The Second Coming of Christ (Rev 19:1-21)
Following the parenthetical sections of chapters 17-18 which described the great harlot system of Babylon, chapter 19 gives us heaven’s perspective of the fall of Babylon. Heaven’s perspective stands in stark contrast to the mourning of Babylon’s lovers, and it resumes the progress and narrative of the future events of the Tribulation. With chapters 17-18 as a background, John receives new revelation concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the first ten verses the emphasis is on what he heard in special announcements in preparation for the return of Christ. In verses 11-21, however, the stress falls on what John sees concerning the actual return of the Lord (cf. vss. 1, 2, 5, 6 with 11, 17, 19). The return of the Lord brings to a close the Tribulation events and the wrath of God.
Let’s not miss the striking change that is seen here in contrast to the preceding chapters. We are taken from somber weeping and lamenting to joyful worship and praise, from darkness and doom to light and deliverance, from a series of woes to a series of jubilant announcements. Chapter 19 is easily divided into four sections:
(1) The Hallelujah Choruses (19:1-6)
(2) The Announcement of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (19:7-10)
(3) The Announcement of the Advent of Christ (19:11-16)
(4) The Announcement of Armageddon (19:17-21)
The Hallelujah Choruses
The Hallelujah of a Great Multitude in Heaven (1-3)
The Time sequence
“And after these things” refers to the visions of chapters 17 and 18 and especially the fall of Babylon. In 18:20 there was the call to rejoice over Babylon’s destruction. Now there is heaven’s response to that call.
What John heard is described as “a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven.” This is undoubtedly the multitude of saints described in 7:9-12. It does not include the 24 elders and the four living creatures who subsequently respond antiphonally in verse 4. It may also include a multitude of angelic beings.
The Nature of Their Saying
This is seen in the word “hallelujah.” This word comes from two Hebrew words. The first is %allelu, an intensive verb in the imperative meaning “give praise.” The second is the Hebrew name of God in the shortened form, Yah. It means “praise Yahweh,” or “praise the Lord.”
This transliteration occurs only here in the NT (vv. 1, 3, 4, 6), but in the LXX it is a frequent title for certain of the psalms (Pss 111:1; 112:1; 113:1; et al.). This phenomenon clearly illustrates the connection of the early church’s liturgical worship with the synagogue and temple worship of the first century. These praise psalms formed an important part of Jewish festival celebrations.
The Hallel is the name especially applied to Pss 113-118 (also called “The Hallel of Egypt” because of the references in them to the Exodus). They had a special role in the Feast of Passover. Most Jewish sources associate the Hallel with the destruction of the wicked, exactly as this passage in Revelation does. These psalms were what Jesus and the disciples sang after the Passover-Eucharist celebration, before going out to the Mount of Olives the night before his death (Mt 26:30). This close connection between the Hallel, Passover Lamb, and the death of Jesus no doubt explains why all the early church liturgies incorporated the Hallel into the Easter and Easter Week liturgies, which celebrate the gospel of redemption from sin, Satan, and death in the victorious triumph of Christ, our Passover. Two texts in the great Hallel (Pss 113:1; 115:13) are unmistakably cited in 19:5.222
The Content of Their Praise
The first aspect of praise consists of the declaration that “salvation and glory and power belong to our God.” Note the “our” in “our God.” Those giving praise had rejected the god of this world and his false messiah, and by faith had accepted the Lord as their God and Savior. For this many had died a martyr’s death, but to their God, who is our God through Jesus Christ, belongs all true deliverance, glory, and power. The apparent successes and victories of the enemies of God over His people are purely temporal.
Why do they make such a statement? This is given in verse 2, “Because His judgments are true and righteous.” God’s perfect and holy character, His perfect righteousness and justice, cannot act unfairly or unjustly. He has perfect knowledge (omniscience) and, therefore, He has all the facts so that all His judgments are in accord with the truth. There is no hearsay evidence in the court of God. In this case, the ground of God’s judgment demonstrated in the fall of Babylon was the immorality by which the great harlot seduced and corrupted the earth.
A further reason for the righteousness of God’s judgments is that He does not allow His people who suffered unjustly under the harlot to go unavenged. He will avenge the wrong that was done to them. Sometimes in this age there appears to be no justice, but this cannot and will not always be the case because of the character of God. The word “avenged” is the Greek ekdikew, an intensive compound verb and may suggest a complete rendering of justice to avenge His people.
In verse 3 a second “hallelujah” is given in connection with the statement, “Her smoke rises up forever and ever.” The smoke may refer to “the smoke of her burning” in 18:9 and 18, the results of her destruction, or to her eternal punishment (14:11). Whatever, this guarantees that her punishment is permanent.
The Hallelujah of the 24 Elders
and the Four Living Creatures (4)
Upon hearing the hallelujahs of the great multitude, the 24 elders and the four living creatures respond with their own hallelujah and worship of God. Please note the clause “and worshipped God who sits on the throne.” The Greek says, “and they worshipped the God, the One who sits continually upon the throne.” Oh, how we need to capture this picture of our God who sits on the throne. This strongly emphasizes the permanent sovereignty of God. There is no act of man, nor of the nations, nor problem which comes up in our lives which overrules the sovereignty of God. “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all (Psa. 103:19).
God, with His great power and steadfast love for us, sits permanently on the throne. And, as the One who sits on the throne in heaven, we ought to humbly submit to Him and give Him the throne of our hearts. But too often we are like the world, we want to usurp God’s right to rule, but when we do, it is always our own loss.
