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7. The Return of Christ to the earth itself.
If to-day the presence of the Lord on earth is urgently needed, how much greater will be this need at the close of the Tribulation period! The Anti-christ in full power, openly blaspheming and blatantly defying God! All the world worshipping this Son of Perdition and branded with his mark on their foreheads or in their hands as token of their allegiance to him! The godly remnant of the Jews in the very last extremity and crying, “Keep not Thou silence, O God: hold not Thy peace, and be not still O God. For, lo, Thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against Thy people, and consulted against Thy hidden ones (the remnant in the “secret place” of Ps. 91:1; the “prepared place” of Rev. 12:6). They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent; they are confederate against Thee” (Ps. 83:1–5! All the forces of the Beast gathered together in a last daring effort to prevent the Lord Jesus coming back to this earth and entering into His inheritance! But now has struck the appointed hour of retribution. Now shall the Lord come “with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment upon all” (Jude 14:15). Yes, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:7–9).
A full length picture of our returning Lord is found in Rev. 19, a picture awful in its solemnity and fearful in its vividness. Let us sit down before it and study it in detail. “And I saw Heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war” (Rev. 19:11). Every word here calls for close attention.
Our Lord comes seated upon a “white horse.”
The Greek word intimates a-war-horse or “charger.” Note its color. In Scripture, colors are used emblematically. Here, “white” is the fitting emblem of the Rider’s spotless purity and unsullied holiness. Everything in the passage we are now examining is in marked contrast to our Lord’s first Advent. Then He was seen, meek and lowly, seated upon the back of an ass. But now He is coming back to the earth for a different work from that which He performed when He was here before. He returns now for the purpose of subduing wickedness, to destroy evil doers, to overthrow Anti-christ and to remove Satan from these scenes. Hence, in keeping with His mission, He appears seated upon a white war-charger! “Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O most Mighty, with Thy glory and Thy majesty. And in Thy majesty ride prosperously, because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and Thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; whereby the people fall under Thee. Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of Thy Kingdom is a right scepter” (Ps. 45:3–6).
He Comes as the “Faithful and True.”
This is in vivid contrast from the abounding unfaithfulness of men. He comes now faithful to His promises and true to His threatenings. To-day, men may single out those parts of His teachings which accord with their own sentiments, and reject and deny His solemn threatenings of judgment against the unbelieving; but, in that day, it shall be seen that He is Faithful and True to every word He uttered, whether of promise or of threatening.
He comes back again as “Judge.”
Here we have another striking contrast. When he was here before, wicked men dared to arraign Him. He was brought before the judgment-bar of Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod. But now the tables shall be turned. He Himself shall be the Judge. God hath “appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained” (Acts 17:31). And now the appointed “Day” (the Millennium) has dawned; the ordained Man is at hand. Observe it is said, “In righteousness He doth judge” (Rev. 19:11). This also points a contrast. He was judged un-righteously. No charge could be preferred against Him. He was guiltless; even His judge had to acknowledge “I find no fault in Him;” and yet he sentenced Him to death! How un-righteous! But in marked contrast, our Lord shall judge “in righteousness:” nought but Justice shall He dispense.
He comes to make war!
Ah! once our blessed Lord ministered to the needy, fed the hungering multitude, healed the sick, gave peace to the burdened conscience. Beforetime, He invited the heavy-laden to come to Him for rest. But here all is changed. Now He comes seated upon a war-charger, and with the express purpose of making war. At the Red Sea, where Jehovah destroyed Pharaoh, and his hosts, Israel sang “The Lord is a Man of War” (Ex. 15:3), and now has struck the hour when this shall be demonstrated as never before. He returns to earth with the deliberate design of shedding the blood of His enemies.
“And His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written that no man knew, but He Himself. And He was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called the Word of God” (Rev. 19:12, 13).
He comes with flashing and flaming eyes.
