|By: Dr. Robert Thomas; ©2002|
|This month we begin an investigation of the events of the seventh bowl found in Revelation 19:11-20:15. This article will concentrate on Revelation 19:11-16, the second coming of Christ. In particular, Dr. Thomas identifies the Rider on the White Horse, and his enemies.|
Events of the Seventh Bowl #1: The Second Coming of Christ
Last April, we offered an introductory summary of the seventh bowl judgment. In brief, that summary consisted of the following outline:
- Announcement of the emptying of the bowl’s contents (16:17-21)
- a. Intercalation #1: Detailed description of Babylon, her past, present, future
- b. Events of the seventh bowl (19:11–20:15)
- Second coming of Christ (19:11-16)
- Summons of the birds to a human feast (19:17-18)
- Slaughter of Christ’s human opponents (19:19-21)
- Satan’s imprisonment (20:1-3)
- Satan’s release and final defeat (20:4-10)
- Setting of the Great White Throne (20:11)
- Sentencing to the lake of fire (20:12-15)
- Sketch of the new Jerusalem (21:1-8)
- c. Intercalation #2: Detailed description of the new Jerusalem (21:9–22:5)
Since April, we have been exploring in our column “Intercalation #1, a detailed description of Babylon, her past, present and future” (Rev. 17:1–19:10).
This month we begin our investigation of the “events of the seventh bowl” (19:11–20:15). The events that constitute the seventh bowl are eight in number, as seen in the outline above. The first of those events provides the subject for this month’s column: “Second coming of Christ” (19:11-16).
As noted in the second section of the outline above, the events of the seventh bowl are eight in number. In the text of Revelation 19:11–21:8, the Greek words kai eidon, which mean “and I saw,” introduce each event. Some have argued that the eight events will not occur in the same chronological sequence as they are described in the text of Revelation, but a closer examination reveals that such a sequence is the only possible order for the events. For example, a summons of the birds to a human feast (19:17-18) and the slaughter of Christ’s human opponents (19:1-18)—events number 3 and 4—could occur only after the second coming of Christ (19:11-16)—event number 1—and a sentencing to the lake of fire (20:12-15)—event number 7—could come only after the setting of the great white throne (20:11)—event number 6. In this portion of the book, the visions of John came to him in the same sequence as their fulfillments will occur in the future.
The Rider on the White Horse (19:11-13, 15-16)
John saw heaven opened and, descending from heaven, he saw a white horse with itsrider (19:11a). Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the writer picked out a number of characteristics of the rider that picture Him as a Warrior-King who is none other than the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. The titles given the rider at this point are “faithful and true” (19:11b), adjectives that epitomize the utmost in reliability. Further, this rider functions as both a judge and a warrior, discharging both responsibilities “in righteousness” (19:11c), that is, in accord with right principles. The rider, of course, is Jesus Christ who will engage His enemies in military conflict at the time of His second advent.
The rider’s eyes like a flame of fire (19:12a) vividly serve notice that nothing escapes observation by the rider. His judgment is in perfect accord with reality, no sham, no deception. The multiple diadems on His head (19:12b) are emblematic of His right to rule the world. His sovereignty is unassailable. Somewhere on His body He has names written that are unknown to anyone except Himself (19:12c). As the absolute sovereign, He has the right to withhold His name for purposes known only to Him.
The garment He wears has been dipped in blood (19:13a). Whose blood? One suggestion has taken this to be His own blood that He shed at Calvary. In other words, the bloodied garment recalls His death for the redemption of mankind. Yet the absence of any other reference to Christ’s redemptive work in this context argues against such a reference as does the obvious dependence of the present figure on Isaiah 63:2-3: “Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? I have trodden the wine trough alone. And from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger, and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment.”
Since this cannot be the blood of Christ, some have proposed that it is the blood of martyred saints. In light of the Isaiah passage and in light of how the present context looks forward to His victory over His enemies, the blood is best understood as belonging to His enemies whom He will slaughter. In the process of that slaughter blood will splatter on His clothing as grape juice splashes on the wine treader in the winepress.
“His name was called the Word of God” (19:13b) provides definitive identification of the rider. According to John’s Gospel written some years earlier by the same author, this is the same Word that created the all things (John 1:3) and became flesh and dwelled among us (John 1:14).
The next details about the rider tell of His weaponry, a sword and a rod. A sharp sword proceeds from his mouth to enable Him to smite the nations (19:15a). Some try to avoid the idea of a battlefield confrontation in this passage, but to no avail. Yes, the sword from His mouth utilizes a familiar Old Testament comparison of the tongue to a sword, and it will be His spoken word that gains the victory. But that does not rule out the necessity of actual bloodshed and death to the rider’s opponents. In the process of His conquest, “He will destroy them with a rod of iron” (19:15b). Some translations render, “He will rule them with a rod of iron,” but the Greek term in this context must take on a stronger meaning of “destroy” instead of “rule.” This will be the end for His enemies; they won’t be around after the battle to experience the Messiah’s rule. “He Himself treads the winepress of the wine of the anger of the wrath of God Almighty” (19:15c) expresses the intense fierceness of God’s wrath to be poured out when Christ returns.
The paragraph ends on a climactic note, specifying the name written on the rider’s garment, that is, on His thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords” (19:16). This title, already assigned to the Lamb in 17:14 (in reverse order), is the fourth name assigned in this paragraph, the others being “faithful and true” (19:11), “unknown name” (19:12), and “the Word of God” (19:13). “King of kings and Lord of lords” expresses His rightful claim to the ultimate in world sovereignty.
The Rider’s Armies (19:14)
The armies following the King of kings on their white horses as He descends from heaven are “clothed in white, clean fine linen” (19:14), garments representing the righteous deeds of the Christ’s bride in 19:8. They take no part in the conflict because the King wages the war singlehandedly. Some want to identify these armies as angels because other Scripture associates angels with His second advent (e.g., Matt. 13:41; 16:27). Angels would not be on white horses, however. These armies must be composed of redeemed human beings as indicated by their clothing, clothing quite similar to that worn by the bride of Christ (19:8). Confirmation of this identification comes from Revelation 17:14 which notes the presence of the “called and elect and faithful” at the final battle against the beast and his forces. The saints will join with the Warrior-King in this climactic episode of judgment.
The “white, clean fine linen” worn by Christ’s armies will be nothing of their own doing, of course. Their cleansing has come through the blood of the Lamb. All the credit goes to Jesus Christ who has counted us worthy to participate in this future removal of all earthly enemies of God. As we await this glorious event, may we conduct ourselves circumspectly, looking for every opportunity to spread the good news that whoever believes in Jesus Christ may become a member of His army instead of falling victim to His conquest.
Note: For more details about the second coming of Christ as the first event of the seventh-bowl judgment, see my discussion in Revelation 8–22 (Moody Press, 1995), pages 380-392. To order this volume, you may contact Grace Books International at (800) GRACE15 or www.gbibooks.com.