TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 18-19
“And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” (Revelation 19.21)
In Revelation 19.11, John sees heaven open and a white horse appears. The rider on the white horse was called faithful and true.
Who is the rider on the white horse?
Revelation 1.5 calls Jesus “the faithful witness.” And, Revelation 3.14 calls Jesus “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.”
John says Jesus judges and makes war in righteousness.
How does Jesus judge and make war in righteousness?
On the cross.
The righteousness of God is revealed by Jesus on the cross (Romans 3.21-26. You can read about this in What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?
Speaking of Jesus on the white horse, John says, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” (Revelation 19.15) This same sword in Jesus’ mouth is previously mentioned twice in Revelation. Verse 1.16 says, “From his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword.” And, verse 2.12 says, “The word of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.”
Clearly, this is not a literal sword. Jesus does not have a literal sword coming out of his mouth by which he is going to literally kill people. Since the sword is coming from his mouth, this is clearly a reference to Jesus’ word. In Revelation 19.13, John said of Jesus, “The name by which he is called is The Word of God.” This fits with Hebrews 4.12, which says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”
The sharp two-edged sword coming from Jesus’ mouth is to “strike down the nations.” Verse 19.15 continues, “And he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” This is all an allusion to Psalm 2.
Psalm 2.1-2 says, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.”
Jesus is going to strike the nations that gather themselves together against him with the sharp two-edged sword in his mouth.
Psalm 2.5 says, “Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury.”
In the Septuagint, this verse uses the same Greek words for wrath [orge] and fury [thymos] that are used in Revelation 19.15. You can read more about these words and Jesus’ treading of the winepress alone in What Is the Wrath of God?
Jesus is going to tread the winepress, that is go to the cross, alone. It is by treading the winepress alone that Jesus is going to judge and make war against the nations in righteousness, by the cross, that have gathered against him.
Speaking of this battle where the nations gather together against the messiah, Psalm 2.7 says, “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.'”
Jesus became the begotten son of God not when he was born by Mary but when he was born of God in his resurrection. This is why Revelation 1.5 says that Jesus is the “firstborn of the dead.” Colossians 1.18 says, “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” Acts 26.23 says, Jesus was “the first to rise from the dead.” Romans 8.29 says that God is conforming us to the image of Jesus “in order that he [Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
Jesus was the begotten son of God, the first to be born from death to life.
Therefore, Revelation 19.11-21 is to be understood as a revelation, an unveiling, of what happened at the cross.
So, John saw an angel calling with a loud voice to all the birds, “Come, gather for the great supper of God.” (Revelation 19.17)
What were these birds to gather and eat at the great supper of God?
“To eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.”
It is important to notice the repetition of the word flesh. It is the flesh that the birds have been gathered together to eat.
With the kings of the earth and their armies, John saw the beast. In this battle, the beast was captured. And, so was the false prophet who deceived all those that had received the mark of the beast, worshiped it image, and gathered against Jesus for war.
What happened to the beast and false prophet after this battle?
“These two were thrown alive in the lake of that burns with sulfur.” (Revelation 19.20)
The beast and the false prophet led the kings of the earth and their armies into war against Jesus and were thrown into the lake of fire because of it.
But, what about the kings and their armies?
Were they thrown into the lake of fire too?
“And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who sitting on the horse.” (Revelation 19.21)
The kings and their armies, the captains, the mighty men, and all men – free and slave, small and great – were slain by the sword.
The Greek word for slain is apokteino. It means to kill or slay. It can also mean destroy. This is word is used 74 times in the New Testament. It is used almost exclusively in regards to the Jews killing the prophets and Jesus.
In fact, Revelation 19.21 is the first and only instance of Jesus, or God, actually killing, slaying any person in the New Testament.
There is only one other time where Jesus and God are said to actually kill something.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing [apokteino] the hostility.” (Ephesians 2.14-16)
Through the cross, Jesus kills “the hostility.”
In one sense, the hostility between Jew and Gentile.
But, I believe in a greater sense our mankind’s hostility to God.
Where does man’s hostility to God reside?
“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8.7-8)
The Greek word for hostile in Romans 8.7 is the same Greek word for hostile in Ephesians 2.14, 16.
Hostility to God resides in the mind set on the flesh. And, the flesh cannot please God.
Why did the angel call the birds to gather for the great supper of God?
“To eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” (Revelation 19.18)
Why were the rest, all those in the verse above, “slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him [Jesus]”?
So that “all the birds were gorged with their flesh.”
But, what does it mean to be slain by the sharp two-edged sword in Jesus’ mouth?
What does it mean to be killed by the word of God?
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4.12-13)
To be killed by the word of God, the sharp two-edged sword, means not our literal, physical death but the separation of our flesh from our spirit.
In Revelation 19.21, Jesus kills all the flesh of those gathered against him because the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. Because this the flesh and the mind set on it cannot please God, Jesus separates the flesh from us with the sword of his mouth, the word of God.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.” (Romans 8.5)
Remember, the setting for this battle is the cross. Through the cross, Jesus gives peace, killing our hostility to God. He removes our flesh and gives us his Spirit.
“But those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit…But to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8.5, 6)
In reality, Jesus and God do not physically kill mankind.
Rather, Jesus and God kill the flesh of mankind.
Which means that Jesus and God separate the spirit of each person from their flesh so that they can please God.