Revelation (Part 37): Armageddon
Overwhelmed by the image of relationship with God in the marriage and feasting scene and by the angel’s urging John to write that those invited are blessed, John falls before the angel in worship. This is one of the angels of the bowl judgments that has been revealing these scenes to John since 17:1. Quickly the angel tells John, “Stop that!” The angel is just a fellow servant of God. And this fellow servant points John back to God. The testimony of the angel—as is the testimony of all of us—is given for God’s glory. Again, it is not that God is jealously wanting personal acknowledgement in selfish pride (no matter how much he truly deserves it). God is the source of truth, goodness, and beauty. Without worship of God, attention to God, focus on him as the central core of our whole community of love, we lose that TGB that IS God. Our everlasting love relationship cannot exist without the basis, intricate involvement, and exaltation of TGB. And TGB is found only in God. So God desires the praise and worship not simply for selfish reasons, but for community reasons.
Then heaven opens and Jesus comes riding forth (17:11a). He is on a white horse. This connects us back with Revelation 6 when the first seal was opened by Jesus and a rider on a white horse came forward. The scroll was redemption’s plan. The redemption scroll did not open (was not fulfilled in Christ’s atonement) until all seven seals were plucked open. Therefore, the opening of the seals showed us the preparation for redemption—OT history. The very first seal opening—with its white horse and rider—illustrated this plan of God coming forward in the environment of sin that marred creation. Thus, here in chapter 19, we see fulfillment of that preparatory scene. Jesus, the Redeemer, comes forward on a white horse linking the preparation of redemption with its fulfillment.
Jesus is called Faithful and True (17:11b). These names are appropriate for the one who brings judgment. Earlier in the chapter, the redeemed cried out, “His judgments are true and righteous.” Of course, we know that to be righteous means to be faithful to the covenant. So the judgments of truth and faithfulness (righteousness) are now carried out by the Redeemer who is called True and Faithful.
He makes war in righteousness (17:11c). Of course, the Redeemer comes forward to redeem. But we must redeem the other side of that coin. His coming in redemption necessarily means he is gathering only those with whom he can and will have relationship. Those who will not have relationship with him are then not gathered—separated—judged.
His eyes are like fire and he wears many crowns (17:12a). Eyes of fire are the perfect picture for a judge—seeing through the façade, knowing the heart. And no one escapes. His many crowns show his transcendence of judgment over all the world.
And he has a name that no one knows except himself (17:12b). Now this should give us pause. Isn’t the very purpose of a name to identify? A name exists so that others can use it. Why would our Redeemer have a name that no one knows? What good is it then? We need to pause here to reflect on exactly how the Bible treats names—God’s name in particular.
We, of course, meet God first in the first of the creation scenes in Genesis 1. Here in the astounding fury, majesty, and omnipotence of forming stars, sun, waters, land, and beasts, the Bible reveals God’s name as Elohim—the one (or ones) of power—a fitting name for the Creator of everything. But in the Bible we know God mostly by another name—Yahweh (or Jehovah). This name technically means existent one, but from its use we learn that it is intended not merely to tell us that he exists, but rather how he exists. From its use we see the name pointing to who God is rather than simply that he is. The name is introduced in the second creation story starting in Genesis 2:4. He is called the Lord God—Yahweh Elohim (the existent one of power). It is this name that God uses to specify his forming of his image bearers in 2:7. Who is this God? The second creation story reveals him to be a God of truth, goodness, and beauty, holding those qualities in his faith, hope, and love. And we see his insistence that his crown of creation—his image bearers—bear that image of who he is. It is in his TGB communicated in love that we know God. In fact, we know nothing of God except what he communicates. And since his communication is the expression of his TGB (which is the definition of love), we know that God is love by his expression of love. No wonder Paul says, “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (I Cor 13:13). God’s primary characteristic—the one by which we can know and have relationship with our God—is love. That is who God is. One may wonder how, if love is communicating the TGB that is God, how could God be love before he created? To whom could he have expressed his love? That point is the philosophical basis for understanding the necessity of the Trinity. God is one essence of TGB, but he is three Persons intent on continuously expressing that essence among the Godhead. Therefore, God is and always has been a God of love.