The Final Hallelujah of the Great Multitude (5-6)
Immediately, in response to this picture of God enthroned, the hallelujahs, and the worship of these creatures of God, a voice comes from the throne. This voice is not the Father or the Son, but only an angel because of the phrase “our God” in the next line.
The voice says, “give praise to our God.” In other words, “sing hallelujahs.” Who is to respond? All His bondservants, “you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Note that in this statement, all social and economic distinctions are transcended and removed in the worship of God by His people. Before God and in Christ, all believers, as the blood-bought possession of the Lord Jesus, are His bondservants. We are those who should have a true reverence for God through our illumination in Christ and by our equality together in Him.
In order to express the majesty of this praise verse 6 describes this voice as “the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder.” It is a majestic expression of praise from the hearts and mouths of the saints of God. Then the last hallelujah states, “for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” In other words, truly, He is still on the throne; He always has been, and always will be. But the primary emphasis in this context is that God is now dramatically establishing His reign upon earth by the previous judgments and especially by the return of the Lord, which is to be announced shortly (vss. 11f).
The Announcement of
the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
The Historical Background of the Marriage Custom
To truly grasp the significance and meaning of this passages, it would be helpful to explain the marriage custom of John’s day which was in three phases: (1) betrothal, (2) presentation, and (3) the marriage feast.
Phase 1: The Betrothal
Marriage was by a contract drawn up between the fathers, often while the parties involved were still children. In other words, this was the negotiating phase. Though the marriage was not consummated at this point, they were considered legally married (cf. Matt. 1:19 and the word “husband,” and also 2 Cor. 11:2, “I betrothed you to one husband”). Whenever a believer receives Jesus Christ as Savior he becomes a part of the bride of Christ. The church age is the betrothal phase, the time when God is calling out a bride for His Son.
The payment of a suitable dowry was also often a part of the procedure (cf. Eph. 5:25). Thus, Christ gave His own life for us as a dowry. Today all believers are legally married to Jesus Christ and through living faithfully in the Word, we are kept as pure virgins, kept from Satanic apostasy or fornication (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-26 with Jam. 4:4).
Phase 2: The Presentation
When the couple reached a suitable age the wedding took place. The father of the bridegroom would present the contract to the father of the bride. The bridegroom would then go to the house of the bride in the company of his friends and escort her to his home. This is the background for the parable of the virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. During the betrothal phase the groom would prepare an apartment, a place to live in his father’s house. Homes, especially for the wealthy, were often very large complexes. Only the portions which were needed, however, were finished and furnished. When a son was to be married, another portion was completed to make ready for the new bride (John 14:2-3). The rapture, or resurrection and transformation of the church, is the event which brings the groom to the bride and which takes the bride back into heaven.
The groom and his friends would then escort the bride to their new home. The ceremony which followed was the “presentation” or actual marriage. The hand of the bride was placed into the hand of the groom’s father. He would then place it into the groom’s hand. This was considered the marriage ceremony. Ephesians 5:27 speaks of this presentation, but also of Christ’s present work of keeping the church pure and productive by loving her through the Word.
Phase 3: The Marriage Feast (The Reception)
The groom would invite many guests and gather all his friends to come to the marriage feast and view his bride. The length and lavishness of the feast would of course depend on the wealth and status of the bridegroom. It might last a day or a week or even longer. The millennium represents the marriage feast where Christ displays His bride, the church.
In the parable of Matthew 22:l-14 we have an illustration of this custom. The parable, however, pictures the rejection of Israel and Christ’s gracious extension of the invitation to all nations. Christ had prepared a great feast of spiritual blessings, but Israel was too busy to be bothered so the offer was extended to the nations or the Gentile world (cf. Rom. 11:1-32).
In Matthew 25:l-13 we have another reference to the wedding feast only this time it refers to the millennium and the invitation is to come as guests to this great feast. The invitation is to Jews and Gentiles of the Tribulation to come to the marriage feast of Christ and His bride, the church. Of course, they can only come by faith in the groom. Personal faith in Jesus Christ is the wedding invitation; this provides the righteous garment necessary to get into the feast.
Explanation of 19:7-10 in the Light of this Custom
In verse 7 great rejoicing and glory is given to God because “the marriage of the Lamb has come.” The word for “marriage” here is gamos. This may refer to a marriage or to a wedding feast (Matt. 22:8-12; 25:10; John 2:1-3; Rev. 19:9). This is not the announcement of the marriage, which has already occurred in heaven with the presentation of the bride, the church, to the groom, the Lord Jesus Christ. This occurred following the rapture. What we have here, as verse 9 makes clear, is an announcement of the wedding feast or the millennial reign of Christ.
This can now be announced and anticipated because Christ is about to return to remove all the enemies of God and unbelievers from the earth in preparing the earth for this great celebration of 1,000 years. However, for such an event the bride must be properly clothed and prepared so the groom may show off his new bride. Thus, we read, “and His bride has made herself ready.”
The bride refers to the church of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:22f). Second, we are told, “His bride makes herself ready.” This brings out the aspect of personal responsibility of individuals. There is first the responsibility in relation to salvation. To be a part of the bride, one must have believed in Christ as his or her personal Savior from sin. But the primary emphasis here relates to the issue of true spirituality which results in rewards or preparation for eternity. Men must personally and responsibly believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and then, as believers and as part of the bride of Christ, they must choose to walk by the Spirit of God according to the Word, by faith, so they can bear fruit or reproduce good works. This is what is meant by the statement, “makes herself ready.”
