The Concordant Version
6And I hear as it were the voice of a vast throng, and as it were the sound of many waters, and as it were the sound of strong thunders, saying, "Hallelujah! for the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns! 7We may be rejoicing and exulting and will be giving glory to Him, for the wedding of the Lambkin came, and Its bride makes herself ready." 8And to her it was granted that she may be clothed in clean, resplendent cambric, for the cambric is the just awards of the saints.
9And he is saying to me, "Write: 'Happy are those invited to the wedding dinner of the Lambkin.'" And he is saying to me, "These are the true sayings of God." 10And I fall in front of his feet to worship him. And he is saying to me, "See! No! A fellow slave of yours am I, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
11And I perceived heaven open, and lo! a white horse. And He Who is sitting on it is called "Faithful and True," and in righteousness is He judging and battling. 12Now His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, having names written of which no one except Himself is aware, 13and He is clothed in a cloak dipped in blood, and His name is called "The Word of God." 14And the armies in heaven, dressed in cambric, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15And out of His mouth a sharp blade is issuing, that with it He should be smiting the nations. And He will be shepherding them with an iron club. And He is treading the wine trough of the fury of the indignation of God, the Almighty. 16And on His cloak and on His thigh He has a name written: "King of kings and Lord of lords."
17And I perceived another messenger, standing in the sun. And he cries with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which are flying in mid-heaven, "Hither! Be gathered for the great dinner of God, 18that you may be eating the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of the strong, and the flesh of horses and of those sitting on them, and the flesh of all freemen as well as slaves, and of small and of great."
19And I perceived the wild beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered to do battle with Him Who is sitting on the horse and with His army. 20And the wild beast is arrested, and with it the false prophet who does the signs in its sight, by which he deceives those getting the emblem of the wild beast, and those worshiping its image. Living, the two were cast into the lake of fire burning with sulphur. 21And the rest were killed with the blade which is coming out of the mouth of Him Who is sitting on the horse. And all the birds are satisfied with their flesh.
GOD'S GREAT DINNER
EACH of the two divisions of the Temple Section of the Unveiling closes with a double description of its effects. There is blessing for believers and its opposite for apostates. When the ark of the covenant is displayed (Rev.11:19), Yahweh is faithful to His promises, and there is a Harvest (Rev.14:14), in which He gathers the wheat into His garner. Yet there is also a Vintage (Rev.14:17) for those who come into conflict with His covenant. They are trodden in His indignation. So also, when the law is exposed in the tabernacle of the testimony, it issues in the Marriage of the Lambkin, for the faithful. Yet there is also God's Great Dinner to describe the ruin of the religious rebels who seek to set aside His testimony in the earth.
How skillfully does the divine Author group His pictures! How striking is the contrast between these two presentations! And yet there is a likeness, quite as close as that between the Harvest and the Vintage (Rev.14). There is feasting in both. There is a dinner at the wedding (Rev.19:9) as well as on the battlefield (Rev.19:17). The nations who will be invited to Israel's marriage festival will be satisfied with food. The carnivorous creatures of the air will be satiated with the flesh of those who resist God's mandates. In both pictures the nations have a place. Israel, of course, is not invited to the wedding. It is not necessary to invite the bride! The nations will rejoice with her during the thousand years, after their rebellious cohorts have been fed to the fowls of heaven.
Except to enforce this contrast, we will not deal with the marriage of the Lambkin at this time. We will remind ourselves of it again when we gaze upon the new Jerusalem of the succeeding eon. Our present purpose is to concentrate on that final effort of religious humanity which seeks to wipe out the knowledge of God from the earth, and the miraculous intervention of Yahweh in the final struggle for religious supremacy at the conclusion of this eon (Rev.19:11-21). There is little doubt but that this scene is the sequel to the mobilization at Harmageddon, under the sixth bowl. It also seems to coincide with the Vintage in the vale of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:1,2, Rev.14:17-20) at the close of the preceding division of the Unveiling. It also corresponds to a brief hint in the seventh trumpet of the Throne Section: "the nations are angered, and Thy indignation came" (Rev.11:18).
We must not overlook the significance attached to the places where this miscalled "battle of Armageddon" is mentioned. It is barely adverted to under the Throne judgments. It is repeatedly recalled in the Temple portion. It is not so much a political as a religious struggle. It is not a question of government or territory, but of worship. By this time the whole world will be under a single head, who demands more than fealty, and claims to be deity. Because there are those in Israel who are still faithful to the true God, this imposing military armament is brought together, so as to fully and finally crush the last vestige of Yahweh worship in the earth.
