The Warrior Groom (Revelation 19:11-21)
Topic: Revelation Passage: Revelation 19:11–19:21
The Warrior Groom
(One Mission: Until He Comes)
October 4, 2015
I. The Unusual Showdown
Listen carefully and tell me which version of the following story you like better, version one, or version two? Are you ready? Here's version one:
And behold, I saw a proud donkey with a mane of silver flying to the top of a white and solitary star. Suddenly an elephant appeared, and though its tusks were short, it charged ferociously at the donkey, hoping to stop its ascent. And a large army followed the donkey, marching forward in great strength. But the elephant also had an army, and they followed behind a pack of hounds, blue in color and fervent in spirit. And over them all, a great eagle with a white head and covered with many eyes, flew back and forth over the battlefield.
Okay, now listen to version two and see what you think:
Democrats fought hard on Wednesday in these final days before the state's gubernatorial election, hitting the streets, hoping to persuade the undecided. Texans are expected to turn out in large numbers next week, as the eyes of the nation are glued to the unusual showdown between the well-known 79-year old democratic, state senator and his, 30-year old Republican rival. Though the senior statesmen is leading in most of the latest polls, the recent defection of many “blue dog” democrats to the side of the charismatic newcomer has re-energized his campaign. Political observers are declaring this one too close to call.
Battles come in all shapes and sizes, don't they? And the language of war, the terminology of conflict, is commonly used to describe all sorts of situations, isn't it? I'd encourage you to keep that in mind as we return to the Book of the Revelation this morning, and to our main passage, 19:11-21.
II. The Passage: “And Behold, a White Horse” (19:11-21)
Before we dig into this passage, let me give you a very brief recap of what we saw right before this. For the seven churches of western Asia Minor, all of whom were struggling in some way, this Revelation was the revelation they needed. Some of these churches were struggling with pressure and persecution from the unbelieving world. Other churches were struggling within, as false teaching and corrupt practices began to infect these churches.
In His mercy and in this book, God not only provided for these believing communities instructions concerning present issues, but also a vision of future victory, future justice, and future comfort. Three kinds of judgments are described in Revelation, the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls. As we saw, these were not only symbols of judgments to come, but also of judgments that had been and are in every age.
As we entered into chapter 17, and the section of the book where we find ourselves this morning, we will continue to see that we have not left the three sets of judgments, but are looking at an in-depth explanation of what is involved in the sixth and seventh bowl judgments.
The prostitute known as Babylon, the symbolic representation of the seductive and corruptive influence of the world system, Babylon, has been judged. And as we entered into chapter 19, we saw that as the impure woman fell, a pure woman rose. As verses 7 and 8 reveal, this pure woman is none other than the betrothed Bride of the Lamb. This is the church, and the consummation of her relationship with her Savior is imminent.
1. The Judge Appears (19:11-16)
Having just read about the bride, having just read about the “marriage” and “the marriage supper of the Lamb”, we would expect in the last half of chapter 19 to see the coming of the groom. Remember, the groom has been identified as “the Lamb”, the seven-horned, seven-eyed, symbolic figure introduced to us in Revelation 5. But look at what John sees next:
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.  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.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.  And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.  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.  On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
This may not be what the readers expects in terms of the imagery, but what we just heard about is in fact the coming of the groom. This is the Lamb! How do we know? Just look back at Revelation 17:13, 14. We read there...
These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast.  They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.
Notice the parallels? The Lamb is the rider on the horse. The Lamb is the “King of kings and Lord of lords”. If you recall, we haven't seen a white horse since the opening of the first seal, where the rider there, generically represented conquerors and conquest. While the identity of the riders is different, clearly the Lamb, the groom, is revealed here as the Conqueror of conquerors.
Now, to understand all of the imagery used to describe the Lamb in these verses, we need to go back to three OT passages. Let me just read through these, and as I do, listen for the connections between them and what we just read in Revelation 19:11-16.
Working backward, the first passage is Isaiah 63:1-3. This is what we read there...
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.”  Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?  “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.
