The Second Coming of Christ
In Rev. 16, John briefly surveyed the wrath that God was going to pour out upon the Antichrist and his followers. Starting in Rev. 17 and running through the first part of chapter 20, John goes back and gives a more detailed look at the sixth and seventh bowls of wrath. In chapters 17-18, John spoke of the destruction of the Great Harlot of Babylon (the Rome of John’s day) at the hands of the Antichrist and the kings who supported him. Now it is time for the destruction of the Antichrist and the False Prophet.
MARRIAGE AND MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB (19:7-10)
Once more before continuing, John introduces an interlude which will occur after the events of chapter 19—an invitation to the marriage (wedding ceremony) and marriage supper (wedding reception) of the Lamb. In this passage, John merely predicts that it will happen. The actual marriage and marriage supper though do not occur until Christ has returned and begun to rule upon the earth during His 1000-year reign when God consummates His relationship with His people.
The 2 metaphors of the marriage and marriage supper emphasize 2 different aspects of our relationship with Christ. In the first metaphor of the marriage of the Lamb, the church has the role of the bride of the Lamb. This metaphor is a popular theme running throughout Scripture. Hosea calls Israel God’s wife—a faithless one but a wife nevertheless. On the other hand, Paul describes the church as a virgin whom Christ is preparing to become a spotless and blameless bride. Some try to distinguish between the Bride of the Lamb (the church) in the NT from the Bride of God (Israel) in the OT. Those who make such a distinction simply do not understand the progression of thought from the OT to the NT, nor do they understand the role of the church as the people of God.
The marriage of the Lamb to His bride primarily points to the intimacy that Christ will have with His people. How close is that relationship? Christ claims that our relationship with Him will be as close as His relationship with the Father. The human analogy which best points to this intimacy is the relationship between a husband and his bride. Of all our human relationships, our relationship with our spouses should be the closest. Whereas sex does provide immense physical pleasure, it also creates an intimate bond between the 2 spouses that they do not enjoy with anybody else. The intimacy we should share with our spouses gives us a real taste of the intimacy we shall share with Christ.
In the second metaphor of the marriage supper of the Lamb, the Christians are not the bride but the guests invited to the supper. Why does our role change? Remember that these are only human analogies Christ is adopting in order to express some wonderful spiritual truths. Getting too closely tied down to the analogies destroys the purpose of the analogies. This second metaphor points to the great joy that we shall experience when Christ returns. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus speaks of a great feast that will be held when He returns. He claims that on that day, people will come from the four corners of the earth to feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In fact, one of the purposes of the feeding of the 5,000 was to give the people a taste of the joy and fellowship that God’s people will experience when Jesus returns.
During the past week, Christ impressed upon me the joy that He really desires to give to His people. This past week, my family and I took a few days off to vacation at the beach in Galveston. While I was sitting on the beach looking at the kids playing in the sand and in the surf, I felt like God was impressing upon me His desire that His people experience real joy. The children were having a great time at the beach, laughing their heads off. Well, God made the beach and He made children. I cannot help but think that God made the 2 in order to put them together, that is, in order for the children to enjoy what He has created. Christ reinforced this as I was going over some verses this past week. In John 13-16, Jesus is speaking about the 3 stages of His coming. He “came” to the disciples after He rose from the dead; He came to them (and us) on the Day of Pentecost when He sent us His Holy Spirit; and He promises to come to us once more when He returns at the end of time. In John 14-16, what are the 2 dominant responses He wants His people to have with regards to His coming? First, love and second, joy. The response of love did not surprise me; however, Jesus’ emphasis on joy did. Several times He mentions that He is saying what is saying so that we can experience His joy. As these verses and creation indicate, God is not a hard God. He loves us and wants us to experience the deep, genuine joy that He Himself experiences. We shall experience it completely when Christ returns.
