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The Word of War


Revelation 19:11-16
March 28, 2021
Lord’s Day Worship
Sean Higgins

The sermon starts around 20:50 in the audio file.



Series: Just Conquer #52

Introduction

At a minimum it is a great disappointment when you learn later on that you’ve been missing a key perspective that would have at least changed how you thought about what you were doing even if it didn’t change what you were doing itself. It’s like when I realized that manliness, and marriage, are meant for fruitfulness. Relational/romantic connection and sanctified pleasure and even carrying on the tradition of struggling with car seats are all good, but love produces (kids are just the most obvious fruit in the field). I didn’t begin to walk around with the fruitfulness mindset until I’d already been married for a decade.

It is my conviction, based on my own experience as a disciple of Christ and based on my observation of disciples as a shepherd and based on more and more reading of the Bible, that we don’t use Jesus’ names enough. I do not mean using “Jesus” necessarily; He has many names. I certainly don’t mean using His name as punctuation in prayers. Of course using Jesus’ name happens in vain, and it’s worse from religious hypocrites than from cursing rebels. I’m not promoting adding a Jesus veneer, like a Lordship laminate, ironed over top of everything. Yet I still think there would be a good kind of casual recognition of just how easy it ease for Jesus to be Lord.

This is not necessarily an eschatology problem, though I have spent more time around Futurists—those who think most of the Apocalypse is still to happen in the future—and the general posture of said Futurists is doctrinally occupied and temporally unsettled. There is a similar disconnect for many for whom marriage is still in the future. They think they will change as needed once they say, “I do.”

But even if you have things that will need to be figured out then, there isn’t a Then when the switch to flip suddenly appears. Even though I believe Jesus will reign on earth in a different way than He currently sits with all authority on His throne in heaven (per Matthew 18:18), a Futurist should not think, or speak or live like, that a switch will flip on Jesus being King of kings and Lord of lords.

That is not a Christian truth per se, it is a cosmological reality that Christians accept and announce. We’re the ones who confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), and while that confession is spiritual, the spiritual is not something we only practice in Christian or private or spiritual places, such as church, home, or our hearts. In other words, Jesus is Lord is not limited to being a personal or private thing. Perhaps we have gotten our own emphases out of order; it is more amazing that this Lord is Savior than that this Savior is Lord. He is the King-Priest. Yes, we are still in our sins without His work as High Priest, but He rules the world no matter what, and we should talk about it. He shall be named. It is harder for us to enunciate His name than it is for His name to be exalted.

The Logos wears lordship as easily as the sun wears light. His name is so great that it rises more easily than rain falls. His will will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, and every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:9-11), and all His enemies will become His footstool (Psalm 110:1), whenever He wants.

His effortless Lordship comes to mind like Aslan’s evident superiority throughout Narnia. His kingship has no weak spots, even if not everyone recognizes his glory. His is a reign that always feels like a when not a whether or not. As a lion Aslan copies the Lion of the tribe of Judah whose throne and armies have no reasonable rival.

Jesus’ effortless Lordship also comes to mind from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Of the many memorable images that Jonathan Edwards uses, his quote from Revelation 19:15 about “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” always stands out to me. Edwards begins his message from Deuteronomy 32:35, “their foot shall slide in due time,” from which he makes this thesis:  “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” What is true regarding every individual is true for the whole system.

In the world made by the Logos, a world made visible to those who walk in the Light, it takes more work for sinners not to slip into judgment. Likewise, it takes so much effort for the unjust just to attempt to usurp the rightful King that they Can’t even. So, Christian, there is no need to be ashamed of His name or of the gospel that offers forgiveness to those who mock Him. We are headed to a future in which He shall be named, and those who name Him now will conquer with Him.

Revelation 19:11 picks up the pouring out of the seventh bowl (Revelation 16:17-21). Chapters 17-18, which spilled into the beginning of chapter 19, were a sort of interlude portraying the fall of the great prostitute, Babylon “the great,” a nickname for the future lover of the beast, full of herself and her comforts who will be turned on and devoured and made desolate. But the beast (the Antichrist) who turned on the prostitute (“Babylon,” Revelation 17:15-18) still needs to be defeated, and now it’s time. While the bride of the Lamb is about to feast at her wedding (verses 6-10), the beast is about to lose.

This paragraph, verses 11-16, prepares us for the battle by exalting the Word of War.

The Rider (verses 11-13)

John heard (verse 1) and heard (verse 6) and now he saw (verse 11). And 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.

