The Second Coming of Jesus in Victory – Revelation 19:11-21

As we read the book of Revelation, it’s important to not get overly bogged down, confused or argumentative about all the details of the spectacular visions; we need to remember that the overarching theme in all the visions is the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ over evil.

John’s vision shifts again. Heaven opened and Jesus appeared, this time not as a Lamb but as a warrior on a white horse (symbolizing victory). Jesus had come first as a Lamb to be a sacrifice for sin, but he will return as a Conqueror and King to execute judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). Jesus’ first coming brought forgiveness; his second will bring judgment. The battle lines had been drawn between God and evil, and the world was waiting for the King to ride onto the field.

19:11-12 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.NIV This verse describes the second coming of Christ—the moment God’s people had been waiting for:

  • Christ said, “You will see me, the Son of Man, sitting at God’s right hand in the place of power and coming back on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62 nlt).
  • Christ said, “The Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Luke 24:30 niv).
  • An angel told the disciples, “Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return!” (Acts 1:11 nlt).
  • Paul wrote, “God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power when he comes to receive glory and praise from his holy people” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 nlt).

Christ’s return will be unmistakable. Heaven will be standing open, as Christ, the rider on a white horse, makes his entrance. The white horse symbolizes victory. (Some think this is the same rider as mentioned in 6:2, who was also on a white horse. They suggest that the rider symbolized Christ and the spread of the Good News across the world.  This rider is called Faithful and True, in contrast with the faithless and deceitful Babylon described in chapter 18 (see also 3:14). Christ, the great warrior, comes with justice, and with that justice he judges and makes war. The order of words indicates that the warfare is a result of God’s judgment on the inhabitants of the earth who have completely rejected him. Although Jesus is called “Faithful and True,” “Word of God” (19:13), and “King of kings and Lord of lords” (19:16), these verses imply that no name can do him justice. He is greater than any description or expression the human mind can devise.

His eyes are like blazing fire (see also 1:14; 2:18). Christ’s many crowns symbolize his ultimate authority (contrast this with the seven crowns on the dragon in 12:3 and the ten crowns on the Beast in 13:1). He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. Although many possibilities have been proposed, most likely this is a name that the believers were not meant to know, at least not yet.

When Christ returns as the rider on the white horse, is this the point where he “raptures” the church, or has that already happened? There is much discussion regarding the Rapture of the and the Second Coming of Christ.  John is describing the Second Coming here. The “Rapture” is described in other places in Scripture.

  • “No one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day . . . People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the Flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. So be prepared, because you don’t know what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:36-37, 40-42 nlt).
  • “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 niv).
  • “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 nlt).

At the Rapture, Christ will bring his people to be with him. The Rapture is separate event from the Second Coming.

The Rapture and the Second Coming differ:

  1. The Rapture can occur at any time and will affect only true believers, while the Second Coming will affect the entire world.
  2. At the Rapture Christ won’t completely descend to earth; instead, believers will meet the Lord in the air. At the Second Coming, Christ will descend to earth.
  3. The Rapture will remove believers from the earth; the Second Coming will remove the wicked from the earth so that only believers enter the millennial kingdom.

Whenever the Rapture of the church occurs, it is already certain that the rider on the white horse will come in victory and that believers will be with him in heaven. While the various views on these topics can be difficult to understand, it is far more important that every believer knows on which side of the battle he or she is on. Those who remain faithful to Christ, no matter what, will receive all that God has promised.

19:13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.NIV The believers who had come out of the Great Tribulation had “washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white” (7:14 nlt). Christ himself, when he rides to the earth on the white horse, will be dressed in a robe dipped in blood. Some suggest that this is the blood of the martyrs; some think it is the blood of Christ’s enemies (referring to a similar passage in Isaiah 63:1-6); others think that this is the Lamb’s own blood which, ultimately, brings about this final day of victory.

Another name is given for Christ, the Word of God. In Greek, the word for “Word” is logos, also used in John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 niv; see also John 1:14; 1 John 1:1). Jesus is the final word of God, the voice of God himself, the revealer of God.

19:14 And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.NRSV Accompanying Christ are the armies of heaven, referring to all believers who have been taken to heaven (in the Rapture, which will have occurred at some point prior to this although believers are divided as to when this will happen). Here the believers will be returning to earth with Christ as part of his vast army. They will be wearing fine linen, white and pure, as noted also in 19:8. Some suggest that this army will be angels because Christ had spoken of returning with his angels (Matthew 24:30-31). Most likely, however, this army will be believers because 17:14 says, “They [the Beast and the false prophet] will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them . . . and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers” (niv).

The believers will come with Christ on white horses. They will not come to fight, however, for there will not need to be a battle. Christ will conquer with his potent word (19:15).

19:15 From his mouth came a sharp sword, and with it he struck down the nations. He ruled them with an iron rod, and he trod the winepress of the fierce wrath of almighty God.NLT Christ is described as having a sharp sword coming from his mouth. This is also seen in 1:16 and 2:12. The word for “sword” used here, however, is not the small two-edged sword but a mighty sword that is four or five feet long. This was the sword used by cavalry soldiers. Christ’s words of judgment are as sharp as swords. With that sword, he struck down the nations. Isaiah had prophesied of Christ, “He will rule against the wicked and destroy them with the breath of his mouth” (Isaiah 11:4 nlt).

The picture of Christ ruling with an iron rod (or scepter) describes him beating down the nations (see also 2:27). This is not a king’s scepter that is merely symbolic of power; instead, it is a club with which he will destroy them. The psalmist had written of the Messiah, “You will break [the nations] with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots” (Psalm 2:9 nlt).

