Revelation 19:11-20:3: The Appearing of Christ

Revelation 19:11‑20:3  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
We have already learned from chapter 11:15-18; that with the sounding of the last judgment trumpet, the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. The record of this great event is followed by an important parenthetical portion of the Revelation that brings before us the leading persons and events during the time that immediately precedes the reign of Christ. After this parenthesis the prophetic history of coming events is continued in the eleventh verse of chapter 19.
We are now told of the public appearing of Christ and His saints to establish His reign over the earth. John says, “I saw heaven opened.” Whenever the heavens are opened it is in connection with Christ. When on earth “the heavens were opened unto Him” in order that at last heaven could look down and see on earth One in whom the Father found all His delight (Matt. 3:16-1716And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16‑17)). After the ascension, Stephen can say, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” The heavens are opened now in order that believers on earth can look up and see a Man in the glory (Acts 7:55-5655But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55‑56)). In Revelation 4 we see “a door opened in heaven” that John might pass in spirit into that scene of glory to find Christ, as the Lamb, the theme of universal praise, being the One who, as Creator and Redeemer, is worthy to receive “glory and honor and power” (Rev. 4:11; 5:9-1411Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11)
9And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 11And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; 12Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. 13And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. 14And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever. (Revelation 5:9‑14)
). In this nineteenth chapter the heavens are opened that Christ may come forth to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. Hereafter we shall still see the “heavens open,” that angels may wait upon Christ—the Son of Man—in millennial days, when under the reign of Christ, heaven will be in touch with earth (John 1:5151And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:51)).
In the vision, John sees “a white horse,” the symbol of victorious power. His first coming was in circumstances of weakness and lowly grace, as a little babe. The next coming will be in power and glory. We know that the Rider on the white horse can only represent Christ, for who but Christ can be described as “Faithful and True.” At His first coming He was marked by “grace and truth” that brought salvation to men. At the second advent He will come forth as Faithful and True to execute judgment; thus, at once, we read “in righteousness He doth judge and make war.”
His eyes as a flame of fire, surely speak of the searching gaze from which nothing is hid. The “many crowns” may remind us of His universal dominion and sovereign rights. Then we read, He had “a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself.” The passage brings before us other names that, in some measure, we can know, for He is “called Faithful and True,” and “His name is called The Word of God,” and, again, He has “a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” But if He comes forth as the Son of Man to reign, the glory of His Person as the Son of God is carefully guarded. As such, He is above man and beyond the comprehension of the creature, for “no man knoweth the Son but the Father” (Matt. 11:2727All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)).
His “vesture dipped in blood,” would surely speak, not of His blood shed for sinners, but rather of the blood of rebels—the sign of their death under judgment. From the Gospel of John we know that, as the Word, Christ reveals the Father in grace and truth. Here we learn that He declares God in righteousness and wrath against the nations.
We now learn that the glorified saints will come forth with Christ at His appearing. From other Scriptures we know that when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven it will be “with His mighty angels” (2 Thess. 1:77And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (2 Thessalonians 1:7)). Also we know that believers will come with Christ, for we read, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:44When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)). Here the armies which follow Christ, would seem to refer to the glorified saints rather than angelic hosts. From chapter 17:14 we have learned that those who are with the Lord of lords and King of kings are “called, and chosen, and faithful,” statements that could hardly be applied to angels. Further, we read of these followers that they are “clothed in fine linen, white and clean,” and thus morally fitted to accompany the King and Lord in His victorious power.
Saints may accompany the Lord but it is He, Himself, who will execute judgment. It is His mouth that will speak the word that, like a sharp sword will destroy the wicked. It is His hand that will wield the rod of iron that, in fulfillment of the second Psalm, will break in pieces the apostate and rebellious nations. It is His feet that, with unsparing judgment, will tread “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”
Thus, when He appears in glory dealing with all the enemies of God, it will be made manifest that He is, indeed, the “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS,” the One of whom God has declared, “I shall give Thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psa. 2:88Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. (Psalm 2:8)).
The verses that close the chapter foretell the judgments that will immediately follow the appearing of Christ. In the ninth verse we have heard of the blessedness of the saints in heaven who will be called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Here we read of a very different supper—“the supper of the great God,” that will take place on earth, to which those who prey on the remains of the dead are called to feast on kings, captains, mighty men, horses and their riders, free and bond, small and great, who will be overwhelmed in judgment at the appearing of Christ.
If the King of kings comes to earth followed by the armies of heaven, the devil gathers “the kings of the earth and their armies,” to make war against Him that sits on the horse and His armies.
The issue of a conflict between Christ with the armies of heaven and the beast leading the armies of earth, can only be the overwhelming defeat of the forces of evil. In the course of the history of this world two men have been singled out for the special glory and honor of being taken to heaven without passing through death. When the world had abandoned itself to violence and corruption, Enoch, who walked with God, “was not, for God took him.” Again, when the nation of Israel was sinking into corruption and apostasy, the prophet Elijah was taken up into heaven. Now we look on to the time when an apostate world will be gathered together to make war against God and Christ, and we learn that the two leaders in this rebellion will be “cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” As it has been pointed out, if God had interposed to show signal mercy in bringing alive to heaven two men who had stood for God, so now God interposes in overwhelming judgment to send alive to the lake of fire two men who had been leaders in evil under Satan. No further judgment at the great white throne is needed for the beast and the false prophet. Their eternal sentence is at once executed. The armies that followed them come under the governmental judgment of the King of kings, but not with such an immediate and terrible doom as that of the two leaders. They must yet appear before the great white throne.
We have seen the fearful climax of evil to which Christendom of today is heading, when the nations under the rulers of these Western lands will be gathered together in open revolt against Christ and the armies of heaven. We have seen, too, the awful doom that awaits the leaders and their armies, and thus, with all the assurance of God's word, we learn the solemn crisis that awaits the world around us. But there remains the arch enemy of God and man, of Christ and His saints. Now we are told who he is and how he will be deprived of all his power. We are reminded that this enemy is that fallen being, “that old serpent,” who from the beginning of the world's history, and throughout the ages, has been the active source of all rebellion against God. As the serpent he has, from the beginning, been the seducer of man; as Satan he has been the adversary of man; as the devil he has ever been the accuser of the saints; and as the Dragon he has wielded his power in seeking the destruction of men.
At the appearing of Christ an angel from heaven will, under the symbols of the key and the chain, bind his power and confine him in the bottomless pit, and thus rid the earth of his presence during the thousand years' reign of Christ.
In chapter 12 we have learned that he will be cast out of heaven “into the earth,” and now we learn that he will be cast from earth “into the bottomless pit,” to be loosed for a little season when the millennium is fulfilled, before receiving his final doom in the lake of fire.