This morning I want to begin all the way back in Acts 1. For a measure of context, several world-changing events have taken place — mainly, three days after being publicly crucified Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to more than 500 people over a period of 40 days. As an aside, the number of eyewitnesses to the resurrection is really astounding.
In fact, an early Christian profession of faith written down by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 stated that “Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures… He was seen by Cephas (Peter), then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James (Jesus’ half-brother), then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also — one born out of due time.”
The scene we find recorded in Acts 1 has Jesus with a group of His disciples atop the Mount of Olives just to the east of Jerusalem. His time on earth has come to an end and He intends to ascend back to heaven. Let’s dive into the narrative, beginning with verse 6…
“Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Jesus, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ (This was a good question.) And Jesus said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. (Notice Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for the question but just says it wasn’t for them to know.)
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ (Instead of worrying about a future kingdom, Jesus commissions them to be His witnesses throughout the world promising to provide them Holy Spirit power to do so.)
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, Jesus was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’”
The reason this prophetic text is important is really threefold: (1) It defines our purpose on this earth. We’re empowered by the Holy Spirit to testify! (2) It explains why believers have looked for and anticipated the Second Coming of Jesus. His return was foretold by the angels. (3) It establishes the idea the purpose for this future advent will be to finally establish His Kingdom on the earth. Jesus has unfinished business. You see the resurrection made it clear Jesus is alive with His ascension implying a future physical return.
As we approach the second half of Revelation 19, you need to know the bodily and public Second Coming of the resurrected Jesus to this planet in order to establish a literal kingdom in which He will reign the world for 1,000 years is not some fringe theological notion held by a few of the more insane elements within Christianity or the cults. No! The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is an absolutely central tenet of the Christian faith!
To this point, John Piper has written, “The center of Christianity is the coming of the Son of God into the world as a real man to destroy the works of the devil and create a new people for His own glory. The very heart of our faith is that He did this by obeying the law of God, dying for the sins of His people, rising victorious over death, ascending to God’s right hand with all His enemies under his feet. The second coming of Christ is the completion of His saving work. If you take it away, the whole fabric of His saving work unravels.”
For example… The Second Coming of Jesus is referenced 1,845 times in 17 books within the Old Testament. Additionally, the subject is broached in 23 of the 27 books contained in the New Testament or roughly mentioned in 1 out of every 30 verses. Amazingly, prophetic references to the Second Coming outnumber Jesus’ first by a factor of 8 to 1. The promise of His return was of such significance Jesus referred to it 21 times in the Gospels.
Southern Baptist minister Adrian Rogers made this interesting observation, “You find, in the Bible, for example, the new birth as important as that is mentioned nine times. Baptism, as important as that is mentioned 20 times. Repentance, as important as that is mentioned 70 times. But, I want to say, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ is mentioned specifically in the Bible at least 380 times. The Bible keeps telling us over and over again.”
Let me share one famous passage regarding the Second Coming to set the stage for today’s sermon… Isaiah 9:6-7, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.”
Before we get to our text, I do want to reiterate and in many ways contrast my position concerning the Second Coming of Jesus with that of others. Most notably, while I believe this event is of incredible significance to the overarching plans of God, I do not believe the Second Coming should be the anticipation of the Church or our present expectation.
Because I hold to a literal, seven-year period of a future Tribulation whereby God judges the earth and finishes His prophetic dealings with the Nation of Israel (the timeline of which is established in Daniel 9 and then practically recorded in the book we’ve been studying), as the Bride of Christ, I believe the Church should be instead looking for the Rapture — a future moment the Groom comes for His Bride, removes Her from the earth, before initiating this Tribulational Period that culminates with His Second Coming.
Amazingly, as we’re going to see this morning, while the world will look up to see the physical return of Jesus Christ, some in great terror and others with immediate relief and astonishment, you and I — the Church of Jesus — the Wife of Christ — the Queen coming with the King of Kings will end up having a much different vantage point.
Without any further hesitation, let’s dive into this incredible passage… Revelation 19:11, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.”
John begins by noting how he “saw heaven opened.” Not only does this present Jesus’ return happening in the same manner as His original departure, but John is describing a portal opening in the hidden veil that conceals the dimensions of heaven from this earth.
It’s interesting the very first thing that catches John’s attention was this “white horse.” For emphasis, he says, “Behold, a white horse!” As you can imagine, a white stallion coming from heaven itself that can fly and move between dimensions would be something to behold! Such a thing would undoubtedly catch your attention. Beyond that, horses were used in battle and traditionally a white one would be reserved for only the King.
With that in mind, it doesn’t take long for John to quickly move from the horse to the rider. He writes, “And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True.” In His earlier letter written to the church of the Laodiceans, recorded in Revelation 3:14, Jesus introduces Himself as being “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.”
Not only does this reference confirm the identity of the rider as being Jesus, but it again affirms He is trustworthy and completely dependable. Jesus keeps His promises. He says what He’ll do and He does what He says! He promised to return and now He’s returning!