But this is not the whole picture; there is also the divine side. This is brought out in the next statement of verse 8, “and it was given to her to clothe herself …”
The words “was given to her” focuses our attention on God’s grace and refers, I believe, to two phases of His grace to all believers who make up the bride of Christ.
First, it refers to those gifts Christ has given to the church which enable believers to produce good works for God and to glorify Him. Our Lord declared that, “… apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5-6). So He also said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit.” As a branch has no capacity for fruit bearing in itself, but must abide in the vine, so men have no spiritual capacity apart from Jesus Christ and a life of abiding in Him. For this abiding life, our Lord has given us many spiritual assets; we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Fruitfulness, then, is dependent upon using, by faith, these spiritual blessings which our Lord has given us to make ourselves ready (cf. John 15:7-8; Phil. 1:12-13; Eph. 6:10-13).
Second, “was given to her” also refers to the reward the Lord will give for faithful service or the righteous deeds done in the power of the Holy Spirit. The reward is a beautiful wedding garment to be worn at the wedding feast. This is clearly spelled out in the next words of our text, “… to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
In Scripture, a garment or clothing often stands for righteousness. It is a symbol of righteousness and declares the character and spiritual condition of a person’s life. Biblically speaking, the garment of righteousness is portrayed in three specific ways as brought out by two specific Greek words.
(1) There is the self righteousness of man which falls short of the perfect righteousness (glory) of God. This is the best that moral or religious man can do under the law, and this God must reject (cf. Isa. 64:6; John 6:63; Rom. 3:9-28; 8:2-4; Phil. 3:6-8 with Rom. 10:1-3).
(2) Then, there is the garment of salvation, the imputed righteousness of God given to all believers which gives them a righteous standing before God. The result is they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19, 21; Phil. 3:9). Numbers one and two are both represented by the Greek word dikaiosunh.
(3) But, there is also a third, the beautiful wedding garment described here as white, bright, and clean. This symbolizes the righteous deeds, the works of godliness and goodness, produced by the Holy Spirit as believers reckon the flesh dead and walk by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:4f; Gal. 5:5, 16, 22-23). This is represented by the Greek word used in 19:8; the word is dikaiwma. Words ending in ma usually look at the result of action. This word, therefore, refers to a concrete expression of righteousness, the expression and result of abiding in Jesus Christ; this is the result of using the divine operating assets the Lord Jesus gives us in preparation for the wedding feast, as well as for all eternity.
In essence then, the church age is not only the betrothal stage, but a time where the bride is preparing her trousseau for the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Verse 9 has reference to the custom of inviting guests to the wedding feast as seen in Matthew 22 and 25. Verse 9 is a beatitude, a pronouncement of blessing upon those invited. John was first told, “Write, blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” First, this is the pronouncement of blessing and happiness to those who are invited because the millennium will be the most blessed time in the history of the earth. It will be an unprecedented time of blessing just as the Tribulation was an unprecedented time of misery. It will be a time worth waiting for and worth suffering for.
Second, all men are invited, both Jews and Gentiles, but to enter and be a part one must accept the invitation and come with the right wedding garment, the dikaiosunh, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This means one must first accept the invitation to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12; 3:3, 16; Rom. 3:21-22; 4:5; Matt. 22:8-13). Not only will the bride have her trousseau, but every guest must have on a wedding robe, a garment of righteousness, in order to be a part of the marriage feast or the millennial reign of the Savior. These guests are friends of the bridegroom (John 3:29).
Next, in verse 9 John is told, “these are true words of God.” In the Greek text, the word “true” is emphatic, further stressing the element of the veracity of this event. This underscores the absolute certainty of this beatitude.
In verse 10 we see that John is virtually overawed by this revelation of the marriage supper of the Lamb and falls at the feet of the messenger, but he is immediately rebuked by the messenger’s words. There is a very important message in this verse for all believers as it pertains to the giving and receiving of the Word of God. John had received revelation from angels before, but this revelation was so wonderful and awesome to John, so beautiful, that he fell before the angel to worship him, perhaps in appreciation for this good word from God. In the process, however, he forgot or ignored some very important principles that must always be kept in mind regarding the messengers of God’s Word, whether angelic beings or human beings. When sitting under the ministry of someone who really gives out the Word, whether in a church setting, by tape, or by radio, people often become so thrilled with the message, they become enchanted with the messenger. In this regard, may I encourage you to consider the following:
(1) When we get our eyes on the messenger, we have forgotten that it is God’s message—assuming that the messenger is truly giving out the truth. The message of the Bible is anything but the wisdom of man for “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).
(2) We forget the person giving the message is nothing more than God’s instrument and messenger using the abilities God gave him along with the results or blessings God gives. To the carnal Corinthians who had their eyes on personalities Paul asked this provocative question, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Cor. 3:4-7).
When we forget these principles and lose this grace perspective, we become guilty of comparing personalities (a practice Paul defined as carnal in 1 Corinthians 3), of helping to inflate the egos of the messengers, of helping to promote personality fan clubs in the church, and maybe even of causing division in the body of Christ. Christians become arrogant (pride in their own opinions) in behalf of one against the other” (1 Cor. 4:6).