THE RETURN OF THE LORD (19:11-16)
With this passage, John finally reaches the climax of the Book of Revelation. For the past 18+ chapters, John has been describing the horrors God’s people face because of the persecution of the Antichrist and also the horrors that God’s enemies face because of the seals, trumpets, and bowls of wrath. John has been encouraging God’s people to remain steadfast and loyal in their relationship with Him. Now he shows why. Christ is coming to destroy His enemies and to rescue His people.
Before this event, John has seen heaven open many times. The first time he saw heaven opened, he ascended into heaven in order to receive a vision of the state of affairs in heaven. This time though, he sees a white horse descending from heaven and a rider sitting upon the horse. Normally, warriors rode white stallions in a triumphal procession only after they had achieved a great victory against their enemies. So sure of victory is this Rider that He mounts a white stallion before He even begins to fight.
The warrior has several names which point to His character. The first name He is called is “Faithful and True.” Although these words appear to point to 2 names instead of one, they actually make up one name because the 2 terms are synonyms. Christ has the name “Faithful and True” because He is faithful to keep God’s promises and He is true to His word, which happens to be God’s word. What are God’s promises and God’s word in this particular instance? God has promised that one day He will ultimately vindicate His people and pour out wrath upon His enemies one last time. Well, that time has come, and Christ has come to fulfill those promises.
John next claims that Jesus wages war and judges in righteousness. One of the worst things that can happen to a society is the perversion of the law by judges. Remember the disgust that most of us felt when O.J. Simpson got off on the murder charge. Society feels nauseous whenever a judge or jury releases the guilty and condemns the innocent. At the beginning of Revelation, the martyred saints seem to question God’s justice? “How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our wrong upon those who dwell upon the earth?” This question makes sense only from an emotional standpoint but not from a realistic standpoint because God is a righteous judge who will one day render to everyone according to his/her deeds (Rev. 20:12). This passage is proof positive that Christ is a righteous judge.
Next, John describes Jesus as having eyes like a flame of fire and having many diadems upon His head. The eyes of fire portray Jesus as having laser-like vision which penetrates through every wall and façade we erect against God. Christ sees through the walls we put up, especially the walls people put up thinking that God will in no way see or even care if they persecute His people. Well, Christ does see, and His return to destroy His enemies and save His people proves He cares. The diadems point to the royal dignity which is inherently Jesus’. Kings wore one of 2 crowns—the stephanos or the diadem. The stephanos was the crown worn by the king who won his kingdom by conquest. Although at one time, he was not a king, after his conquest of another army (armies), he became king. This kind of king wore the stephanos. On the other hand, the monarch who was royal by birth (like Queen Elizabeth II) wore the diadem. Moreover, if he ruled over more than one kingdom, he wore the number of diadems which corresponded to the number of kingdoms he ruled over. For example, at one point one of the Pharaohs ruled over both the kingdoms of Syria and Egypt. As a result, he wore 2 diadems (one within the other) to reflect this. Christ wears many diadems first because He is inherently divinely royal and second because He rules over all kingdoms and universes.
The second name John ascribes to Jesus actually is unknowable: “And He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself.” This name is unknowable first because it shows the depth of Jesus’ being. In the Bible, names reveal people. For example, the name “Jesus” means “salvation.” The fact that Jesus has a name that nobody knows except Himself shows that there are aspects of Jesus that we will never know simply because He is God and we are not. We may know Him completely after He transforms us into His image (Phil. 3:21); however, until that day, we will never know Him completely. Second, the fact that He has a name which only He knows shows that we have no power over Him at all. To know somebody’s name is to have power over that person. I may try to ignore a person who calls out my name; however, try is all I can do. That person has my attention no matter how I may externally seem to be ignoring him. The fact that I do not know this name of Jesus shows that neither I nor any other created being including the Antichrist has power over Him. Rather He is omnipotent in all His relationships and is able to destroy those who oppose Him.
John continues with this description of Christ by pointing to the robe He wears which is dipped in blood. NT scholars argue over whether this is His shed-blood from the cross or the blood of His enemies. Both point to the same reality that He is victorious over His enemies—either by means of the cross or His destroying them at Armageddon.