Lastly, Christ is pictured as treading the winepress of the fierce wrath of almighty God. The winepress image appeared in 14:19-20; it describes God’s great wrath against those who had rejected him. Here, God’s fierce anger is directed at all of sin personified. At this point, God will totally destroy sin and evil. A winepress is a large vat where grapes are collected and then crushed. It is often used in the Bible to symbolize judgment (Isaiah 63:3-6; Lamentations 1:15; Joel 3:12-13).

This scene provides a graphic display of the wrath of God. It shows God’s anger and judgment against sin and against those who have constantly rejected Christ as the means of forgiveness and reconciliation. God’s wrath exists alongside his mercy. In each generation, there must be balanced preaching and teaching about God’s grace and his anger against sin. In Martin Luther’s day, God had been presented as so wrathful that grace and forgiveness needed to be reemphasized and taught to the people.
In our day, however, teaching about God’s love and tolerance have become so predominant that God’s anger seems to be mythical. Such a portrayal of God hardly warns people away from sin. Teaching about God’s wrath may be watered down by some, but it is nevertheless real and will be terrible for those who have steadfastly refused him (1 Thessalonians 1:10). In your study and teaching, do not emphasize God’s mercy to the exclusion of his wrath.

19:16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”NRSV Most of the world will be worshiping the Beast, the Antichrist, whom they believe has all power and authority. Then suddenly out of heaven Christ and his army will appear. On his robe and on his thigh (easily seen, for he is on a horse), he has a name inscribed. This title indicates God’s sovereignty—King of kings and Lord of lords. This title is used elsewhere in Scripture, always indicating God’s absolute sovereignty over all other kings and lords (see 17:14; Deuteronomy 10:17; Daniel 2:47; 1 Timothy 6:15).

19:17-18 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of the mighty, the flesh of horses and their riders—flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great.”NRSV John saw another angel; this one described as standing in the sun and calling out to all the birds that fly in midheaven—referring to the eagles and the vultures, birds of carrion. This will be the most gruesome single act of carnage ever in the history of mankind; the entire army will come to do battle and, with the word of Christ, they will be totally annihilated. Their flesh will be left for the birds to eat, for there will be no one left to bury the dead. A previous description of this battle included how “the blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle” (14:20 nlt). This great supper of God is a grim contrast to the wedding supper of the Lamb (19:9). Both will be provided by God—but one will be a celebration, the other will be devastation.

The angel called the birds together before the battle. Again, the picture is clear of the certainty of the final outcome. Ezekiel had written God’s words to him in a prophecy of this final battle, “‘And now, son of man, call all the birds and wild animals,’ says the Sovereign Lord. ‘Say to them, “Gather together for my great sacrificial feast. Come from far and near to the mountains of Israel, and there eat the flesh and drink the blood. . . . Feast at my banquet table—feast on horses, riders, and valiant warriors” (Ezekiel 39:17, 20 nlt).

19:19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against the rider on the horse and against his army.NRSV This beast  or antichrist is the same one that had risen out of the sea (chapter 13; see the post here). The phrase “kings of the earth” refers to the “ten horns” that John had seen on the Beast (see 13:1), and, most likely, their number symbolizes all the kings of the earth who pledge allegiance to the Antichrist. At the pouring out of the sixth bowl of God’s wrath, “miracle-working demons caused all the rulers of the world to gather for battle against the Lord . . . to a place called Armageddon” (16:14-16 nlt). Chapter 16 gave a preview of what was to come and how; chapter 19 describes the event itself. Here, verse 19 tells of the assembly for the battle of Armageddon.

The Beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered to make war against the rider on the horse (Christ) and against his army (the redeemed). The battle lines had been drawn, and the greatest confrontation in the history of the world was about to begin. The enemy armies believed they had come of their own volition; in reality, God had summoned them to battle in order to defeat them. That they would even presume to fight against God shows how pride and rebellion had perverted their thinking.

19:20 But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.NIV The two armies sat facing each other—the Beast and all the kings of the earth versus the rider on the white horse and his redeemed people. Suddenly, the battle was over. There was no fight, for, in a second, the end had come. There was no need for a battle because the victory had been won centuries earlier when the rider on the white horse, Christ, had died on a cross. At that time, Satan had been defeated; here at Armageddon, he is finally stripped of all his power. Satan’s beast (the Antichrist, described in 13:1-10) was captured. In addition, his false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf was also captured, for he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. This is described in 13:11-18 and discussed in this post.

The Beast and the false prophet were captured and thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the final destination of all evil. At this point, however, only these two evil beings received this punishment. This lake is different from the Abyss (bottomless pit) referred to in 9:1; it is the Gehenna of 14:10-11 and 19:3 (see commentary there). There are several statements concerning both spiritual powers and people being thrown into the lake of fire. Here, the Antichrist and the false prophet were thrown into the fiery lake. Next, their leader, Satan himself, will be thrown into that lake (20:10), and finally death and Hades (20:14). Afterward, everyone whose name is not recorded in the Book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire (20:15).

Evil’s final destination will be a fiery lake. Throughout Scripture, fire portrays God’s searing holiness, and burning sulfur reflects his awful judgment as he exacts retribution for evil (Genesis 19:24; Ezekiel 38:22; Hebrews 10:30). Hell is a horrible reality, a place of endless torment, but hell was designed for Satan and his demons. The people sent there will be those who viciously attack God and join Satan in his rebellion against God. In The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis wrote that “the doors to hell are locked on the inside” to keep God and goodness out. The warnings of Revelation were given to keep believers faithful to Christ and active in his service. Keep your trust in him strong, and be vigilant in withstanding evil.



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Source:  Bruce B. Barton et al., Life Application Bible Commentary – Revelation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2000), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 225-235.

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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