The Reign of Christ, 17:1-22:5
The demise of the Beast, 19:11-21:8
i] The coming king and his armiesSynopsis
In this the first of John's series of "and I saw" visions, he sees the heavens opened and a rider on a white horse, a rider called "Faithful and True." His eyes are like flames of fire, from his mouth comes a sharp sword, and his robes are stained with blood and bear the words "King of kings, and Lord of lords." Accompanying him is "the armies of heaven", a cavalry dressed in pure white linen.
The Kingdom of God is at hand; the victory is won, the day of Christ's appearing is upon us.
i] Context: See 17:1-6a. The Interlude, The demise of the Beast, 19:11-21:8. The harlot Babylon, the Great City, the secular city, lies in ruin, and preparation for the wedding feast of the Lamb is now in full swing, 17:1-19:10. But before John details the realization of the Divine City, 21:9-22:5, he again backtracks in an interlude to look in more detail at some of the aspects involved in the ruin of the harlot Babylon, the secular city. First we meet the agent of destruction in the parousia, "appearing", of Christ, the one riding a white horse, 19:11-21:8. With the sword from Christ's mouth the beast and the false prophet, along with their allies, litter the battlefield as meat for vultures, 19:11-21. John then reveals how Satan has fared prior to Christ's final appearing, how he is bound in the abyss to await his ultimate destruction in the lake of fire, 20:1-3. Then we see how the Christian community reigns in the here and now, 20:4-10. John then describes the raising of the dead for the day of judgment, 20:11-15, and the final preparations for the realization of the Divine City in the new heavens and new earth, 21:1-8.
It is vitally important to see the "and I saw" visions as aspects of the fall of Babylon, of the lead up to and destruction of the evil city, and its ultimate replacement with the city of God. A sequential reading of 19:11-21:8 has led to Millennial schemes which do not properly reflect the teachings of Scripture; see "Interpretation" 20:1-3.
This section divides into two main parts with the sub parts introduced by kai eidon, "And I saw":
The coming conquerer, 19:11-21:
And I saw
The victorious king and his armies, v11-16;
The feast of the carrion, v17-18;
The Beast destroyed, v19-21.
The reign of the saints, 20:1-21:8:
And I saw
Satan bound, v1-3;
The saints given authority to judge, v4-10;
The throne of judgment, v11-15;
A new heaven and a new earth, 21:1-8.
This section in the Revelation is notoriously difficult to interpret, but its intent is obvious: the text reveals "God's ultimate vindication of those who maintain their witness despite the draconian consequences. The seer's aim is to offer a presentation of the future that decreases present fear of the evil behind Babylon / Rome and therefore reinvigorates the ethic of resistant witness", Blount.
ii] Background: See 1:1-8.
iii] Structure: The coming King and his armies:
A description of the rider on the white horse, v11-13;
The exercise of his authority, v14-16.
In the first of this series of kai eidon, "and I saw", visions, John again transports us to the Great Day of the Lord and the appearing of the rider on a white horse with "the armies of heaven." Presumably John wants us to see in this vision the one who has brought down Babylon, the secular city; he is Jesus, the righteous warrior, the one who is "faithful and true", the one whose name is the Word of God, the logoV, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He wears kingly crowns, ruling the nations and bringing them low with an authoritative word (the sharp sword from his mouth). His glorious robes are stained with blood, presumably the blood of his sacrifice, his atoning death.
Accompanying the righteous king is a heavenly army. Debate rages as to the make up of Christ's cavalry. If the rider on the white horse is riding to earth to enact judgment, then his army is likely to be angels, possibly "angels and the victorious saints", Osborne, but if he is a conquering hero who has just appeared in heaven, cf., v11, then it is likely that this victorious army is made up of the redeemed, those who have persevered in faith, namely, resurrected believers; See below. John's first "and I saw" vision displays the victorious Christ, crucified, risen, ascended, Lord and King, and with him we stand in glory. In this vale of tears it may not seem that way, but that's only because we focus on the shadows rather than the radiance of eternity - in Christ we are the victors.
