This sermon is number 18 in a series of 20
The Book Of The Revelation - Part 18
"The Return Of Jesus Christ"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2008 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
"After these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh".
'How will it all end?', is a question that has been key throughout the history of humankind. Of course, there is great debate as to where we all came from, there is dispute, philosophising, about why we are here, what is the purpose of our lives? But of course, we've got here somehow, we're here for a reason - whatever it is - but perhaps the greatest question of all is: how will it all end? Chapters 19 and 20 really give to us those events that will take place before God wraps up human history according to His will, and ushers in a new heaven and a new earth. We'll be taking time in two weeks, three weeks skipping the holiday, to look at that great event when there will be seven new things that the Lord will bring into being.
But our Lord Jesus Christ, as we see in chapter 19, is going to return again - and His return will combine all the hopes and dreams of billions of people who have put their faith in God, from the first man Adam until the tribulation saints that we have seen already in the book of Revelation. This chapter 19, the events encapsulated within it, will be the most monumental event in human history to date. The Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth and, as we have read, He will return in great power and glory to set up His kingdom - and as we will see in our next study in chapter 20, that kingdom will last for 1000 years.
Now, from a prophetic standpoint, this chapter is the culmination of all prophetic Scripture. Take them all in the Old and New Testament, and this is a great climax. There are approximately 8 times more prophecies concerning this second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in Scripture than there were regarding His first coming to Bethlehem's manger. There are about 325 prophecies concerning this event in chapter 19 of Revelation that guarantee that it will take place, and that will usher in the most ideal conditions the earth has ever seen since the garden of Eden.
So we have come this far, and if you're following in your chart, you will see that we have effectively passed through the seven years of tribulation - we've seen seven seals, seven trumpet judgements, seven key figures in the book, seven bowl judgements, seven dooms on spiritual and commercial Babylon - and the return of Christ is where we are tonight, that will end that seven-year tribulation period and usher in the new millennial age. So our chapter tonight begins in verse 1 with a hallelujah chorus, in effect - 'Hallelujah', which of course means 'Praise the Lord'.
It's interesting to note that this is the only time you find 'Hallelujah' in the whole of the New Testament, in this chapter. Now I don't want to build too much on that, but save to say that the reason for it - heaven's hallelujah chorus - is because the great whore of chapter 17, Mystery Babylon, has been destroyed. Now you remember that it wasn't destroyed directly by God's hand, though it was through God's sovereign direction, destroyed through the beast, the antichrist. You remember this great harlot rode the back of the beast, but that beast turned upon her, we believe round about the halfway period of the tribulation, and that will allow the beast to appoint a false prophet as the great religious leader; and the people who have taken the mark of the beast will begin to follow him. Also we saw in chapter 18 the destruction of commercial Babylon, which may literally be a revived city of Babylon in a future day - we can't be sure of that, but it might be - and this judgement, this second doom upon commercial Babylon may take place at a different time. Whatever is the case, heaven is rejoicing!
Now please, as I said last week, they are not rejoicing over souls that are being condemned to eternal judgement. God does not delight in the death of the wicked. But they are rejoicing and praising God that His justice is being meted out against rebellious mankind. In verse 6 we read: 'And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth', or literally that could read 'The Lord omnipotent has begun to reign'. Now of course, that doesn't mean that He hasn't been reigning at some time in human history - but what the inference is is that: God has allowed Satan and man to have his hour; He has allowed, with certain restraints of course, Satan and man to do his will; but now the time has come when God omnipotent shall reign and show His reign to all the universe.
Of course Revelation, as we saw right at the very beginning of our study, is the book of the throne - 'throne' is mentioned more than any word in this particular book. Here we see that God in His sovereignty, who has allowed Satan and satanic forces and all mankind to have his way, is now having His will done on earth as it is in heaven. During the time John was on the Isle of Patmos and given this vision, Domitian was the Emperor of Rome. One of his assumed titles was 'Lord and God'. Four times at the beginning of this chapter, indeed in the first six verses, we find this word 'Alleluia', 'Praise the Lord Jehovah', to declare that truly only Jehovah is worthy of our worship and our praise - and He shall reign through the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to this earth, and the setting up of His kingdom.
