John sees the rider of the white horse in the opened heaven, who is called Faithful and True; the names of Jesus. 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.
His robe is dipped in blood. His robe is drenched with the blood of his enemies; this symbol foretells the horrifying violence of the battle that is to come, and that it will be God’s enemies whose blood will be spilled. Jesus’ blood has been poured out for his elect alone and no one else.
Isaiah 63:1-6 Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? "It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save." 2Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress. 3"I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing, 4for the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. 5I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. 6I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground."
Revelation 14:20 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath. 20They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses' bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.
As the name of Jesus implies, (King of kings, Lord of lords) his victory is certain as symbolized by the blood-drenched garment; as symbolized by his many crowns; and as symbolized by his blazing eyes.
In our contemporary society, it is offensive to some that such violence is associated with Jesus, the mild and meek One with the name ‘the Lamb’ and One who is silent before his shearer. This feel-good characterization of Christ is nothing but an attempt to make him more palatable to the world; ignoring His deity and office of Judge. Sin cannot be destroyed if evil is not destroyed and no redemption is possible if death is not destroyed. If, then, evil has to be destroyed, all those who practice evil should also be destroyed. There is no one who can destroy evil but Jesus the King and Lord.
The presentation of a divine Warrior, full of wrath and vengeance against those who disregard his authority, is offensive to those who wish to deny that Christ is not merely a meek, mild, an infinite tolerant friend and companion, but also a fierce God who exact justice for the sins of the world. They wish to ignore or downplay Christ’s role as the one who treads the winepress of God’s wrath.
Scripture paints a realistic picture of the moral structure of the universe. Despite the preferences of naïve wishful thinkers, at the cosmic level there can be no true mercy, no genuine redemption, apart from justice. There must be a ‘day of vengeance’ and a ‘year of redemption.’
These images of the Warrior King, who will be victorious, are good news for Christians who have experienced, will experience, or have heard about the atrocities of which human evil and injustice are capable.
What should we draw from these images for the benefit of our own lives? Are we allowed to ride into battle for the sake of Christ? How should we respond to our oppressors?
The sharp sword proceeding from Christ’s mouth is the implementation of righteous vengeance by which He will strike down the nations. He will shatter the nations with his iron rod.
When Christians are victimized by injustice, and cannot fight back, they must not despair. The strong and righteous Judge is coming. When they can fight back, they should do so in a manner that does not repay evil with evil, but with the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and by continuing to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Here is a collection of Scripture passages that illustrate the point. Pay particular attention to the fact that we are in a struggle, which means that we ought to resist evil but there are also specific rules of engagement.
Romans 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Ephesians 6:12-18 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God 18and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
II Thessalonians 3:2, 3 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. 3But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
I Peter 3:9, 14-17 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 16Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
I John 5:18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.
His name is the Word of God. Still not able to understand the name of Jesus, which is known to no one, it is revealed to John that his Name is the Word of God.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Proverbs 8:23-31 I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. 27I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep. 28When he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep. 29When he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. 30Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence. 31Rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.
What we are allowed to understand is limited to that which God chose to reveal to us in his Word. One of the things about Jesus that we do understand is that He is God’s Word that became flesh.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
I John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
The names of Jesus reveal his qualifications to enter into battle on behalf of God’s saints. His names Faithful and True are attributes earlier identified with his role as witness on behalf of God’s truth. The divine message that distinguishes the church from the world is the testimony of Jesus.
Martyrs have died for this testimony, staking their very lives on his faithfulness and truth. It is their hope and comfort to know that the faithful and true witness is also the righteous judge, as we read in Revelation 19:11: “with justice he judges and makes war.” Closely related to Jesus’ twin attributes of faithfulness and truth is a second name, “the Word of God.” The expression “Word of God” has been linked to “the testimony of Jesus” as alternative descriptions of the message revealed in Scripture and proclaimed by the apostles and the church. Its use as a personal name here is reminiscent of John 1:1-14 and it underscores the point that fidelity to the gospel’s message is not mere intellectual concurrence but personal allegiance to the Son who uniquely reveals the Father, having been with the Father from the beginning and having become flesh that we might see the Father’s glory through him.
