“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
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.
Few passages in Revelation enjoy virtually universal agreement from all interpreters but this is one of them. The rider on the white horse is widely agreed to be Christ Himself. There are three reasons for holding this. First, He is identified as one who is called Faithful and True. The Lord, the Amen, had spoken earlier in this book at the faithful and true witness (Rev. 3:14). Secondly, He has a self-knowledge that can only be ascribed to God Himself. He had a name written which only He Himself knows. This is divine self-knowledge. Redeemed believers have a name that is analogous to this (Rev. 2:17), but that occurs when God gives us a white stone with a name inscribed. It says that only the recipient knows the name, but we may surmise that God also knows, for He is the one who gave the
name. In this case, only God knows what God knows. And third, His name is called The Word of God (v. 13; cf. John 1:1). The Word of God *is* God, and the Word of God is *with* God.
In this passage, Christ is coming to judge and make war. It is commonly (and wrongly) assumed that this is a description of the Second Coming, but there are sound reasons for continuing to believe that this is His fierce judgment on Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The judgment falls on the beast and the false prophet, which we have already identified within the confines of the first century. And we are told that in His Second Coming, the Lord will return the same way that He left and He did not leave on a horse (Acts 1:11). Here He rides a white horse. Another reason for taking it this way is that the conflict here is driven by the sword that proceeds from Christ’s mouth. He is fighting with His Word. It is a spiritual conflict, with very physical results. When Jesus spoke the words of doom forty years before, the fate of Jerusalem was settled. The Word had spoken.
And I might mention in passing that to identify this description erroneously as the Second Coming helps set up the next chapter (in which we find the millennium) with a premillennial understanding. If the Second Coming is in chapter 19 and the millennium is in chapter 20, well, there you go.
This judgment is predicted in various ways in a number of places in the Old Testament.
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked (Is. 11:4).
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potters vessel (Ps. 2:9).
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. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; And I
wondered that there was none to uphold: Therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; And my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, And I will bring down their strength to the earth (Is. 63:16).
John is mixing a number of images in an inspired way. In one place the rod of judgment is what comes from Christs mouth, and in another it is His sword. He treads out the winepress of divine judgment, and Isaiah says that it was because the day of vengeance was in His heart. And in Luke, the Lord Jesus described what was going to happen to Jerusalem as the days of vengeance, fulfilling all things. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled (Luke 21:22).
I take the army following after Christ here to be glorified saints but primarily as spectators, not participants. The Isaiah passage says there was none to help, and that there was none with me. His garments are stained with blood, and the garments of those who follow Him were white and clean. He is the one who trampled out the grapes of wrath. Another reason for identifying the army that follows Him with believers (and not angels) is because of the reference a few chapters earlier (Rev. 14:4). They follow the Lamb wherever He goes, including here. He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful (Rev. 17:14). The Lord is identified the same way earlier Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him there are the called, chosen, and faithful, in short, Christians.
While Christ is the executive of the wrath of God, there is a sense in which believers participate in the judgment. He has made us kings and priests (Rev. 1:6; 5:10), and we shall reign on the earth. The rod that comes out of the Lords mouth is a rod of iron, and it is wielded two ways. One is when He wields it, as in our passage here, but there are places in Revelation where believers participate in wielding that same rod (Rev. 2:26-27).
An angel standing in the sun sets up the great contrast of the final chapters of this vision. We see two banquets: one is the marriage supper of the Lamb (v. 7) and the other is an enormous banquet for carrion birds, and this is also a supper of the great God (v. 17). They will feast on kings, on captains, on warriors, on horses, and on the riders of those same horses. They will gorge themselves. And so the armies gathered the beast and the kings of the earth, and when the fighting was over, the beast was thrown into the lake of fire, along with the false prophet, and anyone who took the mark of the beast, or who had worshiped his image.
Any who remained were slain by the sword of the one who sat on the horse, that is, the Lord Jesus, and the carrion birds were filled.
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day (John 12:48).