When He was upon earth before, those eyes had oft-times shone with tenderness, as when the children were attracted to Him; had glowed with compassion, as when a single look upon guilty Peter melted his heart and caused him to go out and weep bitterly; yea, they had been filled with tears, as when He stood by the graveside of Lazarus and when He wept over the Jerusalem which had rejected Him. But here they flash and flame like fire. Now shall they be seen as the eyes of One who is thoroughly aroused with holy indignation. But not only do those flaming eyes express His anger, they also show forth His omniscience. Those flaming eyes shall pierce through every veil of hypocrisy and scorch into the very soul of His enemies. They will act as a veritable searchlight, penetrating to the thoughts and intents of the heart.
He comes with head decked with many crowns.
This, again, is in vivid contrast to the days of old. Once that holy brow was covered with sweat of agony so intense that it was as it were great drops of blood. Once that head was crowned with thorns—the symbol of the Curse. But here it shall be crowned with glory and honor. He comes forth now, not as the lowly Sufferer, but as the victorious Conquer vested with complete authority. “Many crowns” observe, for in that day He shall be King not only of the Jews, but King of the Gentiles as well—King of kings. All the world shall then be compelled to bow before Him and submit to His universal sovereignty.
He comes with a Name known to none save Himself.
In Scripture names express nature—what a person or thing is. So here. Christ has a name which no creature can fathom. That is to say, His Person is incomprehensible; there are mysterious depths in Him which no finite mind can grasp.
He comes with a vesture dipped in blood.
At first sight this seems to suggest a comparison rather than a contrast, but the verses which follow show that it is another of those sharp antitheses with which this passage abounds. Once His raiment had been crimsoned by the flowing of His own blood, but now, alas! it is from the blood of others. He was lifted up that men might shed His blood, but now He descends that He might shed their blood.
He comes, denominated the Word of God.
We are told this so that there may be no possibility of mistaking Him. This title serves to identify Him and connects the two Advents. He is here designated by His Eternal and Divine name. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). He is no longer called by His name “Jesus” which means “Saviour,” but is termed “the Word of God” which points to the dignity, majesty, and glory of His Person. The use of this Divine title in the present connection is deeply significant. When He was here before He came in weakness and shame: it was His Humanity that was most prominent; but when He comes back again to this earth, He shall return in irresistible power and great glory, and His Deity will be most conspicuous.
“And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron; and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 19:15, 16).
He comes to smite the nations with a Sword that goeth out of His mouth.
Here again we have another contrast. When He was here before, He spoke words of blessing and cheer: He came not to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. But now all is changed. The “Sword” which proceedeth out of His mouth is the Word of God (Heb. 4:12). Throughout the centuries of this Dispensation He has sent forth His Word that it may slay sin in men, but in that day He shall send His word that it may slay men in sin. In the days of His humiliation, His mouth was opened to bless men, now it shall be opened to curse and slay them. It is the fulfillment of Isaiah 11:4—“And He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.” It marks the ease with which He performs His purposes: he speaks, and it is done; He gives the command, and it is accomplished. Something of this was pre-intimated on the occasion of His arrest in the Garden (John 18). When the soldiers came to take Him, He said, “Whom seek ye?” and they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth,” and we read, “Jesus said unto them. I am** and as soon as He had said unto them I am, they went backward and fell to the ground”! If so mild an utterance prostrated His enemies then, what will it be when He girds Himself for judgment!
He comes to rule the nations with a Rod of Iron.
