THE REVELATION OF CHRIST
Lesson Number 36
THE ENEMIES OVERTHROWN
"Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great. And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh." (Rev 19:11-21, NKJV)
When God's witnesses are slain, they rise again (Rev 11:7-11). When saints are "beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God" (Rev 6:10), they live on in heavenly places, awaiting the sure vindication of their blood. If Satan launches an aggressive attack against the church, she will be given wings to fly to a place os safety and be nourished. Even "the earth" will "help the woman," absorbing the shock of the devil's assault (Rev 12;13-16). If it looks as though the Lord Jesus has withdrawn, and is no longer accessible to His people, He is seen in heaven-on the throne and reigning in the behalf of His people (Rev 5:1-13).
With sorrow we read of "beast" ascending out of "bottomless pit," to make "war" against the saints, "overcome," and "kill them" (Rev 11:7). We see the devil as an enraged dragon going forth to "make war" with the holy "remnant"-those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev 12:17). We read of another beast, empowered by the devil himself. To this beast "It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them" (Rev 13:7). Even ten united kings make "war" with the Lamb (17:14). But this is not the only militant action recorded in this book. Nor, indeed, is it the primary activity. We are not going to read about Another-the conquering Lamb. Of Him it is written, "and in righteousness He doth judge and make war" (Rev 19:11). Satan's war was prolonged, that of the Lord's Christ will not be prolonged. Satan did not realize the objectives of his war. The Lamb will fully realize His. After Satan's most penetrating assault, a remnant of the faithful remained. After Christ's war, not a single enemy will remain to oppose the people of God. Though we look diligently for their place, it will not be found!
Suffering saints MUST hear this message! In this world, they will endure the opposition of nature, caused by their adversary the devil. Famine, pestilence, and other forms of trial will occur in this world. At times, a bloody sword will be raised against them. Apostasy may even be found within their ranks, as many depart from the faith. But those who put their trust in God will be fully vindicated by the reigning Lamb! The faithful who maintain their garments will not be forgotten, but will be sustained and rewarded as those "few" in Sardis (Rev 3:4).
Satan is incapable of forging an initiative that can overthrow the Son of God. That is why he cannot ultimately conquer those who put their faith in Christ. Oppression, contradiction, and error are not invincible-even though they may appear to dominate for centuries.
The message of this book makes unbelief, apostasy, worldliness, godless toleration of error, and lukewarmness unacceptable. It makes giving up and denying the faith inexcusable. Too, when believed, its message spawns hope within the heart of the faithful. It sparks anticipation in those are looking for "the blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Tit 2:13). This is not a message for the world, but for the church! The Spirit is saying it "to the churches!" Those with "an ear to hear"-the saints of God-are exhorted to "hear" the message. It is a good and comforting word.
THE FAITHFUL AND TRUE ONE MAKES WAR
HEAVEN IS OPENED
The phrase "heaven opened" denotes the revelation of the heavenly rule: the execution of God's "eternal purpose." This book is appropriately called "the Revelation"-an opening of the rule and reign of Jesus. In chapter four, we saw a "door opened in heaven" (4:1). In chapter six, a sealed book was opened . In chapter eleven, the temple of God was "opened " (11:19). In chapter fifteen, "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened " (15:5). In chapter twenty "the books" of human deeds and "the book of life" were opened (20:12).
This is heaven's perspective of the world's history. It is the opening of the reign of Jesus. It is a revelation of the nature of the Kingdom of God. Here we see the reason for, strategy, and overthrow of the devil. When heaven is "opened" we behold the superiority of the heavenly hosts. We see the invincibility of the Lord's Christ. Our hearts and minds are impressed with the impotence of the devil when the arm of the Lord is bared. If ever the church needed this view, it is our day!
The opening of heaven, or one's entrance into it, is the key to all understanding. This is the occasion when the Lord dominates our vision. Isaiah saw things plainly when he saw the Lord "high and lifted up" (Isa 6:1-6). Ezekiel received insight into the purpose of the the Lord when he had "visions of God" (Ezek 1:1). The understanding of Zechariah was traced to his "visions of God" (2 Chron 26:5). Paul's unusual insight found its basis in "visions and revelations of the Lord" (2 Cor 12:1). Before the John was exposed to the Lord's purpose, he was first exposed to the Lord Himself (1:12-16). Throughout history, this has been the Lord's manner. In order to see the affairs of earth properly, they must be seen from a heavenly perspective. By that I mean our primary focus must be the Lord. He must fill our vision before any degree of clarity will occur concerning things occurring on the earth. Thus it is written, "For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light" (Psa 36:9).
Regarding Scripture, the greatest measure of understanding is not realized by passing the Word through an historical filter. By this, I mean the understanding of historical circumstances does not shed the greatest illumination on the text of Scripture. Too, the attempt to process the written Word through an etymological colander does not result in the greatest understanding either. By this, I mean expertise in the language in which Scripture was originally written, by no means makes one an expert in its meaning. I understand this position is not a popular one among those prone to such approaches. However, they have no Scriptural support for their approach, either in doctrine or example.
It is in the light of God-the illuminating awareness of His Person-that all other matters come to light. Therefore, the Lord Jesus is giving us a glimpse of these things through His own eyes. When it comes to the churches, He tells us what He thinks of them. When it comes to the book of human destiny, He informs us it is in His hand. When it comes to the martyrs, He apprizes us of heaven's reaction to them. He does not depict political government as men do, but rather declares it to be a "beast," animated by the devil. He shows us the devil as a devouring dragon whose focus is the body of Christ. He does not paint a glowing picture of the popular church, citing its many contributions to society. He rather portrays it as a captivating city and despicable harlot.
When He shows us the church under attack, He does not comment at length about the tragedies through which she passes. Rather, He informs us of Divine provisions prepared for her, and her ability, through grace, to fly there for sustenance. When opening the terrible affects of Satan's assault upon the world in general, the Lord says "the earth helped the woman." This disruption of the ungodly and the discomfiting of a dead church are both affirmed to be the judgment of the Almighty.