The second passage is also in Isaiah, this time in chapter 11, verses 1-4. Isaiah declares...
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.  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,  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.
The final passage that forms the foundation for our main passage is in Psalm 2. We read...
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,  “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”...The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.  You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” (Ps. 2:1-3, 7-9)
All of these passages speak of the Messiah, and I believe the parallels are clear. The Lamb IS the Messiah, the promised king from David's house (remember, the Lamb is called the “root of David” in Revelation 5:5). He has come to judge and to punish the wicked. And as we can see from some of the other descriptions here, this Lamb, the Messiah, is none other than Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church.
Did you notice how many of the descriptors of Jesus from the first several chapters of the book are repeated here? Just like in 1:14 and 2:18, his eyes are like flames of fire. Just as in 3:14, he is called “faithful” and “true”. And just as in 1:16 and 2:16, a “sharp sword” is said to proceed from His mouth.
We also find similarities between this representation of Jesus and the beast from the sea in chapter 13: both wear many crowns; both have a name or names written on them. But unlike the beast's ten crowns, the number of the Messiah's “many” crowns is not given. And unlike the blasphemous names that covered the beast, the Messiah's name is known only to himself. This most likely represents the unfathomable depths of his nature, and the reality that no one can have power over him; for He is King over all other kings, and he is Lord over every other lord.
And in this scene, Jesus has come for one reason: He has come as “the word of God”; specifically as God's word of judgment against mankind. The decree of ultimate justice that the Lamb took in chapter 5 is the decree He fully and finally implements in this passage.
2. His Judgment Announced (19:17, 18)
But look at how the vision transitions in verses 17 and 18 of Revelation 19. John tells us...
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God,  to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.”
Just as the angel in verse 9 talked about an invitation to the wedding supper of Christ and his Church, here another angel issues an invitation for another supper, one that must take place before the other. Who is invited? The scavenging birds of the air. What will be their meal? The bodies of all the Messiah's enemies. Listen to how Deuteronomy 28:26 describes such a fate: And your dead body shall be food for all birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away.
This is listed as a covenant curse. This was a humiliating death, and a fate that the entire ancient world regarded as a curse. But this imagery symbolizes the horrible fate that awaits the enemies of Jesus. Who are these enemies? Verse 18: “kings...captains...mighty men...riders...all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” What is being described here is none other than the “great day of [the Lamb's] wrath” predicted at the end of chapter 6, as the sixth seal was opened. For in that passage we also read about the objects of judgment: “the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free” (6:15).
3. His Judgment Accomplished (19:19-21)
But as John goes on to witness, this judgment is not only announced, it is accomplished. Look at the closing verses of this chapter, verses 19-21...
And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army.  And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.  And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.
Notice right away how the “ten kings” who fight with the beast in chapter 17 have now become “the kings of the earth” in verse 19. It's important to point out that this gathering for war is the same one described when the sixth bowl was poured out in 16:12-16. For there we read about demonic spirits “who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty... And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”
Before we leave this passage, please notice that there is no actual battle described in these verses. We'll talk more about that fact and this imagery in just a few minutes. But clearly, the Messiah is completely victorious here.
Every enemy is slain, the birds' supper becomes a reality, and the beast and the false prophet - those symbols representing the dominating and deceiving powers of the world system in every age - these characters are said to be (v. 20) “thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur”. It's a description that emphasizes the severity of the judgment. If you want to learn more about this imagery of the “lake of fire”, I believe our lesson on the bulk of chapter 14 entitled, “Hell is for Real”, is a good resource.
III. From Bethlehem to Beast
So what do we have here? What is God showing us through John this morning? Well, I believe God wants us to realize that a great and climactic battle is coming. But don't let the language of war confuse you. This is apocalyptic language. It is written with the ink of symbolism. To be sure, it does describe a climactic battle, but not one involving cavalry or ballistic missiles. Armageddon is not a real place. But it will be a real conflict.