In view of this, John was told, “do not do that.” Literally the Greek carries the idea of, “see to it, or take care that you stop that, or never ever be doing that.” This is something we are not to do as receivers of the Word, nor, as messengers of the Word are we to allow it. It dishonors God, and causes serious disorientation among God’s people. The word here for “see to it” is an imperative from of the verb %oraw, “to see with discernment,” with the negative, “not.” Out of mental discernment and understanding of the facts and issues involved, we (John as well as you and me) are to get our eyes off the messenger and on the truth of the message, specifically, the Lord Jesus, who is the very spirit of prophecy.
As we might expect from the idea of the verb %oraw (used of mental or spiritual perception), this is followed up by the reasons, that which makes mental discernment necessary. First, the angel explained, “I am a fellow servant.” The Greek word here is sundoulos, a fellow bondslave. This reminds us that: (a) men and angels are together obligated to explicit obedience to God, and (b) they are only God’s servants or instruments sent to do His work under His authority and in His power or ability. We are all just creatures, and as men, mere mortals.
Second, the angel explained, “a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren.” Here is a careful application of angelology and a wonderful illustration of how biblical truth should control and direct our behavior. The angel knew who he was and operated accordingly, and so should we. Here he was bringing out two concepts: (a) angels minister to believers on behalf of God (Heb. 1:14), and (b) one day, the saints will be over angels and judge them, having greater power and authority (1 Cor. 6:3). Remember, it was Satan who, in his pride, forgot who he was. Compare the warning in 1 Timothy 3:6 against choosing new converts for places of leadership.
Third, the angel then explained that he was simply one who, along with the brethren, held “the testimony of Jesus.” This points out the fact that believers and the godly angels are together responsible to bear testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ and to preserve that testimony as it is found in the Word. The principle is that when men get their eyes on the messenger, it always does harm to the message—the testimony about the Lord Jesus Himself.
Fourth, the angel, following this explanation, gave another command as a further part of his reasons. He said, “worship God.” In the Greek this is an aorist imperative which suggests urgency. It carries the idea of, “do not delay, do it now.” The point is only God should be worshipped. Infatuation with a messenger hinders the proper worship or recognition of God and His worth to us. Again, the point here is that it is God’s message and the messenger is using only that which God gave him (1 Cor. 4:6-7).
Fifth and finally, the angel said, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” This is given as a further reason and explanation for the above as indicated by the word “for.” The point is simple and clear. The purpose of prophecy, all prophecy, is essentially to bear testimony to Jesus Christ and to glorify Him. Prophecy, by its very design in the plan of God, is to unfold the beauty of the person and work of Jesus Christ as God’s perfect solution to the evils of the universe in both His first and second advents. All Scripture ultimately points to the person and work of Christ in His preincarnate glory, His incarnation and ministry on earth, His death, resurrection, ascension, session, and return. The Lord made this perfectly clear to the two disciples on the Emmaus road in Luke 24.
25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
So, may we never, ever become distracted by the messenger of the Word, either negatively (I don’t like his personality), or positively (infatuated with a person, “I just love the way he says ‘Mesopotamia’!), because it distracts from the theme of Scripture which is Jesus Christ, it causes us to worship men, not God, and it can cause serious problems within the body of Christ.
This is serious business, and a lot more important than many are willing to admit. The problem and the temptation here is two-directional. First, obviously, the audience can become preoccupied with the messenger, and secondly, the messenger can become preoccupied with the praise of the audience. The answer—worship God. Respect the messenger and thank God for him (cf. 1 Thess. 5:12), or love the audience and serve them as a servant (cf. 1 Thess. 2:1-12), but above all, let us worship God, never man or angels.
of the Advent of Christ
At this point we come to a climactic place in the book of Revelation as it reveals the person of Jesus Christ, for now our Lord is presented as the victorious White Horse Rider who comes out of heaven and who is also King of kings and Lord of lords.
If you recall, in Revelation 1:1 “the revelation of Jesus Christ” is the subject of this book. And, as 19:10 teaches us, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” All that precedes 19:11 is somewhat introductory; it is setting the stage for the coming of the Lord as portrayed in these verses. But it is equally true that all that follows is, in some sense, an epilogue because the great event pictured here is the climax and the heart cry of Scripture (cf. Rev. 1:7; Acts 1:11; Matt. 24:27).
Note this contrast: In the gospels, which deal primarily with Christ’s first advent, He is seen in His humiliation, rejection, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. But here His return is one of triumph, glory, power, sovereignty and dominion. Here is the high point in history for here is the manifestation of the Son of God in glory and the end of all angelic and human rebellion. After the 1,000 year reign another brief rebellion will occur, but it is short-lived because Christ is present as King of kings.
This is where God’s kingdom comes to be on earth as it is in heaven. Here God’s program is climaxed; God exalts His Son and puts all creation under His feet, a symbol of His victory and control (Psalm 2; Eph. 1:22; Heb. 1:13; Psalm 110:1).
His Aim (11)
“And I saw heaven opened.” What a dramatic moment in history! The heavens are opened to allow this procession to take place. This may refer to the thick darkness and the cloud cover which will be characteristic of the Tribulation (Zeph. 1:15; Joel 2:2). The Savior will be there on a white horse followed by His armies (believers and angels) (2 Thess. 1:7, 10; and Rev. 19:14). The armies of the world will be gathered in battle array on the hill of Megiddo and the mountains of Palestine. The oriental bloc will be set against the western confederacy under the authority of the beast, but when this event transpires, they join forces against the Lord (vs. 19).
With the words, “And in righteousness He judges and wages war” we see the Savior’s aim. “In righteousness” means “in the sphere of” or “by means of.” Either way it emphasizes that what follows is a product of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. All evil and the enemies of God are about to be executed and removed.
