Sermon outline: Revelations 19:11-21

Revelation 19:11-21

Holy War

D-160 Mu-tien Chiou


On July 8, 1741, Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, « Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. » Edwards held the manuscript so close to his face that the congregation was unable to see his expression as he read every word. The people, so terrified by his words, gripped the backs of their pews, feeling that the ground below was about to open and swallow them into hell. One man rushed down the aisle crying, « Mr. Edwards, have mercy! »

That was then; this is now. Never in all history have men spoken so much of the Apocalypse in terms of the inevitable doomsday of the Almighty, yet been so shrouded in indifference of God’s impending judgment and apathy of our participation in the ongoing spiritual warfare, which victory is warranted in Christ.

Be assured that those who study Revelation 19 and what follows it will not be shrouded in such ignorance that leads to indifference and apathy about evil and judgment.


Proposition: Expect and participate passionately in the conquest of the kingdoms to Christ, which is always accomplished by the power of the truth, wielded by a faithful Church, and rendered efficacious by the power of his Spirit.

Organizational sentence: The conquest itself is a holy war. Those who have sensed the calling to take part in it must carefully recognize their combatant, their combat, the warfare, their enemies, and thus having a conviction of the results and be ready for it.

  1. The combatant (vv 11-16):
    1. The conquering Christ: Titles and Warrior imagery. « Faithful and True », « King of kings and Lord of lords« , « o` lo,goj tou/ qeou/« 
    2. The unknowable name: He is the sole possessor of the power bound up with the name (cf., Gen 32:19; Jg. 13:17-18)
    3. The wine-treader (patw,n) imagery (Isa 63:1-6): it is a symbol of his own agonizing earnestness (cf. Mk 14:32-36) and of the mortal enmity of his foes. white-horse
  2. The warfare (vv 14, 17-20)
    1. Spiritual rather than physical; imminent and ongoing rather than remote. It has been already, and abundantly.

      Application: This is the struggle now going forward. Human conduct is judged by the true standard of right, the life of Christ.

    2. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is his weapon.

      Application: Christ is the Word and He alone judges and kills. But we participate in this holy war as vehicles and witnesses of this Word. By preaching and living out o` lo,goj,

    3. The array of His armies, who are saints of the church, are all dressed in white, clean, fine linen.

      Application: We live out o` lo,goj in holy and unblemished conduct.

  3. The enemies (vv 19-21)
    1. The beast: the one who captures people with its charisma and political maneuver (cf. 17:7ff).
    2. The false prophet: the one who deceive people with signs and rhetoric (v 20).
    3. The kings of the earth with their armies: those wicked and blind people who resist, in their disbelief, the Truth we proclaimed.
  4. The results (vv 20-21)
    1. This victory is in certainty: The transition from v19 to v20 is abrupt, the course of battle does not matter so much as the triumphant outcome.
    2. Spiritual death is inflicted upon those who have proved themselves hostile to God. The cruelty expressed this Birds’ feast on their body is juxtaposed in contrast with the Lamb’s joyful wedding banquet (19:9).


Conclusion and Application:

Let the church remember that this rider on the white horse is the living Jesus, that he is in the forefront of every battle, that just as he conquered the beast and the false prophet, so he will conquer every enemy. The rider on the white horse is still riding on. Let the church follow, clothed in linen, white and clean.




Explanationon Homiletic Decision:

When I began to meditate this passage, the animal imageries first caught my eye.

White horses, beast and birds are more animated than other personae (rider, angel, kings, armies, and false prophet).

I wished to know what the horse imagery exactly signified and ended up finding that “white horse symbolizes the outbreak of a war of conquest[1]. While its color is used to “lend vividness and realism to the description” rather than carrying specific connotations, its known characteristics such as aggressiveness and stubbornness are alluded to for warfare motif.[2]

That finding echoes our classroom discussion with Dr. Pao. He suggested the holy war imagery to be the center in John’s vision. Other visionary or revelatory elements that come in to play in this passage, such as winepress-treading and Messianic banquet, should be considered in their relation to their own referencing context and the significance they can add to this central warfare motif.

This is just how I decided the main points when I tried to outline of this passage. There are four vital elements s in this holy war: the divine warrior (with his weapon and armies), the warfare (portrayed as the array and confrontation), the enemies, and the aftermath. This outline of main points also reflects the narrative sequence. In the divine warfare, John first saw the combatant. He is very unusual, and we know this from His lofty titles and his sensational advent. His “unknown name” specifically suggests that His sublime authority is self-evident. It was a very widespread idea among many ancient nations that the man who knew the name of a god or a demon possessed certain powers over him. Jacob’s wrestling with the divinity in Gen 32:19ff. and Manoah and his wife’s encounter with angelic messenger before their conception of Sampson in Jg. 13 can pertinently illustrate the identity of this holy combatant. Reminiscence of Old testament visions in 19:15 adds messianic significance to idiosyncratic mannerism. War robe dipped in blood and treading winepress are evocative of, if not directly borrowed from, Isa 62:1-6, whereas the smash of nations with an iron scepter is an allusion to Ps 2:9. It is not reasonable to say that this mounted combatant is holding the stick, ejecting the sword from his mouth, and treading the winepress all at once. David Aune’s commentary makes it clear:

The future tense of poimanei, “he will rule,” makes it clear that this clause, like the i[na, “that,” clause in v 15a, is not part of the description of the rider but a messianic interpretation of his role, in which the “sharp sword” is construed as functionally equivalent to the “iron crook.[3]

All in all, along with the superiority, divinity, justice, faithfulness of this glorious Judge is His furious wrath, agonizing earnestness and unwavering determination. To preach this idea as it is vividly portrayed in the text is our task in first main point.

cruelty upon the day of judgment.