The problem of timing and place in John's "and I saw" visions: Bauckham describes the visions in 19:11-21:8 as an interlude. It's as if John is tying up a few loose ends. We have witnessed the judgment of the great prostitute and so now the marriage feast of the Lamb is underway, 19:1-10. Just before John shows us the bride, the wife of the Lamb, in the new Jerusalem (21:9-22:5), there are a few extra details he would like to explain relating to the fall of Babylon. These details are often dealt with as if temporally sequential, and as if moving from heaven to events on earth and then back to heaven. This has prompted time orientated interpretations which have caused no end of problems.
So, in time terms we could say that John in 19:11-21:8 explains the transitional events between the fall of the secular city and the coming of the city of God, but John is really not into sequential time. John's approach is to reveal some of the many aspects of the day of judgment, the coming day of the Lord, which inevitably lead to the realization of the kingdom of God. Usually his visions present as realized eschatology, the now, ie., John witnesses the Great Day unfolding before his eyes. For the reader of the Revelation, the Day is not yet, but its reality reminds us that Babylon / the secular city, the beast / antiChrist, Satan and his minions, the kings / principalities and powers, ...... are all doomed. They may rage against the Lord, but will be brought low by the sword from his mouth, in fact, in eternal terms they have already been brought down, cf., v14, 21. There are times today, even before the unfolding of the Great Day, where eternal verities touch us, such that in the midst of darkness good transcends evil.
With regard place, it can be argued that the scenes of the "and I saw" visions move from heaven to earth and then back to heaven. The horseman and his army comes to earth and defeats "the beast and all the kings of the earth", Satan is confined, bursts out with Gog and Magog for a final assault on "the camp of God's people", but is consumed in fire. The final judgment follows with new heavens and a new earth. Yet, in v11 John doesn't see the horseman setting out for earth, but rather he sees "heaven opened and a white horse was there and it's rider .... and the army in heaven hkolouqei, "accompanying" him." So, it seems likely that John is starting where it all finishes - the victory won. The prophetic perspective entails a coming in the clouds to heaven, a coming to the Ancient of Days to exercise universal lordship, Dan.7:13-14, ie., the action is viewed from heaven, not earth. From this perspective the army is not made up of avenging angels, but oiJ aggeloi, "messengers", a righteous cavalry of the redeemed who have already seen Christ's victory won on the cross, seen the beast defeated, Satan cast into the lake of fire, judgment enacted.
The blending of inaugurated and realized eschatology in apocalyptic imagery defies the frame of space and time. In heaven, the warrior and his righteous cavalry prepare to join in the marriage feast of the Lamb, while the carrion on earth consume the corpses of the "kings, generals and the mighty", 19:17-18. In heaven the Son of Man is enthroned, aPs.2, Ez.7:12, Dan.2:37, Phil.2:10, and on earth the Beast and the kings, Satan and Gog and Magog are dethroned. Christ wins the victory on the cross, the judgment is now, and his righteous army meets him in the air and comes "on the clouds of heaven with power and glory" to the Ancient of Days to be with him forever, 1Thes.4:17. During this moment, the whole history of the Christian church plays itself out, struggling against the devouring lion, against principalities and powers in heavenly places, against the Beast / antiChrist and his associates, and Satan himself - often defeated, but ultimately victorious.
It may help to repeat the mouse-rollover illustration which attempts to expose the not yet and now of eschatology, a kingdom inaugurated and yet realized.
Text - 19:11
The coming King and his armies, v11-16: i] A description of the rider on a white horse, v11-13. The opening of the doors of heaven allows John to see what's going on in God's throne room, cf., 4:1. He sees a rider on a white horse, and John leaves us in no doubt that the rider is the glorified Christ. Commentators describe the scene as a rider coming out of heaven with his support cavalry to do battle with the powers of darkness, cf., Koester - "Messiah ushering in a final conflict against the Antichrist, in the role of a military leader at the head of heavenly armies", Smalley. As indicated above, the image is more likely that of a victorious warrior assembled with his saints, a victory won on the cross. In v11 we have the first two elements to the description of the rider at his parousia, "appearing". First, he is "faithful and true", probably in the sense that he is reliable, faithful ("true" is being used in this sense). Second, he is just, both in his judgments and when he makes war.
