Revelation 19:11-21 Sermon – Return Of The King
I was amazed when I looked up a survey which said that 79% of Americans believe Jesus will return to the earth someday. It was surprising to me that so many people say they believe Jesus will return to earth, but then they live as if He won’t.
Perhaps they think that when He comes back, everybody will enter paradise and it will be one big happy reunion.
But what will really happen when Jesus returns to the earth?
Today we are studying the Return of the King. And we will see that the King who returns is very different than many people expect.
Revelation 19:11-21 – Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.
I. The Rider of the White Horse (11-14)
Rider of White Horse
John “saw heaven opened and behold…” All eyes are on Jesus, beholding Him. Jesus is the star of the show. Jesus’ second coming is very different from His first coming. The first time He came, He was born as a baby in a rural, corner of the world, with poor parents. Only a very few people saw Him and realized who He was at the time. And the purpose of His coming was different. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He rode on a donkey. It was a symbol of His humility and gentleness.
At His first coming, Jesus said, “I did not come to judge the world.” (John 12:47)
But next time He will. He will be riding on a white horse to wage war. This is the symbol of a king. In Revelation 6, the Antichrist was riding a white horse. He was the pretender, copy catting what he knew Jesus would be doing. Now every eye will behold Jesus for who He is, the King of Kings. No more excuses. No more denials. No more false bravado.
Behold. That is what we want to do today. We want to behold Jesus for who He is. Many tend to focus on certain qualities Jesus demonstrated at His first coming that they are attracted to: compassion, service, humility, love, and sacrifice. In this chapter, we see a completely different, but equally important side of who Jesus is.
Faithful and True
Jesus is called “Faithful” and “True.” Both of these highlight the fact that Jesus does what He says. Jesus promised to come again. People mock. They will say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:4). They will claim that the long time gap is proof that Jesus is not true.
Recently someone replied to an online Bible study I posted and said “Jesus is a false prophet” because He hasn’t returned yet.
But Jesus is faithful and true. He will come again just as He promised.
In Righteousness He Judges and Makes War
Jesus is just and righteous. The war that He makes on the Antichrist and his rebels is a righteous war. Many of the wars waged by man are evil wars. Sometimes the motive is money or resources, power, land, revenge, and hate.
But there have also been wars where one side was in the right. In WWII, the countries fighting against the evils of Nazi Germany were fighting a just war. They had to stop the evil. And war was the only way to do it. After the allies won the war, they held a trial for many of the Nazi leaders. And many of these were put to death. It was justice.
In a similar way, the war Jesus will make against the Antichrist and his rebels is a righteous war.
Many people ask, “why does God allow evil?” and “why doesn’t God just stop sin?”
But they don’t understand that to do that requires war and judgment. Nazi Germany would not be stopped without war. And neither will the sin we see today. Right now God is patient and He is giving more time for repentance. Yet He will not allow the evil and rebellion to go on forever. And that is why this war is necessary.
He sent prophets. The world didn’t listen. He sent His Son. The world didn’t listen. He sent His Word, the Holy Spirit, missionaries, and the church. The world didn’t listen. In Revelation, we have seen that He sent 21 separate judgments, many of them a warning of the hell and judgment to come. The world didn’t listen. He sent 144,000 witnesses. He sent angels. He proclaimed messages of warning from the sky. The world didn’t listen. Instead, they became more and more wicked in their lusts, pride, and blasphemies.
Thus the only solution is this righteous war. Not one person on earth will be able to claim ignorance as an excuse. Each one had many opportunities, but chose the way of rebellion. Jesus Himself will personally come again and wage a righteous war of judgment.
Eyes Like a Flame of Fire
Jesus sees all and knows all. His gaze penetrates any facade people put up. When He returns on His white horse His gaze will expose all. He will search the earth for those who are His enemies in order to bring them to judgment. No one can hide from Him. Caves, concrete bunkers, it doesn’t matter. His wrath will expose all of those who have lived in rebellion toward Him.
Luke 8:17 – For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.
Application: The Lord sees all and knows all. What does He see when He looks at you? His eyes with either bring judgment or support.
2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.
Think about your own life. What is one “secret” you have that you wouldn’t want announced in church next Sunday? Take it to Christ. Admit to Him that He knows all. Confess. Bring it to the light. Seek for His help and you can overcome it through Christ.
A diadem is a jeweled crown worn as a symbol of sovereignty. It shows the authority and dignity of the one wearing it. Jesus will not just be wearing one. He will have “many diadems.” It will be clear to all that Jesus is coming as the King.
When Jesus came the first time, they rejected Him as their king. Pilate wrote “the King of the Jews” on the cross where He was killed. And the Jewish leaders were angry. “Don’t call Him the King of the Jews.” They did not consider that He was their king.
That unwillingness to submit to Jesus as king continues. Many of the same people who in that survey said they believe Jesus will return to earth, don’t submit to Him. They don’t want to acknowledge that He is the authority.