What is the point of all of this? We are seeing light in God's light! He is illuminating the circumstances faced by men by shining His own person upon them. Think of Divine qualities that have been expounded in this book! Faithful Witness (1:5), the Beginning and the End (1: 8), the First and the Last (1:11), the Prince of the kings of the earth (1:5), and the one possessing the keys to death hell and death (1:18). He is the One who searches men's hearts (2:23), He alone can open the sealed book of Divine intent (5:5,9). All blessing, honor, glory, and power belong to Him (4:11; 5:12-13). His wrath is the indignation to be feared (6:16-17). Salvation belongs to God (7:10). He is Almighty (1:8). His works are the ones that are great, and His ways are just and true (15:3). He is holy (3:7). And will give to everyone according to their works (2:23). That is "HIS LIGHT!'
As the things recorded in this book pass through His light, they are made more plain. As they are read with the purpose and power of Christ in mind, the pale of confusion disappears from them. This is involved in the heavens being opened. We are being shown things that have been determined, things that are sure, and things that are strictly governed from the heavenly throne. If we read this sacred volume with a despotic earthly government as our primary focus, we will be dashed upon the rocks of confusion and despair. This is not a book about the world, but of the Lamb of God and His inevitable conquest! It is not about a ruthless antichrist, but about the people he could not remove from the earth or from the favor of their Savior. No wonder John writes, "Now I saw HEAVEN opened." Here comes the answer! Here comes the key to understanding!
BEHOLD! A WHITE HORSE
Here is a vivid depiction of the righteous judgment of God being executed by the Son of God. We first saw a white horse in the opening of the first seal of Divine destiny. A conqueror was on that horse also. A crown was given to Him, and He went forth conquering and to conquer (6:2). There, the Son of God was seen expanding the Kingdom, causing it to increase. In our text, He comes forth to deal with His enemies. In both cases, the cause was thoroughly righteous.
FAITHFUL AND TRUE
In this text, no doubt is left concerning the identity of the One upon the horse. He "was called Faithful and True." These names define His character. In Him no variableness or shadow of turning was found. He was "called Faithful." He is faithful to the commission of the Father, faithful to His promises, and faithful to his character. He is faithful in the mission upon which He now embarks. He has promised those who trusted in Him will not be ashamed, and they will not (Rom 10:11). The righteous were promised He would reign until His foes were made His footstool, and He will (Heb 1:13; 10:13). How frequently our Savior is called "Faithful" in this book (1:5; 3:14; 19:11). In our redemption, He was "faithful" to save. Now He will be seen as faithful in judging and making war.
His name is also "True." By this the Spirit means the Lord Jesus is correct and dependable. He, His salvation, and His war are all genuine and correct. Anything and everything aligned again Him and what He is doing is, by that very circumstance, wrong. The conquering Lamb is characterized by total integrity, honor, and impeccable dignity. The war He makes is not wicked like that of Sennacherib. It is not a mere reaction, or an explosion of Divine temper, so to speak. In making war, He is carrying out the Divine agenda, and doing so as One invested with all power in heaven and earth.
WAR WAGED IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
Everything initiated by heaven is righteous. Yet, the Spirit does not leave that to be concluded by us. He is going to show us the merciless destruction of Christ's enemies. Not a spark of grace will be found in the destruction. Lest we be tempted to be sympathetic about the extermination of Christ's enemies, we are told it is an act of righteousness.
Until this time, the "longsuffering of God" waited, as in the days of Noah (1 Pet 3:20). His enemies, though vessels made to be taken and destroyed, had been endured with "much longsuffering" (Rom 9:22). As Peter well stated, "the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation" (2 Pet 3:15). It is what causes the door of salvation to remain open to humanity. But, when the Lord comes forth to "judge and make war," that is the end of "the day of salvation" for humanity. The "accepted time" (2 Cor 6:2) will close when Jesus comes to reckon with His enemies.
Make no mistake about this, the war our Lord initiates will not be a long one. There will be no extended resistence. No military strategy will be required. As it is written, "For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth" (Rom 9:28). Isaiah had heard about this time, and prophesied of it. "Now therefore, do not be mockers, Lest your bonds be made strong; For I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts, A destruction determined even upon the whole earth" (Isa 28:22). This will be a thorough destruction, executed in righteousness, and from which no enemy will recover. Isaiah put it this way. "A bulge in a high wall, Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant. And He shall break it like the breaking of the potter's vessel, Which is broken in pieces; He shall not spare. So there shall not be found among its fragments A shard to take fire from the hearth, Or to take water from the cistern" (Isa 30:13,14).
THE COMING OF CHRIST
This is a depiction of the coming of the Lord from the standpoint of His enemies. It would be wrong to approach this text using a timetable, and attempting to figure out a precise sequence of events. This is not a revelation of sequence, but of purpose. Just as our Lord's return will be the beginning of glory for His saints, so will it be the end of glory for His enemies. It will all occur at the same time-the coming of the Lord.
This should not sound strange to us. It is pointedly declared in both the Lord's parables and the doctrine of the Apostles. The destruction of the tares took place at the same time the wheat was harvested. The harvest is identified as "the end of the world," in which the tares are gathered out, and the wheat are gathered in (Matt 13:39-43). Again, the kingdom of God is like a great net that gathered both good and bad fish. In the end, the two were separated. The good were gathered into vessels, and the bad were cast away-at the same time. In His exposition of this parable Jesus said, "So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just" (Matt 13:47-49). The very event that occasioned the reception of the five wise virgins also occasioned the exclusion of the five foolish ones (Matt 25:1-12).
Paul declared the same truth to the Thessalonians with remarkable power and clarity. He speaks of the time "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." And when shall all of this occur? When will the wicked be punished, or, as Revelation puts it, when will the Lord come forth to judge and make war? The answer is too clear to be denied. "WHEN He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed" (2 Thess 2:7-10).