From what Revelation tells us, this battle will be the climax of a war that has been taking place since the first coming of Jesus. Remember, how the beast made war on the two witnesses in 11:7. Remember how the dragon “went off to make war” on the church in 12:17, and the beast did the same in 13:7. But you may also recall what 12:11 told us about our battle against the dragon, who is the devil: "And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death."
You see, what Revelation seems to reveal is that one day, mankind's hostility against God, their opposition to His rule, their indifference to His glory, their hatred of His commands, and their disdain for His people will reach to its most fevered pitch. And in that day, Jesus will fulfill the words we heard at the opening of this book:
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Revelation 1:7)
But remember what we saw. When He comes, the battle will be, the battle must be, completely one-sided. There will not be, there cannot be, a protracted struggle. There will not be, there cannot be, casualties on both sides. The only weapon that will matter will be the sword of Jesus. And what is that sword we hear about in verses 15 and 21? It is the word of Christ. It is His word of truth and judgment. This is why Paul once told the Athenians...
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,  because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
But think about this for a minute. Think about the picture of Jesus Christ that God has painted in Revelation 19 for these seven struggling churches, and for us here today. This is Jesus. Yes, as we saw from earlier in the book, He is the Lamb that was slain. But He is also the Lamb that slays. This is our warrior groom. Yes, He conquered the power and penalty of sin. Yes, He conquerors hearts. But one day, He will fully and finally conqueror the world.
Listen to how Eugene Peterson describes these two aspects of Revelation 19. He writes:
Salvation is the intimacy and festivities of marriage; salvation is aggressive battle and the defeat of evil. Salvation is neither of these things by itself. It is the two energies, the embrace of love and the assault on evil, in polar tension, each defined by the other, each feeding into the other. (Eugene Peterson)
Here's how I want to challenge you this morning: please make sure that if you are following Jesus, make sure you think of Him from Bethlehem to Beast; that is, with eyes of faith, see Him from the manger in Bethlehem, all the way to His destruction of the Beast. To be a follower of Jesus is not simply to rehearse the teachings of the rabbi from Nazareth or kneel before the cross of the 'Suffering Servant'. It is also to stand in awe of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He was slain. But He will also slay.
But remember our opening verse this morning, ...and in righteousness he judges and makes war. He is no tyrant. He's not capricious. He's not drunk with power or jealous or cruel. But He is powerful. He is just. He is always right. And though He is full of mercy and grace now, one day, that door will close for all His enemies.
Now, you may be thinking: “Bryce, isn't this portrait of Jesus for those outside the church? Isn't it meant to sober them up about the reality of coming judgment?” Well, I certainly think that's part of it. But we can't forget the connection between chapter 19, verses 15 and 21, and Revelation 2:16. In speaking to the believers at Pergamum, a church struggling with wrong thinking and wrong living, Jesus declared: Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
While we might say the story of Jesus is bigger than the Christmas Story and the Easter Story, we need to see how all of these things are tied together. The one the magi sought out was born King of the Jews, that is, he was the Messiah, the ruler foretold in Psalm 2, Isaiah 11, and Isaiah 63. And the victory that Jesus accomplished through His death, His victory over sin and death, is the same victory we see being fully implemented in Revelation 19.
Let me finish with a question about the passage we didn't address earlier: “Who are those riding with Jesus in verse 14? Some argue this is Jesus coming with the “holy angels”, just like He talked about in Mark 8 and Luke 9. But in this section of Revelation, there are two interesting connections that point us in a different direction. Verse 14 talks about the armies of heaven being arrayed in fine linen, white and pure. But notice how the bride is dressed in verse 8 of this same chapter: with fine linen, bright and pure.
At the same time, as we heard earlier from Revelation 17:14, ...the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.
I believe a very good case could be made that we are the ones symbolically represented here. What does that mean? It means one day we will be witnesses, we will have front row seats for the victory of the warrior groom. Will you be standing with the army of heaven? To experience that victory, you must first embrace the victory of the cross. Friends, don't be conquered by Jesus on that day. Be conquered by Him today. Surrender to Him. Accept his mercy and love. Unlike what is coming, unlike what we see in Revelation 19, surrendering by faith in light of God's grace is a blessed defeat.
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