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Revelation 19: The grandeur of Christ’s return (part 2)

Unsplash/Joseph Chan
Unsplash/Joseph Chan

Dr. Andrew Bonar recounts an episode from the 16th century when Protestantism seemed to be faltering. It was during these troubled times that John Knox received an invitation from some faithful defenders of the truth in Scotland, and quickly departed from Geneva to answer the call. As soon as he set foot on Scottish soil, word of his arrival spread like wildfire. The cry rang out in every corner, “John Knox has arrived! John Knox has arrived!”

The city of Edinburgh spilled into the streets, where people of all ages and social statuses eagerly gathered, filled with much anticipation. Everyday activities and pursuits came to a halt. Even the clergy, priests, and friars abandoned their altars and masses to watch with unease or found themselves isolated, like lepers. Scholars were torn from their books, and mothers set aside their infants and rushed to learn the cause of the commotion. Travelers hastily mounted their horses and sped into the countryside, proclaiming the news, “John Knox has arrived! John Knox has arrived!”

At each humble cottage, residents gathered at their doors, curiosity piqued, while horsemen continued to spread the word, “Knox has arrived! Knox has arrived!” Even ships departing from the harbor signaled each other at sea to convey the momentous tidings. Shepherds, tending their flocks on the hillsides, heard the news and castle guards challenged the approach of swift footsteps, only to be met with the reply, “John Knox has arrived! John Knox has arrived!” The entire nation was in motion, and the whole country was invigorated by a newfound inspiration, causing the hearts of Protestantism’s adversaries to wither.

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If this was the profound impact of one man, a mortal subject to the same human passions as the rest of us, what shall be the effect when the announcement reverberates throughout the world, the seas, and the skies, that “The Son of Man — the God-Man — Jesus has come! Jesus is here!”

In Revelation chapter 19, verses 11-16, Jesus has come! Here is what everything previously written in Revelation was leading up to — the return of Christ.

In verses 11 and 12 alone, the grandeur of Christ is on full display. The sky rolls back for His appearance. He is seen riding a regal white horse. He is the living personification of unwavering faithfulness and the very essence of transcendent truth. He comes, not in humility, but as a victor with unparalleled authority, as indicated by the many diadems (crowns) on His head. His eyes are like flames of fire, piercing with omniscience and fierce wrath. He bears a name so profound and mysterious that it lies beyond the reach of human cognition. He comes as a Warrior-King to wage a final battle against the vile forces of spiritual criminality and rebellion against God. To the dissidents of God’s grace, the opposers of the Christian way, those who have denigrated, disparaged, discredited, and dehumanized Christ’s followers, his appearance strikes fear and foreboding into their hearts. But to those who have loved and waited patiently for Him, his arrival represents the fulfillment of their faith and the ultimate triumph over adversity. Their hearts will be full of elation, ecstasy, and exultation.

Perhaps one of the greatest Gospel songs ever written was penned and composed by Bill Gaither, “The King is Coming.” Its chorus captures something of the splendor and joy of Christ’s return for his own:

“O the King is coming,
The King is coming!
I just heard the trumpets sounding,
And now His face I see,
O the King is coming,
The King is coming!
Praise God, He’s coming for me!”

No doubt, it would be good to once more consider what Revelation 19:11-16 says, then pick up where we last left off with verses 13-16, which declare more about the coming King’s glory!

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords” (Revelation 19:11-16).

Behold the resplendent Christ, astride the alabaster steed, His form enveloped in a robe that manifests the crimson hue of blood. To whom does this blood belong?

Erudite Christian scholars such as H.A. Ironside in Lectures on the Revelation say, “It is his own blood that is here in view.”

In his classic 1965 writing, World Aflame, the late globetrotting evangelist who led tens of thousands to Christ as Savior, wrote about the significance of Christ’s blood which was shed on Calvary’s Cross. Dr. Billy Graham said the line of demarcation separating man’s way to be saved and God’s way is the blood of Christ. He wrote:

“From the very beginning, all attempts to recover man from his lost estate have been divided into two ways. Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. One of them came God’s way; he was obedient. The other one, Cain, came his own way; he was disobedient … While he was religious and appeared before God’s altar, he denied the implied revelation of salvation given to Adam in the form of clothing provided through the life of another (Genesis 3:21). He brought to the altar an expression of his own labors and strength. He became the prototype of all who dare approach God without the shedding of blood … His way humanized God and deified man. His way was the way of the materialist, the secularist, the humanist…

“From the time of Cain and Abel until today, man has sought to provide his own remedy for his disease, sin. It did not work for Cain, it has never worked for any man, and it will not work today. Only God can properly diagnose man’s disease; only God can provide the remedy. And God chose blood as the means of redemption. The apostle John wrote that Jesus Christ ‘washed us from our sins in his own blood’ (Revelation 1:5).

“Blood is the symbol of the life sacrificed for sin. ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul’ (Leviticus 17:11). Throughout the Old Testament is recorded over and over again that God required the life of a perfect animal, with its blood poured out on the altar, as a sacrifice for sin. ‘Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins’ (Hebrews 9:22). These sacrifices were made in anticipation of the day when a permanent sacrifice would be made. ‘In these sacrifices, year after year sins are brought to mind, because sins can never be removed by the blood of bulls and goats’ (Hebrews 10:3, 4).