“Judges” and “wages war!” are both in the present tense to describe the process. Once it starts, it will not stop until every enemy that has stood in rebellion against God is judged and removed.
But what a stark contrast to Christ’s first advent. Then He came full of grace and truth, not to judge but to bear the penalty of sin, to be judged for our sin. But in this scene He comes as Judge. At Christ’s first advent He defeated Satan on the cross and established Satan’s potential defeat. Here it will be carried out in fact.
“And behold, a white horse …” (vs. 11) and “the armies that were in heaven (the church and the angels) followed Him on white horses …” (vs. 14). The mention here of the white horse rider and riders that follow Him portrays a scene that is an allusion to the ancient Roman Triumph.
The Roman Triumph was the highest honor that could be bestowed on a victorious Roman general. It came from a Greek word that referred to a public and triumphal procession. The procession was a parade up the Via Sacra, the main street of Rome, that led from the Forum to the temple of Jupiter which lay on the Capitoline Hill. The General was mounted on a white horse which was the symbol of a victorious triumph in the field over the enemies of the nation. First came the spoils of war which were eventually given to the general’s army and friends. Next came the captives who had been defeated and captured in battle, disarmed and in chains. Then came the General on his white horse followed by his family, friends, and his army. Later the prisoners were often executed by the soldiers, often one on one until they were all executed.
Now compare the following Scriptures: in Colossians 2:15 we have a reference to Christ’s victory in battle via the cross. Here Christ is proclaimed as the triumphant General in the field of battle. Ephesians 4:7f speaks of Christ giving gifts to men as spoils of war following the victory over the Satanic hosts. (The first phase of the triumph.) Finally, Revelation 19:11 speaks of the removal of all enemies. (The final phase of the procession resulting in the execution of all enemies.)
In this section, a number of different names are used of the Savior because together they describe the many features of the Lord Jesus Christ as to His person and work.
Faithful and True (11)
“Faithful” is pistos and refers to “one you can rely and count on” always. This characteristic of the King of kings flows out of His divine essence and perfect, glorified manhood. Other rulers, because of ignorance or lack of the facts, have often been untrustworthy and have failed their people. But this one possesses all wisdom and knowledge. His knowledge cannot change, nor be mistaken, nor be in the least inadequate, so men can count on Him. He is reliable. He never judges by appearance.
Further, because He is omnipotent and because His power is always guided by His holiness and wisdom, He can always perfectly fulfill His promises and purposes. But history is filled with the many leaders of the world who have come with promises of peace and prosperity or of good government, but have failed because of their lack of wisdom and power and character to carry out their plans.
Also, because He is immutable and because He is perfect holiness, wisdom, love and grace, His plans and purposes are always best for us and cannot be changed by caprice, greed, or expediency. We can always count on Him.
Because He is perfect holiness, man can count on His plans and purposes knowing they are always right and just. He is one who pours out mercy on those who seek Him and justice and judgment on those who turn away (Isa. 11:1-5).
“True” is alhqinos and there are two concepts to be gleaned from this word. First, it means “real, genuine” versus “spurious, false.” History has constantly been plagued by world leaders who promoted themselves as man’s answer or as a nation’s answer. They have promised peace and solutions to the ills of society, but over and over again they have been revealed as spurious. Hitler made such promises but proved hideously false. In Revelation 6 the white horse rider also promises peace, but as one who is not true, he goes forth to conquer (i.e., to subjugate in tyranny).
Second, it also means the “ideal” versus the “imperfect.” Man has long looked for the perfect ruler, one who had the power, wisdom, love, grace, holiness, and unchangeableness to rule in perfect righteousness. Of course, nations are sometimes blessed with good rulers, but they are always temporary. They either die by natural causes or get removed by political intrigue or assassination. They are then too often replaced by someone far less qualified (cf. 2 Kings 18:3-6 with 21:1-2 and Isa. 6:1f). But this white horse rider will remain by reason of His eternality. Thus, He will be the perfect Ruler, the Ideal.
A name written which no one knows (12)
This is precisely that, a name that is not revealed; it is not simply a name no one knows the significance of, but one no one knows period.
The Word of God (13)
“Word” is logos, “a word, saying, message.” It denotes the expression of thought, a collection of ideas in the mind, and the words by which they are expressed. It signifies the outer form by which thought is expressed as well as the inward thought or collection of ideas themselves.
He is called %o Logos “the Logos.” The article is important to this title of the Lord Jesus. The purpose of the article is to distinguish the subject from the mass, to mark out an individual’s identity by way of contrast to all others. “Of God” is literally “the one of God.” This defines more precisely and emphatically just what He is, the revelation and manifestation of God himself. As “the Word of God” (%o Logos tou Qeos), Jesus Christ is the complete personal manifestation of God, not just a part of God’s essence and plan, but the whole. He is the complete revelation, the collection and expression, and the outward manifestation of all that is God. The classic passage on Christ as “the Logos” is John 1:1-18.
In His first advent, Jesus Christ came as ho Logos revealing God in His plan of salvation (love, grace, power and perfect holiness). But, in His second advent, He will come revealing God in His plan of wrath and judgment (compare vs. 13a, the blood dipped garments, and vs. 14, the armies, with John 1:4, 17). Compare also John 12:46-48 where Jesus declared that He would not judge then, but He would later and by the index of God’s Word.
KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS (16)
There is no article with either of these titles which emphasizes the character and quality of His rule. It emphasizes the qualities of kingliness and lordship. “Of kings” and “of lords” means over all others, and like no others. This declares both His authority and quality. He is the epitome of a King and a Lord.