The Warrior’s other two names emphasize his sovereignty. He has a name written on Him that no one knows except Himself. This is a puzzling comment in view of the fact that three other names are openly attributed to him. The unrevealed name is usually explained as symbolizing “the mystery of his person … that finite minds will never grasp;” in other words, the very Essence of his deity. The secrecy of Christ’s name here somehow corresponds to the name he promises to bestow on the overcomer, a name known only to the donor and the recipient, as we have seen in Revelation 2:17.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.
Christ’s secret name is closely associated with his crowns, perhaps because we find that the beast’s heads bore its blasphemous names and Babylon’s name was written on her forehead, they being counterfeit copies of Christ.
The fact that the Warrior’s name was not known means not only that no creature can understand him exhaustively but also, more importantly in this context, no opponent can get a handhold to overthrow him, or slow his advance.
Does the secrecy of the warrior’s name, as such, have any benefit? According to the Old Testament to know a name means to have control over the one named.
Jacob’s request to learn the name of his mysterious wrestling opponent at Peniel receives a mild rebuke.
Genesis 32:29 Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.
Although God blesses Jacob, he will not be entrusted with the Divine Name if his intent is to use it to gain advantage over the Lord. Therefore, the confidential nature of the name here does not necessarily refer to the concealing of a name on the cognitive level but rather alludes to Christ’s being absolutely sovereign over humanity’s experiential access to his character. On the other hand, the very essence of Christ is hidden from the unbeliever but made known to the believers.
Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.
Matthew 13:11,14 He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.'"
The heavenly hosts clothed as victors follow Christ into battle.
Psalm 68:17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord [has come] from Sinai into his sanctuary.
Psalm 149:6-9 May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands 7to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, 8to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, 9to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints. Praise the LORD.
Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
Jude 1:14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy one.
I Thessalonians 1:7 … This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
The clothing of ‘fine linen, white and clean’ identify this cavalry, mounted, like their Captain, on the white steeds of victory, as the saints – particularly those who have won the victory by persevering faith, whether through martyrdom or other confessing death. As we have seen, whit robes of purity and triumph clothe the souls of the martyrs under the altar and the international throng before God’s throne in heaven. Earlier, John heard that the bride is dressed in ‘fine linen, bright and clean.’
This battle is not only between Satan and his beast and God and his Christ but rather each stands in the midst of a community and the destiny of each community rests with the success or failure of its champions. When the dragon cannot get to the woman’s child, he goes after the rest of her children. When the beast and his allies gather for the war to end all wars, their intended victims are the Lamb and his comrades in arms, the called, chosen, and faithful ones who are his army, ‘the beloved city.’
Just as Christ’s white horse foretells of his certain victory, so the white horses of the riders who follow him assure the church that his triumph will be ours as well.
Here, the fulfillment of prophecy is evident, as these images have been foretold throughout Scripture.
Psalm 2:9 You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.
Isaiah 11:4 But with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
II Thessalonians 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.
Revelation 1:16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
Revelation 2:12, 16, 27 "To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword." 16Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 27'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery'--just as I have received authority from my Father.'
Revelation 12:5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
The winepress of God’s wrath, spilling the blood of the punished, plays an important part in the salvation of the elect and the judgment of the wicked. It is impossible to speak about the role of blood in the Scriptures without speaking about the blood of Jesus Christ.
First, there is blood and the elect.
Leviticus 4:20 And do with this bull just as he did with the bull for the sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven.
John 6:53 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."
Hebrews 9:7, 18, 22 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 18This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 22In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Hebrews 13:12, 20 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 20May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep.
I Peter 1:2 Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
I Peter 1:18-20 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
I John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Second, there is blood and the wicked.
