Back in chapter 12 we first met the Dragon, who symbolised the Devil. And we saw how the Devil tried to destroy the Lord Jesus; and when he was prevented from doing so, he turned his rage on the church.
Then, in chapter 13, we met the Beast from the sea who symbolises the Devil’s persecuting power and the ways he tries to oppress the church; and we met the Beast from the earth, who symbolises the Devil’s deception and deceit and the ways he tries to deceive the nations. So, these two Beasts are the Devil’s allies in his war on the church.
And then, in chapter 17, we met Babylon the Great, who was depicted as an adulterous woman. Babylon the Great symbolises this fallen world which has the power to seduce and to lead astray many, many people.
So, there’s the Dragon; and there are the two Beasts; and there’s Babylon the Great. All of them are lined up against the church to persecute and to deceive and to lead astray the church of Jesus Christ. In these, the last days in which we live, we can expect the church of Jesus Christ to be under attack because of these great powers who stand opposed to us.
However, in chapters 18 to 20 each of these figures are condemned and destroyed in reverse order. So, in chapter 18 we read about the fall of Babylon: John saw an angel coming down from heaven who announced with a loud voice:
Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!
And John went on to describe the vision he saw which depicted the end of this fallen world, whose sins are piled up to heaven. And God knows her sins and he will pay her back double for her sins, which means her punishment will be the double, or will perfectly match, her guilt. So, Babylon the Great, this fallen world, will be condemned by God and thrown down into the depths.
And then, in today’s passage — verses 11 to 21 of chapter 19 — we read of how the two Beasts will one day be thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur where they will be tormented day and night for ever.
And then, following the condemnation of Babylon and the Beasts, there comes, in chapter 20, the condemnation of the Dragon himself, because he too will be defeated by God and thrown into that lake of burning sulphur.
In these, the last days, we can expect the church of Jesus Christ to be oppressed and attacked because of these great powers who stand opposed to us. However, in the end, these great powers will be destroyed and the members of Christ’s church will enjoy everlasting peace and joy in the presence of the Lord in the new heavens and the new earth. And so, the message of the book of Revelation is that all of God’s people must persevere through all the troubles and trials of this life, and we must remain faithful despite whatever persecution we face and despite all the pressure on us to conform to the wicked ways of this fallen world. We must persevere and remain faithful, because in the end our persecutors will be punished and we will possess everlasting life in the presence of the Lord.
That’s where we’re headed as we study these closing chapters in the book of Revelation. But let’s turn our attention now to verses 11 to 21 of chapter 19. And in verses 11 to 16, John received a vision of Christ’s second coming. And then, in verses 17 and 18 an angel announced the imminent destruction of all those who have sided with the two Beasts. And finally, in verses 19 to 21 we read of the defeat of the two Beasts and all who have sided with them against Christ and his church.
Verses 11 to 16
Let’s turn now to verses 11 to 16; and John tells us how he saw heaven standing open and there before him was a white horse. Well, the colour white often symbolises purity, but white horses also represent victory, because kings who had conquered their enemies would come home, riding on a white horse. But John is not so much interested in the horse, but on the rider on the horse who is called Faithful and True. Who is this rider? Well, it’s the Lord Jesus. That becomes clear as we read more about him in the following verses.
At the end of verse 11 we read that, with justice, he will judge the nations and make war on them. So, for years and years, the nations of the world have rejected him and rebelled against him. They have not believed in him or obeyed him. For years, he has been patient with them. But, one day, he is coming to make war on them and to judge them.
And look: his eyes are like blazing fire. That reminds us of John’s first vision, back in chapter 1, when he saw the Risen and Exalted Lord Jesus, walking among the churches, and his eyes were like blazing fire. Well, this description of his eyes conveys to us the idea of his insight and the way nothing is ever hidden from his gaze. So, he’s able to judge the nations with justice, because he’s seen with perfect vision what they’ve done and what they’re like.
And then John tells us that he wears many crowns on his head. Not just one crown, or a few crowns, but many crowns. This depicts his royal authority.
According to verse 13, he’s wearing a robe which is dipped in blood. Well, in Isaiah 63 Isaiah saw that the Lord’s garments were stained crimson, because he had trampled his enemies and their blood spattered his clothes. Now, in John’s vision, John sees that the robe of the Lord Jesus is also spattered with the blood of his enemies. Now, remember this is a vision, using pictures and symbols to convey God’s message. And so, this picture of a blood-stained robe symbolises the Lord’s victory over his enemies and his judgment on those who have rebelled against him.
And then we read in verse 14 how the armies of heaven were following him. Well, the armies of heaven could well be his angels; and certainly, in Matthew 25, the Lord tells us that when he comes to judge the nations, he will come with all his angels. However, the fact that they’re riding on white horses and are dressed in fine linen, which is white and clean, suggests that this army is made up of God’s people who have persevered through troubles and trials and who are now with him in glory and who will come with him when he comes again to judge the nations.