“And on His robe and on …” This means partly on His robe and partly on His thigh—written at length—extending from His robe down to and on His thigh. “Has written,” because of the perfect tense, means it is a permanent title; once He assumes His rule, it will never end. There will be no one who can dethrone Him as Satan dethroned Adam and Eve.
His Appearance (12-13, 15)
“His eyes … a flame of fire.” Some manuscripts have “as a flame of fire.” This symbolizes the searching and penetrating judgment of the white horse rider upon mankind. Like fire, His eyes penetrate and search out every person. No one can escape his vision and judgment. Men can hide behind every conceivable mask, but only those who stand in His righteousness will escape this judgment. Even these will be examined and rewarded for production by the same eyes (cf. Rev. 2:23 with 1 Cor. 3:12-15; 2 Cor. 5:10).
“And upon His head are many diadems” (KJV has “crowns”). This is not the victor’s crown (stefanos), but the diadem, the crown of absolute sovereignty, the crown of kings. Believers receive the stefanos, the victor’s crown for bearing fruit in the Christian life (Rev. 3:11). The diadems of 19:12 are set in contrast to the ten diadems of the beast (Rev. 13:1, i.e., ten diadems verses many diadems). Christ’s universal sovereignty (King of kings) is the point being made by the many diadems.
“And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood.” The robe refers to Christ’s royal robe, an outer garment with which He is clothed. “Clothed” is a perfect tense which calls attention to the abiding condition, permanently clothed in royal splendor and authority. “Dipped” is also a perfect and calls attention to the permanence of what He is about to do—defeat His enemies. “Dipped in blood” is symbolic of the blood which is about to be shed (cf. Isa. 63:1-6; Rev. 14:20) and also stresses that it is His power which accomplishes the judgment and removal of the enemies. It may be the church will take part in this, but only by our association and identification with Him (Isa. 63:2-6). In Revelation 19:14 no blood is mentioned in connection with clothing of the armies (the saints) that follow Him. The armies follow and are a part of this victory, but as in the Christian life, it is His power which accomplishes the defeat of the enemy. When Christ is portrayed as the slain Lamb, it speaks of redemption by means of His blood, i.e., His death on the cross (Rev. 1:5), but here the blood represents not Christ’s blood or death, but the blood or death of the wicked caused by this judgment of Christ.
“And from His mouth comes a sharp sword …” The fact that the sword proceeds from His mouth shows this is His Word. His Word is called “a sharp sword” because it cuts the enemy asunder (it is effective). “Sword” is r%omfaia, the long Thracian sword. This word was also used of a javelin-like sword which was light and slender enough to be thrown as a spear. It is a symbol of judgment and suggests that Christ will simply speak and by His Word thousands will fall. The basis of His judgment will be the words which He spoke in His first advent (John 12:48). In His first advent He came speaking words of reconciliation, seeking to save that which was lost. But at His second advent, because of rejection of these words, He will come speaking words of retribution which will slay the wicked (Isa. 11:4).
His Armies (14)
This undoubtedly involves two groups. First, it includes the angels, the hosts of the Lord, as they are so often called in the Old Testament Scripture (Joshua 5:14-15; 1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chron. 18:18; Neh. 9:6). The Hebrew word for “hosts” is tsaba, “armies.” But due to the description used here, His army will also include church age saints. Why? Well, note the description. They are clothed in fine linen, white and clean. In verse 8 this same expression is explained as “the righteous acts of the saints,” the dikaiwma.
“Clothed” is a perfect tense which again looks at a permanent state of being so clothed. “Clothed” is the Greek enduw which means “to clothe in, hide or cover in.” The voice is best taken as passive which stresses this as a work of God who clothes us in these garments, white and clean; even as the results of faithfulness to the Lord, they are the work of God.
A note of contrast and comparison is in order here. In Ephesians 6:11 we are told to “put on the full armor of God.” “Put on” is again the verb enduw, only in Ephesians 6:11 the Greek means, “you yourself put on,” or “you clothe yourself.” While in this age we are commanded to put on, or to clothe ourselves in the full armor of God as a protection against the schemes of the devil in our battle against Satan and his forces. This armor gives capacity to stand against his many strategies. But in this case we may fail to do so and be sorely trampled on by the devil. In the future when we come with the Lord, however, He will have permanently clothed us which both qualifies and protects us in the battle.
His Authority (15-16)
His authority is seen in a number of things in these two verses. First it is seen in His Name, “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (vs. 16). In verse 12 the “diadems,” are the royal crowns He will wear, which, as pointed out previously, likewise demonstrate His authority over the whole earth. He has “many crowns” versus the ten of the beast, and He is King above all kings, and the epitome of kings.
However, some interpreters simply take this to refer to Christ’s sovereignty over the hearts of men, and of the kingdom of God within man. But verse 15 shows clearly that John is referring to God’s rule on earth through the very person of Christ.
His authority is also seen in the sharp sword with which he smites the nations in judgment, slaying and removing the enemies. This is preparatory to the millennial reign of Christ.
His authority and the nature of His rule is also seen in, “He will rule them with a rod of iron” (cf. Psalm 2:9; Rev. 2:27). This represents the unyielding and absolute governmental authority of Jesus Christ in His kingdom reign under which men are required to conform to the righteous and just standards. No lawlessness or injustices will be tolerated. Men today can get away with murder, deceit, fraud, lying—but not then.