The same "coming" that brings salvation to the saints will bring damnation to the ungodly. The same glory that will be the undoing of the wicked will be the glorification of the righteous. Our text underscores the cessation of their rebellion rather than their eternal consequences. This is when the Lord Jesus "makes His enemies His footstool"-a time expected by Him, and eagerly anticipated by all who live by faith Matt 22:44; Acts 2:34-35; Heb 1:13; 10:13). Let every child of God live for that days! Its coming and outcome are sure.
HIS MATCHLESS CHARACTER
"His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God."Now we are given to behold the character of the Lord. These are more than external characteristics. They are the expression of His person. Already we have been told He is "faithful and true." When He judges and makes war, He does so "in righteousness." Now we see His character from another high and lofty perspective
His eyes. Twice before, the Lord Jesus is described as having eyes "as a flame of fire" (1:14; 2:18). They are penetrating and powerful eyes, missing nothing. "All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him" (Heb 4:13). He beholds everything exactly as it is, and is never deceived. He sees the saints as they really are. He beholds the beast as it really is. Our Lord observes spiritual Babylon, the great harlot, for what she really is. When He judges and akes war in righteousness, He does so in strict comportment with reality. His eyes are "as a flame of fire." Too, His very look is powerful, changing the circumstance. If, when He was among men, looking at Peter could drive him to lament and weep, what will be done when He beholds His enemies in all of His glory?
His head. Prior to this, we saw the Lord with a single golden crown upon His head (14:14). This signified His exaltation by the Father over all things. But here we see Him with "many crowns" upon His head. This answers to the "ten crowns" that were upon the head of the beast. The enemy of the saints had extensive power, but nothing to compare with that of their Lord and Savior. He has crowns in every area, every aspect of life. There is no part of any realm that is not under Him. He is "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tim 6:15). Too, this is a pictorial way of saying "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Rev 11:15).
His full name. We have been told of a rider whose name was "Death," and our adversary whose name is "Apollyon" (6:8; 9:11). Jesus promised overcomers He would write upon them His "new name" (3:12). Three times in this chapter, the name of our Lord is mentioned, and three times it is different. Here is a name no one knows but Himself. Later it will be identified as "the Word of God." Toward the end of the chapter His name will be known as "King of kings and Lord of lords" (19:16).
The name of the Lord speaks of His Person or character. There are names of our Lord that have been revealed to us, that revelation has not been in its fulness. No one has yet "seen Him as He is". That disclosure will not occur until He comes again (1 John 3:1-2). It is ever true that "No one knows the Son, but the Father" (Matt 11:27).
There are aspects of His Person that have not yet been unveiled. One of them relates to His wrath. No one has yet beheld "the wrath of the Lamb" in its fulness. But the time is coming when more of this aspect of His Person will be revealed. The first time "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17). The second time, the world will see aspects of His Person never before seen.
His clothing. John's first exposure to the glorified Christ found Him clothed "with a garment down to the foot" (1:13). That was His High Priestly attire, emphasizing His intercession and bringing many sons to glory. But now He is seen as the heavenly Warrior, dashing His enemies to the ground, and having His garment saturated with their blood, as well as that of Himself. The basis for this representation was introduced in Isaiah 63:3-4. It is the language of triumph over His enemies. "I have trodden the winepress alone, And from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, And trampled them in My fury; Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, And I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, And the year of My redeemed has come."
Here the enemies of the Lord are pictured as a vineyard destined for the crushing winepress of the wrath of God. A similar picture is presented in chapter fourteen. "So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses' bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs" (19-20). The "wrath of the Lamb" is strong, unyielding, and irresistible. When the reigning Lamb comes to execute that wrath there will be no retaliation on the part of His enemies, and no effective resistance. It will be apparent from His garments, so to speak, that the Lord is the only triumphant One.
His revealed name. Here is a revealed name: "The Word of God." To my knowledge, this is the only place in Scripture where our Lord is referred to as "the word of God." One other place, He is called "the Word," which was in the beginning, was with God, and was God (John 1:1). But here, His name is identified as "the Word of God." That is, He is the precise expression of God. The relationship of reality to the expression of that reality is unusually close. The association of a word to the matter it discloses is most precise.
So is the relationship between the Lamb of God and God Himself. The Lamb is the precise expression of God. There is where the Person of God is expounded, for the "fulness of the Godhead" dwelt in Him "bodily" (Col 1:19; 2:9). In our text, the Lord Jesus comes to execute the will and judgment of God, and to reveal His purpose and nature. In Christ, particularly in His second appearance, the mind and purpose of the Almighty God will be revealed in full measure. His view and purpose for both the saints and His enemies will be made known, and none will be able to resist it. He is not only the Expositor of God, but the Executor of His "eternal purpose." He will carry all things to their appointed conclusion.
THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN
"And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses."There is a Divine cause with which a multitude of personalities have been aligned. All of them are associated with the Lord of glory, the incarnate Word of God. Because of the militant nature of this section of Revelation, these personalities are called "the armies of heaven." They have owned the cause of the Lord as their own, and therefore they "followed Him." Who are these "armies," coming from the heavenly realm?
We know from the Scriptures that in Christ we "are come to an enumerable company of angels" (Heb 12:22). These will play a prominent role in the return of our Lord. When He comes to remove the wicked, they will be involved. They are "His angels." As it is written, "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works" (Matt 16:27). Like that of the Son, their involvement will be impeccably holy. "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory" (Matt 25:31). They will then appear in all of their splendor and glory, which is presently hidden from men. "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels" (Lk 9:26). Although exceeded in glory by their Leader, this is a glorious host, indeed!