If there are not animals in heaven, there are at least animals in visions of heaven. The opening of heaven signals insight, but also progression; in Revelation 4:1 a door opened, here heaven itself is opened. The white horse brings us to the brink; it’s not a statue of remembrance but a picture of readiness.

As for the rider, we will learn a lot of His names in these verses.

He is not the same rider on a white horse in Revelation 6:2, though both are war horses and both bring troops behind them and both will conquer. His mount here is like Shadowfax, but more majestic. He is the same rider who rode a donkey’s colt into Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago (Matthew 21:4-7 and John 12:14-15, as prophesied by Zechariah, 9:9); this ride will be different.

He is called Faithful and True, the antithesis of the self-serving and deceiving beast, and the character of the Lamb to whom the Bride is betrothed and the One who will rule. He judges and makes war, which will be a war of judgment. He is the Lamb of God who gave His blood to save His people and also the Lion who will see the blood of His enemies.

His knowledges is great, His eyes are like a flame of fire, a repeated reference to His piercing gaze, burning through the smoke of deceit. His royalty is great, and on his head are many diadems, or “crowns.” Only three beings in the NT wear the διάδμηα crown (compared to the στέφανος victor’s crown): the dragon (Revelation 12:3), the beast (13:1), and the Word (Osborne). In contrast to the beast who only had seven (Revelation 13:1), Jesus has many. One ruler’s kingdom is not like the others; one makes blasphemous claims, the other has true sovereignty.

On His crown He also has a name written that no one knows but himself. So what is the name? There have been suggested interpretations, but all of them have one fatal connection: that would make the name known to more than the rider Himself. John saw a name, but this is a divine name perhaps to be revealed later. He has the name above all names, and His names are higher than ours as thoughts are (see Isaiah 55:9).

He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and though the battle hasn’t actually happened yet, it pictures Him standing as the conqueror. It’s not His own blood, blood of atonement, nor is it the blood of the martyrs. It is like grapes stomped in the vat soaking His robe.

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.
For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and my year of redemption had come.
(Isaiah 63:2–4 ESV)

And the name by which he is called is The Word of God. John wrote the gospel of John which famously begins with reference to the Logos. Revelation 19:13 is the only verse in the Bible that uses ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ all together as a reference to a person (though it is used in contexts about the written Word). The rider is the incarnate God, the Word of God and the Word of war.

The Reign (verses 14-16)

A slight shift in perspective happens in verse 14 from His appearance toward some of what He does in judging and warring.

First we see that He is not alone. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. A few things point toward this being the redeemed and not angels. In the previous paragraph the redeemed were identified with white, linen clothes (19:8). The redeemed are identified as those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes (14:4) including when He comes (17:14). And at least the believers in Thyatira were promised to reign with Him using similar terms as repeated here (2:27).

What is really missing is that there is no blood on their robes, and there is no indication that they do any fighting in the battle. They appear to come with the Word of war and yet He does not need their numbers.

And from his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. The sword is an image of His Word, and an image of authority over life and death (Osborne). In the OT and in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 He defeats by His breath, which is the inspired Word, God-breathed. The Word created all things, the Word saves the elect, the Word overcomes the rebels.

From the stump of Jesse:

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.
(Isaiah 11:4 ESV)

He (Himself) will shepherd/rule them with a rod of iron, a prophesy from Psalm 2:8-9, and previously referred to in Revelation 2:27 and 12:5. He (Himself) will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. More prophetic identification and fulfillment, see Psalm 2, Isaiah 11 and 63 and 64. The iron rod breaks, and the grapes are trampled.

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. The thigh would be the best place to see the name while He sits on the horse. This does not mean that He is the only King, it means that He rules all kings. In the Millennial Kingdom (chapter 20) there will be other kings who bring their tribute into Jerusalem.

His lordship is superlative, and it is reality.

Conclusion

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:5–8 ESV)

The question is not whether or not the Word of God will be named, it is only when. He is Faithful and True, He is the Word of God, He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and He has a great name on He knows.

Though this passage is not necessarily an evangelistic announcement, it is a warning to all in every age who do not love His name or confess Jesus as Lord. Come to Him, and for those of us who have, know that Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.


Charge

All things were made through the Logos, the Word of God, and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). In Him was, and is, life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:4). You have been given life in Him, in Him you have been given light by which to see all things (John 8:12). Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8), and give glory to the Word of God, the King, the Lord.

Benediction:

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25, ESV)