In verse 15 John tells us that from the Lord’s mouth, there came a sharp sword, which again recalls the opening vision in chapter 1. The sharp sword from his mouth symbolises the Lord’s powerful word and his authority to judge and to condemn and to strike the nations. And then John refers to a quotation from Psalm 2 where it says:
He will rule them with an iron sceptre.
Who will rule the nations with an iron sceptre? According to Psalm 2, it’s God’s Son who was installed as king over all the nations. Psalm 2 says that the nations conspire and plot against the Lord Almighty and his Anointed Son. However, the Lord is not concerned about the nations, because his Son will destroy them. And here, in John’s vision, he sees the Lord Jesus coming to destroy the nations, because here he comes to tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. So, in this vision, John is seeing the coming of the Lord, who comes as a triumphant king in fulfilment of Psalm 2 to judge the nations and to destroy all who have disobeyed him.
But before we move on, we need to notice the names the Lord Jesus is given. According to verse 11, he’s Faithful and True. Those believers who remain faithful and true to the Lord through all the troubles and trials of this life can take comfort in the fact that the coming judge is also faithful and true and will be faithful and true to all his promises of salvation.
And according to verse 13, the Lord Jesus is the Word of God, because he speaks to us and reveals to us what God is like.
And according to verse 16, he’s the King of kings and the Lord of lords, which means he is supreme over ever other authority and power that exists.
And according to verse 12 he has a name which no one knows but himself. Well, at least one commentator suggests that his name is unknown in the sense that the unbelieving world does not know what he’s like. Unbelievers don’t believe in him or acknowledge him or honour him. However, when he comes again to judge the nations, it will be clear to everyone who he is and what he’s like. But for now, until he comes, the world does not know him.
That’s certainly one interpretation of this unknown name. However, another possible interpretation of this unknown name is that, in the ancient world, to know someone’s name was to have authority and power over that person. And so, the fact that the Lord has a name which no one knows but himself means that no one possesses authority over him and no one is able to stand in his way.
Verses 17 and 18
In verses 1 to 6 John describes this vision of the coming of the Lord Jesus, who will come one day to judge the nations and to punish all those who have not believed in him or obeyed him.
Then in verses 17 and 18, John describes an angel, who was standing in the sun, and who cried out in a loud voice to all the birds. And he said to the birds:
Come, gather together for the great supper of God….
So, this angel is calling the birds to come and feed themselves on what? On the flesh of kings and generals and mighty men and horses and their riders and of all people, free and slave, small and great. Who are all these people? Well, they’re the ones who have sided with the Beasts against the church. So, think of all those kings and generals and other mighty men and women and everyone else who, through the generations, have opposed Christ and his church. Well, this angel was announcing their imminent destruction, which, in the vision, is so certain and so near that the birds are invited to come and to get ready to feast themselves on their dead bodies. Well, again it’s a vision, using pictures and symbols to convey to us the victory of the Lamb and the punishment of all those who have rejected him.
Verses 19 to 21
We come to verses 19 to 21 where John describes how the Beast from the sea together with the kings of the earth and all their armies have gathered together for one final battle against the Lord. But the Beast was captured along with the second Beast, the Beast from the earth, who is depicted as a false prophet who deceives and misleads. And the two of them — these two allies of the Devil who have persecuted the church and deceived the world — are thrown alive into the fiery lake. And the rest of them — all who have sided with them against the church — were killed with the sword that was coming from the Lord’s mouth. And all the birds gorged themselves on their dead bodies. In other words, in the end, when Jesus Christ comes again as a rider on a white horse to judge the nations, all who have sided with the Devil will be condemned and punished.
For the time being, the church often seems weak and vulnerable, and everywhere we look in the world, we see the forces of unbelief triumphing. For the time being, the church seems weak and its members are often persecuted and killed for their faith in Christ. For the time being, God’s laws are ignored and people do what they want and they live as they please. But in the end, Babylon the Great — this fallen world which seduces so many men and women — will fall. And in the end, the Beasts — who represent the Devil’s opposition to the church — will fall. And in the next chapter, we’ll see that the Devil himself will fall in the end.
In these, the last days in which we live, the church is often hard pressed and persecuted. But we need to hang on and to persevere and to remain faithful, because in the end, the Lord will come again to destroy his enemies and to bring his people to our eternal reward. And while we go on living on the earth, we should pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, asking the Lord to uphold them and to help them to stand firm. And we should pray that we ourselves will stand firm so that our faith is not crushed by trials and we’re not misled by the Devil’s lies. And we should bear with one another and encourage one another, so that we will not cause anyone to stumble, but will instead help one another to stand firm and to continue along that narrow road that leads eventually to everlasting life in the presence of the Lord.
The way is often hard and difficult; and there are many things which might cause us to stumble and to fall or to go astray. On the road to eternal life, there are people who might trip us up or they might discourage us or hurt us. But we need to uphold each other and encourage each other to press on and to stand firm and to remain faithful, because in the end, it will all be worth it, when Christ comes again, to destroy his enemies and to lead his people in victory to our eternal reward.