John continues of Jesus… “In righteousness He judges and makes war.” Please note, this is an important sentence because it defines the purpose in His second coming. In His first advent, Jesus came to wage war on sin on behalf of man. In His second advent, Jesus will come instead to wage war on sinful men. In one, He’s the Savior. In the other, He’s the Executioner! John says “in righteousness” Jesus will “judge” sin and “wage war” against sinners. In His return, Jesus is not passive or conciliatory. He’s a Man bringing a reckoning!
Before such an idea sours in your mind, never forget in the face of injustice you can’t remain a pacifist and still claim the moral high ground. It would be unjust to sit back and allowed blatant wrongdoing to continue unabated. At some point, justice demands an active intervention. You see God allowed the rebellion of man in the face of His continual grace to go on as long as He possibly could. By this point, time has finally expired.
John continues with a description of the rider further confirming His identity to be Jesus… Revelation 19:12-13, “His eyes were like a flame of fire (we noted in the original description of the glorified Jesus back in Revelation 1:14 that there was a glowing passion and intensity blazing in His eyes), and on His head were many crowns. (In the Greek, this word presents a crown of royalty with the plurality suggesting unlimited sovereignty.)
He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. (While John makes no mention where exactly this name had been written, I find it to be really interesting there are some things about Jesus that will remain a mystery even in eternity.) He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.”
In the original, the word “robe” is a nondescript term that means garment. The point John is conveying is that Jesus’ attire had been “dipped in blood.” Frankly, there are several ways you can read this. It could be John is just saying Jesus’ digs had been dyed a blood-red color. It may also be that His clothes were red because they’d been splattered by blood.
In another description of Jesus’ Second Coming, we read in Isaiah 63, the prophet asks, “Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength?” The answer, “I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Isaiah then inquirers, “Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?” Jesus then provides the explanation, “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments (more accurately translated as splattered upon), and I have stained all My robes.’”
I love the way John ends verse 13… He writes, “His name is called The Word of God.” In the opening of John’s Gospel, the apostle wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made… (Then a few verses later John adds) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
In a very practical sense, human language and therefore our words create the most basic way we communicate and reveal ourselves to one another. It’s a fact, the more time we converse and spend verbally sharing our thoughts the more we get to know each other.
In referring to Jesus with the “Name… The Word of God,” John is saying that in the person of Jesus — as revealed using the most basic, primal method of human communication, His words — we have the ultimate revelation of the person of God to mankind. From the opening pages of Genesis to the final chapters of the Book of Revelation, God is revealing Himself through His words. The Written Word reveals to us the Living Word!
This is why we read in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It also explains why, in 1 Peter 1:23, the Apostle says, “The word of God lives and abides forever.” It’s as though John is telling us the One in whom the Word reveals has now arrived!
I should add this is why we utilize the majority of our time together on Sunday to work our way through God’s Word verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, book-by-book. While there is a place for the experience of worship, an importance to partaking of the elements, and necessary to spend time with one another in Christ-centered community, it is only the Word that has the fundamental power to call the dead to life and then transform that life into the image and likeness of Jesus. We spend time with Him by spending time in His Word.
What’s fascinating about this scene is that Jesus is not alone… Revelation 19:14, “And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.” In the Greek, the phrase “the armies in heaven” is enthralling. From the open portal allowing heaven to invade earth, John sees, following Jesus, also riding on white horses, what he can only describe as a great army clothed in brilliant white garments!
In order to explain who’s included in this army, we turn to several other passages of Scripture. In Jude 1:14-15, we read, “Now Enoch prophesied saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’”
In writing to the Colossians, Paul is clear of the Church (Colossians 3:4), “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Again, in 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13, Paul writes, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”
The evidence is overwhelming that we — the Church (along with the Old Testament saints, the Tribulational believers who’d been martyred for their faith, and very possibly the angelic host of heaven) make up this occupying army coming to rule with Jesus.
Back in the heavenly scene recorded for us in Revelation 5:8-10, following the Rapture, John writes, “Now when Jesus had taken the scroll… They (saints) sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.’”
Revelation 19:15-16, “Now out of His mouth (Jesus) goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
The image of “out of His mouth” coming this “sharp sword” used to “strike the nations” is definitely dramatic. Back in Revelation 1:16 and then again in Revelation 2:12, John describes Jesus as “He who has the sharp two-edged sword.” The choice of the Greek word for “sharp sword” in this passage is identical meaning this was not a dagger but a massive two-sided blade worn over the right shoulder used only in a battle context.
What’s interesting is this was not a physical sword but John’s way of describing Jesus’ offensive weaponry. You see the same powerful word that spoke everything into existence “in the beginning” is now used to put an end to man’s rebellion. Jesus speaks and it’s over!
Regarding the power of His word… In John 18:3-6, we read, “Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?’ They answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am He.’ And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.”
John says when the battle is over Jesus “will rule them with a rod of iron.” In Psalms 2:9, we read predicted of Jesus concerning the nations that He will “break them with a rod of iron” and “dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.” John is describing a scene when Jesus comes to this earth, destroys His enemies, and in turn takes complete control of this world!
