June 26: Revelation 19:11-16
We’re closing out our Worship mini-series with an intense passage: the rider on the white horse. For the past two weeks we’ve looked at passages that describe Jesus as a Lamb who still bore the marks of being slain (Rev. 5:6). It’s hard to imagine a sharper contrast between that description and Revelation 19, with King Jesus riding a warhorse in hot pursuit of his enemies. Few things are more docile than a lamb, and few things that are slain can be considered victorious.
But perhaps the most important thing to see in the passage this week is that the Jesus of Revelation 19 is the same Jesus of Revelation 5. Throughout the book of Revelation, God is intent on showing us that the Lion of Judah is the Lamb of God; he even gets both titles back-to-back in 5:5-6. We might be inclined to look at Jesus’ victorious entrance and think oh, that’s the right Messiah! Don’t give me the bleeding, homeless reject on the cross, give me the conquering King on a horse!
But to do so would be to miss the upside-down kingdom of this king. When it comes to the work of salvation, no one forced a sentence of humiliating death on Jesus. This was not some form of atonement prescribed to him by someone else. In his own mysterious counsel, God found the means of salvation, Jesus’ death on the cross, to be the most fitting way to both accomplish salvation and reveal himself to mankind.
All of that to say, Jesus on a white horse is no more the “real” Jesus than Jesus on a cross. While we might be inclined to revel in this more victorious-looking Jesus, we have no reason to revel unless we can look on the crucified Jesus and say that there our hope was truly won. It was only there at Golgotha that we received the unfathomable mercy of God.
Revisiting God’s mercy is important in any conversation about Judgment Day (particularly his mercy towards us individually, which we’ll do in the questions below). When we think of God emptying out his wrath on unrepentant sinners, we can err on two sides, either by reveling too much in judgment or by being embarrassed over judgment. Reveling too much is likely due to legalism, like the Pharisee who prays, “Thank you God I’m not like those sinners!”(Luke 18:11) Being embarrassed is likely due to something like anti-legalism, i.e. “is sin really that bad that it deserves eternal wrath?”
Both errors miss the true nature of Jesus the slain Lamb and King of Kings. The legalist generally misses Jesus’ sacrificial offer of mercy to all sinners and specifically misses his own need for mercy. The anti-legalist generally misses the gravity of sin as an offense against the King of Kings and specifically misses the gravity of his own sin. In our discussion, we’ll visit what kind of feelings judgment passages stir up in us to get a sense for which side we tend to err on. Likely many of us find passages like this one inconvenient—these are the ones we tend to skip in our morning devotionals, the ones we hope our non-Christian friends never read.
However, we must keep Jesus, the Lion and Lamb, in the forefront of our minds here. God is perfectly holy and just, and all sin is, in the end, a grave offense against him and his kingdom (Ps. 51:4). The gravity is unspeakable. And yet the King of Kings himself has taken the penalty, dying in order to extend mercy to his enemies. His grace is immeasurable. The same Jesus who sits in judgment is the same Jesus who gave his life for others. And, at the end of the day, this passage points to a time when all things will be made right, and no evil deed will be left eternally unaddressed. When we suffer due to injustice and sin in this life, when our loved ones suffer the same, we can look ahead to when Jesus will sit in judgement and know that God makes good on all his promises. Ultimately, no sin will go unpunished. Either it will have been emptied in Christ on the cross or it will be put away for good in God’s eternal judgment—either way, we look ahead to a promised future when we can truly, finally call sin a former thing (Rev. 21:4).
• Could someone read Revelation 19:11-16 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• How is Jesus described in this passage?
• When you read passages about judgment like this one, what thoughts or feelings do they stir up in you?
• How does this passage remind you of your own need for Jesus’ mercy? (cf. Romans 5:6-11)
• What future hope does this passage point to?
• How can this passage help us navigate things like suffering and injustice in the here and now?