“Rule” is the Greek word poimainw, which means “to shepherd.” In this we see the nature of His rule. It will be like a shepherd who cares for his sheep. It will involve love, provision for all needs (spiritually and physically), as well as discipline and swift and effective justice.
“Rod of iron” further describes the nature of His rule. Shepherds normally used a staff made of wood with which they protected, cared for, and disciplined the sheep. This rod, however, is made of iron which symbolizes the strength, absolute authority, and unbreakable nature of His authority and rule.
His authority is further shown by the phrase “and He treads the wine press …” This figure returns to what He must do in order to take up His rule on earth. It is a striking figure of the judgment that will occur at Christ’s return (14:20). The picture is that of treading a wine press full of grapes. The press runs red with the juice of the grapes which have been pulverized by the treading. So when Christ returns with His armies and lands on the Mount of Olives, He will literally destroy hundreds of thousands and their blood will flow through Palestine (cf. Rev. 14:19-20).
“Treads” is present tense of continual or progressive action. This means He continues the judgment until all the enemies are defeated, either slain or gathered for judgment. The armies of the beast will be wiped out while the rest of mankind will be gathered for judgment. They will either be cast directly into the lake of fire or allowed, if believers, to go into the millennial reign of Christ. Compare Matthew 24 and 25 for this sequence.
(1) The Tribulation judgments will wipe out many via the seals, trumpets, and bowls (Rev. 6-18).
(2) Christ returns for the final battle of Armageddon with all armies gathered to do battle (Rev. 19:11-19).
(3) The beast and false prophet are removed (Rev. 19:20).
(4) The armies of the world are destroyed (the treading of the wine press) (Rev. 19:15, 17, 19, 21).
(5) This is followed by the judgment of the rest of the living Jews and Gentiles (Matt. 25:1ff).
(6) Then comes the millennial reign of Jesus Christ (Rev. 20).
“Of the fierce wrath” is literally, “of the rage, the one of His settled anger.” The Greek word translated “rage” is qumos which means “exploding, volatile wrath, anger in action.” But the next word, orgh, refers to the more settled anger of God against sin which proceeds from His unalterable holiness and divine essence. The text is showing us that this wine press proceeds from the divine holiness of God. Remember that Revelation 14:10 declares God’s wrath will he poured out, at this point, in full strength, undiluted, and without mercy and grace. It will be too late for mercy and too late for repentance. Up to this point, unless people received the mark of the beast, they could repent and accept Jesus Christ. But not after Christ appears in heaven. God’s forbearance with man, at long last, comes to an end—as in the days of Noah.
Another important contrast to consider at this point is that of Christ’s return to earth and the Great White Throne Judgment:
(1) It is separated in time from the last judgment by 1,000 years (Rev. 19:11-21 compare with 20:1-8, 9, 11).
(2) Its purpose and object is entirely different. The Great White Throne Judgment is to pronounce final doom and to appoint men to their eternal destiny. The books are opened out of which men are judged. But the day of wrath at Christ’s return is to prepare the earth for the millennial reign. It is a purging out, a removal of all rebels.
(3) The Great White Throne Judgment comes only after the present heavens and earth have passed away, but the second coming is an event on this earth—specifically in Palestine. It will involve changes in the earth, but not a new earth (Isa. 11:6f).
(4) The Great White Throne judgment deals with the dead; those who have come from the sea and the grave (their bodies), and from Hades or torments (their souls) (Rev. 20:12). The second coming of Christ is dealing with living men who have never died and many of whom are marshaled together into one great army.
The Armageddon Conflict
Right away a great contrast occurs with this section of Revelation 19. Above, in verse 9, saints are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. “Supper” is deipnon, the primary meal of the day, and there it refers to the blessings and fellowship of the millennial reign of Christ with His bride, the church. But here, birds (vulture types) are invited to another supper (deipnon), only now it is to eat the flesh of those killed in this battle. Either one accepts God’s supper of grace, or he must face the one of God’s judgment.
Now following the vision of Christ with His armies, John is given another striking vision which may be divided up as follows:
(1) The carnage for the birds (vss. 17-18)
(2) The conflict with all the armies of the earth (vs. 19)
(3) The captives thrown into the lake of fire (vs. 20)
(4) The conquest of the remaining ones (vs. 21)
While this was discussed in chapter 16, it might be helpful to review the Armageddon conflict. The events discussed here describe the final phase or battle of Armageddon which actually began with the invasion of the king of the north and her allies around the middle of the Tribulation (Ezek. 38-39). At that time, the king of the north will be destroyed on the mountains of Palestine by God. This leaves a vacuum of power and the beast of the western confederacy, seeing this as an opportunity to strengthen his power, will move into Palestine, break his peace treaty with Israel, and begin to conquer greater portions of the earth (cf. Dan. 11:40-43).
But at the end of the Tribulation he hears tidings out of the East, i.e., the kings of the East are marching to Palestine to do battle with the beast and his armies (Dan. 11:44-45). Here all the remaining armies of the earth will gather to do battle with one another to gain control the world and especially Palestine (see Joel 3:9-14).
Then suddenly, the heavens are opened, and there, appearing for all the world to see, is the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings with His armies. But in hardened rebellion and in spite of the awesome wonder of the Lord in heaven, the armies of the world ban together in what will be the first truly successful United Nations action to do battle with Christ. Verses 17 and following portray the results and the victory of our Lord.