This is in fullest accord with the prophet Joel, who calls for a jehad, or holy war (Joel 3:9), on the part of the nations. And heaven's response is to the same effect, for the White Horse Rider is called by names more current in the court of God than the courts of kings. He is called "Faithful and True" because they are faithless and false. He acts in righteousness, for they are exponents of iniquity. He is called "the Word of God" because they have followed the commands of demons. His cloak is dipped in blood because the religion of that day will repudiate the sufferings of Christ. Even today our evangel is called the religion of the shambles. Then they will find that theirs is the real religion of the shambles. They would not have the blood of Christ, yet they contribute their own to the bloodiest slaughter in all the annals of humanity. It is only after all of these religious references that we read that He is "King of kings and Lord of lords."
At the beginning of the Throne section, when judgment was about to be set in motion, a door was opened in heaven (Rev.4:1). Near the close of the era of His indignation, heaven itself is opened, and the White Horse Rider sallies forth. Nothing is more apparent in this evil eon than the fact that all communication between heaven and a rebellious world is completely cut off. Nothing will be more characteristic of the coming eon than the constant communication between the two spheres. Here we have the process by which this is brought about. Through the opened door emerge the lightnings of the Throne. This, the final Temple judgment, removes the wall between earth and heaven by crushing the followers of all false faiths.
THE WHITE HORSE
The symbolism of the White Horse is not as obvious to us as it is to eastern eyes. There it was the token of exalted rank. All common folk rode on camels or asses if they rode at all. Horses were almost exclusively for use in war. Paul was convoyed by a company of cavalry (Acts 23:23). The opening calamity of the Throne section is revealed by the figure of a white horse whose rider was armed with a bow and went forth a conqueror. Hence a white horse is the scriptural sign of high military command. So it is here.
The fact that the first rider under the first seal was mounted on a white horse does not identify him with this One. He had a bow, this One is armed with a sharp saber, which issues out of His mouth. His course of conquests will breed further war and famine and pestilence, this One will wage one battle which will end war, and all its train of terrors. He was the false, this is the true Messiah. Alas, the likeness will probably deceive many in that day, for it is the aim of antichrists to ape Him rather than to oppose, to deceive rather than defy.
To get the full effect of this martial scene, we should recall Christ's entry into Jerusalem, in the days of His humiliation, when He first presented Himself to His people as their King. Then He was the lowly One. He bore no sword. He rode no horse. He had no army behind Him. Yet He was every inch a King! He exercised His royal prerogative by commandeering a mount owned by one of His subjects, without explanation or recompense. "The Lord has need of them" is no excuse for a peasant of Palestine, who takes and uses beasts that belong to another. No one but the King dared to draft and impress these animals into His service. He proves His regal claims by conducting Himself with regal dignity, yet in full accord with the predictions concerning His humble station.
No doubt the lowly beasts that supported Him in His "triumphal" entry were chosen to accord with His humble state. Yet they also suggest the fact that He was upheld by the redeemed alone in this, the first time He comes to claim the crown. The firstling of an ass had to be ransomed with a lamb (Ex.13:13). Only the ransomed crowd around Him spread their garments in the road. Only they cried "Hosanna to the Son of David!" True, the whole of Jerusalem is aquake, but they do not acclaim Him king. It was not a "triumphal" entry by any means. It was a tragic entry, for they reject and crucify their lowly Sovereign.
In vain had the prophet declared (Zech. 9:9),
Say to the daughter of Zion,
Lo! Your King is coming to you,
Meek, and mounted on an ass,
And on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
They will not have the lowly One. Instead of searching the Scriptures which foretold His coming, they ask, in blinded ignorance, "Who is this?" And all they see is a Nazarean prophet. He acts accordingly. He does not seek the scepter, or sit upon a throne. He turns aside to the sanctuary and gives us a glimpse of His regal rights as He overturned the tables of the brokers and cast out the devotees of commerce. The cleansing of the sanctuary is the first concern of the true Messiah.
Who can discover a single sign to identify the White Horse Rider with the meek Messiah on His lowly mounts? The Lamb has been transformed into the Lion. He no longer needs to borrow a beast from one of His subjects. He provides a whole army of white steeds to horse His heavenly hosts. He rides no slow-paced donkey now, but a swift thundering charger to chase and pursue His enemies. His gracious glance and uncrowned head give place to eyes of flashing flame and many diadems. Weaponless He was, but now His mouth sends forth a saber and His hands hold fast the shepherd's iron club.
