Revelation 19:11-21 So I threw myself down at his feet to worship him, buthe said, “Do not do this! I am only a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony about Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war. 19:12 His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself. 19:13 He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God. 19:14 The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. 19:15 From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. 19:16 He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” 19:17 Then I saw one angel standing in the sun, and he shouted in a loud voice to all the birds flying high in the sky: “Come, gather around for the great banquet of God, 19:18 to eat your fill of the flesh of kings, the flesh of generals, the flesh of powerful people, the flesh of horses and those who ride them, and the flesh of all people, both free and slave, and small and great!” 19:19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to do battle with the one who rode the horse and with his army. 19:20 Now the beast was seized, and along with him the false prophet who had performed the signs on his behalf – signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with sulfur. 19:21 The others were killed by the sword that extended from the mouth of the one who rode the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves with their flesh. NET
In this sobering lesson we will explore the wrath of God. This uncomfortable teaching is often neglected in Christian venues today, yet we ignore it to our peril.
It was the Spring of my first year in China and I was out for a bike ride on our local campus on the afternoon of Good Friday. Eager to take in the signs of life in anticipation of Easter, I rode over to my favorite garden spot on the south end of campus. What I saw there shocked and appalled me. On the building across from the placid scene, someone had spray-painted “God is a homosexual” in prominent red letters. Who would dare do this? Did they even know what it meant? Should I alert the authorities of this flagrant vandalism? What can I do to erase the paint, and the shame towards His name? A righteous indignation welled up inside of me, a zealous jealousy over His defamed reputation.
As I contemplated my reaction that afternoon, I wondered if I experienced a tiny inkling of God’s feelings towards sin. Does He get angry towards those who act in brazen opposition, or even apathetic indifference to His name? If so, why doesn’t He seem to do anything about it now? If not now, when will He act, and what will that look like?
Day 1: Read or skim through Revelation, getting a feel for the chronology of the book
Day 2: Read Revelation 19 & 20 about His second coming and reign.
Day 3: Read Revelation 19:10-21 and those in discussion questions 2-4
Day 4: Read the additional passages referring to God’s wrath in appl. questions 2 and 3
Day 5: Answer the “discussion questions”
Day 6: Answer the “meaning questions”
Day 7: Spend time in prayer and meditation on your application
The next three weeks will cover sections from Revelation. It is almost impossible to summarize this complex book in one paragraph. Our purpose here is not to study or answer questions about the whole book, but give you a brief framework for understanding these passages. Revelation records the prophetic visions given to the apostle John late in his life while exiled on the island of Patmos. It is a book of consummation when the program of redemption is brought to completion. Some believe the book is organized by 1:19: “what you saw, what is, and what will be after these things.” Though the visions often seem very obscure to our modern minds, one remarks, “The whole book is saturated with illustrations from the Old Testament. It speaks not the language of Paul, but of Isaiah and Ezekiel and Daniel1.” We will focus on the timeless character of Christ revealed here, and leave the controversies of this highly mysterious book of prophesy to the experts!
This passage details the second coming of Christ and the final destruction of His enemies. Many place this event before a 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth, when He destroys all earthly enemies. (The final destruction of Satan and the lake of fire judgment comes at the end of Chapter 20.) Yet regardless of one’s view of the end times, this is the most graphic picture of the judgment of Christ we have in the Scriptures.
1. Reread the passage and write out a physical description of the person described here.
2. What is the meaning of each title ascribed to this person?
3. As Revelation is a highly symbolic book, let’s try to understand the imagery painted here. What do you think is the significance of the following images?
4. Verse 17 pictures an angel speaking to the birds in heaven. What does the angel say and what does it mean2? (See also Ezekiel 39:4, 17-20; Matthew 24:28; Luke17:37.)
5. In vs. 20, what happens to the beast and the false prophet? Who are these two figures3?
6. And in verse 21, what happens to the humans4?
7. Write a summary statement of how this passage presents Christ.
1. Contrast the first coming of Christ (at His incarnation) with His second one pictured here. How do these images hold together?
2. Sometimes we make the error of thinking that God the Father is one who exercises wrath, yet the Son is the merciful one. How does this passage correct our thinking?
3. Sometimes we tend to highlight the love of God to the exclusion of wrath, or think that God only extends mercy now, but wrath is for later. Is God’s wrath only a future characteristic? What light do these verses bring?
4. What gives us hope in the midst of wrath?
5. While we might feel no emotional tension highlighting God’s mercy by itself, we might feel equally uncomfortable when the wrath of God is emphasized over His compassion. In fact, as we see above, the two are often seen together in Scripture. Why is it important that we emphasize both? What is lost if we only hold up His mercy and not His wrath?
6. When we allow ourselves to ponder the weight of His wrath, His mercy becomes all the more comforting and glorious. As you meditate on the wrath of God this week, how does it affect you emotionally? Have you ever felt deserving of wrath? How does this deepen your understanding and thankfulness for what He has done for you in Christ?
7. Once we ponder the impending judgment of God towards those who do not believe, we surely feel burdened for those in our lives who do not know His mercy. Who are those people in your life? How does a refreshed remembrance of His wrath spur you to share the gospel with them? How might you communicate both His wrath and mercy in your presentation? Spend some time together praying for God’s mercy to fall on those most upon your heart.
8. In this lesson we see the fruit of His wrath—the end of all injustices experienced on earth, all the effects of sins ever committed by us or against us, all wickedness, evil and death; the martyred saints avenged; the enemy and accuser himself destroyed with finality. Spend some time pondering this and journal your thoughts.
9. Share with one another what truths have been most meaningful to you. Spend a moment writing down the insights you have heard from others during this study that have enriched your own perspective.
10. Christ, the warrior who smites the nations, His robe bearing the blood of His enemies, destroying with finality all opposition to His glorious reign. What about this week’s lesson has made Him appear more beautiful or glorious to you this week? Write a prayer of response, as well as one application you will take away from this lesson.
We are not used to thinking of you in these ways. Your titles are shocking and these images are frightfully vivid. We tremble before your awesome power and judgment against sinners, which we once were. We rejoice in your mercies which we do not deserve! Help us tell the story of your gospel in ways that do not neglect your wrath, so that sinners may know the depth of your rich mercy. Grow us in knowing it more deeply too!
1 JB Lightfoot, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (International Bible Translators, 1996).
2 When Jews read this, they would quickly envision the shame of being eaten by birds and not given an honorable burial.
3“The false prophet is a religious leader of the end times who, along with the DRAGON (the devil) and the BEAST (the Antichrist), forms an unholy trinity in opposition to God (Rev 16:13; 20:10.) The Book of Revelation speaks of two beasts-The Antichrist (Rev 13:1-10), a political ruler who sets up an evil empire in opposition to the kingdom of God; and the false prophet, a religious leader inspired by Satan who deceives the world into worshiping the Antichrist (Rev 13:12.) But they will be overthrown by Christ and cast into the lake of fire (Rev 19:20).” Nelson’s Electronic Illustrated Bible Dictionary, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986).
4The sword coming out of His mouth images the words of God going forth. We can imagine His words in Genesis 1 speaking the worlds into existence, or His words to the soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane causing them to fall to the ground in John 18:6. Here the words of Christ go forth in judgment.