But before we come to John's depiction from this vision given by the Spirit in this chapter, there is an event that is given to us first in the chapter, and it appears that this must happen before our Lord comes. It is called the 'Marriage Supper of the Lamb', and we find it in verses 7 to 10. Now let us just define who is who in this account. The bride here is obviously the church of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11 verse 2, Paul the apostle said to the Corinthians: 'For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you', or betrothed you, 'to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ'. Now we had, in chapter 17, a harlot; we had in chapter 12 a woman which was the wife of Jehovah, Israel; but here we have the bride. The bride of Christ is the church - Ephesians 5 bears that out: husbands should love their wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.
The Bridegroom here, of course, obviously then is the Lord Jesus Himself. You remember John the Baptist in John 3:39 declared the Lord Jesus to be the Bridegroom, and of course he was the friend of the Bridegroom, or we would call him the 'best man'. Now at the wedding, as we all know, it is customary to focus our attention on the bride - but here in verse 7 we see that it is the Groom that receives all the honour: 'Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him'. Now the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is one of the reasons why we believe that the rapture of the church is a separate and distinct event from what we find here later on in this chapter 19 - the second coming, or the return of our Lord Jesus. It's not the only reason, as we will see in a moment or two. Something that will precede the Marriage Supper is the 'bema', spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5 and verse 10, Paul said that we as believers would stand before the judgement seat of Christ, and our works would be judged. Those things that remained would be accredited to us in reward, and the wood, hay and stubble would be burnt up; and we would get into heaven just by the skin of our teeth, so to speak, because our souls are saved but we have perhaps nothing to offer to the Lord.
Now that has to take place before the Marriage Supper, because at the Marriage Supper the church, as we see from verses 7 to 10, is clothed, prepared to be wed to the Lord Jesus in order to return with Him to the earth. Verse 8, the second half, says that they were arrayed - the church, the bride - in 'fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints'. Now that's literally translated: 'righteous acts of the saints'. So the saints are being arrayed, having been rewarded at the judgement seat of Christ, with their righteous acts, according to what they have done on the earth for Jesus Christ. Now there is a warning for us all, and an incentive to be up and doing while it is yet day. But what I need you to see tonight is that this judgement seat and clothing and marriage is in preparation for the bride accompanying Jesus Christ when He returns to the earth.
We will see in a moment or two that He returns with His saints. Now if that is the case, and it seems to be from this passage and many others, it follows that the church must already be in heaven, completed. That's why, throughout this series, we have made a distinction between tribulation saints, believing Jews, the 144,000, and the church. Now if this is correct, there is an interval needed before the return of Christ - what we're looking at here tonight - so that there is a judgement seat, and there is a Marriage Supper, there is an interval needed for this to happen. Of course, the interval is possible - as you look at this chart - because of the rapture of the church. The church will be raptured, we believe, before this seven-year tribulation period. These things, in heaven, will take place - the Bema, the Marriage Supper - while the seven years of tribulation are going on down here on the earth. So we will be judged at the bema, and prepared and clothed for the Marriage Supper, to return with our Lord Jesus Christ in His second advent. So the bride, the church, we arrive in heaven at the rapture. We are judged at the judgement seat, and now the church is arrayed in radiant glory, 'made herself ready' - and there is the emphasis on what we do down here for Christ in the Spirit - 'made herself ready' to return with the Lord.
Now it's hard for us, at times, to understand all of this because we have inherited a Western culture, and the Jewish culture of the day - as far as weddings went - was quite unlike weddings here in 21st-century Western society. First of all, there was a betrothal - now that is equivalent, I suppose in a sense, to our engagement - but the betrothal was usually made by the parents of the couple, prospective bride and groom, when they were very young. That engagement was binding - that's the difference between our engagement and their betrothal: it could not be broken, only by a form of divorce, and that was only on the grounds of unfaithfulness during that engagement period. Now when the public ceremony was to be enacted, their betrothal period had ended and it was coming to the marriage, the groom would go to the bride's house - that's important - the groom would go to the bride's house, and there he would claim his bride, take her from that house for himself, and bring her to the wedding supper that would take place in his house, or his father's house...where all the celebrants, the guests, would join the happy couple; and that feast could last as long as a week.
Now, I hope you begin to see the similarities, because the church of Jesus Christ - as Paul has already told us from 2 Corinthians 11 as we read it - is engaged, betrothed to Christ. We, like that young prospective bride and groom, we love One whom we have never seen. Now this is exactly what the Lord Jesus was talking about when He spoke to His disciples in John chapter 14 - to understand this, I want us to look at it. Turn with me to this great chapter, you probably could quote it from memory - there's not enough pages turning, come on keep with me! It's important that you see this. The Lord Jesus, of course, before He goes to the cross, is speaking to His disciples and says in verse 1: 'Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me'.