THE MANY DIADEMS
A diadem is usually a fillet or circlet about the head rather than an elaborate metal crown, so there is no great incongruity in the picture presented by many diadems. Though usually taken to be the insignia of royalty exclusively, it seems to be used in a special sense in the Scriptures. It does not occur in the Throne section. Diadems first appear on the seven beads of the wild beast (Rev.12:3). Again we see them on the ten horns (Rev.13:1). If our exegesis is correct, these signify sacerdotal sovereignties, for they represent religious divisions. Whatever the interpretation may be, there is little doubt that the many diadems on His brow correspond to those already mentioned, on the heads and horns of the wild beast. All the sovereignty, religious as well as secular, wielded by the wild beast is in reality vested in the White Horse Rider and becomes His in fact when the beast is arrested and cast into the fiery lake. Force, unstinted force, will be used, not only in establishing the rule of Messiah, but in maintaining the worship of the true God.
If this is suggested by His many diadems, then the succeeding features are most apt. The displaced religions may all be characterized by the lack of two essentials - the blood and the book. Not so this White Horse Rider. He is clothed in a cloak dipped in blood and His name is called "The Word of God." He is the living counterpart of the written word. God expresses His thoughts through Him, yet not through His life alone, but also through His sufferings and His death. The Word of God must wear a robe dyed with blood, even as the Scriptures are saturated with the sufferings of the great Sacrifice. What name could be more apt, what symbol more satisfactory, for Him Who comes to crush the false faiths of mankind, than the crimson cloaked Logos, the Word of God, not only living, but vivified from His sacrificial death?
HIS HEAVENLY ARMIES
Let us not miss the features which distinguish the heavenly hosts from the human army it opposes and from its great Leader. There is no infantry. There really is no cavalry, for all of the horses are white, and every one who follows Him is of exalted rank. It is an army of princes, a host of mighty dignitaries. Moreover, they have no weapons, they take no active part in the battle. That is not necessary, for their mighty Captain is in the vanguard and He alone is able to destroy the enemy. The saber that proceeds out of His mouth is His word. He has raised the dead to life: how much easier to drag the living down to death! They are dressed in white, for they are righteous, cleansed by the crimson tide in which His cloak was dipped.
That Israel is not alone in these unfoldings is clear in both of the pictures presented. The millennial marriage feast must have guests, and Israel is the bride. Those who attend are the nations, for they will be blessed with faithful Israel. Here, however, they come before us as the subjects of death and discipline. The sword that proceeds out of His mouth will smite the nations before the millennium and the iron club will chastise them during its course.
THE WINE TROUGH
All of these presentations are figurative. Our Lord will not literally wield an iron club. No actual saber will issue from His mouth. The bloody cloak, the many diadems, and even the white horses are magnificent and expressive symbols. Only thus can we understand the sudden change of scene from a mighty military figure to a treader of the grapes (Rev.19:15). This change of figures is the best and most suggestive way of identifying this military movement with the Vintage of the previous section. Both are combined in the dramatic dialogue presented by the prophet Isaiah:
|"Who is this, coming from humanity, |
With fermented garments from the vintage?
This One, in His clothes of honor, marching in the vastness of His vigor?"
"I, speaking in righteousness, and contending to save!"
2 "For what reason is there red on Thy clothing,
And Thy garments are as the treader's in a wine trough?"
3 "The winepress I trod alone,
And of the peoples there is no man with Me,
And I am treading them in My anger,
And tramping them in My fury,
And their gore is spattering on My garments,
And all My clothing I sully.
4 For the day of vengeance came for them,
And the year of My redeemed has come.
5 And I am looking and there is no helper,
And I am regarding, and there is no supporter.
And My own arm is saving for Me,
And My fury, it supports Me!
6 And I am trampling peoples in My anger,
And I am making them drunk in My fury,
And down to the earth am I bringing their gore."
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS
This majestic ascription is another clue given us in order that we may associate this battle with the seventh trumpet (Rev.11:15), when loud voices from heaven proclaimed that "The world kingdom became our Lord's and His Christ's, and He shall be reigning for the eons of the eons!" Hence, at this crisis the sovereignty of Christ's and King and Priest is fully established. The seventh trumpet, which ends the Throne section, the Vintage, which closes the covenant division or the Temple section, and this great dinner, which sums up the testimony division and speaks of the same event - the advent of Christ in power and great glory to take vengeance on His adversaries and to destroy the power of evil.