All of heaven supports the Son! He has been granted "all power," not only in earth, but also "in heaven" (Matt 28:18). The holy angels announced His birth, supported Him in His ministry, strengthened Him in His trials, and announced His resurrection. They accompanied Him to glory, and serve Him in a reign of righteousness now. Together, they will accompany Him when He returns. None of their glory will be hidden, and none of their number will be missing.
They will discharge their duties with swiftness and precision. They will "gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" -- "from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven" (Matt 24:31; Mark 13:27). They are the appointed "reapers" of the harvest. They will "gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth" Matt 13:41). Who is foolish enough to think an army of this magnitude could be withstood-to say nothing of their Sovereign Leader!
The redeemed of the ages are also among these armies. We know from the Word of God that when Jesus comes again, "God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus" (1 Thess 4:14). Until that appearing, they are not called "armies," but "the spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb 12:23). Being "absent from the body," they are presently "with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8). But in that day, when He comes with clouds, and "every eye shall see Him," this vast multitude of the redeemed will be among "the armies of heaven." They will not be the docile people they were when upon the earth. Rather, they will follow Jesus, who comes to "judge and make war." They will be an army. They will be aggressive, and will share in the victory of Jesus.
Jesus alluded to the events of this passage, and the saints participation in it, in His message the church at Thyatira. "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations; 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'; as I also have received from My Father" (Rev 2:26-27). Here, then, is the beginning of the fulfillment of the saints involvement in the judgment of the world. "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?" (1 Cor 6:2-3).
The saints will be involved when their Lord comes to "judge and make war" in righteousness. They are being groomed now for that participation.
" . . . clothed in fine linen, white and clean." Three times in revelation we read of linen clothing. The seven angels having the seven last plagues were clothed in "pure and white linen" (15:6). The Lamb's wife was "granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white" (19:8). Babylon the great, that magnificent harlot, was also "clothed in fine linen" - but it was NOT "clean and white" (18:16). That "linen" was Satan's fabrication of righteousness.
This is a depiction of the church "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:27). While it was in the world, the church was forbidden to retaliate (Matt 5:39; Rom 12:17,19; 1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9). For the time, that is because we are "in the body." While here, we are warned "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (James 1:20). However, when we are divested of the "body of this death" (Rom 7:24), and freed from the influences of the "old man" and "the flesh" (Eph 4:22; Rom 7:25), we will no longer be capable of improper judgment. Then, we will follow the conquering King of kings, dashing our enemies in pieces through righteous judgment. This will be the beginning of our eternal reign with Jesus.
The armies of heaven followed Jesus riding on "white horse." This denotes the uprightness of the war they wage, and their participation in it. Our reign with Jesus will be right, and none will be able to speak against it. The wicked will not be able to resist the Lord or the armies with Him.
Not A Prolonged Battle
It is important to again emphasize this is not a prolonged battle. The words "make war" do not require a brilliant stratagem or lengthy military campaign. A Leader upon a white horse with vast armies following Him are not intended to leave us thinking of a sort of fourth world war. By calling the triumphant rider "The Word of God," we know this is a matter of fulfilling the purpose of God. The accent is upon His eyes, not a weapon of war as normally conceived. He is not fighting to gain a crown, He already wears "many crowns." He is not fighting to extend His kingdom, but to conclude all competing ones. His robe has already been dipped in blood, revealing a predetermined outcome. The armies that follow Him are clothed in fine linen, clean and white, yet they have no weapons. This is the kind of war fought with Egypt, Sodom, and Sennacherib's army. "War" does not mean battle, crusade, or campaign. He comes to "JUDGE and make war," NOT fight and make war! If we entertain doubts about this matter, the weapon used to strike the enemies will confirm what I have said. We must not allow ourselves to think in a fleshly manner about the message of this book. If we do, we will not profit from it.
THE WEAPON OF TRIUMPH
"Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations."Early in this book, we are introduced to this sword. John saw the glorified Christ, "and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword" (1:16). The church at Pergamos was reminded, "These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges" (2:12). What is more, they were warned if they did not repent of their tolerance and embrace of damnable doctrine, "I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth" (2:16). Speaking of the same weaponry, Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah, "He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked" (Isa 11:4). Paul, speaking of the destruction of the lawless one, wrote, "whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming" (2 Thess 2:8). The sword proceeding from the King's mouth is the "rod of iron" with which he shall "dash in pieces" those who are against Him (Psa 2:9; Rev 12:5).
Presently, the messengers of God bring the sweet message of the Gospel. They announce "the acceptable year" and the "day of salvation" (Lk 4:19; 2 Cor 6:2). But this is NOT the theme of this portion of Scripture. Just as surely as the grace of God "brings salvation" (Tit 2:11), the day of "the wrath of the Lamb" will bring the sure destruction of His enemies.
Those who are alive unto God "live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deut 8:3; Matt 4:4). His enemies will be judged and overcome by the same word. As it is written, "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him; the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). Speaking of this powerful word, Jeremiah wrote, "Is not My word like a fire?" says the LORD, And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" (Jer 23:29). It is ever true, "The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars, Yes, the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon" (Psa 29:5).
A decadent church has lost a sense of the power of the Word-the sword proceeding out of the mouth of the conquering King. It has forgotten it was "begotten" by that very Word (James 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23). It was once cleansed "with the washing of water by the Word" (Eph 5:26). In fact, everything is presently being sustained by "the Word of His power" (Heb 1:3). By His "Word" the Lord "framed" the worlds (Heb 12:3). By His Word the flood destroyed the world of Noah's day (2 Pet 3:5), and by His Word the world now being preserved will be destroyed by fire (2 Pet 3:7).
In spite of the resounding testimony of the strength and effectiveness of the Word of God, religious men continue to resort to other means to accomplish what they imagine is the work of the Lord. There is a reliance on the wisdom of men in all of its varied and ineffectual forms. Whether it is principles of hermeneutics to understand Scripture, psychiatry to discern men, or methods and techniques to expand their numbers, the modern church continues to rely on inferior words. The Bible is no longer chained in monasteries, thereby kept from the multitude. Now is it covered with the shroud of religious tradition. We are told that only experts in the original language and Bible interpretation can bring the true meaning of Scripture to us. Thus the ignorance of the Word of God continues to grow-in the churches. People are becoming increasingly unfamiliar with what has proceeded out of the mouth of the Lord. The danger attending this condition is serious.