The Lord Jesus is telling His disciples that He will return, He will take them as His bride to His Father's house. Do you see it? It's based on the custom of the day. Now, when we turn to 1 Thessalonians 4 - do that - we come to a fundamental passage of Scripture concerning the doctrine of the rapture, and we find that this portion is identical in literary structure to John 14. I'll show you what we mean in a moment, but let's read it - verse 13 of 1 Thessalonians 4: 'But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words'.
Those two passages that we have just read are speaking about the same event. Now maybe you have never seen this before - keep 1 Thessalonians 4 open please, because you probably know John 14 from memory. 'Let not your heart be troubled', Jesus told them in John 14; Paul says 'Ye sorrow not as others without hope'. 'Ye believe', the Lord said; verse 14 'If we believe'. Verse 1 'If ye believe in God', John 14, 'believe also in me'; verse 14 of 1 Thessalonians 'if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God' - Jesus and God. 'If it were not so', the Lord said, 'I would have told you'; verse 15 'We say unto you'. Verse 3 'I will come again'; verse 15 'We which are alive and remain unto the coming', there's the coming, 'of the Lord'. Verse 3 of John 14, 'If I come again, I will receive you'; verse 17 of 1 Thessalonians 'Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up' - receiving. John 14 verse 3, 'I will receive you to myself'; verse 17 of 1 Thessalonians 4 'We will be caught up to meet the Lord'. 'To be where I am', the Lord said in verse 3 of John 14; verse 17 of 1 Thessalonians 4 'We will be ever with the Lord'.
I hope you see that the literary structure is identical, though the words are not exactly the same. We see that this is the same event that is being spoken of by the apostle Paul, that our Lord shared with the disciples in John 14. Now I have been asked over these Monday evenings about the distinction between the rapture of the church and the second coming of our Lord, and I have to say to you that there is no single Bible verse that teaches explicitly and comprehensively the rapture of the church. But if you look at this chart, you will see that there are examples of raptures in the Bible right from the beginning, after creation and the fall: Enoch in Genesis chapter 5 was taken to heaven without dying, effectively he was raptured. After the Exodus we have Elijah, and he was taken to heaven, you remember, in a chariot of fire without dying - 2 Kings 2. Now Isaiah, in Isaiah 6, received a vision of the throne of God - and whilst it wasn't a true rapture, it may have been, in effect, a rapture - although, of course, he came to again and lived his life and died on the earth. After the Old Testament period, there is our Lord Jesus Christ, and Acts 1 talks of His ascension; and indeed in Revelation 12, you remember this babe that was born of the woman with the twelve stars round her head, the dragon desired to devour the child, and the child was taken up into heaven - an ascension, but the ascension was effectively a rapture: taken up to glory.
Of course Philip, in Acts chapter 8, after leading the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ, he was 'snatched away' - it's effectively a rapture. Paul the apostle, in 2 Corinthians 12, was taken up into the third heaven - and again it isn't technically a rapture, although he was taken into heaven probably in his spirit - whilst it was visionary, nevertheless it gives us this idea. John had a similar experience, you remember after the church age is outlined for us in chapters 2 and 3, in chapter 4, as he's about to see the things that are going to take place, he is taken up - and many believe he is a representative of the church there - at the beginning of the chapter.
Then we have the rapture, 1 Thessalonians 4, and we have seen already that after the church is taken to the Father's house, during the tribulation period in Revelation 11 there are two witnesses that are slain, and they are raised to life again, but they are raptured - they're taken up to glory. Now, though I've already said that there is not one single Bible verse that teaches explicitly and comprehensively on the rapture, there are many other doctrines in the Bible that don't have a single verse or a single passage that explicitly or comprehensively explain them. I can give you examples of that: the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, everything concerning His personhood as both God and man, cannot be encapsulated into one verse, we need the whole gamut of the New Testament for that. The doctrine of the Trinity: you may get aspects of the Trinity doctrine from one verse or one passage, but we need the whole of the Bible to really come to terms with a systematic conclusion - and that's how we come to many of our doctrines in New Testament Scriptures. We harmonise the word of God and its various facets and aspects, and we come up with a systematic, literal interpretation of the New Testament to get our doctrine.
