Revelation 7: The final battle (Part 1)
Revelation 7: The final battle (Part 1) Revelation 19:11-21 Revelation 19:11-21New International Version (NIV)
The Heavenly Warrior Defeats the Beast 11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider’s called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 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. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords. 17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.” 19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
The message of Revelation is starting to pick up pace towards victory! We have had several weeks of doom and judgement and the fate of Babylon, now we move into the final theme of the book of Revelation; those who Conquer! And you will see that the means of victory is not to take up arms, it is not to fight back or take up the cause to put evil in its place. Rather we wait on the one who is faithful and true who brings justice! So let us look at…
1. The One who is victorious
So, from symbols of judgment and whores, of beastly empires and terrible judgments; John turns the reader’s minds to the one who is the coming judge. And he is careful to paint this image in the Messianic expectations of the Old Testament.
Isaiah 11 is brought in where the Messiah will come to bring God’s justice and “Strike the earth with the Rod of his mouth. He leans on Psalm 2 where we see “The Anointed One” Come to “Rule the nations with an iron Scepter and dash them to pieces like pottery. And Isaiah 63 where we see the Messiah tread the grapes of God’s wrath on all the evil of this world. Added to these John almost forces the image by making sure the reader knows that this is the king of the whole world and then ascribes to him the Caesar title of King of kings and Lord of lords. Titles like “Son of God,” “King of Kings,” “Savior of the World,” “Prince of Peace, “Lord of All” were already in circulation as imperial titles on Roman coins. Now we must catch what john is trying to paint here; the world was caught in the idea that Caesar was king, John was saying Messiah was! Jesus was! The Word of God was! In other words, church, don’t be fooled; the kings and rulers of this world are shadows, parodies; the true King is here! Look to Him! No one can stand up to Him! Next we are contrasted with;
2. Those who are defeated
In contrast to this great rider; we see the opposition; these who are gathered to war against the Messiah. John prepares the “battle” with an angel calling to all the birds, saying; “Come, gather for the great supper of God, So that you may eat the flesh of kings and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.” Now, get what John is painting; this will not be a battle in any normal understanding of it; before the opposing army has even gathered to fight defeat has been declared. A great slaughter has been announced. Now, in the world we find ourselves in we might think; this language is harsh; this is pretty intense; birds gorging themselves on the flesh of the people of the earth. But John has spent 4 chapters defining these people; these are those who have opposed God; slaughtered his people; being complicit or compliant in the destruction of His good world. And we must catch this; it is all, the great will not escape, the mighty men will not escape, the small and the slave. We live in a world where if you have the right connections or enough money justice can work for you. And here a great contrast is given; all who are guilty will come to defeat! Psalms 2 paints this picture; which John leans on here; where it says: Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The Kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed one. “Let us break their chains” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” This is the interesting reality of the world we find ourselves in; we live in a world where the creature would rather be freed of their creator. Where they rage at the one who gave them life, and who blame the good God of all the universe for the pain that they have inflicted upon themselves. In all this they are the one’s who gather themselves for war against their creator, and persuaded by the beast and his prophet; gather themselves in defiance against the one who made them! Now we must see;
3. The nature of the defeat
We would like to maybe see an epic “Hollywood Style” battle ensue at the end. With the forces of evil coming against the forces of good; and there being a great and nail biting battle. However, that is a duelist view of the world; a view that states that there are two great powers in the world one for good and one for evil. This simply doesn’t work as a world view and is never the view of Scripture. You see if you have two great powers one for good and one for evil, then evil would exist for itself; as both share equal power then evil would not be bad, it would simply be an expression of itself. However, evil/bad is simply the twisting of what is good! For example, you could never know what a perversion was unless there was normal view of sexuality. Evil is always the twisting of something good! Therefore, if the dualistic view was true; either good would be the greater God, and therefore why would Evil share its duality, or there would have to be a greater god over the two gods of good and evil and then we are back to monotheism. In other words, this simply doesn’t work! Christianity and the Bible never share this world view! Evil is not the equal opposite of good, it is a twisting of the original good that was was made! In the Bible and in Revelation there is one God, He is good and every thing He makes is good! However, one of His creatures (Satan) chose to go his own way and that created evil, suffering and pain. Now, evil and all its influence and power are not equal and opposite to God they are simply a part of his creation now. So, Satan and all the forces of evil are not inferior to God even like a flea is inferior to you. Rather they are inferior like Hamlet is inferior to Shakespeare, or like Voldemort is inferior to J.K Rowling. And John paints this; there is no battle, there is no retaliation; there is a gathering and then the beast and the prophet were caught and thrown in the lake of fire and all the armies of “darkness” were defeated by a word (The sword of his mouth). Added to this, and we must not miss the importance of this image; Jesus is shown as having a blood stained robe before the battle is formed. In other words the defeat of evil comes in light of the cross; it comes in light of the death of Jesus on the cross! Theologically there is so much just in that one reality; however, I want to unpack just 3 for you tonight.
4. The meaning of the blood stained robe
a) Evil has already been defeated
The first reality of all this is that death, sin and evil have already been defeated on the cross! When Jesus said it is finished He meant it! As Paul writes in Col 2:15; Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. This is very important for us to grasp because most of us have a concept that evil is out there (it is the other) and therefore those people will have to pay for their evil! So, we wage war on evil with this naïve idea that if we just round up those bad people then evil will be dealt with! We saw this with the so-called “war on terror” and we see this every time we call out the other person for the wrongs of the world! The message is this church; we are the source of evil; it is in our hearts! It is part of OUR makeup! Therefore, for it to be defeated we have to include ourselves in the means for its defeat! The only way to defeat evil is to uproot in the heart of man! To pay for it! And that happened on the cross! It is only on the cross that all the evil that you have I have done was fully paid for! Therefor it is only on the cross that evil is defeated! Secondly;
b) Conquering will happen in light of the Cross
What I mean here is that the original victory happened on the cross it has continued to move out into the world as Christ’s people take up their cross and live out self-sacrificing love in the world; and the end will come in light of the cross! The judgement of mankind will also happen in light of the bloody robes! In light of the death of Christ! Those who find themselves in the army of beast; find themselves there at the rejection of the cross! All this means one very important thing:
c) The Gospel is the hope of the now and the ultimate future
Evil is over come only through the cross of Christ; here and now our hearts will only find rest of their evil when we discover that all of our sins; every last deed has been accounted for on the cross of Christ; that he paid the price so that the awesome love of God might be ours. The only hope of evil being overcome now is not through administration; or greater law enforcement, or a better system, rather it is overcome as people experience true repentance from a heart that is satisfied through the love of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ! And ultimately this whole would will find its redemption in the light of the cross! In other words, those who refuse God’s plan for redemption will be condemned by that; and those who embrace it will discover hope! As John can only do; the cross becomes everything; the crucified Messiah because the cause and end of all things! So with that church; we go into a dark world; with the power of the gospel; we face the evil of this world through the cross and we find hope in this world because we find hope in Him who paid for our sins and died our death! Whose blood is our redemption and whose life is now our life! So, when you see the powers of evil rising; when you see darkness win; remember the cross! When evil was allowed to do its worse; when darkness seemed like it had won! God brought light and life to everyone who would believe!