But now the Lord Jesus takes us to the end of time. He shows us the final confrontation of His competitors. He declares they will be overcome decisively. The victory will not come by unearthing a principle of interpretation, but by the sword that proceeds out of His mouth. The wisdom of men -even religious wisdom-was not able to stop the rise of the beast. It could not stop the slaughter of the saints. Traditional and historical expertise and empty rhetoric could not stop the rise of spiritual Babylon. It could not neutralize its power, or pluck the souls of men from her grasp. The expert methods of which men boast could neither impede religious corruption nor moral decay. The word of man in all of its forms is impotent!
But this is not the case with the Lord. His open and unquestioned triumph will be accomplished by His Word-the sword that proceeds out of His mouth. He will speak to the mountain, and it will disappear. He will command every plant that He has not planted to be uprooted, and it will be so (Matt 15:8). "The Word of the Lord is living and powerful" (Heb 4:12)! We have an opportunity for this to be to our advantage now. That same Word will feed, direct, and console us. But if men choose to ignore the Word of the King now, they will be dashed to pieces by it in the end. This is a message that has nearly disappeared in the Western church. But it is true, and we all do well to "hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Back to the Word!
HE HIMSELF TRIUMPHS
"And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He
Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."
JESUS HAS ALREADY TRIUMPHED
Technically, the Lord has already triumphed over His enemies. Although this may be apparent to us, our hearts to well to hear of it again. When it comes to His enemies, the Lord Jesus triumphed gloriously over them in His death.
Satan Is Destroyed
Of His arch foe, Satan, it is written, "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb 2:14-15). Note, the destruction of Satan is associated with the DEATH of the Lord Jesus. The reason in which he was destroyed is also given. It was to "release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." In this "destruction," Satan was rendered powerless to keep hungry and thirsty souls from coming to Jesus. He cannot stop those desiring to "call upon the name of the Lord" from doing so. Whoever wants free from his dominion will be given repentance to simply walk out of the prison that had held them captive. In addition, the devil cannot now contend with the "NO" of believers to ungodliness and worldly lusts. Those who resist him in the faith will find him fleeing.
The devil has been "destroyed" through the death of Christ. In that death, both sin and the strength of sin, the law, were effectively removed. Now, there is no basis for accusation in those who "receive the atonement," or reconciliation (Rom 5:11).
Our adversary has not been annihilated, but he has been "destroyed," or rendered ineffective in his working. When we are "baptized" into Christ's "death" (Rom 6:3-4), we come into the area where Satan has been destroyed. By faith, therefore, we are able to triumph over him.
Principalities and Powers Spoiled
Principalities and powers, through which Satan dominates the world, have been plundered by Jesus. This despoiling occurred in our Lord's death. It is written, " . . . His cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (His cross, Col 2:15). The triumph was so thorough, and the plundering so effective, that whole bodies of people responded to the Gospel simultaneously. 3,000 gladly received the Word on the day of Pentecost, and were baptized (Acts 2:41). Even though the captain of the temple and the Sadducees removed the Apostles from preaching, putting them in custody for a day, 5,000 men believed their preaching (Acts 4:4). The entire city of Samaria believed the preaching of Philip. With "one accord" they "received the Word of God" (Acts 8:5-14). Principalities and powers had been spoiled!
Yet, Satan and his powers continued to exercise influence. They had not been exterminated, but rendered powerless in the heavenly places, and wherever faith was found. There are still places dominated by Satan-places where his throne is placed (Rev 2:13). He still blinds men's minds, lest they should believe (2 Cor 4:4). There are still individuals who are "taken captive by him at his will" (2 Tim 2:26). Indeed, there remain wicked men, persecutors, and blasphemers. But none of them are with Jesus. None of them have the Holy Spirit.
These enemies also have a determined destiny. They will be made Jesus' "footstool."
It will be public, before an assembled universe. They will be brought before the saints like Joshua brought the defeated kings before Israel. Of that occasion it is written, "So it was, when they brought out those kings to Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the captains of the men of war who went with him, 'Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.' And they drew near and put their feet on their necks" (Josh 10:24). So will it be with the saints in the day of the Lamb's wrath. Their foes will be powerless before them as the Lord Jesus openly displays their impotency before Him.
The Lord will "make His enemies His footstool" when He comes again. It is something that will be direct and public. His first subjugation of the hosts of darkness was NOT apparent. It was behind the scenes, so to speak. Only those with faith know of His triumph-and some of them do not yet see it clearly. Those who "love darkness rather than light" certainly do not see the destruction of the devil and the spoiling of principalities and powers. But they will! It will not be for their benefit, but they will behold the enemies of Jesus-all of them-bowing down at His feet in ignominy and shame. That is why it is written, "But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool" (Heb 10:12-13). Again, it is written, "For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet" (1 Cor 14:25).
This is the time with which we are confronted in our text. Jesus dashing His enemies in pieces with the sword of His mouth is nothing less than His enemies becoming His footstool. The last of those enemies, we are told, is "death" (1 Cor 15:26). That, of course, will be destroyed when our lord raises the dead with the words of His mouth. Jesus Himself said, "the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29).
Remember, the final and complete overthrow of our Lord's enemies will be accomplished with the sword that comes out of His mouth. This perfectly coincides with the Apostolic representation of the case. "And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming" (2 Thess 2:8). As God said through Hosea the prophet, "Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of My mouth" (Hos 6:5).
If men wonder WHEN this will occur, we are told the enemies will be destroyed "with the brightness of His coming" (2 Thess 2:8b). Pointedly, we are reminded this will not be a special coming during which the Lord will deal only with the wicked. This is the same coming during which He will be glorified in and admired by His people. As it is written, "When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed" (2 Thess 1:7-10).