And the point of this discussion is that it is in his name that he projects this truth. We see it here depicted in the creation accounts, but we have it from the very words of God in Exodus 6:2–3. He shows the same progressive revelation of himself as a God of power (what he will do) and of relational purpose (why he is doing it) as he talks with Moses. He tells Moses, “I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El (power), but I did not reveal My name Yahweh (existent one) to them.” God’s point is the point we have been discussing. He showed himself as the God of power—El—to the patriarchs in establishing with them what he would do. But it is with Moses and the children of Israel that God reveals himself as Yahweh, telling them why he is doing it. He does it for who he is—a God of love and relationship. It is to them that he says, “I will dwell among you” (Lev 26:11-12 and in countless places).
We understand then that it is by God’s name that we learn who he is, and primarily what we are to learn is that he is a God of relational love. And of course, the whole Bible continues with this idea: the name indicating love relationship with God. See the emphasis on names and relationships in these verses:
Isaiah 62:4—You will no longer be called Deserted; and your land will not be called Desolate; instead, you will be called My Delight is in Her, and your land Married.
Isaiah 62:11—Look, your salvation is coming, His reward is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him. And they will be called the Holy People, the Lord’s Redeemed; and you will be called Cared For, A City Not Deserted.
Isaiah 65:15—(to the rejecters) You will leave your name behind as a curse for My chosen ones, and the Lord God will kill you; but He will give His servants another name.
Matthew 1:23—See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God with us.”
Matthew 7:22–23—On that day many will say to Me, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?” Then I will announce to them, “I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!” (Notice here Jesus’s response. They wanted to say they did those things in his name—meaning in relationship with him. But he responds concerning the relationship—that there never was one.)
Matthew 28:19—Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (First, one name for all three? Of course, if that name represents relationship. We are to immerse (baptize) others in the relationship with God.)
John 17:6—I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world.
John 17:11b—Holy Father, protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one.
John 17:26—I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Med with may be in them and I may be in them. (All three of these verses in Jesus’s prayer associate the name of God with relationship.)
John 20:31—But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name. (Life—with God—in his name—in relationship)
Acts 2:21—Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (The primary idea of salvation is not escape from hell but rather life (relationship) with God. That comes through his name.)
I Corinthians 1:10—Now I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you. (They fought with each other. But Paul urges them by the name—by relationship together with God—to be united.)
Hebrews 1:4—So He became higher in rank than the angels, just as the name He inherited is superior to theirs. (His name is superior because it is one of closer relationship. He is the only begotten of God.)
Revelation 2:17—Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it. (The new name is relationship with God. That no one knows it indicates the personal sense of the relationship.)
Revelation 3:12—The victor: I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of My God, and he will never go out again. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God—the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God—and My new name.
Revelation 22:4—They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. (Relationship with our God is perfect and forever.)
This list is a very short one pulled from the literally hundreds of references relating the name to relationship with God. Returning to Revelation 19, then, we should have no problem understanding why the people—among whom Jesus goes forth in judgment because of their rejection—would not know his name. They have no relationship with him.
The next six descriptions form a chiasmus:
1a--Robe stained with blood; name is the Word of God
2a--Armies in heaven followed on white horses wearing white linen
3a--Sword from mouth to strike nations
3b--Shepherd with rod of iron
2b--Trample winepress of God’s anger
1b--Robe and thigh with name
The robe and name are the outer points. It is from his unique relationship with God that the Redeemer goes forth in judgment. Points 2a and 2b are linked by their contrast. The faithful are with him; the unfaithful are trampled. The midpoints 3a and 3b are alike in their rejection of the rejecters. The first shows a kingly image in striking down the human-focused by the word of God. The 3b point is a shepherding image of shepherd with his rod fending off those not of the flock.
Finally we come to the battle scene. An angel stands on the sun—showing control over that which essentially gives light and life to the world. The angel calls for carrion birds—buzzards, vultures, condors—to prepare to come to feast on the flesh of those who rejected God. This is not a literal scene. The battle goes on throughout this age. Anticipating a battlefield after the battle is over when the birds come to feast on the fallen is the picture presented of those who will not come to Christ throughout this age. And we see that in the last paragraph of the section, 19:19 through 21. This scene is the fitting end of this whole human-focused section. The beast will finally be defeated. Evil will end. The human-focused will be put away. Without God, they are forever lost, and the judgment is done.