Application: If you believe that Jesus is king, He demands that you live your life that way. Acknowledging Him as king, means that we should submit to Him. Are there areas of your life that you won’t submit to His rule? Are there strongholds that you want to keep Him out of? Perhaps you treat Him as king on Sunday morning, but on Tuesday morning at 1 AM you are not. Perhaps you treat Him as king at church, but in your dorm or when out with your co-workers you do not. He is the King of Kings. He has eyes like a flame of fire. You can keep no secrets from Him. Treat Him as king at home and when you are out, when you are alone or when you are with others, on Sunday, and the rest of the week.
A Name That No One Knows
The name “Jesus” was given to Him after Gabriel told Joseph to name Him this. This was His name as a man. But He has another name which He had before the name Jesus. It is unknown to us and means “the Word of God.”
It reminds us that we know only a small fraction of what there is to know about Jesus. We know only what He has revealed to us so far. There are many more things which have not yet been revealed. And we will be learning more about our Savior for all eternity. Since He is infinite, we can be always learning of Him but never fully knowing Him.
Robe Dipped In Blood
When you first think of blood, you probably think of it as the symbol of atonement. But here, that is not what it means. The immediate context shows us that this represents Jesus’ victory in this war over His enemies. To put it graphically, as Jesus treads on them, their blood tinges His robe.
The first time Jesus came He was a lamb. His opponents mocked Him, scoffed Him, and beat Him. And the lamb was silent. But now the lamb turns into a lion. Can you imagine how a group of bullies would react if they were throwing stones at a lamb and then it turned into a lion right in front of them?
That is Jesus at His second coming. The first time He was covered in blood it was His own. Now the blood is the blood of His enemies. And this is a vivid reminder of the gospel message. Jesus shed His blood so that you don’t have to. If you accept Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf then when He comes in judgment, you will be spared. Your blood will not be shed. It won’t be your blood tinging His robe. But if you don’t accept His sacrifice then your blood will be shed. And that highlights God’s justice. Sin must be punished. Either Jesus takes it or you do.
Armies of Heaven Following Him
Do you know how to ride a horse? You will. Believers are going to have a front row seat to the action. You will be following Jesus and riding a white horse of your own. So if you don’t know how to ride a horse, you had better take lessons.
As believers, we are part of this war. But at that time you won’t need to do very much. Jesus is going to fight the battles Himself. Your role will simply be to observe what Jesus is doing and in seeing His victory, give Him glory and praise.
Jesus victory then reminds us of how we can have victory now. You would not be able to defeat the Antichrist and the armies of the world. They have all the weapons. They have the numbers. They have all the advantages, except for one. We have Jesus on our side.
What is our theme this year? Overcoming through Christ!
In this war, Jesus is the victory. He is the victory tomorrow. And He is also the victory today.
Application: What is the battle that you are fighting? Temptation? Health problem? Jesus is the solution. Do not depend on your own strength or your own intelligence. Look to Him. He will help you overcome.
II. The War that He Wages (15-19)
From verse 15 we see the war that Jesus wages. This is called Armageddon. It is called this because the armies of the world will gather together in the Jezreel valley as a staging area before launching their final assault against Jerusalem. And in this valley is a small city called Megiddo, from which we get the term Armageddon. Armageddon is not a single battle, but a war with multiple fronts. Jesus will face His enemies probably in multiple locations before finally setting His feet back in Jerusalem on the Mt. of Olives.
Joel 3:2 – I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land.
God is the one behind the gathering of these forces. They think that they are clever, gathering all of mankind’s power together to defeat His people and Him. Can you imagine how prideful that is. By this time, they will know the prophecies. And they will be attacking His people so that He will come and they can take Him out. But in the end they are only fulfilling His prophecies, gathering in one location so that He can deal with them quickly and snuff them out all at once.
Zechariah 14:2-4 – For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.
What a day that will be!
A Sharp Sword To Strike Down The Nations
In Revelation 1:16 Jesus was described as having a sharp two-edged sword coming from His mouth. The sword is the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17). The world will come together to fight Jesus with all of the weapons they have. Most likely, there will be tanks, fighter aircraft, missiles, and even nuclear bombs. What weapons will Jesus have? Just His words. That is all He will need.
Just as He has the power to create the universe with the spoken word, so His spoken word can immediately mow down His enemies.
Colossians 1:17 – And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Jesus did not only create the world. He is sustaining it. He is literally holding it together. If He were to withdraw His power, the molecules and atoms would fly apart. Everything would descend into chaos. At this moment it will be as if at a spoken word His sustaining power will be removed from these people and they will just die.
Zechariah 14:12 – And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
Death will be virtually instantaneous. Their flesh will just rot and melt away.
Every person lives by the mercy of God. Rich and poor, powerful or sick, atheist and believer, all draw breath because God allows them to. If He were to withdraw His life sustaining power from you for even an instant, you would cease to breathe.
Application: Let everything that has breathe praise the Lord. We must humbly recognize that our lives are in His hands. We are made through Him and for Him.
He Will Rule Them With A Rod Of Iron
Some translations call this an iron scepter.
Psalm 45:6 – Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness.