Now, when you do that with regards to Scripture that relates to the second coming, you begin to see that there is a definite distinct separateness with this event which we call the rapture. I think it becomes clearer that it happens before the seven-year tribulation period, and is distinct from this event we are about to look at tonight in Revelation 19. Let me show how it is distinct. If you look at the screen, we will compare the two. The rapture: 1 Thessalonians 4 tells us that Christ comes to the air. In Zechariah 14 and other passages concerning the second coming of Christ in judgement, He comes to the earth. The second difference: in the rapture He comes for His saints - we've seen that from 1 Thessalonians 4 - in the coming in judgement He comes with His saints, and we will see that again in 1 Thessalonians 3, Jude 14, but we see it in this chapter 19 of Revelation. The rapture from the passage 1 Corinthians 15 - which, incidentally, is also about the rapture - speaks of a 'translation of the saints', we will be changed as believers. But passages to do with the second coming in judgement speak nothing about a translation or a change of believers. Fourthly, in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul says concerning the rapture that he was speaking of a 'mystery'. Now a mystery in the Bible is something that had not been revealed until now, that point of revelation. So what he is saying is that the Old Testament doesn't know anything about a rapture - some people try to get it out of it, but it's not there - but the second coming in judgement is something that is right throughout many Old Testament prophecies.
Another four: the rapture is never said to be preceded by signs in heaven, it could happen at any time; but the second coming of Christ in judgement is heralded by celestial disturbances, Matthew 24:29 and 30. The rapture is presented as a time of blessing, therefore Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 'Comfort one another with these words'; but the emphasis on His second advent is judgement. Seventh: the rapture takes place in a moment, the twinkling of an eye, 1 Corinthians 15:52 - which is 1/50th of a second - but the second coming of Christ in judgement is visible worldwide, and it is ongoing as we will see tonight. Eighth and finally: the rapture involves the church primarily - John 14, 1 Corinthians 15 that we've looked at, 1 Thessalonians 4 - but Israel and the Gentile nations are primarily the emphasis of the second coming of Christ and what leads up to it. That's why, in chapter 6 through to 19 of Revelation, the church has not been mentioned once, but Israel on the earth and tribulation saints.
Now there are other reasons why we believe there's a difference between the rapture of the church before the tribulation and the second coming of Christ at the end of the seven years. We've already mentioned a time interval needs to be there for the bema judgement and the Marriage Supper, but also - as the fifth difference on the screen says - there is never said to be any signs preceding the rapture, any heavenly signs. You see, the New Testament teaches the imminence of the return of the Lord Jesus for the believer. Now 'imminence' means that it could happen at any time, there is nothing that needs to precede it. That's why we're taught, as believers, concerning the Lord's return: to look, to watch, and to wait. Philippians 3:20: 'For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ'. 1 Thessalonians 1:10: 'To wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come'. Titus 2:13, and also Hebrews 9:28 - we don't have time to read - 1 Peter 1:13, Jude 21.
Now what's my point? Well, if antichrist, the abomination of desolation in the Temple - a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem - or the tribulation must occur, then the command to watch, to wait, and to believers having a blessed hope in being snatched away, doesn't make sense...if we are looking for antichrist rather than the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Bible tells us to look for Him, that is our blessed hope. So there is the imminence of the rapture as opposed to the second advent. Then there is the nature of the tribulation, we have looked these weeks at how the tribulation is a seven-year period of judgement, it's the 70th week of Daniel's prophecy and it is primarily a time of preparation, restoration and regeneration for Israel, the nation of Israel. You can read about that in Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Ezekiel - the church is never mentioned as participating in Israel's time of trouble, which includes the great tribulation, the day of the Lord, the wrath of God. Would it not be strange if the church was in Daniel's 70th week, when it has not featured in the 69 weeks up to that week that has all been to do with the history, prophetic history, of Israel?