In Revelation 1:1, John began by establishing the underlying thesis. He declares this book to be “the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants.” This great unveiling of the person of Jesus is what the entire book has been building towards.
You see while Jesus originally left this earth in victory, He came as a Suffering Servant. Jesus came to save us from sin as the Sacrificial Lamb of God. He entered Jerusalem riding a lowly donkey. He bore a crown of thrones as He carried His own cross to His death. No one took His life from Him. Instead, Jesus willingly laid His life down because of love.
And yet, Jesus will return in a much different way. He comes back to this earth in victory, but this time as a Triumphal King! He comes riding on a white horse not to save sinners but to wage war on them. Jesus comes to judge the world in justice as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He’s wearing a crown of gold and His Word brings with it death, not life! In His Second Coming, Jesus is no longer presented as meek and mild but fierce and determined.
And in case anyone was confused as to His identity, John describes a Name written on His rode with a wicked corresponding tattoo inked on “His thigh” that reads “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” My friend, this should be considered His Triumphal Entry!
Revelation 19:17-19, “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun (the idea is this angel was so bright and defined he can be seen standing in front of the sun itself); and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.’ (With regards to this coming final judgment, no human being will be able to escape!)
And I saw the beast (the Antichrist), the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.”
Of all the branding in the Bible, it’s hard to find a worse example than the Battle of Armageddon! Seriously, what happens can hardly be described as being a battle at all. In fact, this great angel brands this final conflict as being “the supper of the great God.”
In the New Testament, you have two types of suppers: You have the Lord’s Supper (a meal designed to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross) — you have the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (a glorious wedding celebration). In stark contrast, you also have this one. In two of the three, the saints are invited to come and eat. In the other, the wicked end up being eaten! I should add you have a complete choice which supper you’d like to partake of!
According to John, the Antichrist, kings of the earth, along with their armies have “gathered together to make war” against Jesus! The language suggests both a pre-arrangement along with a deliberate intention. Back in Revelation 16, John says he saw “three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the beast, and out of the false prophet.” John then explains, “For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty... to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.”
Not only is there a demonic element to the gathering of these nations to specifically wage war on Jesus, but you need to remember Christ’s return will not be a surprise. Prophetically, the day of His coming was knowable — seven years from the signing of a false peace and 1260 days from the Abomination of Desolation. Ironically, the one thing that finally unifies the world is an ill-advised plan to resist and destroy Jesus once and for all.
Chronologically, John’s vision of heaven opening and Jesus making His descent aligns with the seventh Bowl Judgment recorded at the end of Revelation 16. In this passage we read, “Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ (God declares it finished.) And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.
Now the great city (Jerusalem) was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell (total destruction). And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath (the final reckoning of moral and societal Babylon recorded in Revelation 17 and 18 also happens on this great day of judgment).
Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. (100-pound hailstones crushing men explains why Jesus’ robe ends up being splattered with blood.) Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.”
As these things are happening, Revelation 14:18-20 records the devastation, “And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.’ So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs (roughly 200 miles).”
Revelation 19:20-21, “Then the beast was captured (the Antichrist), and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone (this would be the place we refer to as hell). And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
As I mentioned last Sunday, I believe the things John is recording for us in this passage will be largely overshadowed by the larger purpose for this particular day. While this will be a terrible day for some, Jesus’ return will be a cause of celebration for many. The Groom exits heaven with His wife and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb begins. The Kingdom will have finally come and God’s will be accomplished on earth as it’s always been in heaven!
John tells us this massive army of all the heavenly saints will return to earth with Jesus. According to Matthew 24:31, as these things are happening, Jesus sends His angels to gather His elect who’ve survived this Tribulational Period and bring them to Jerusalem! Obviously, this would include the 144,000 as well as those living in the cities of refuge.
Without incident or fanfare, upon His coming, both the Antichrist and False Prophet are “cast alive into the lake of fire.” There is no resistance. John then says, “The rest were killed with the sword.” Everyone else in rebellion to God perishes when Jesus says the word!
Regarding who’s included as “the rest” in this particular scenario, we can say with certainty that anyone who received the mark of the beast has had their fate sealed and is consumed in this moment. We can also surmise that if a person somehow was able to refuse the mark and survive the Tribulation but hadn’t accepted Jesus, they’d perish as well.
On this day, the Second Advent of our King Jesus, a new Millenia will be ushered in. Heaven comes to earth. The Kingdom of God will be established with Jesus sitting upon the throne.
Let me close with a perfect quote from A.W. Tozer, “The crux of the whole matter is this: our wonderful, created world will be restored to its rightful Owner. I for one look forward to that day. I want to live here when Jesus Christ owns and rules the world. Until that hour, there will be conflict, distress and war among the nations. We will hear of suffering and terror and fear and failure. But the God who has promised a better world is the God who cannot lie.
He will shake loose Satan’s hold on this world and its society and systems. Our heavenly Father will put this world into the hands that were once nailed to a cross for our race of proud and alienated sinners. It is a fact. Jesus Christ is returning to earth…” Next Sunday we’re going to unpack what this world looks like operating under the authority of Jesus.
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