kai eidon "I saw" - and i saw. Serving to indicate a step in the narrative / a new vision.
hnew/gmenon (anoigw) perf. mid./pas. part. "[heaven] standing open" - [heaven] being opened. The participle serves as the complement of the direct object "heaven" in a double accusative construction. Osborne argues that the use of the perfect tense is intensive; "the heaven's stand open."
oJ kaqhmenoV (kaqhmai) pres. mid. part. "whose rider" - [and behold a white horse and] the one sitting [upon it]. The participle serves as a substantive.
kaloumenoV (kalew) pres. mid./pas. part. "is called [Faithful and True]" - being called [faithful and true]. This variant participle (probably original, so Metzger, p685) is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the one sitting."
en + dat. "with [justice]" - [and] in [righteousness he judges and makes war]. The preposition is adverbial, expressing manner, the righteous manner with which the rider judges and makes war.
John further describes the rider; fiery eyes, crowns on his head, and a secret name.
wJV "[his eyes are] like" - [and the eyes of him] as, like. Comparative.
puroV (p roV) gen. "blazing [fire]" - [a flame] of fire. The genitive is adjectival, attributed, as NIV; "flaming fire", Barclay - "blazing eyes" = the Son of Man, Dan.10:6.
epi + acc. "on [his head]" - [and] on [the head of him many crowns, diadems]. John's favorite spacial preposition, here + acc., but still with the sense "on, upon." The image describes kingship. "Christ, whose royal authority is granted by God, is depicted as the legitimate ruler of earth's kings", Koester.
ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "He has" - Technically the participle could be adjectival. It can't modify "diadems", plural, because it is singular, so it would have to modify "the one sitting", v11. We could also view it as a periphrastic construction with an assumed verb to-be, and certainly the NIV handles it as if it were a finite verb. As already noted, John is very casual when it comes to his use of this participle; cf., ecwn 1:16.
gegrammenon (grafw) perf. mid./pas. part. "[a name] written [on him]" - [a name] having been written. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "name"; "he bears a written name", Moffatt. Smalley suggests the name is written on the crowns, but "crowns" is plural, so possibly the name is inscribed on his robe, given that iJmation, v13, singular.
ei mh "[that no one knows] but [himself]" - [which no one knows] except [himself]. Introducing a contrast by designating an exception. It seems likely that John's language at this point is exaggerated, such that the rider's name is a secret, a mystery, although a mystery now revealed to the redeemed, cf., Lk.2:22. The world does not know Christ, but we do. To the world he is a good man, to believers he is the risen Lord, cf. 1Jn.3:1. Koester thinks the name is revealed in v11; the "rider is called Faithful and True." Smalley suggests the unknown name is YHWH. Osborne suggests that the hidden name "is a title reserved for eternity, the name that will reveal the true nature of the Godhead in a way beyond our finite ability to grasp."
John continues his description of the horseman, noting that his robe is "dipped in blood" and that he goes by the name "Word of God."
peribeblhmenoV (periballw) perf. mid./pas. part. "he is dressed in" - [and] having been clothed, put on. It seems likely that John is using this participle in much the same way as he used the participle ecwn, v12, ie., as a finite verb - technically a periphrastic construction with an assumed verb to be. As with the participle gegrammenon, "having been written", John uses an intensive perfect to underline the rider's description; "The rider wore a robe that was covered in blood", CEV.
bebammenon (baptw) perf. mid./pas. part. "[a robe] dipped in [blood]" - [a garment] having been dipped in [blood]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting garment. The perfect tense, as above. The verb "to dip in", usually dip in a liquid, takes a dative of direct object / location, as here, but sometimes + eiV, "into", as "into a bowl." If the sense of "dipped" is immersed, then Christ's robe is "covered in blood", CEV, "soaked with blood", Barclay, Cassirer. The question raised by "the blood" is whose blood? Given that the horseman is usually viewed as the warrior king, then the blood may be that of the victims of the warrior king and his army, so Blount, Beale, ...... Of course, there is a continuity problem if we take the view that the horseman is about to set out to earth, but is already covered in blood; and we should also note that his cavalry is not covered in blood. Some commentators argue that the blood is that of the saints, so Caird. It seems best to see the blood as a symbol of Christ's victorious sacrifice, his blood shed for the redeemed, so Boring, Harrington, Preston and Hanson, ... John sees Christ, the victorious king, seated upon his charger in the throne room of God, and with him is assembled his redeemed army, redeemed by the blood of the cross. Faced with this reality, the secular city and it's associate players, the beast, etc., crumble into nothingness.