How different this is to the popular conception of the “Gentle Jesus”! Human sentimentality has pictured our blessed Lord as being so tender that He will never find in His heart to punish sin and slay the workers of iniquity. For the most part, the world today hears from the pulpit only a one-sided presentation of the character of God—that side which is most agreeable to man in his fallen condition. But God is not only Love, He is Light; not only is He Merciful; He is Holy and Righteous. Because He is holy He cannot ignore sin, yea, “He can by no means clear the guilty.” The claims of His Throne must be maintained, even though a thousand worlds be destroyed. Long has God dealt with our race in wondrous grace and infinite patience, and evilly have men repaid Him. But when Christ returns to the earth, the Dispensation of grace will have ended and He comes back, no longer inviting voluntary allegiance, but to compel obedience. The insignia of the returning Lord shall be the Iron Rod. Iron was the symbol and emblem of the Roman Empire, and stood for restless power, rigid rule, and indomitable government. History shows us what it meant to be crushed beneath “the iron heel of the Romans.” And “iron,” the Iron Rod and rule, will be the fitting emblem of Christ’s government in that day when He returns to crush the head of the Serpent, subdue His enemies and put down all opposition.
He comes to tread the Winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
This is the fulfillment of the prophetic word of Isaiah—“Who is this that goeth from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore are Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like Him that treadeth the winepress? I have troden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me: for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment. For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart, and the year of My redeemed is come.** And I will tread down the people in Mine anger, and make them drunk in My fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth” (Is. 63:1–6). Unspeakably dreadful will be the carnage for we are told, “The winepress was trodden without the city (Jerusalem) and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horses bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs” (that is, 200 miles!) (Rev. 14:20). Yes, terrible shall be the slaughter, but who shall say it was not fully merited and demanded. Mercy had been slighted and abused. A “murderer” had again been preferred above the Lord of life. God Himself was being openly blasphemed. And now the Executioner steps forth. This is the hour promised Him by the Father, that His enemies shall be made His “footstool” (Ps. 110:1)!
He comes followed by “armies.”
“And the armies which were in Heaven followed Him upon white horses clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Rev. 19:14). The “armies” that follow the Divine Warrior will be made up by both the Old Testament and New Testament saints. Those armies are not “angels” as some teach, though these “armies” will certainly be accompanied by angels as we learn from 2 Thess. 1:7. That the “armies” are not angels appears from Jude 14, where those who accompany the Captain of their salvation are denominated “saints” a term which is never applied to angels; and also from Rev. 17:14, where those that are “with Him” are styled “called and chosen and faithful”—language which is applicable to none save the children of God. The saints who are one with Christ, then made “like Him,” will fully share His feelings and participate in His victory, though He alone will do the fighting.
He comes to overthrow the Anti-christ and his legions.
The issue of this battle, the Battle of that great day of God Almighty (popularly but unscripturally called “Armageddon”) is never in doubt. Its issue is fore-announced. A call is given to the fowls of the air to devour the carcasses of the slain before the battle begins—“And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of Kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great” (Rev. 19:17, 18). It is to this same terrible event the prophet Ezekiel bore witness, “Thus saith the Lord God; Speak unto the feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to My slaughter that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of My sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. Thus ye shall be filled at My table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord God. And I will set My glory among the heathen, and all the heathen shall see My judgment that I have executed, and My hand that I have laid upon them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day and forward” (Ezek. 39:17–22). But to continue, and complete our review of Rev. 19.
“And I saw the Beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army. And the Beast was taken, and with him the False Prophet that wrought miracles before him, and with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the Beast, and them that worshipped his image. Those both were cast alive into the Lake of Fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of His mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh” (Rev. 19:19–21). Comment is needless. The Anti-christ and the False Prophet are both cast into the Lake of Fire where, a thousand years later, Satan shall join them. 1515 During the Millennium Satan is secured in the Bottomless Pit. The awful but richly deserved fate which overtakes the armies of the Anti-christ is dramatically portrayed in Zech. 14—“And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the Lord shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour” (vss. 12, 13). Thus will end the present Age. What a termination! What a climax! What consummation of wickedness! This is the goal—now so near at hand—toward which all our boasted enlightenment, progress, and civilization is headed. The end will witness all Christendom (minus the Body of Christ, previously raptured) in organized and open revolt and rebellion against Almighty God, to be utterly destroyed at the Redeemer’s Return.
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