Genesis 4:10, 11 The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. 11Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand."
Ezekiel 22:3, 4 And say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O city that brings on herself doom by shedding blood in her midst and defiles herself by making idols. 4You have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made. You have brought your days to a close, and the end of your years has come. Therefore I will make you an object of scorn to the nations and a laughingstock to all the countries.
Revelation 17:6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.
The blood of Jesus Christ in his sacrifice and the blood of the wicked in their destruction have this in common: they both are shed for sin. They have this in contrast: Jesus’ blood is shed in innocence, while the wicked’s blood is shed in guilt. God assumed the body of a man to fulfill the Scriptures that says in
Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.
Therefore, since it is imperative that the one who sinned should be the one whose blood is shed, the winepress of God’s wrath is treaded for the sins of the whole world but to prevent the elect from being killed for their sins, God ordained it so that another Man’s blood be shed in the place of the elect and they go free.
Surely, a righteous man would not suffer the winepress of God’s wrath and since the elect have been justified, they are righteous and not subject to the winepress. This justification is not a temporary arrangement allowing some to escape God’s wrath, but it is a permanent justification rendering the elect eternally righteous. There can never be a time when the elect can be without the merits of Christ’s blood – it is eternally part of the elect’s being.
So, as the wicked’s blood is permanently shed, so the elect’s blood is also permanently shed by the Substitute, Jesus. There are, therefore, only two parties who suffer punishment: Jesus for the elect and the wicked for themselves. The wicked cannot take up their lives again, so they remain dead, while Jesus took up his life again after having shed his blood, suffering that sufficient punishment freeing all of the elect from their sin.
How does the Christian honor this sacrifice of Christ, which snatched him from the jaws of death? Jesus gave us the signs by and through which we ought to worship him, which are wine and bread at the Lord’s Supper.
Matthew 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Luke 22:20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."
John 6:53-56 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day 55for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him."
Why does it have to be wine and bread? Because these symbols accurately portray the sacrifice of Christ and celebrating his sacrifice without these signs intact in the ceremony would be dishonoring Christ’s sacrifice.
The grapes signify Christ’s suffering as they are harvested, being ripped from the vine, separated from its life-source just as Jesus suffered separation from the Father when He cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34.) The grapes are thrown into the winepress and treaded upon; crushing them like Jesus’ body was crushed under the weight of God’s wrath, such as in his winepress of wrath. As the grapes are crushed, the juice flows away from the grapes as Jesus’ blood, which symbolizes the soul, was separated from his body. The juice ferments, changing it in substance and essence, just as Jesus’ blood changes those who participate in his feast.
The wheat is harvested by violently, separating the kernels from the plant, then the kernels are ground into flour just as Jesus’ body was broken, then the flour is kneaded into dough and baked into bread by fire. Then the bread is broken before being eaten.
The final sign is when the minister of the Word of God, (VDM, Verbi Dei Minister) visibly breaks the bread and pours out the wine before the congregation, and hands these signs to the believers. We are assured by these signs that just as sure as we receive these signs from the hands of the minister, just as sure do we receive the blessings of Christ’s sacrifice from his hands personally.
Such is the value of Christ treading the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
Christ’s name is “King of kings, Lord of lords” and it is written on his robe to indicate his worthiness and on his thigh as a symbol of supremacy. These titles were attributed to the Lamb in Revelation 17:14 to explain why he would overcome the beast and the ‘ten kings’ allied with it as they wage war against the Lamb and his company, ‘the called and chosen faithful.’ It now reappears in reverse order as the inscription on the rider’s garment and thigh in order to identify the rider as the Lamb and his cavalry as those called and chosen by God. This title shows his supremacy over all other rulers in earth or heaven; and it signals that the final war in Revelation 17:11 is about to occur.
Psalm 72:11 All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him.
Proverbs 8:15, 16 By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just. 16By me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth.
Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name. 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I Timothy 6:13-16 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which God will bring about in his own time--God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords; 16who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.