The third name which John attaches to Jesus is The Word of God. When John calls Jesus “the Word,” he is pointing to Him as being the ultimate revelation or communication of God. How do we communicate ourselves to others? By means of a word. Well, Christ is that ultimate Word God uses to reveal Himself to us. Everything else God has created to reveal Himself to us must be understood in light of this ultimate revelation of Himself. What is God revealing about Himself to us through Jesus? In this particular passage, God is revealing that He is the Conqueror who comes to deliver His people.
John now turns attention to the heavenly army accompanying the victorious Christ. These are clothed in fine linen, clean and bright. Just who make up this heavenly army? Some absolutely state that these are the raptured saints, thereby claiming absolutely that the rapture occurs before the tribulation. First, if these are saints, they have not necessarily raptured. All Christians go to heaven after they die; therefore, these may just be saints before they have received their resurrected bodies. Second, they may just be angels. According to Paul, angels are going to accompany Jesus when He returns from heaven (2 Thess. 1:7).
From the mouth of Christ comes the weapon He will use to destroy His enemies—His Word. Normally, when we think of might and power, we think of nuclear weapons which can wipe out entire cities. As powerful as these weapons are, their power pales in comparison with the power of the word of Christ. In 6 days, His word alone created the universe. His word today lifts us out of the bondage of sin and Satan. On that last day, His word will annihilate the forces of Antichrist and Satan.
The fourth name Jesus bears is actually written upon His thigh—“King of kings and Lord of lords.” Several statues from the first century have the name of the person depicted by the statue written upon the person’s tunic at thigh level. Apparently a conqueror would have his name written there so that people along the procession route could readily identify him as he passed by the crowd. Jesus’ title? King of kings and Lord of lords. The self-styled emperor of Rome proclaimed himself to be lord and god; now all his shallow pretensions were going to come crashing down as he came face to face with the Lord of the universe.
DESTRUCTION OF THE ANTICHRIST (19:17-21)
Having presented the returning Christ, John now focuses on the ensuing battle. Before the battle commences, an angel stands before the sun so that all may see him and summons all the birds who eat flesh to assemble at Armageddon for the great feast that God is going to lay out for them—a feast of the flesh of all those who have opposed Christ in this battle.
All is now set for the battle between Christ and his enemies. The Antichrist has assembled all his armies as Christ has arrayed all the armies of heaven in preparation for the attack upon the Antichrist. In the greatest battle of the Middle Ages, Henry V of England lined up his forces against the French at Agincourt. The French outnumbered the English 5-1 (25,000-5,000). Henry made elaborate preparations for the battle. First, he delivered one of the most stirring speeches Shakespeare ever wrote! He claimed that although they were seriously outnumbered by the French, they should rejoice because the glory of their victory would be shared by only a few and not many. He claimed that all English men would hold their manhood cheap who were not there at Agincourt. Next, he placed his army at the end of an opening in the forest so that the surrounding trees would hinder the advance of the French. Next, he had his soldiers place pointed stakes in the ground to neutralize the superior French cavalry. When the French attacked, they were repulsed with a weapon whose ferocity was unmatched until the 1800’s—the long bow. The arrow launched by the long bow was so powerful and deadly that it knocked men off their horses. After the long bow had been used, the English were forced to fight the French in hand-to-hand combat in the mud and slime of the valley of Agincourt. At the end of the hard grueling battle, Henry asked, “Is the day ours?” It was his. He had achieved the most stunning victory of the Middle Ages. Thousands of the finest warriors the French could muster were lying dead upon the plains of Agincourt, while, on the other hand, the English lost only a few dozen men.
Well, the battle of Armageddon was nothing like this battle. This battle is over even before it has begun. Christ takes the Beast and the False Prophet by the nape of the neck and throws them into the lake of fire and brimstone. The birds who have responded to God’s summons then begin to eat the flesh of the hostile armies who have been slain by the word of Christ. All that remains now is what to do with Satan and the consummation of the kingdom of God.