Another reason: the nature of the church. It is a mystery as well. The church cannot be found in the Old Testament - of course, the things that were written aforetime are written for our learning, and there is allusion to how the gospel would bless other nations - but the mystery of the church, Jew and Gentile being united in the body of Christ, is not found there. That's why the Old Testament passages concerning the second coming of the Lord in judgement don't mention the church, because it doesn't relate to it. Then there is the work of the Holy Spirit, 2 Thessalonians 2 discusses the man of lawlessness - the man of lawlessness is the antichrist. Second Thessalonians 2 says that he is being held back by a restrainer. The restrainer of evil in 2 Thessalonians 2:6, it speaks of it like this: 'Now you know what is restraining that he', the antichrist, 'may be revealed in his own time'. So therefore something has to be removed before the antichrist can come on the scene, and before the tribulation can effectively start. What is that? It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the sense in which He is in the body of Christ, the church.
Now the Holy Spirit won't be completely removed, of course He won't: people will be being saved, a great work will be done - but as He came at Pentecost to the church, in that sense the church will be removed. But if you want something else, turn to Revelation 3 - you may or may not remember the church at Philadelphia, Revelation 3 and verse 10 - and my time is very quickly running away, bear with me. Remember that these seven letters have application to all churches down through all ages, and this particular verse has to do with us because the church at Philadelphia died before the Lord Jesus came: 'Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee' - keep them - 'from the hour of temptation', or the hour of trial, 'which shall come upon all the world, to try', test, 'them that dwell upon the earth'. Now, what more do we need to show us that there is this distinction?
So we turn our attention to the return of Jesus Christ, as opposed to the rapture of the church - and here in chapter 19 of Revelation we have the most graphic description of the second advent of our Lord. First of all John has described to him the Conqueror, and then His conquest. Let us read these verses, verses 11 to 16: 'And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS'.
In verse 11, you will note that the rider is seated on a white horse. Now in chapter 6 and verse 2 we saw a rider on a white horse, but that was the false Christ, the antichrist - but here we have the true. You notice He is coming from the air to the earth, He is not coming in the air to take His people home, as we have seen from 1 Thessalonians 4. He is coming to the earth with His people to conquer His enemies, and to establish His kingdom. His name is given: 'Faithful and True' - that is used previously of Him in chapter 1 and chapter 3. He is true to His own character, He is faithful to His own promises. Now remember: the people that are receiving this original letter of the book of Revelation are suffering saints, and they need to be reminded that God is faithful, He will not desert you, His promises are true.
I don't know where you are tonight, but maybe you need to hear that message as well. In the midst of your trial, your personal tribulation, you need to remember: God is faithful, He will not desert you, His promises are true - and where you are, He can come to rescue you just as He will come to rescue those remnant Jews in His second return. Verse 12 shows us His eyes, look into them: they were as a flame of fire. That shows that He is righteous to judge - at last, a righteous Judge who will wage just and right war upon evil! On His head are many crowns. The word used for 'crown' there is 'diadems', as opposed to 'stephanos' - that is the victory crown, but here He is wearing 'diadems' which are royal crowns. He has a right to rule, to conquer and to reign!
'The head that once was crowned with thorns,
Is crowned with glory now.
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty Victor's brow'.
It is said in verse 12 that He has a name written that no one knows. Now perhaps that is the same as the new name that will be written on the overcomers in chapter 2 and chapter 3. It's interesting when you ponder this for a moment or two: a name that no man knows. That could apply in two ways: it might be speaking to us of the mysteries that are connected with the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we in our human frailty will never ever be able to plumb the depths of. We can be very adept in our theology and our Christology, but at the end of the day there are depths of our Lord Jesus that will never be plumbed. Yet what it might also be indicating to us is the fact that there are new things that we cannot know now about our Lord, but we will learn then. One thing is for sure, even if this isn't referring to it, is that we will spend all of eternity getting to know Him deeper! Won't that be something else?
In verse 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped with blood. Now please note that this is not His own blood, this is the blood of His enemies whom He tramples - look at verse 15 - in the winepress of the wrath of God. Now remember I told you a week or two ago how little children in this culture would get into the store where the grapes were, and stamp on them, and have a great old time getting the blood out of the grape. This is what's going on here: it is judgement, and it's the blood of His enemies. Now can I remind you, please, where we last read of the winepress of the wrath of God. Turn with me to chapter 14 and verse 20, in verse 19: 'And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs'. You remember that that related to the campaign of Armageddon. You remember when we looked at that, we said that this campaign of several battles would usher in the second coming of our Lord Jesus. You remember that verse taught us, chapter 14 verse 20, that that series of battles will encompass the length of the whole land of Israel, 1600 furlongs - that was about 184 miles - and that is the approximate distance from Meggido up in the North, where we get the name Armageddon, right down to Edom in the South.