The second point has direct concern with the audience, for they are represented in the scenario as heavenly armies. Some would say that they are not meant to fight, but they are indeed designated as “strateumata” (soldiers). The point is that they do not fight with their own swords and armors— their combatant with his giant sword is the only agent that takes the enemies’ life, but rather they participate in this holy war by witnessing the entire event. It is noteworthy that they are all dressed in white, clean, fine linen, instead of full plate armor and helmet (contra. Eph 6:14ff.; 1 The 5:8). From here we have the application: participation in the war on the Lord’s side requires purity. Purity in conduct, in speech, and in thought are embodied by the white robe of righteousness that clothes the saints (Isa 61:10; Job 29:14). When the book of Revelation was composed, its first century readers understand the meaning of witness within the historical context of roman persecution of Christianity. The warfare is a spiritual one rather than a fleshly uprising against the authorities. Thus we are as armies following Christ our combatant by actively, preaching His Word (and thus let this edgy [s]word exercise its lethal power upon our spiritual enemies. cf., Heb 4:12-13), and having unblemished conduct. This is the first century meaning of “witnessing Christ”. We die for Him when necessary (martyr vs. marture,w), and we obey and revere the government in every civil aspect (cf. 1 Pet 2:13ff.; Rom 13:1-7).

moonblood whitehorse

The enemies are spiritual and eschatological. Since the end time is to be understood either in the near future (cf. 2 Tim 3:1; 2 Pet 3:3; Jud 1:18) or as already in progress (cf. 1 Pet 1:20; 1 Cor 10:11; James 5:3; Heb 1:2), our confrontation with these enemies is imminent and ongoing. Attempt to delineate these enemies are proven to be fruitful in preaching, though close identification of the “suspects” to some specific personal figures may be too risky. The false prophet deceive people with signs and rhetoric (Mt 24:11, 24; Mk 13:22). He is the intellectual antagonist against God. The beast captures people with its charisma and political leverage. It is the socio-political, organizational, and institutional Antichrist. The kings of the earth with their armies are those who persecutes the saints and reject the Truth in their rebellious acts. They were empowered by the beast and believed they could have a try against God. We will wait and see.

What subsequently happened is the focus of our last point. Surprisingly there is NO combat in this warfare. The beast with all its companions is no rivalry against the blade of God’s Word as they are immediately captured awaiting for judgment and humiliation. The hovering vultures and their feast on dead flesh signify the inevitability of the judgment and the humiliation inflicted upon those condemned. This messianic banquet on doomsday contrasts with the marriage supper of the Lamb. This proximate yet sharp juxtaposition implies that no middle ground for the neutral state in this spiritual warfare. The brutal spectacle should incite those who are wavering and irresolute in faith. But assurance will be given to those who are enduring hardships or persecuted. The victory is prescript and promised.

In the final application and conclusion we jog the memory of the congregation that this rider on the white horse is our living Jesus. He is in the forefront of every battle and is conquering all enemies with the power of the Truth. His word wielded by a faithful church is the ultimate weapon in this ongoing spiritual war, while spiritual purity and holiness of the saints are prerequisites. His spirit gives us such assurance and will move us toward active participation as his witness. In the already-but-not-yet eschaton, we “expect” and “participate in” the expansion/consummation of God’s kingdom. Our proposition carries out its task in this part[4]. Since this is where all the exegetical weights from the main points will be cumulated, more detailed explanation and encouragement will be given on the pulpit in order to fill up the hermeneutical gap between first century church and today’s evangelical believers.

In order to impress the congregants, I pick up an anecdotes about Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” for introduction, for which I am partly indebted to Paul Lee Tan’s encyclopedic work for sermon illustrationt[5]. It helps illustrate that God’s wrath upon judgment a fearful thing, though this fear could be result in irrational/nonsensical response—a congregant rushed to beg mercy from Edwards! In this sermon we will certainly address the dreadfulness of the inevitable doom. Yet meanwhile, instruction and assurance will be provided as we know it’s ongoing and we can take part in it by changing something from within.

[1] Ryken, Leland ; Wilhoit, Jim ; Longman, Tremper ; Duriez, Colin ; Penney, Douglas ; Reid, Daniel G.: Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, 2000, c1998, S.401

[2] Ibid.

[3]Aune, David E.: Word Biblical Commentary : Revelation 17-22. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 52C), S. 1061

[4] Interpreting Revelation has caused much debate, and at least four standard methods for interpreting the book have developed. Steve Gregg (Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary. Nashville, Tenn. : T. Nelson Publishers, 1997, S.) succinctly describes them as follow: “Preterists view the book as referring  almost exclusively to first-century events. Historicists view the book as referring to the unfolding of church history until Christ’s second coming. Idealists see the book as symbolizing the eternal conflict between good and evil. Futurists see the book as mainly about the end times. Sometimes interpreters blend two or more of these approaches.” This outline reflects an amalgamation of the first three types of view.

[5]Tan, Paul Lee: Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979










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