A Bible Lesson on Revelation 19:11-16 and 20:11-15

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This lesson concerns a selection of 11 verses from Revelation Chapters 19 and 20. Between Chapter 14 and these verses is description of the conflict between Christ and His church and the forces of Satan and fallen humanity. The verses of the lesson are in the middle of what is probably the most hotly debated part of the book, that dealing with the so called “millennium.” The intent here will not be to join that debate. Instead here we will try to stick to what is plain in two scenes from these chapters.

The pictures we’re given of Jesus in these scenes are just as true as the picture of the Lamb we saw in Chapters 5 through 7. To see one and ignore the other does violence to the truth. We will be wise to remember that Jesus is both the bleeding Lamb and the powerful Warrior and Judge of all.

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

John sees a white horse. This is a military picture. White is both a symbol of purity and of victory. Conquering generals of John’s time rode white stallions. Here on a white stallion is the One called Faithful and True, the One who is completely and utterly reliable and who is both intrinsically truthful and fundamentally genuine/real. This is the Christ who identified Himself as the faithful and true witness in the letter to Laodicea in Chapter 3.

This mighty, conquering warrior judges and makes war with justice or righteousness. We should hear that in two related ways. For one thing, it is a statement about the manner in which Christ operates. He is completely just and upright in all that He does. Fallen humans are rarely just or upright. Our legal judgments are often perverted, and our wars conducted for entirely selfish motives. Christ is completely holy and righteous in His dealings.

We should also hear/see in this a statement of the means by which Christ operates. His righteousness/justice is the way He wars against sin and the way He brings judgment. His righteousness is the means of destruction of sin, and human refusal to acknowledge His righteousness is what brings judgment on us.

This reference to justice hearkens back to the messianic Old Testament prophecies. For example, there is this from Isaiah.

Isaiah 11:3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

 

12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.

We’ve seen the description of eyes blazing like fire before in the book. There is nothing hid from Him in the whole universe. And on His head are many diadems. These are the crowns of rulership. Christ rules over all the kingdoms of man. This is a picture that strikes us as odd, but in fact it was reasonably common in antiquity for kings with multiple kingdoms to wear several crowns. Jesus is Lord over all, and wears “many” crowns.

He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. Pagans believed that if you knew the name of a deity, you had some power over that deity. It may be that we’re being reminded here that God in Christ is sovereign. No one has Him in a box. No one orders Him about. And it is sure that none of us finite creatures will ever exhaustively know the wonder of our Creator. We are finite and He is infinite. Not only do we not order Him about, but our knowledge of Him is necessarily incomplete.

13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.

The Jews had been looking for a Messiah whose robe was dipped in blood, that of their national enemies. Even Isaiah says it.

Isaiah 63:1 Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.”

2 Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?

3 “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.

But this conquering warrior has a robe that most agree is dipped in His own sacrificial blood. This is the blood of the Lamb of God again here in verse 13. So while this is a picture of an overpowering warrior, the fundamental thing about His victory is not the slaughter of His enemies, but rather His own sacrifice on Calvary.

14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.

The armies of heaven may be angels, may be the redeemed, or may be both. Their clothing is white while that of their leader is blood-stained. Leon Morris had something most profound to say about this image. He pointed out that “Though they are called armies, there is no mention of weapons and neither here nor elsewhere are they said to take martial action. The victory over evil is won by their Leader alone.”

We often foolishly see a picture here of a multitude of combat-ready troops. What we ought to see is a single royal Warrior and His retinue/body of attending servants.

15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.

Again, as in 1:16 there is the image of the sword of God’s Word issuing from the mouth of Christ. It is by the means of God’s Word that Christ does battle with the nations. It is the rejection of God’s Word that is the undoing of peoples and nations.

Jeremiah speaks about the power of the Word of God.

Jeremiah 23:29 Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

And the famous verse from Hebrews says this.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

John here quotes Psalm 2:9.

Psalm 2:9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

And he again alludes again to Isaiah 63.

16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

It may have seemed to most in John’s time that this name belonged to Caesar. In fact, it is Christ’s and His alone. Jesus alone is the conquering warrior, and this conqueror is also the righteous judge of Revelation 20.

 

Revelation 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

Here’s the final reality. Earth and sky are gone and what remains is the Judge.

Psalm 102:25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,

27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Isaiah 51:6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.

2Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

There is judgment before the pure white throne of the Holy God of the universe. This is a terrible scene if one is there only on one’s own merits.

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

“The dead” are there. Many people teach that this does not include Christians. But “the” dead sounds pretty inclusive. And there are New Testament verses like the following.

Romans 14:10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;

2Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

The books are opened. God is omniscient, but the point here is not a suffocating constant watching and keeping score, as if God were some celestial Santa Claus making a list of who has been naughty and who has been nice. Rather, the point is that the judgments made here are accurate. There are no mistakes, no false convictions or unjust acquittals. The basis is what they had done. This is not judgment on the basis of good intentions or big promises, but rather on the basis of actions. We know that this cannot mean that one’s good is weighed against one’s bad to see if the good is good enough to merit salvation. In the words of Mounce, “The issue is not salvation by works, but rather works as the irrefutable evidence of a man’s actual relationship with God.” Indeed the most important of these books is the “book of life.” Barclay said “The idea behind this is that every ruler had a roll-book of citizens living under his control; and, of course, when a man died his name was removed from the roll. Those whose names are in the Book of Life are those who are living active citizens in the kingdom of God.” That’s something that has visible evidence. The verdict of the book of life is not something that contradicts the record of one’s life. It will be consistent with that record.

13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Ancients apparently had a real concern with dying at sea and failing to get a proper burial. The point here is that no accidents of death will derail judgment. No one will escape. All will be judged.

14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

When sin is completely and finally dealt with, then our enemy death will be done with as well.

1Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

This is plain. All will be judged and when the judgment comes, our only place of refuge is Christ. If we remain at war with Him, the end of it will be eternal damnation. There is no happy ending if we choose to continue in defiance of Christ. He is both the Lamb and the Shepherd. But He is also the conquering Warrior and righteous Judge of all people.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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