Part of the Lord being "glorified in His saints" will be realized when the armies of heaven follow Him when He comes to "judge and make war." He will speak His enemies into oblivion, terminating their rebellion abruptly and "without hand" (Job 23:24; Dan 8:25). He spoke the worlds into existence, and He shall speak the termination of His foes. He upholds all things by the Word of His power, and He will conclude all things with His word. Make no mistake about this His sword comes from His mouth! That sword will subjugate all His foes! None can stand before the Word of the Lord! It is, without question, "living and powerful."
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS
"And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS
AND LORD OF LORDS." Here, the Lord is identified by yet another name. This is not a
name as ordinarily conceived. Rather, it is an unveiling of His character. The "name" of someone, from this
perspective, defines WHAT they are as well as who they are. This is a consistent approach
to identifying the personalities in this book. The rider on the pale horse was NAMED "Death"
because that is what he brought (6:8). A great star falling from heaven upon the waters
was NAMED "Wormwood" because it produced great bitterness (8:11). He
devil himself is identified by several names: "Abaddon," because he is
a destroying angel, "Apollyon" because he is a destroyer (9:11). A
bitter foe of the people of God, called a "beast" that had "the
name of blasphemy upon his head" because of its blasphemous manner. The
pretending church is pictured as a harlot NAMED "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE
MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" (17:5). All of these
"names" reveal the character of the ones being described. In a very
real way, their names are them!
The name "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" precisely defines who the Lord IS. This is affirmed in chapter seventeen. "He is Lord of lords and King of kings" (verse 14). All rulers-all who have authority-whether in heaven or earth, are under the Lord Jesus Christ. He is their Lord and King. He reigns over them, determining the duration and manner of their rule. He will also cause their rule to abruptly end when it has served His purpose. No lord or king can rise without His approval, and none can remain without it. His Word determines the beginning and end of their rule.
Right now, our Lord is King of kings. Thus it is written, "He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tim 6:15). As David sang in his song of thanksgiving, "And let them say among the nations, 'The LORD reigns'" (1 Chron 16:31). Even in the midst of what appears social and political chaos, "God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne" (Psa 47:8). Four times the phrase "the Lord reigns" is mentioned in the Psalms (93:1; 96:10; 97:1; 99:1). Isaiah said it was "good news" when those in Zion were told, "Your God reigns!" (Isa 52:7).
The government, or reign, has not been given to "the Man Christ Jesus." Nothing has been excluded from Christ's dominion but the Father Himself, Who placed all things under Him (1 Cor 15:27). The authority has already been given to Him: it is not something that is to come.
Over and over the present dominion of Jesus is affirmed in Scripture. Isaiah prophesied the reign of the Messiah in connection with Him becoming a man. "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this" (Isa 9:6-7). Peter affirmed Jesus is NOW on "the throne of David"-His reign has begun! (Acts2:30-36).
Both Jesus and the Apostles took up the prophetic refrain, affirming that all power presently belongs to Jesus, and that all powers are presently under Him. "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father . . . All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth . . . The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand . . . The Father has given Him authority to execute judgment also . . . Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands . . . You have given Him authority over all flesh . . . He put all things under His feet . . . who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him" (Matt 11:27; 28:18; John 3:35; 5:27; 13:3; 17:2; Eph 1:22; 1 Pet 3:22).
Those, therefore, who speak of the coming reign of Christ, or a time when His reign will begin, have not spoken correctly. The words "shall reign" are used by the prophets in reference to the coming Messiah (Isa 32:1; Jer 23:5; Mic 4:7). Mary used them in her response to the news she would bear the "Holy Child" (Lk 1:33). But no Apostle ever spoke of a time in the future when Christ's reign would commence! The notion that Jesus will begin a reign in the future is a concoction of blind theologians. Such a thing is never stated in Scripture. In fact, it contradicts what is revealed in the wORD.
NEVER is Jesus introduced as NOT presently reigning- NEVER! When, therefore, we read of the name "King of kings and Lord of lord" being on His robe and on His thigh, we are reading of Who IS, not what He will be! His character cannot be changed, and being King is part of His character! If, when He entered into the world, He was "born King" (Matt 2:2), what must be said of Him now that He is exalted above every name that is named?
At this time, we see the reign of Jesus by faith. When we "believe God," and "the record" He has "given of His Son," we embrace a ruling reigning Savior. We are trusting that King to "bring us to God" (1 Pet 3:18). The point of our text is that God has appointed a grand conclusion when what we now see by faith will be revealed openly. That is nothing less than Christ's second appearance (Heb 9:28). It is when He will come in all of His glory, the Father's glory, and the glory of the Holy angels (Lk 9:26). That is when the Father will "show" the assembled universe what He has shown His children in their spirits (1 Tim 6:15).
At that appearance, His enemies will be destroyed. It will only take a word from the King-the sword comes from His mouth! Like the mountains of old, His foes-all of them-will "melt away" (Ex 15:15; Psa 58:7; 112:10). Such a thing could not occur if the Lord Jesus Christ was NOT "King of kings and Lord of lords." The ascended Christ is now on the throne which belongs to Him. He ia reigning, and it is for your sake.THE INVITATION
"Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud
voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather together
for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of
captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and
the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great." Up to this time, the
people of God have been the ones oppressed and persecuted. The governments of the world
appeared to have their way in their treatment of the saints of God. The false church
oppressed and persecuted them. John identified himself as a "companion in tribulation" (1:9). Some
saints were tried, and had "tribulation for ten days" (2:10). Antipas
was a faithful martyr of Jesus (2:13). Souls that were beheaded for the Word of God have
been seen (6:9). Those very souls were told there were others "who would be
killed as they were" (6:11). Victorious saints are described as "the
ones who come out of the great tribulation" (7:14). The devil aggressively
persecuted the people of God (12:13-17). We have been given to see a corrupt church,
pictured as a woman "drunken with the blood of saints" (17:6). The
oppression of the saints has been most evident throughout the Revelation. But now the
tables are turned, and the overthrow of their enemies becomes the emphasis. Just as Satan
led the opposing of the saints, so the King of kings will lead their triumph!