“When Jesus Christ, the perfect God-man, shed His blood on the Cross, He was surrendering his pure and spotless life to death as an eternal sacrifice for man’s sin. Once and for all God made complete and perfect provision for the cure of man’s sin; without the blood of Christ, it [sin] is a fatal disease … The apostles affirmed this repeatedly …

“Every person must make his choice between the two ways — man’s way or God’s way. One is the way of self-effort and striving to cure one’s self and to provide one’s own redemption; the other way is justification through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.”

Each of these assertions by Graham is true. Nevertheless, other Christian scholars say the blood seen on Christ’s robe while straddling the white horse at his Second Coming is not His blood, but the blood of His enemies.

The great conservative Christian preacher and teacher, M.R. Dehaan said in his book, Revelation, that Jesus at His first coming endured excruciating pain and suffering. In the garden, He prayed so intensely that drops of his blood fell from His brow and onto the ground. In the judgment hall, His innocent back was lashed with cruelty, causing the blood to flow. When a crown of thorns was forced onto His head, the blood trickled down, and as His hands and feet were pierced, the blood freely poured forth. But then Dehaan adds:

“Isaiah tells us that when he [Christ] comes again, he will stain his raiment with the blood of his enemies. This may shock you, but it is the clear teaching of the Word of God. Jesus Christ is not a weakling. He is not only a tender and compassionate Savior to all who believe on Him; He is also the righteous and eternal judge of all those who reject. There is teaching abroad in the world which robs Christ of one of his principal attributes: His justice. To be sure, He is love, but He is also justice, and while He deals in infinite mercy with those who believe on Him, He deals also in infinite justice and righteousness with those who turn their backs on Him. For this reason, Isaiah tells us in that chapter which speaks of his glorious Second Coming … ’For I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment” (Isaiah 63:2-3).

The Bible is clear, we must fully accept the blood of Christ for the forgiveness and cleansing of our sins or Christ Himself will require our own blood. On the day the Lord Jesus comes back, “He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty,” and the blood of multitudes of sinners will be “likened to the flowing of juice from a winepress” (Revelation 19:15).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The rider’s title on the white horse is “The Word of God” (v. 13). This verse references another one of John’s writings, his Gospel account, where he says, “In the beginning, the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Later in verse 14 of the same chapter, the apostle writes, “So the Word became human and made his home among us.”  

This is one of the most important teachings in the Scripture. It’s a statement of Christ’s divinity. In other words, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is in every way God. He is the living Word of God, meaning He is the very expression of God. Jesus shows who God is and what He is like.

Charles Ryrie in A Survey of Bible Doctrine, has marvelously stated:

“Through Jesus Christ, God revealed himself in clarity and detail. The miracles of Christ showed things like the glory of God (John 2:11); His words told of the Father’s care (John 14:2); His person showed the Father (John 14:9). The way to know God is to know His Son; and apart from the Revelation through the Son, little is known of God.”

Indeed, Christ is the living Word of God. However, as Ryrie further points out, there is another avenue by which God reveals Himself and that is the Bible, the written Word of God. Ryrie argues:

“Today some are saying that the Bible is a lesser revelation than the Son, and to make too much of it is to worship the Bible [a form of idolatry called bibliolatry]. But if we do not make much of the Bible, then we cannot know much about the Son. Or if only certain parts of the Bible are trustworthy, we will end up with as many pictures of Christ as there are people picking the parts of the biography that they think are reliable. In other words, if the Bible is not completely true, we end up with either misinformation or subjective evaluation. Jesus himself asserted that the Bible revealed him (Luke 24:27, 44-45; John 5:39).”

This is a critical point!  To diminish the authority of either Jesus Christ, the living Word, or the Bible, the written Word, is to undermine both. Christ’s title is the Word of God.

Who follows the Lord Jesus riding a white horse on the magnificent day of His return? The Bible says he is followed by the armies of Heaven, dressed in pure white linen, who are riding white horses, too.

Jude also mentions this event, saying:

“Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, ‘Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14, 15).

The reference to “countless thousands of his holy ones” could be interpreted as angelic beings who accompany Christ during His return, as is often seen in other passages of Scripture. The primary emphasis here is on the divine judgment that will be executed upon the ungodly for their actions and insults against God.

However, the concept of the saints participating in Christ’s judgment at His return seems to be suggested by passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, where the apostle Paul mentions believers judging the world and even angels. This was obviously the position of the German Pietist A. W. Boehm, who wrote:

“There will be a time when the Church of Christ will come up from the wilderness of her crosses and afflictions, leaning upon her Beloved, and in his power bidding defiance to all her enemies. Then shall the Church … appear Terrible as an Army with banners; but terrible to only those that despised her while she was in her minority and would not have her Beloved to reign over them.”

He will rule over them, nonetheless. He will strike down the nations and he won’t need any modern weapons of warfare. He will use only the sharp sword of His mouth — the Word of God — which is “sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). He will rule over them with an iron rod” (v. 15), putting an end to injustice, establishing a kingdom of peace and righteousness where every action will be according to God’s divine plan and purpose. His authority and His dominion will be complete and without rival.

Finally, He will be recognized, worshipped, honored, lauded, and willingly obeyed for the potentate he has always been, but was wrongfully and foolishly denied, “King of all kings and Lord of all lords” (v. 16).

O God hasten the day, when people everywhere will finally and jubilantly say, “Jesus has come! Jesus is here!”

Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.

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