If disease, famine, wars, and economic collapse won’t get the world’s attention, one thing will.
The whole world is focused on stopping a virus. It has become a global shared experience, as we shutter places and activities. We think it’s all about getting through this current crisis, but at another level, God seems to be aiming at something else.
Take a step back for a minute, and consider it this way: God has shut down movie theaters, shopping malls, sports stadiums, gyms, bars, parties, celebrations, civic centers, and even (gasp!) casual church-going.
These have for a long time been places where people hide from God. Yes, that includes churches. You can manage to sit in a packed out service, hiding from Him in plain sight. At any rate, these are places where indifference, and even obstinance toward God breed.
And now He has rocked the world in a moment worthy of The Day the Earth Stood Still. He’s done it with something smaller than the head of a pin. As to the outcome, aside from the economic, social fallout, we can count on a few things happening. First, the people of God will find Christ in a deeper way than before, and maybe some folks will find Him for the first time.
As for all the rest of the population, they’ll manage to get through this whole thing without gaining anything spiritual. When this crisis has passed, it will have made them more resilient to the gospel than before. In fact, expect a lot of bragging from politicians and other folks when things get back to normal.
But as we’ll see in our study today, at some point, the time for God’s nuanced confrontations will pass. The days of encountering God’s discipline through mediatorial events will be over. God won’t work through crises anymore, such as the commercial collapses of the last two chapters of Revelation.
Or a virus.
Christ will come with His faithful believers and directly confront the world’s rebellion in an event we call Armageddon, the public aspect of His second coming.
This Jesus is a lot different than the one you probably learned about in Sunday school.
19:11 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.
This is not like Palm Sunday, where the mild and meek Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. This is His grand entrance from heaven on a war stallion.
Note that instead of simply being labeled as Jesus, He is called “the One.” Scripture seeks to lead us into a description of Christ here, so we’d feel Him, rather than quickly name Him. And we are first taken to the fact that He is faithful—faithful not to our comfort, or preferences, but to His Father, God. He is also True—again, not speaking of your truth or my truth, as people often do today, but the Truth. Nor is the One sitting on the horse coming to forgive, but to bring righteous judgment, and make war on all those who oppose the will of God. This is not the Jesus we’re used to hearing about.
Verse twelve ups the ante even more, by telling us, “His eyes are like a flame of fire” (v. 12). In the Song of Solomon, His eyes were like doves—peaceful, loving, gracious. Here, however, they are like a consuming flame, burning off all the ground clutter and noise, exposing every hidden thing.
“And on his head are many diadems.” These are crowns, representing His unlimited authority. Earlier in Revelation, the devil had seven of them, and the Antichrist had ten. But “many” means crowns without number.
Furthermore, “he has a name written that no one knows but himself.” As Christians, we say, “Well, of course, Jesus is his name.” The point here, though, is that no one—especially not based on hand-me-down knowledge—can say, “I know!” This Person is profound, not easy, and because Christ is the divine Son of God, certain things about Him remain inaccessible to mortal gaze. We can only know them by entering the experience of Him.
Verse 13 continues, saying, “He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood.” This image has a dual meaning. On one hand, Jesus shed His blood for us, and has steadfastly offered it for the cleansing of sinners some two thousand years now. On the other, toward those who rejected His offer, He will now shed their blood.
“And the name by which he is called is The Word of God.” Again, Scripture avoids any proper noun. Instead, we’re taken back to John 1:1, where it says, “In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” If you want to know Him, you can only do so through knowing His Word.
Now here’s where you come in: And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses” (v. 14). This army at first might simply seem to be composed of angels and heavenly dignitaries. But the description of clothing in this verse matches that of verses 7-8, as worn by the bride of Christ, the saints, His loyal believers. Typical of their earlier lives here on earth, they line up behind Him in devoted ranks.
Verse 15 continues, “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.” According to Hebrews 4:12, “the word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword.” This is the same word that created the universe, saves the repentant, and here at Armageddon, judges the forces of evil. Those who follow Him, follow that living word.
Once more, identity becomes a central concern, as verse 16 says, “On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” If you want to know this One, you must know His authority. If Christ is not Lord to you, if He does not have the ultimate “say-so” in your life, you don’t know Him—at least nowhere near as much as you think. Certainly, the rebellious nations here in this passage don’t know Him because they have not recognized His authority. It is a terrible time for them to learn that lesson, because at the point of direct confrontation, it is too late.
This is the Christ God introduces to us in Revelation—as someone formidable and conquering. He is not for sentimental consumption, still less as something merely to be looked at, and admired.
I saw an episode of Pawn Stars, where someone brought in an antique military firearm to sell. He was hoping to make a mint on it. The shop’s owner called in an expert to take a look at it, and offer an opinion of the gun’s worth. After a moment’s inspection, the expert said it had probably never been used in a war. After another minute, he announced that it had never been fired. Then he concluded it couldn’t be fired. And so the stunning appraisal was the gun wasn’t a gun at all, but had been manufactured in a craft shop in order to be hung on someone’s wall. In other words, it was valued as worthless. The hopeful seller was crestfallen and a bit humiliated. In an outtake interview in the shop parking lot, he said he was going to take the “firearm” home and hang it on his wall. While he was talking on camera, I could see a dumpster behind him. That’s exactly where I would have placed it on display.
Christ isn’t supposed to be something decorative for human life. He is effective in matters of the real world. He is powerful to work God’s will on this earth. We’re supposed to derive from this understanding a greater trust and confidence in Him. In fact, He works so powerfully that the amount of restraint He shows toward our world is amazing, given the level of rebellion we’ve already shown toward Him. For instance, the virus right now could be worse; He could easily ramp up the fatality rate to 100%.
But instead, during this long age, He has dealt with our rebellion through self-sacrifice, love, and patience. That same Christ who could so easily destroy the world, chose to die defenseless on a cross for us. And now He calls everyone to repentance, some of us, multiple times. The way He has endured our stubbornness is near miraculous.
But never mistake His patience for impotence.
Jude 14 …“Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
The Lord is coming with us to deal with the ungodly words and deeds of this world. That means before Armageddon, the stubbornness and rebellion of our own hearts has to be dealt with. Honestly speaking, there are areas in our lives where we’ve ignored Him, or just said No.
Before He can enforce His lordship upon the world, it has to exist in our own hearts, first.