“Then I saw the heavens thrown open,…”(Rev. 19:11-16)
Now this idea of ‘throwing open the heavens’, it’s a perfect passive verb which means God did it. It remains that way, and we’ve seen that back in chapter 4:1; 11:19; 15:5. It may be an Old Testament allusion to Ezekiel 1:1, for much of the imagery of the book of the Revelation is drawn from the Book of Ezekiel. Now, here we have a ‘white horse’ appeared – now this ‘white horse’ is a symbol of military conquest. It’s different from the white horse of chapter 6:2. This is truly Christ, the other was simply an angel. This shows that John is pulling from a very Jewish emphasis and not so much of the Pauline emphasis of 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18. This is the idea of Messiah as the conquering military lord of the earth, and for persecuted Christians, Jesus as Judge and Warrior was a very comforting concept. And so the New Testament has different aspects of Jesus’ Coming, i don’t mean they’re contradictory, it’s just different facets of the diamond of how He’s going to come again. Notice as it says, “…and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True,…” – now this goes back to Revelation 3:14, a title for Jesus there, and these two words, both in Hebrew speak of trustworthiness, and that’s the background of course. “…and in righteousness He judges and wages war.”, both verbs are present tense. The Old Testament allusion is Isaiah 11:4, and to a group of hurting Christians, this was great news. Now, verse 12 is a series of descriptions that go back to chapter 1 primarily, “His eyes are a flame of fire,…” – this goes back to chapter 1:14, 2:18, and again an allusion to Daniel 10:6, His eyes bearing a penetrating knowledge, I think that’s the idea here. Then it says, “and on His head are many diadems;…” – now Satan back in chapter 12:3 had seven diadem’s; the beast in chapter 13:1 had ten diadem’s, but Christ has many diadems (royal crowns) many more than they had, and that’s the ideal here. “…and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.” – this is rather unusual. We see the same concept back in Revelation 2:17, it seems to speak that we don’t have all complete information about Jesus as the Messiah. We know something true about Him. We know enough about Him to be saved and to live a life pleasing to Him, but we don’t know everything about Him. Some say the background maybe the concept of magic where to know someone’s name gave you power to manipulate him, but no one can manipulate Christ. Maybe that’s the allusion, we’re just not certain.
Then verse 13, “He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood,…” – now this allusion much like down in verse 15 goes back to Isaiah 63:2 & 3. Some see it as an allusion to Jeremiah 51:33, or Lamentations 1:15, and still others see it in Joel 3:13. It’s a metaphor of the judgment of God, and the concept of God’s wrath is as Biblical and revelatory as the concept of God’s love. Now, this idea of ‘dipped in blood’ is in perfect tense; some have wondered if it refers to the battle He’s about to fight with the forces of anti-God world system, but the battle hadn’t occurred yet and His clothes are already dipped in blood? I realize there’s a fluidity in apocalyptic prophetic literature, but it seems to me, because the number of times the book of the Revelation mentions Christ’s own blood, and the fact that the Saints are said to have their linen clothes washed white in His blood, this may be a reference to His redemptive sacrificial act on Calvary. “…and His name is called The Word of God.” – here’s another reason why I think John is obviously the author of both the Gospel of John and the book of the Revelation because of his use of the ‘Word of God’. We only find it here, in all of biblical literature though we also find it in John 1:1 & 14 and also in 1 John 1:1.
Now notice where it says in verse 14, “And the armies which are in heaven,…” – who are these armies? Well because of verse 8 which spoke of the Saints as being dressed in linen, and because of chapter 17:14 where it says that the Saints will have victory with the Lamb, many have assumed this is the redeemed that come on white horses with Christ. But yet there seems to be an Old Testament precedent particularly in Zechariah 14:5, that this ‘armies’ are the angels. And there are seven New Testament passages that seem to back this up. First, we have Matthew 16:27. Mark 8:38, Luke 9:36, 1 Thessalonians 3:13 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7 seem to imply that when Jesus comes again, He’s going to come with His holy angels. This seems to refer to them though, they do not participate in the battle. Though they are not mentioned being armed, they accompany Christ in a regal sense. Now notice as it mentions here, they were on ‘white horses’ also.
Now beginning in verse 15 starts a three-fold description of the Rider, “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations,…” – now “from His mouth…” is an obvious allusion back to Isaiah 11:4. We see at the book of the Revelation the description of Christ in Revelation 1:16 and 2:16. I think it’s the idea of the power of the Gospel in overcoming evil as it is proclaimed by His saints. In 2 Thessalonians 2:8, Christ overcomes the anti-Christ with his mouth. You might want to see Hebrews 4:12 where the concept of the Word of God as a sharp two-edged sword is found. Now then it says, “and He will rule them with a rod of iron;…” – this is an obvious allusion back to Psalms 2:9, and Psalm 2 has been the background for much of the imagery of the last few chapters. To ‘rule with with a rod of iron’ has the idea that Christ has absolute authority, and He cannot be resisted; you might also want to see Revelation 2:27 and 12:5. And the third metaphor then is the wine-press which points to the complete overthrow of those who resist God.
Then it says in verse 16, “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written,…” – now, does that mean one title in two places, or two different names? The name of Christ or the name of God in Christ? Well I think it’s a name that represents both the Father and the Son here. I think the title may be on His robe. And since the thigh is most likely the place you can see that title when you’re riding the horse, it may be the name of God is written on His garment. Others say it’s in the place where the sword should have been. Others say the thigh is the strongest muscle of the body, and it’s a symbol of might and power. I’m not sure which it is. And the name is, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” – this same name occurred in chapter 17:14 and we see it had an Old Testament background for Yahweh in Deuteronomy 10:17. It also has a Babylonian background in Daniel 2:37 where it was used of Nebuchadnezzar. One commentator has said that when you put this name in Aramaic, it adds up to 777. Now wouldn’t that be a beautiful antithesis to the number of the beast in chapter 13:18 that adds up to 666? The name “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” most definitely refers to Christ in His capacity as supreme Ruler, and John leaves us in no doubt as to who is supreme Lord!
(TO BE CONTINUED)