oJ logoV (oV) "[his name is] the Word" - [and the name of him has been named, called] the word [of God]. "The word" can be viewed as standing in apposition to "the name", "the name of him, the word of God, has been named", although the unnecessary passive verb confuses somewhat, but has OT precedence, cf., Gen.3:20, LXX. The passive verb keklhtai, "has been named", may well be functioning as if it were the verb to-be estin, given that both "the name" and "the word" are nominative, "the name of him is the word of God." The "name" identifies a person, and this person may be identified as "the word of God", the logoV. Not the logos of John's gospel, the Word incarnate, but rather the word of witness / gospel which proceeds from his mouth like a sword. "The word is the cutting testimony of God's and Jesus' lordship, which Jesus himself conveyed and his witnesses now proclaim", Blount. "The name by which he is called is The Word of God", ESV.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive may be classified as ablative, source / origin, "from God" / verbal, subjective, "from God, but possibly verbal, objective, "about God", even plenary, ie., both, so Beale.
ii] The exercise of Christ's authority, v14-16. Accompanying the Son of Man in the heavenly throne room is the army of the redeemed, those wearing robes of pure white linen. John then sees the Son of Man, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, exercise authority over the nations with his authoritative word. The consequence of this exercise of authority is outlined in the next "and I saw" vision, "The defeat of the beasts", v17-21. For those who see the army descending to earth to enact judgment, there is no battle, only its consequences. The demise of the beast and his associates is achieved by a Word from God - a "sharp sword" from the mouth of the Son of Man strikes down the nations / the secular city. Such has always been the case and is so now, and will always be - "the gospel is the power of God unto salvation."
ta strateumata (a atoV) "the armies" - the detachment of soldiers. The plural may not mean "armies", but is used to reflect the plural number of soldiers in the detachment, none-the-less it is usually translated "armies". As noted above, the makeup of the army is one of debate, but the description of their robes, "fine white linen", surely implies they are the redeemed, those who have persevered in faith / conquered.
ta "-" - the. The variant article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in heaven" into an attributive adjective; "which are in heaven." The preposition en, "in", is local, expressing space. This is a heavenly army, an army located in heaven. As already indicated, there is debate as to the makeup of the army. Is it an angelic army, or an army of saints, or both? If heading off to battle, avenging angels seems likely. If coming to / assembled in heaven then the army is the saints, the 144,000, the great multitude, 17:14.
autw/ dat. pro. "[followed] him" - [were accompanying] him [on white horses]. Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow after." The verb akolouqew takes the sense "to follow / accompany" - note, as usual, singular following a neuter plural. As the army is usually viewed as on its way to earth, the verb is usually translated as "follow", as in "to follow into battle." As already noted, the rider and his army may have just arrived in heaven for the wedding feast of the Lamb and have no intention of leaving! The army has accompanied the rider to heaven, the appropriate destination of the Son of Man, cf., Dan.7:13.
endedumenoi (enduw) perf. mid. part. "dressed in [fine linen, white and clean]" - having put on [fine linen, white, pure]. Again John uses an intensive perfect participle to further his description of the heavenly rider and his "army/ies", and does so with little concern for its syntactical function - he may just think of it serving as a finite verb. Technically, we could classify it as attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the verb "to accompany", "they accompanied / assembled with / followed him on white horses and were arrayed in robes of pure white linen." This is less than satisfactory so note how the NIV has it attendant on the assumed verb "riding"; "riding on white horses and arrayed ...." - this makes more sense. We could classify it as adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the army's accompanying / following, although not really! "A heavenly army was assembled with him, mounted on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and pure."
