We remember that Revelation presents a series of visions depicting the church age and final judgment. The seven seals, trumpets, and bowls each provide a perspective on Christ’s reign throughout the age of the gospel to restrain, warn, and finally punish evil. Each of these cycles concluded at the very brink of Christ’s return. In chapter 6:12-17, the sky was rolled up like a scroll and the wicked vainly hid from the wrath of the Lamb. When the seventh trumpet blew, angels sang, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Rev. 11:15). Later, a cloud appeared with “one like the son of man” who harvested the earth with a sharp sickle (14:14-16).

These were veiled allusions to the second coming of Christ to overthrow and judge evil once and for all. In Revelation 19:11, the veil is lifted and John writes: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!” No longer do we look through windows or doors into heaven, but this time heaven itself opens so that the Lord and His armies may come out.

The Christ who comes forth from heaven is the Warrior-Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. This was the Savior who slew the hosts of Pharaoh after parting the Red Sea for Israel to pass through. Moses sang, “The Lord is a man of war; the Lord in his name” (Ex. 15:3). This is the battle captain who appeared to Joshua “with his drawn sword in his hand” (Josh. 5:13). “I am the commander of the army of the Lord,” Jesus declared, and Joshua worshiped Him (Josh. 5:14). Here in Revelation 19:11, the heavenly Warrior Jesus arrives on a white stallion, wielding a sword to slay the enemies of His church. The white horse symbolizes victorious conquest in battle. In His first coming, Jesus dealt with sin by offering His own blood in sacrifice. He now returns in glory, “and in righteousness He judges and makes war” (v. 11).

At first glance, we might think that this vision shows only Christ’s victory in bringing judgment to the unbelieving world. But just as Christ wears a crown of “many diadems” (v. 12), the victory that He comes to proclaim has a number of facets. For instance, Jesus arrives as the Savior who has already conquered by His cross. John sees Him “clothed in a robe dipped in blood” (v. 13). Some scholars argue that Christ’s robe is spattered with the blood of His enemies. Isaiah 63:1-6 supports this view as it presents the Lord as “mighty to save” and clothed in crimson garments.

Yet there are also good reasons to this blood as representing Christ’s own atoning blood for the cleansing of His people. Here in Revelation 19:11-13, Jesus presents Himself before entering into battle with His enemies. He is joined by “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure,…following him on white horses” (v. 14). This army includes the assembled host of the redeemed, who are cleansed and arrayed in white because Jesus shed His blood for their sins. Also, Revelation has emphasized that the saints conquered the dragon Satan “by the blood of the Lamb” (12:11). The blood on His robe will always remind us of where the victory was actually won, on the cross.

Jesus further conquers by means of His covenant faithfulness in obedience to God the Father. John says that the rider of the white horse “is called Faithful and True” (v. 11). Jesus appears as the new and righteous Adam who receives the nations as His inheritance (see Ps. 2:8). Paul notes in Philippians 2:8-11 that Jesus took up a human form and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Furthermore, Christ appears, having conquered by His Word. John writes that “the name by which he is called is The Word of God” (v. 13). It seems that “Word of God” is used here to signify Christ’s authority to exercise the will of God for His redemptive conquest. Revelation 5 showed that only the Lamb could open the scroll of God’s will. It is in view of His obedience in suffering death and His righteousness in fulfilling God’s covenant that Jesus is now granted the right to wield God’s omnipotent decree. As God’s appointed and faithful Messiah, Jesus has authority to proclaim God’s final judgment against His foes.

Jesus appears from heaven to meet His wicked foes, having already conquered by His death, by fulfilling God’s covenant, and as the Word who bears God’s decreed will. Appearing this way, Jesus then achieves the victory highlighted in this passage: the conquest of His final judgment over evil. Riding the white horse of victory, Jesus “is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war” (v. 11).

Numerous details are provided about Jesus’ victory in judging His enemies. Some of them emphasize Jesus’ person and the attributes that enable His conquest. For instance, it is in His “righteousness” that “he judges and makes war” (v. 11). Christ makes war in perfect righteousness and true justice. This is especially important when we realize that His chief battlefield is not one of literal warfare but rather a legal contest in the courts of God. Justice is on Jesus’ side, in both His righteousness and His just condemnation of sin. The ungodly will suffer conquest in the shame of knowing that Jesus is right to slay them with the sword of His righteousness.