The Carnage for the Birds (17-18)
“And I saw an angel (singular) standing in the sun.” Just how the angel stands in the sun is not explained. Whether he stands in the sun itself or merely in its light is not specifically stated. As a supernatural spiritual being this would be no problem for an angel, but probably the idea is that he will stand in the direct path of sun light, but possessing even greater brilliance so that he can be seen. The image is one of great brilliance and light which again manifests and emphasizes this whole scene as an act of God’s glory, especially His holiness, righteousness and justice.
The fact the angel “cried out with a loud voice” signifies that something very important is impending (6:10; 7:2, 10; 10:3; 14:15; 18:2).
“Saying to all the birds which fly in mid heaven.” The angel does not speak to man, but to birds—a special kind of bird. Literally it says, “to all the birds, to those which fly in mid heaven.” He is not just talking about birds which fly, but about those that are noted for soaring high in the sky and noted for eating flesh, i.e., vultures, buzzards, and perhaps even hawks and eagles (cf. Matt. 24:28 the Greek word used there means “eagle, vulture,” cf. Job 39:26-30).
The birds are then commanded to assemble for a very special meal. “Come” is an adverb of command or exhortation. “Assemble” is an aorist passive imperative suggesting urgency, “be assembled.” “For the great supper of God,” i.e., for the slaughter of the armies of the world.
Verse 18 shows the purpose of this assembly of the birds—operation cleanup. They are assembled to eat the flesh of those slain by the King of kings. Note that the men are divided into classes: (a) kings, (b) commanders (literally “commanders of thousands), (c) mighty men, (d) cavalry troops, and (e) men both free and slave, small and great. But why the various classes? To emphasize a timeless principle of Scripture: God’s judgment upon man is no respecter of persons (Rom. 2:6-11). His judgment is a great equalizer of all.
There are two other passages that seem to parallel 19:17 because of the reference to the vulture-like birds (Ezek. 39:17-20 and Matt 24:28). If Ezekiel 39 occurs before the millennium (some take it to be equivalent to Revelation 20:8 which occurs after the millennium), it is only an apparent parallel for it refers to an earlier battle of the Armageddon campaign, i.e., phase one and the destruction of Gog and his allies on the mountains of Israel. But in 19:17 the great supper of God involves all the armies of the earth. Matthew 24:28 is an actual parallel, and refers to the carcasses which fall in battle when Christ returns, and the gathering of the birds to eat them.
Care must be exercised when interpreting passages which are similar. The rule is, similarities do not necessarily prove identity. Other factors must be considered. Birds of prey are always in evidence where there is death, and the presence of the birds does not mean we have the same event, only the same kind of event.
The Conflict with all the Armies of the Earth (19)
“And I saw the beast.” This includes the seven remaining kings of the ten nation confederation who will give their power and authority to the beast. Later three will rebel and will be destroyed, so only these seven will be left (Rev. 17:12-17; Dan. 7:18). But “kings” in 19:19 also refers to all the remaining kings of the earth, primarily the kings of the East who now band together in this final United Nations against Christ.
“Assembled to make war.” Literally “having been assembled in order to make war.” Remember that, as John saw this vision of the future, they were originally assembled there by demonic activity because of their greed for the wealth and the resources of Palestine (cf. Rev. 16:12-16). But now they see the sign of the Son of Man, and they join together against the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 17:14 with 19:19).
The Captives Thrown Into the Lake of Fire (20)
Verse 20 tells us the beast and the false prophet will literally be seized (paizw, “seize, arrest” and was used of a violent seizure) at the beginning of the conflict and cast directly into the lake of fire. The false prophet is clearly identified as the one of chapter 13.
The most dramatic part of the verse is the last part where it tells us these two were “thrown alive” into the lake of fire. Literally it says, “Alive, they were thrown, these two, into the lake of fire.” The reason for the emphasis is that this is not the ordinary sequence of the doom of unbelievers. The normal sequence is death (Luke 16:22), torments in hades (Luke 16:23), the second resurrection that leads to the second death (Rev. 20:11, 13a), the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-12), and then the lake of fire or the second death (Rev. 20:14-15). The armies of the beast, for instance, will be killed, and will go to torments and follow the above sequence. “The beast and his false prophet will be the first occupants of the lake of fire; other unbelievers, now in hades, will join them at the end of the Millennium.”223
There seems to be one other exception to this sequence which is the judgment of the living Jews and Gentiles. This takes place after this battle is over. In these two judgments, believers and unbelievers are separated. The believers remain (25:34) to inherit the kingdom, and unbelievers seem to go directly to the lake of fire (Matt. 25:41). This judgment on earth appears to take the place of the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20 for living, unbelieving Jews and Gentiles after Christ returns to earth.
The Conquest of the Remaining (21)
Those not killed in the first stage of the conflict, i.e., in that which takes place when the beast and false prophet are taken, are then killed. The point is that the whole army of the beast is wiped out. The only ones left are those who were not a part of these armies, i.e., believers hidden in the hills and unbelievers in other places around the earth.
The present age reveals the grace of God and suspended judgment. The age to come, while continuing to reveal grace, will bring an end to this suspension of God’s wrath and finally of even God’s grace. Christ’s victory is total and complete.
The Word of God makes 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. How foolish it is to rest in the portions of the Word of God that speak of the love of God and reject the portions that deal with His righteous judgment. The present age reveals the grace of God and suspended judgment. The age to come, while continuing to be a revelation of the grace of God, will give conclusive evidence that God brings every evil work into judgment and that those who spurn His grace must experience His wrath.224