; remember the opposing side – massed for war in total rebellion.
treads the winepress: told here it is Christ who brings God’s fierce anger to bear on his enemies; Isaiah 63:3 makes it explicit he does it alone. Repeated indications this is God’s battle, not one in which saints or even angels will be engaged. In all eternity will never be any question that God and God alone vanquished his enemies.
B. angelic summons v.17-18
God’s representative (17a)
reflecting brightness of God, indicating he speaks with divinely given authority, has the right to issue summons
God’s plan (17b)
tale of two feasts: one of blessing, one of judgment. God called out of the world those who would be his, invited them as guests to marriage supper, joined them to Christ as bride to bridegroom, treated with dignity and honor. Now summons to all who reject Christ to another feast, guests as well as main course, stripped of all dignity and honor.
God’s curse (18)
none will escape God’s righteous judgment: people from every station in life without exception, regardless of position or possessions will be present at this feast. No role changes allowed, they wanted to be allied with the beast in life, same wish granted in judgment and death also. All including great ones will be denied dignity even in death, not having honor of decent burial.
C. arrayed for battle v. 19-21
opposing force (19)
Once again Satan’s army described, this time drawn up for battle – same as seen in Rev. 16:14, 17:12-13 Convinced time has come when they can challenge the Lamb for supremacy; are engaged in furious warfare against the Church (thus Christ himself, too) when the Divine Warrior appears intent on battle.
beast and false prophet (20)
described by John as a sequence, perhaps occurrs instantaneously as the Lamb declares “Finished” (Rev. 16:17), single word γεγονεν. Beast and false prophet unceremoniously yanked from world stage and thrown headlong into lake of fire. No longer able to deceive world, promote false worship, oppose rule of Christ. Only one voice heard in cosmic courtroom – that of Judge. No defense, no arguments, no pleas for mercy, only swift sentence.
the rest (21)
all those present in support of beast and false prophet have no opportunity to attack, to wage any sort of offensive once the Lamb appears. They are all in formation, waiting for the Lamb and his army to take the field. Absent from John’s vision is a scene of fierce battle, hand-to-hand combat, the outcome in question. Satan’s forces expect real warfare, expect to prevail against their enemy. Yet with a word, Christ declares the outcome final, those who rebelled against him meet their doom. As soon as it begins it is over.
Why? How come no battle? The real battle was fought and won 2000 years ago at the cross (Col. 2:15). Christ triumphed over his enemies, putting them to shame by showing their complete ineffectiveness against him. He proved it by rising from the dead. So what’s left? Strip them of remaining power, put them in their proper place, the place prepared for those who rebel against God.
The great day of the Lord – one all those who are far from God should dread. Instead most deny reality of it, pretending God as revealed in Scripture doesn’t exist, gladly consuming the lies and deceptions Satan feeds them. Only God can change the hearts of those who are hardened against him, pray he does so before it is too late. For those who love Lord Jesus, whose hope is in the Lord, confident he has won battle on their account, is a day to anticipate with great joy – when Christ returns with power and great glory to make all things right.