Jesus is further seen with eyes “like a flame of fire” (v. 12). This may speak in general of Jesus’ deity, but it specifically depicts His penetrating sight that discovers all sin. Hebrews 4:13 speaks this way about God’s Word: “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Because of this, faithful preachers are sometimes accused of prying into people’s private affairs to discover and expose their secret sins in a sermon they are preaching, when what actually happens is that the Word of God penetrates to expose the secret corruptions of the heart. How complete will be the exposure of all sin when Jesus returns with eyes of flaming fire to judge all whose sins are not forgotten.

Jesus’ authority is further seen in His command of the mounted hosts of heaven (v. 14), which include the legions of angels Paul wrote about in 2 Thessalonians 1:7. And according to Revelation 17:14, they are joined by those who “are called and chosen and faithful,” that is, the glorified church. The spiritual power of this army is seen in the fine white linen of their holiness before God and their righteousness in Christ, the saints wearing the uniform of their priestly status in Christ’s kingdom.

The authority of Christ to judge is especially emphasized in the title written on His robe at the thigh: King of kings and Lord of lords” (v. 16). The thigh symbolizes manly strength, and thus Christ’s robe bears titles upon His thigh that proclaim His supreme rule. Not only is Jesus qualified to judge by His person and His authority, but He also appears with overwhelming power to destroy His enemies completely and immediately. John says, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations (v. 15). We know from 1:16 that the “sharp two-edged sword” of His Word comes from Jesus’ mouth. Wielding this weapon, Jesus doesn’t trade blows with the powers of evil but immediately slays them.

Jesus’ power also “will rule them with a rod of iron” (v. 15). This weapon is the rod of the shepherd by which he protects his sheep from predatory animals. Jesus wields this rod to shatter all opposition, fulfilling the promise of Psalm 2:9. It was because of this punishment of the wicked that Paul commanded Christians not to retaliate against evil in Romans 12:19. As a rod of iron, Christ’s vengeance on the oppressors of His people is mighty and unyielding. Evil must in the end be crushed and destroyed if Christ’s flock is to lie down in the green pastures beside the still waters of eternal glory.

Finally, John writes that Jesus comes with power to vent the fury of God’s wrath on the wicked rebel powers of the earth: “He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (v. 15). Like a man trampling grapes in a winepress, the Warrior-Messiah will trample the wicked in His divine strength, with their blood pouring out in floods of just retribution for evil and sin. Of course, this is symbolism. But the reality it depicts ought to terrify sinners as they ponder having to suffer the judgment of the righteous and avenging Jesus Christ. These verses show that Jesus is not squeamish when it comes to judgment, nor is He aloof from the inflicting of God’s personal wrath.

Not only is Christ going to judge the world by the sword of His Word, but He is going to judge you by His truth. If you are wise, you will stand under that judgment now, confessing your sin, believing His gospel offer of salvation, and embracing in faith the mercy that forgives you through the loving sacrifice of Jesus’ blood. It is by the Word that believers are called (John 10:27), born again (1 Pet. 1:23), sanctified (John 17:17), enlightened (Ps. 19:8), and in the end finally delivered (2 Thess. 2:8). In His gospel, Jesus comes humbly on a colt of a donkey, signifying mercy to sinners who repent and believe (Matt. 21:5). He returns riding on a white horse to slay the wicked and cleanse the world of sin. Let us call Him Faithful and True now. Let us invite His gracious rule into our hearts. And let us joyfully anticipate His coming by crowning Him with our faith and love, joining the praise that is sung by His church.

Revelation 19:11-16 Study Questions:

What is the significance of the names given to the One riding the white horse (vv. 11, 13)?

What do the images in verses 14-16 symbolize, if not an actual military battle?

How do we participate in the victory that Jesus has won?

1 Comment

  1. Richard

    Praise God
    Thank you for commentary..

    It was Read for 29 Dec 3023

    God bless


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