I want to offer some thoughts on the event in Revelation ch19 symbolised by the arrival of the rider on a white horse.
All the indications are that this rider is to be identified with Christ himself.
So I'm going to be asking the question; what is the impact of Christ's arrival on the scene?
The rider on the white horse is followed by the "armies of heaven", clothed in white linen and riding on white horses of their own.
They resemble the "riders from heaven" who make an appearance, on their own or in groups, in some of the stories of 2 Maccabees. For example;
"They were still near Jerusalem when a rider attired in white appeared at their head, brandishing golden weapons. With one acccord they all blessed
the God of mercy and found themselves filled with courage..."-2 Maccabees ch11 v8
We can take it that this army has the same purpose- coming to the aid of God's people against their enemies.
The leading figure can be identified as Christ because the text names him as the Word of God, which obviously refers back to the first chapter of
When he made his first public entry into Jerusalem, he was a king who was "humble, and mounted on an ass."- Matthew ch21 v5
But now, in contrast, he's mounted as a warrior king.
Some of the other details in this picture connect him with the figure of Christ that appears in the opening chapters of Revelation.
He is the "faithful and true" witness in ch3 v14
His eyes are "like a flame of fire" in ch1 v14
He has "a sharp two-edged sword" issuing from his mouth in ch1 v16 (while he's destined to "rule the nations with a rod of iron" as the child born in
The faithful believer is promised a new name "which no-one knows" (that is, a new and spritual identity) in ch2 v14, and offered a share in the "new
name" of Christ himself in ch3 v12
So this picture is clearly pointing us towards Christ.
And it looks like a fulfilment of the promise made in ch16 when the armies of the world were gathering at Armageddon; "Lo, I am coming like a
At the same time, the picture's also pointing towards the Old Testament God of Israel.
Only the Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, could make the claim to universal sovereignty implied by the mutliple diadems and by the title
"King of kings and Lord of lords".
That God is the Lord of hosts, "mighty in battle" (Psalm 24 v8), followed by great armies.
It is the Lord who "judges the world with righteousness"- Psalm 96 v13
It is the Lord who can be seen in garments sprinkled with blood, because he has "trodden the winepress" in wrath, coming to the aid of his people-
Isaiah ch63 v3
So this event also looks like the fulfilment of what the Old Testament calls "the day of the Lord".
The common factor in the expectation of "the day of the Lord" is the Lord coming in power, setting things right.
Acting in power, God asserts his will and overcomes resistance.
"Setting things right" has to include the removal of all the wrong things of the world, so that involves an act of judgement.
That's why the Day of the Lord in Joel is also a time of "decision";
"Let the nations bestir themselves and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat;
Fot then shall I sit to judge all the nations round about"- Joel ch3 v12
And that's why the overthrow of the Fourth Beast, in Daniel ch7, demands the sitting of a court of judgement.
There's a similar expectation in the New Testament relating to "the coming of the Son of man" (in the teaching of Jesus), or "the Day of the Lord
Jesus Christ" (in the teaching of Paul).
The expected figure comes equpped with power, and the sequel is an act of judgement.
"When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire..."-2 Thessalonians ch1 v7
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all his angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the
nations, and he will separate them one from another..."- Matthew ch25 vv31-32
So those are the two elements of the expectation- victory and judgement.
The overcoming of enemies can be found in the last part of ch19.
The Beast and the kings of the earth and their armies have been gathered on the field of Armageddon, waiting to fight him, since the middle of
The summoning of the birds of prey to deal with the expected corpses has been borrowed from the account of the "final battle" with Gog of the land of
Magog, in Ezekiel ch39.
But the real message in this graphic image is about the finality and thoroughness of the victory, the complete overthrow of the opposition.
I'm not convinced, in fact, that any prolonged, literal fighting would be necessary.
When the full strength of the Lord is brought to bear, that should be enough in itself to disable any powers of resistance.
Surely the "battle" would be over before it began; the victory would be instantaneous.
The act of judgement can be found in the last part of ch20.
The great white throne is an echo of the judgement scene in Daniel ch7.
We're told that "from its presence, earth and sky fled away".
There's a more dramatic description of the same event in 2 Peter;
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire,
and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up"-2 Peter ch3 v10
So the "day of the Lord", that day when Christ comes "like a thief", would also see the abrupt disappearance of this present world.
The judgement in this scene would therefore be taking place in a different kind of world altogether.
As in Daniel ch7, "books were opened" in front of the throne of judgement.
The dead are being judged on the basis of these records of what they've done.
But these records, if Paul is right, could only supply a reason for condemnation.
For Paul insists that no man can be found righteous in his own deeds;
"Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."- Romans ch3 v23
However, the records of deeds don't have the last word. They can be overruled, it seems, by "the Book of Life"
This book is a list of names.
Daniel is told that in the time of trouble "your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book"- Daniel ch12
While "the Lamb's Book of Life" in Revelation (see ch21 v27) is the list of those entering the new Jerusalem, and therefore escaping condemnation.
For the rest, though, there is the experience of "the second death".
By the time this judgement process is complete, everything that has no place in God's world has been thrown into the lake of fire.
At the end of ch19, it received the Beast and "the false prophet". These must be, respectively, the two "beasts" described in ch13, the beast "from
the sea" and the beast "from the land".
Then the devil, in ch20 v10.
Then Death and Hades, and finally all those whose names were not written in the Book of Life.
But what is the significance of this "lake of fire"?
Are we to understand it as a cause of pain, or as a means of destruction?
While considering this point, it's worth noting that "Death and Hades", for example, are not living creatures. They're just names for something that
happens to the human race. Therefore they would not be susceptible to pain.
The same would be true about the Beast, if the Beast is a corporate body (as I've always argued) rather than an individual.
In these cases, at least, throwing them into the lake of fire would be primarily an act of destruction. It would mean that they cease to exist in
God's world, they disappear from human experience.
So that meaning may be applicable to the rest of the list as well, including those whose names were not found in the Book of Life.
This can be compared with Paul's teaching about the effects of Christ's Return. He says that those who do not know God "shall suffer the punishment of
eternal destruction (OLETHRON) and exclusion from the presence of the Lord"- 2 Thessalonians ch1 v9
While the image normally found in the teaching of Jesus is the "outer darkness", where "men shall weep and gnash their teeth"- Matthew ch25 v30
These passages confirm that the fate of those not found in the Book of Life is
a) Not a state of living in the presence of God, and
b) Less preferable than living in the presence of God.
But we don't really know much more than that.
The real point is that they cease to have a presence in God's world. Like Death and Hades and all the deceivers, they cease to be part of the
experience of God's people.
That is the main sense in which they are "destroyed".
So the impact of Christ's arrival on the scene appears to be God's final victory and the judgement of the world.
I've been treating them as two different aspects of the same event, and that seems to be justified by the expectation in the rest of the New
That's what happens when God comes in power- one thing leads on to the other.
But, in that case, what is to be made of the passage which separates them, in Revelation ch20, relating to the "thousand year kingdom"?
The answer, in the short term, is that I'm going to postpone the question to another occasion.
edit on 30-1-2011 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)