At this point John draws on the language of Isaiah 11:4.
ek + gen. "out of [his mouth is a sharp sword]" - [a sharp sword comes out] from [the mouth of him]. Expressing source / origin; a redundant, but stylistic use of the preposition. Mathewson notes that the fronting of the prepositional phrase in the Greek, "from the mouth of him", serves to draw attention to the rider's mouth as the source of judgment. It is the Word of God that will strike down the secular city.
iJna + subj. "-" - that. Possibly introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that with / by it (the sword from his mouth = the Word) he may strike down the nations", but a purpose clause doesn't work with the second clause "he will shepherd them with / by a rod made of iron." For this reason many translators turn the second clause into a new sentence, although the reader is then inclined to treat the clause as if it were a positive statement. It seems best to take the iJna + subj. as epexegetic, ie., it introduces an explanation of the action of divine judgment, of the sharp sword coming out of the riders mouth: the judgment involves striking down the nations, and exercising rule over them with an iron rod. In the second clause John uses the future tense of poimainw, "to shepherd", when we would expect a subjunctive, but John happily uses either a subjunctive, or a future tense with iJna.
en + dat. "with [which]" - in [it he may strike the nations, and he will shepherd them] in [a rod made of iron]. Instrumental use of the preposition, expressing means, "by / with which he may strike down ........ by / with a rod made of iron." The striking, as with the ruling, is unlikely to be rehabilitative; it does not serve to prompt repentance. The verse as a whole describes judgment; the rider is not "a forceful shepherd whose chief concern is the re-forming of the flock", Blount, but rather the verse describes "the total conquest and destruction the returning (appearing!!) Christ will achieve over the nations", Osborne.
ta eqnh (oV) "the nations" - The term is used of the citizens who ascribe to the dictates of Babylon, the secular city, those who oppose God. Beale suggests that this includes apostate believers.
poimanei (poimainw) fut. "he will rule [them]" - The verb means "to shepherd", which sense can extend to "rule", as NIV. "Rule / exercise authority over" is likely to express the business of judgment performed by the sword from the mouth of the rider = the proclamation of his Word. A shepherd would often carry a heavy stick to hit unruly sheep, but the rider uses a rod of iron; "it denotes the act of 'shattering', or ruling with stern judgment", Smalley.
tou oinou (oV) gen. "[the winepress]" - [and he tramples the winepress] of the wine. The genitive is obviously adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, although it is unclear how it limits "the winepress / press." Possibly content, "full of wine" ("the winepress containing the wine", Cassirer), or producer, "which produces the wine" ("he will trample out the wine in the wine press", TEV), ....., possibly even attributed "winepress wine" = "the pressed wine", but most translation just go with "winepress" by itself, as NIV. Note the string of four genitives that follow, all testing the task of classification. Mathewson suggests that they serve to give prominence to God's wrath.
tou qumou (oV) gen. "of the fury" - of the anger. The genitive is adjectival, probably epexegetic, specifying "the pressed wine", "which is the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty", ESV.
thV orghV (h) gen. "of the wrath" - of the anger, fury, wrath. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "fury"; "the furious anger of God"; "the furious wrath of God", Phillips.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive may be classified as ablative, source / origin, or verbal, subjective; "from God."
tou pantokratoroV (wr oroV) gen. "Almighty" - the almighty. Genitive in apposition to "God".
kai "-" - [and he has a name having been written on the garment, robe], and [on the thigh of him]. The conjunction here is likely to be epexegetic, specifying the actual place on the robe where the name is written, "on his robe, that is / namely, on/at his thigh", so Smalley, Osborne, Beale, Mounce, ...; on that part of the body where a sword would normally hang; "on that part of the robe that covered his thigh was written .....", CEV.
gegrammenon (grafw) perf. mid./pas. part. "[he has a name] written" - [a name] having been written. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting name; "a name which was inscribed" = "a written name." Again John chooses an intensive perfect to highlight the description of the rider.
BasileuV (euV ewV) "King" - Standing in apposition to "name", although taking a nominative of name, rather than agreeing with the accusative of "name".
baasilewn (euV ewV) gen. "of kings" - The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination; "King over kings." So also "Lord of lords." The antiChrist is ruler over his associate kings, but Christ is the ruler over all authorities. Note that this title is used in the intertestamentary period as a title for Yhwh, reminding us that "the Warrior Messiah is God himself!", Osborne.