An angel is pictured as "standing in the sun," something impossible from the natural point of view. In our little world, the sun is the most significant thing. It outshines everything in our universe, and all revolves around it. But in our text, when the angel stands in the sun, he reduces it to insignificance. We are not impressed with the light of the sun, but with the message of the angel. Nature recedes into the background as the purpose of God is proclaimed with a loud voice to the universe. The greatest thing in nature is but a place for angels to stand and make proclamation. Men must learn this world is inferior to the one to come. It's glory is inferior. It's kings are inferior! Its benefits are inferior!
THE CRY TO ALL THE BIRDS
These birds, or "fowls," are birds of prey. They are the birds that feed upon dead carcasses-scavengers. Notice the words that are addressed to "ALL the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven." This is an arresting word, and worthy of our consideration. In this world, scavengers must compete for the prey. There is not enough for them all. Often they will fight over what is found, because it is not found in abundance. Under normal circumstances, life outweighs death, and there is never enough for "all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven." Often beasts of prey devour one another, preying on the sick and weakly, because there is not enough food for all.
But this is not the case in our text. "All the birds" are summoned to this feast, because of its abundance. There is enough for them all! The point, of course, is not vultures and mortal flesh. Rather, it is the destruction of the wicked.
Throughout history, with a single exception (the flood), the wicked have been removed in small groups. Even though wickedness was found throughout the world, God would judge only "the cities of the plain" (Sodom and Gomorrah). Even though all nations were corrupt, He would judge Egypt, or Syria, or the Philistines, etc. Although the "kings of the earth" were wholly wicked, He would selectively judge Pharaoh, Sihon, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, etc. Even if sin dominated the entire human race, the Lord would particularly judge Aachan, Korah, or Ananias and Sapphira. These were judgments to which "all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven" could NOT be summoned. They were partial judgments, and did not deal with ALL of the wicked.
In our text, however, the judgment is not partial. It is not one of many wicked nations that is being overthrown. It is not a representative city that is being judged. Some of God's enemies are not being brought down. This is nothing less than the total destruction of the wicked. ALL of the leaders of the wicked, and ALL of the wicked themselves will be brought down.
The language is taken from the prophet Ezekiel, who also spoke of the overthrow of wicked people. The language is abrasive, but it is necessary to impress upon the hearts of men how serious the Lord is about overthrowing the wicked. " Speak to every sort of bird and to every beast of the field: Assemble yourselves and come; Gather together from all sides to My sacrificial meal Which I am sacrificing for you, A great sacrificial meal on the mountains of Israel, That you may eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, Drink the blood of the princes of the earth, Of rams and lambs, Of goats and bulls, All of them fatlings of Bashan. You shall eat fat till you are full, And drink blood till you are drunk, At My sacrificial meal Which I am sacrificing for you. You shall be filled at My table With horses and riders, With mighty men And with all the men of war, says the Lord GOD" (Ezek 39:17-20). The vivid language breaks through the mists created by stilted theology and indifference of heart. The same God who saves, also destroys. As it is written, "There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy" (James 4:12).
The destruction of the wicked will be as thorough as the salvation of the righteous. ALL of the wicked will be destroyed, and ALL of the righteous will be delivered. Think of these affirmations of the complete overthrow of the wicked, for that is what we are beholding in our text. "The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth . . . For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, And the wine is red; It is fully mixed, and He pours it out; Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth Drain and drink down . . . For behold, Your enemies, O LORD, For behold, Your enemies shall perish . . . You put away all the wicked of the earth like dross . . . Him, But all the wicked He will destroy . . . His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire . . . Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted" (Psa 34:16; 75:8; 92:9; 119:119; 145:20; Matt 3:12; 15:18).
The Supper of the Great God
The destruction of the wicked is pictured as a great supper-"the supper of the Great God." In this case, what is being consumed takes the precedence over the ones consuming it. The supper itself is the point. Previously, we heard of "the marriage SUPPER of the Lamb" (19:9). That is the supper to which men are presently being invited-the time when the Bridegroom and the bride will be brought together in fulness. But that is not the only supper. Now we read of God's "supper," a feast to which dreadful birds of prey are invited.
Although this may well involve the hosts of darkness devouring those who followed them, I do not believe that is the point of the text. Rather, the language declares that in every place, throughout the world, wherever one wicked person is found-wherever there is a rebel, one who has not bowed the knee to Jesus, one who has not obeyed the Gospel-they will be thrown down, cast down, and cut off. No enemy will escape. The brightness of the glory of the Lord will pervade every citadel of darkness, discovering every cavern of ungodliness and every shrine of wickedness. Little wonder the wicked are pictured as crying "to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Rev 6:16).
Behold how thorough the fall. It involves leaders of renown: "the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men." Those who have been aggressive against the truth are included: "the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them." All levels of society are embraced: "the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great."
It is necessary for us to recognize this is how Jesus had chosen to be revealed. This is His revelation, and it is the revelation of Him. Orthodox churches like Ephesus, who have left their "first love" need to hear this. They have been gravitating to the enemy's side! Churches like Pergamos, who have teachers who lead people to sin, need to hear this message. They are drifting to the enemy's side. Churches like Thyatira, who allow false teachers to continue in their midst, need to hear this message. They are retreating to the enemy's side. Churches like Sardius, who have more people that are dead toward God than those alive to Him, need to hear this message. They are already in the grip of the wicked one. Churches like Laodicea, who are lukewarm and indifferent, need to hear this message. They have already become repulsive to Jesus.