Now that war, we are told, will start when the nations of the world assemble at Meggido there in the North. You remember I showed you a photograph of that great plain of Meggido - it's 14 miles wide and 20 miles long - and there the armies of the world gather to execute antichrist's solution on the Jewish problem. He wants to wipe out the Jews in order to prevent the return of our Lord Jesus. Now let me cast your mind back in chapter 16, when the sixth bowl was opened in verses 12 and 15. You remember we saw that the river Euphrates was going to be dried up, so that the Kings of the Orient, the East, should come to the battle. All these armies are joining together, as we saw in chapter 12, to annihilate the Jews. They move from Meggido, collectively together, down to Jerusalem, and they destroy many Jewish people - but there has been a remnant, remember it? In chapter 12 verse 14, look back at it: 'And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent'. Now that's half of the tribulation period - God has a remnant, and when antichrist and his armies come to Israel, they destroy what's there, Jerusalem falls, but there is a remnant that he still seeks.
So he comes to the place where they are hidden, and at that point he surrounds that little remnant of Jewish people. When the armies of the world are surrounding them, they are regenerated and they put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, their true Messiah whom they missed - and at that point, the Bible says, the Lord Jesus returns: Micah 2, Isaiah 34. But where does He return to? We've seen this before, but I need to remind you: He returns to where that remnant are. We believe that prophetic Scripture indicates that that is a place called Bozrah, it might well be modern day Petra which is an ancient city just down here in today's Jordan - ancient Edom. It is a city that is hewn out of the rock, it can only be gotten to through a crevice in the rock, a gorge, and you can only get there on foot. There's a picture of it: the armies will surround that place, Jeremiah 49 talks about it, Zechariah 12 says those Jews will call on the Lord, the Lord will return and He will judge the Jew's enemies there - that's where the blood on His garment comes from.
Isaiah 63 tells us specifically, look at it on the screen or in your Bible, 'Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: 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'. Then the Lord will defeat His enemies - now look at the progress, I want you to get this because I think a lot of believers don't understand this. I'm not being dogmatic - but this is, putting all the scriptures together, what we come up with: the gathering of the armies of antichrist at Meggido. Now some believe that he will go from there to destroy commercial Babylon, that will be in Iraq, but that is disputable. He will travel then from Meggido, if he returns from Babylon, to Jerusalem to destroy the Jews, there will be the fall of Jerusalem. Then the armies of antichrist will pursue the remnant to Bozrah. Israel in Bozrah will be regenerated, all Israel will be saved - all that's left of them - and then the second coming of Christ to there. He will push the enemies back into the Valley of Jehoshaphat - that's what the prophet Joel tells us about - and there there will be the end of the fighting in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and our Lord Jesus will take His victory ascent from there up to the Mount of Olives where He will set up His earthly kingdom.
Now this is the greatest war that history will ever see, but I'm going to tell you something tonight: though it has been described as the greatest war ever, it's not really a war at all - do you know why that is? Well, look at verse 13, chapter 19 again, verse 13, the Lord is given a name: 'The Word of God'. In verse 15, 'Out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron'. Now 'the Word', 'the logos', is a favourite term of John - he's the only one who uses it in his gospel and in his epistles. A 'word', for us, is an expression of thought; and for God 'the Word' is the expression of His mind and heart, the Lord Jesus has declared the Father to us - and Christ is now 'the Word' coming to execute God's will upon this world.
So imagine it: He was in the beginning with God, and was God, without Him nothing is made that has been made. He became flesh and dwelt among us, the One who was the Word and is the Word, who created the worlds with a word, will defeat the armies of the world with a word - imagine it! There's no warfare at all, really - and, as far as you're concerned, verse 14, look at what you'll be wearing: 'The armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean'. Now, soldiers, have you ever seen one in a white outfit or uniform? Maybe the Marines, but that's when they're all dolled up for a dance or something - but when they go to war they're in camouflage, aren't they? But here there is no camouflage, why? This Commander-In-Chief of the heavenly forces is clothing His armies in white, it's a practice unheard of in all military warfare and history, because no member of this army will do battle! The battle will be carried out by the spoken word, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself - and it will be done!