A scepter shows Jesus’ power and authority over the nations. The war is not a war to destroy everything and everyone. It is a war to purify the world and judge His enemies because Jesus is going to set up a kingdom. The war sets the stage for Jesus’ physical reign on earth, which we will learn more about next week.
Revelation 20:6 – And they will reign with him for a thousand years.
There are different opinions on this, but I take this literally. And knowing that Jesus is going to reign as king in this world is a very encouraging truth.
Jesus is going to rule. And what a perfect ruler He will be! We have people from scores of countries here.
Which one of you is happy with the government and political leaders of your home country?
One thing people from all over the world have in common is they complain about their government. We see corruption. We see selfishness. We see inept leadership. We see injustice. We see short sighted policies. We see evil called good and good called evil. We see people oppressed, exploited, or empowered to sin.
When Jesus reigns, no more! He is going to rule with a rod of iron, which is symbolic of quick and swift justice. There will be peace. Not only will believers be able to rest and enjoy His kingdom, but even creation itself will rest.
Do you look forward to that?
I do. I am tired of all of the bad news. I am tired of all of the evil and corruption. I look forward to Jesus’ just and perfect rule.
He Will Tread The Winepress Of The Fury Of the Wrath of God
The same imagery is used in the Old Testament for God’s wrath against sin (Isaiah 63:3, Joel 3:13). The image is clear. The traditional way to make wine is to first have people crush grapes under their feet. They smash and obliterate the grapes and the juice pours out. In a similar way, Jesus will crush His enemies and their blood will flow like juice from grapes.
It is a graphic image. It reminds us just how angry God is with sin. The pride, immorality, corruption, and evil make Him absolutely furious.
Again and again in Scripture we see two aspects of God’s character: His mercy/compassion and His justice/holiness. For millennia the dam of God’s mercy has been holding His righteous judgment at bay. But during all of those millennia it is as if the waters of judgment are getting higher and higher behind that dam. Then when the dam is finally removed the torrent of judgment will be released. And because it has been stored up for so long, it will be catastrophic.
Application: Seeing God’s judgment unleashed should remind us of how serious sin is. And seeing how serious sin is, reminds to be even more thankful for the forgiveness we have in Christ.
The One Sided War
In verses 17-18 we see the results of this war. The world will gather together everything they have. The greatest soldiers of the world will be there along with the most powerful weapons they can muster. It will be the epic climax of the battle between God and Satan, good and evil, for all time. It will be extremely anticlimactic. It will be over in an instant. The enemies of Christ will be instantly defeated. Their flesh will be eaten by wild beasts and the birds of the air as the ultimate disgrace.
Psalms 2:1-4 – Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
The best effort that Satan and the world can put against God, and He laughs. It’s a joke. All of the promises and gloating bravado by by Satan and his minions will be shown to be a farce, a ruse designed to entrap and deceive.
III. The Judgment Against His Enemies (19-21)
Beast and False Prophet Judged
The Antichrist and the false prophet will utter the most evil blasphemies. With their slick tongues and fake miracles, they will deceive most of the world. And here we finally see them receive their due. They won’t be boasting anymore.
A few weeks ago one of the discussion questions was, “which judgment do you most look forward to?” My answer was this one. The beast and the false prophet, who deceive so many, will be held accountable. Like everyone else, they will reap what they sow.
Much like Jesus was the firstfruits of the resurrection, they will be the first ones thrown into hell. A thousand years later (in the next chapter) we see they are still there when Satan himself will be thrown in.
The Rest Were Slain
All of the others were slain by the sword from His mouth.
Conclusion: What Jesus are you following?
To be a Christian, means that we are followers of Jesus. But I think for a lot of Christians the Jesus they are following is not the Jesus in the Bible. Many believe that Jesus is loving, kind, tolerant, and merciful. And of course He is. But they neglect the other qualities of Jesus, the ones we see in this chapter.
They say things like “Jesus is love. He wouldn’t judge me for [fill in the blank and pick a sin].” This is a shallow and warped view of who Jesus us. In this passage we see qualities of Jesus: fury, wrath, judgment, waging war, conquering enemies.
All of these remind us of His intense holiness and hatred of sin. These things do not lessen His work on the Christ. Instead, they should make us appreciate it that much more. He hates sin, but He became sin for us. He is perfectly just, but He still found a perfectly just way for our sins to be washed away.
The very saddest part of the judgment in Revelation is the fact that it is so unnecessary. No one has to face it. Another future has been opened for us on the cross.
If you haven’t done so, I would invite you to come to Jesus and believe Him today. Join His army so that you will be on the right side of this conflict.
If you are already a follower of Jesus, ask yourself what Jesus are you following? Are you following one of your own imagination, a Jesus who is always tolerant of everything? Or are you following a Jesus who is just and holy and hates sin?
- What does it mean that Jesus will rule the nations with a rod of iron? Who will He rule? Why a rod of iron?
- What is most impressive/memorable to you about Jesus in this passage?
- What are some specific things you can do to make Jesus King of your home and life right now?
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