It is the condition of the churches that requires such a vivid portrayal of the destruction of the wicked. They have been lulled to sleep by their religion. It has made them comfortable in sin, which will be the means of their undoing. What we have read is a Divine appointment. There is no possibility of it being averted, or of God changing His mind. Just as surely as the "marriage supper of the Lamb" has been determined, so has the "supper of the great God." Two suppers, and every person who has ever lived will participate in one of them. Now is the time of preparation. Now is the time to resist the devil. Now is the time to follow the Lamb! Now is the time to align yourself against the devil and his hosts.
"And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army."A great deal of religious folklore has arisen regarding this text. Some imagine an extensive military conflict between the glorified Christ and the kings of the earth. Those who imagine such nonsense do not realize how glorious Jesus is, or how weak His enemies are. If the heavens and the earth will flee from the face of the appearing Lord (20:11), how do men imagine His enemies will survive? If Jericho trembled at the word of the approaching Israelites, their hearts melting, and their courage departing (Josh 2:10-11), what will Christ's enemies do when He returns? Away with theology so insipid it imagines mortal flesh can contend with revealed Deity. Such foolishness is spawned in pools of inexcusable ignorance. It betrays small thinking, blinded eyes, and insensitive hearts. Aside from this, such things are not taught in Scripture. They represent the conclusions of men who equate what they THINK Scripture means with Scripture itself. By so doing, they have opened themselves to the curse of Jesus, as expressed in this very book. "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (22:18-19).
In this text, a high view of Christ's enemies is presented. Rather than viewing them as individuals, the leaders are accentuated. The word of God often presents the wicked at the detailed level: "them which do iniquity . . . them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . the unrighteous," etc. (Matt 13:41; 2 Thess 1:8; 1 Cor 6:9). But here we are provided a different view.
"THE BEAST" is the devil's first level of human influence. It represents the gathering of people under a common cause that is other than that of Christ. More precisely, it is earthly government as animated by Satan himself. Concerning its ultimate origin, this entity, created by Satan, comes from the bottomless pit (11:7). Regarding its appearance among men, it rose from social agitation (13:1-2). Its nature is fundamentally ruthless and devouring (13:2). Ultimately, it comes out against the people of God, opposing, persecuting, and even killing them. This is the highest form of human opposition to the saints of God.
"THE KINGS OF THE EARTH" are the next level of leaders, operating within a political environment, and for the beast, who is empowered by Satan. These are the immediate leaders-the ones who initiated opposition, and persecuted the saints. They are the ones who passed laws against the people of God, the Word of God, and the life of God. They are "of the earth," not heaven.
"THEIR ARMIES" are all who have rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. In their denial of the Son of God, they were left with only one alternative: enlist in the army of Christ's opponents. In them is fulfilled the Lord's saying, "He who is not with Me is against Me" (Matt 12:30).
THEY GATHER TOGETHER
This wicked confederation are gathered together by Satan to make war against the Son of God. Their gathering is foolish, and will be met with not a single speck of success. The picture here is not that Christ's enemies gather together at His appearing, but that His appearing INTERRUPTS their gathering together. This "gathering" actually started at is first revelation, when kings, the Gentiles, and even Israel "were gathered together" against the Lord Jesus (Psa 2:1-5; Acts 4:27). Throughout history, there have been repeated attempts to "gather" the ungodly under a common banner.
It appears as though Satan will muster them once again as the time of the end draws near. However, "Though they join forces, none will go unpunished" (Prov 16:5). The point here is that eventually, ALL earthly power sides against the Lord. That includes political power and philosophical power. Whether it is the aggression of the world, or the wisdom of the world, it all eventually opposes God! Finally, everything that did not come from God will seek to join forces against Him.
This gathering is said to be "against Him who sat on the horse and against His army." Actually, it took the immediate form of opposing the saints. However, their opposition is considered by Jesus to be against Himself. Remember, He said to Saul of Tarsus, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:5). He also said of those who neglected His people, "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me" (Matt 25:45). Peter, when comforting those suffering because of their faith, wrote, "On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified" (1 Pet 4:14).
What a diabolical gathering this is! It will be interesting to see how it concludes. Will there be a lengthy battle? Do the saints have anything to fear from this confrontation? The Lord does not leave these matters to human conjecture. The confrontation of the wicked is sure, and the outcome of the confrontation is sure.
A QUICK CONCLUSION
"Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh."
Both of these arch foes are "cast alive into the lake of fire." This indicates they were captured and cast into the lake of fire when they were at the height of the power. They were at their best when they were "thrown into" eternal oblivion. The Lord did not first weaken them, like He did the Egyptians, when their chariot wheels fell off. He allowed them to "gather together," to pool their resources, taking full advantage of one another. The world crucified the Lord in His "weakness" (2 Cor 13:4). He will dispose of them in their strength-at the peak of their potency.
And what of those who followed this wicked pair? What will happen to them. They are called "armies," but they do not fight. Indeed, they are all struck down with a mere word from the King. "And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse." When among us, Jesus cast out demons with His word (Matt 8:16). He raised the dead with a word (John 11:43). He "rebuked" a fever (Lk 4:39). A fig tree withered and died when cursed by Jesus (Matt 21:19). A fish brought a coin to Peter at the word of Jesus (Matt 17:27). And all of that was BEFORE He had been glorified. If a detachment of soldiers and some officials went backward and "fell to the ground" when a straightened Jesus said "I am HE" (John 18:6), what will happen when He speaks to those inferior armies in all of His glory?
Thus the demise of the wicked is concluded, swiftly and decisively. The phrase "all the birds were filled with their flesh" portrays the total removal of the wicked from all influence. Never again will the devil tempt anyone. Never again will the "beast" lift its hand against the saints. Never again will the "false prophet" spout lies in the name of Jesus. Never again will the wicked be joined together in any sense, or for any cause. That is what will occur at the coming of the Lord. Set your hope there, and live by it. The day of the saints is coming!