In verse 16 this is indicated again, He has on His vesture and on His thigh a name. Now, before we read that name, the thigh is where the ancient warrior had his sword - isn't that right? But there's no sword on His thigh, the sword is out of His mouth, the spoken word - Christ's sword will be what He says, imagine it! The Word of God who called this world into being, all that we know in creation, will call every human leader and the whole of the world's armies into subjection to Him. What He is and always has been will become, in man's experience, 'KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS'. King above all kings, and Lord above all lords - as Zechariah put it in 14 and 9: 'The LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one'.
In verse 17 of chapter 19, and verse 18, look at it - there's an angel standing in the sun, and he cries out with a loud voice 'to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great'. So great will the slaughter be at Armageddon that an angel will call together the fowls of heaven to eat the flesh of those who have fallen in battle. Remember what chapter 14 verse 20 said? Do you remember? For that 180 miles or so, the blood will flow like a river, four feet or so in depth. Now the battle of Armageddon is called in chapter 16 'the battle of the great day of God Almighty', but here this massacre is called 'the great supper of God' - all the carrion of the heavens coming to feed upon the carnage.
Picture the scene: people of every creed, class, colour in society - but that's not where it ends, thank God that's not where it ends. Verses 19 and 20: 'I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse', there will be a last-ditch attempt somewhere along the way here to get at the Lord Jesus Christ as He comes, 'And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone'. Antichrist and the false prophet will receive justice - 2 Thessalonians 2:8: 'The Lord shall consume that one with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming'.
In our next study, we will see that the same will happen to Satan, in chapter 20. Now listen, as I close: this started with an 'Alleluia', and for us it should end with an 'Alleluia' - all glory be to Jesus, the Lord and Christ, because this great event is going to usher in a millennial reign of glory. We will look at that next time in chapter 20, but in conclusion I want you to see one verse that we missed - it's verse 10, look at it. When John saw the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, he is so overwhelmed that he falls at the feet of an angel: 'I fell at his feet to worship him'. Now Colossians and the rest of the Bible tell us that it is forbidden to worship an angel, and the angel rebukes him, and tells him: 'Look, worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy' - that should be our reaction to all that we have studied in this book, and what we have studied tonight. Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy - that is the true purpose of prophecy: to bear testimony to the person and the work of our Lord. It's the Revelation of Jesus Christ, after all, isn't it?
It was C. C. Ryrie who said: 'Prophecy is designed to unfold the loveliness of Jesus'. Have you seen that tonight? Have you seen that throughout this series? For if you haven't, I have failed to do my job - but how can we not but worship Him, when we consider - think of it believer! - we will not be on earth waiting for all this, we will be in the Conqueror's train sharing in this victory! As the poet put it:
'Earth, what sorrows lie before thee,
Unlike it in the shadows past;
The sharpest throes that ever tore thee,
Though the briefest and the last!
I see the shadows of the sunset;
I see the dread avenger's form;
I see the Armageddon onset,
But I shall be above the storm.
There comes the mourning and the sighing,
There comes the heart tear's heavy fall,
The thousand agonies of dying -
But I shall be above them all!'.
Can you not say 'Hallelujah'? You know, this is the only time we find 'Alleluia' in the whole of the New Testament - somebody said to me recently: 'We don't hear too many 'Hallelujahs' at the meeting these days, we could do with a few more'. Should we not shout 'Hallelujah', for the Lord God omnipotent will begin to reign?
Father, we thank You that we have a confidence that the Lord Jesus is coming again. Whilst we confess to You that we don't attempt to give the impression that we have everything worked out, we're trying to be honest with Your word - and, Lord, forgive us where we have failed and misunderstood. Yet we thank You for the clarity that we have a blessed hope to look for as Your people. We thank You also that this world, eventually, will be put right; and Jesus shall reign where'er the sun doth it's successive journeys run, His kingdom will stretch from shore to shore, till moon shall wax and wane no more. What a day that will be, Lord, and we look forward to it - even so, come Lord Jesus - but in the meantime: let us be up and doing, Lord. Let us be motivated for the Master, for at any time You could call us to Yourself and our work here would be ended and over, our opportunity to witness and serve You and win the lost. Lord, may many believe before it's too late, for we ask these things and Your blessing upon us until we meet again in this place, in that name of the One who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords - Jesus Christ, the Soon Coming King. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the eighteenth recording in his 'The Book Of The Revelation' series, entitled "The Return Of Jesus Christ" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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