THE GREAT DINNER
We now turn for a hasty glance at the fearful slaughter of the army of the wild beast. A single carcass, with its stench, its croaking scavengers, its circling vultures, is enough to make one shudder and hasten away. At a distance, however, it is interesting to watch the birds of prey. From all directions they gather to the feast, until it is over. It is said that a vulture not only watches the ground with telescopic eyes, but observes the actions of others of its kind, soaring at vast distances in all directions. The moment that one sees another come down upon a quarry it hastens to the scene, and is itself observed by those still further from the feast. In this way carrion is soon consumed. But so great a slaughter as that which closes man's day requires such a concourse of scavengers as never yet has been, so all the birds are invited to the feast by a supernatural call. There is no reason why this should not be a literal and actual occurrence. The details do not admit of any spiritualizing. The flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of the strong, the flesh of horses, the flesh of freemen and slaves, of small and great, will be set before the voracious scavengers whose natural instinct will need no urging, in order that the foul remains of man's mightiest array may be removed from the earth.
THE WILD BEAST AND FALSE PROPHET
Only two individuals out of the mighty army are left alive. The wild beast and the false prophet are not slain. All about them their companions furnish a feast for the feathered flyers of the air. Their judgment waits until the great white throne. These two stand alone, unprotected from the fury of the heavenly hosts. They are seized alive and cast into the sulphurous lake. Why are they not executed with the rest? Why are they the first to enter the burning flames? Why are they sent there before the judgment day?
The process of judgment varies with the character of the crime. A rebel, caught red-handed, is not brought to trial. He is shot without delay. In these two arch-criminals we have the very height of human rebellion. There is no question as to their guilt. It has been publicly exhibited before the whole world. They will be the embodiment of Satan, the Adversary incarnate, for he gives them all their power and their authority. Moreover, they are superhuman. The wild beast has been dead, and was recalled to life (Rev.13:3). The false prophet could give spirit to the image (Rev.13:11-15). They, undoubtedly, possess vitality unknown to other mortals, and this was secured by lawlessly yielding to Satan. Their judgment accords with their crime. Let them have their lawless life! Let it show them that even life, apart from Him Who is its Source, can only be a curse. In all probability the lake of fire cannot quench this vital spark in them as it would with all other men. They seem to live in the midst of the most deadly of all elements. We know that Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Another were able to survive the fire when under the divine protection (Dan.3:8-30). To them it was a blessing. Why should not God allow His two most malignant enemies power enough to prove that the superhuman, miraculous vitality that enabled them to command the wondering worship of mankind, is a thing of desperate dread and despair when it keeps them alive in the midst of deadly flames?
We are not told that their life is forfeited. The lake of fire is not called the second death until after the great white throne. After the thousand years we still find them there. Then the Slanderer also is cast into the lake of sulphur, and they are tormented for the eons of the eons (Rev.20:10).
These three - Satan and his two chief lieutenants - are the only sinners who do not appear before the great white throne for judgment. They are the only ones who are tormented for the eons of the eons. In this we see and admire the righteous character of God's dealings with His creatures. It is utterly unscriptural and unjust to treat everyone alike. It is the height of folly to suppose that God is going to visit all unbelievers with eternal torment, such as infants, the heathen, those whose lives and benefactions put to shame the saints. All will be judged and assigned their due. Only these three do not appear before the great assize, and they alone are doomed to bear the severest and the longest sentence - torment for the eons of the eons.
Yet even their sufferings will, no doubt, be measured by their guilt. Satan does not enter the lake of fire until the others have endured it for a thousand years, yet all are inclined to think he is the chief offender and deserves the heaviest penalty. Let us be glad to leave them in the hands of a God in Whom we have the utmost confidence, and Who will not mistreat even these, the most malignant of His enemies.
Some, whose hearts have been softened by God's grace, will find even eonian torment hard to reconcile with a God of love. But it is far less of a problem than the prolonged agony of millions of His creatures during the past eons, concerning which we can have no doubt. We must remember the lesson of the book of Job. Suffering is not merely penal. It comes to all - even to His saints. When visited in judgment its measure must be such as to correct and restore the creature to the point where God's love in Christ will be welcomed by their hearts.