Harry Whittaker
Revelation - A Biblical Approach

Chapter 37 - The Final Visions (19:11-21)

The first of the final awesome visions seen by the apostle John is taken up almost entirely with a description of Jesus as the heavenly Warrior, asserting his own divine authority against all adversaries. He rides a horse, and not an ass, in token of this fact. It is a white horse to signify that “he doth judge and make war in righteousness”. The very brevity of this allusion to one of Isaiah’s greatest Messianic prophecies can mislead the reader into a mistaken assumption that both verbs “judge” “make war,” mean the same thing. Yet the Old Testament originally foretells that “with righteousness shall he judge the poor ... he shall smite the oppressor[74] with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (11:4). It is for this latter reason that “out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword.”

The mention of “eyes as a flame of fire” supplies another point of contact with the description of the heavenly High Priest at the beginning of Revelation. But whereas this power of unerring discernment was employed then to discriminate between worthy and unworthy in the ecclesias, it serves now to distinguish between friend and foe. When Solomon, who could have been such a wonderful prototype of the Messiah in his glory, came to the throne, there were men like Shimei and Joab who openly declared loyalty but who were secret rebels. The divine wisdom and insight given to him to cope with such situations were mediocrity itself by comparison with the incisive infallibility of judgement which Jesus was able to exercise even in the days of his flesh and which will be even more evident in the time of his glory.

There are certain important differences to be observed between Jesus the high priest and Jesus the kingly warrior. In Revelation 1 no crown is described save the high-priestly tiara of seven stars in his right hand (according to Isaiah 62:3), but in the end of the Apocalypse he wears many diadems because now he is not only priest but also King of kings.

Also, in place of the priestly robe reaching to his feet he wears a garment, which is stained with blood. This is because he treads “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath[75] of Almighty God” (19:15). The double allusion to Isaiah 63:3 is not to be missed. Nor should the help, which Revelation 19 supplies for the interpretation of Isaiah, be neglected. Those who believe that when the Lord comes from Edom with dyed garments from Bozrah he is making his first approach to his capital in Zion should note that in Revelation he already wears many crowns and already bears the title: King of kings.


In another respect Revelation throws light on an apparent contradiction in Isaiah 63. “I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the peoples there was none with me” appears to be at variance with: “I will trample them in my fury,” for the word “trample” always implies a multitude. Revelation 19 eludicates simply with its description: “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (v. 14). Although, in the treading of the winepress, the blood comes, figuratively, “even unto the horses’ bridles” (14:20), those who follow the King of kings, whether angels or glorified saints, remain unstained. The blood is only on the raiment of the Messiah, for the judgement lies with him alone. When Isaiah 63 says: “of the peoples there was none with me,” the words must be understood as having reference to the tribes of Israel. Very frequently in the Old Testament the word “peoples” is used with this meaning (see concordance).


The one who leads this army of God is given four different names in quick succession, thus emphasizing that all the diverse aspects of the grand purpose of God have their fulness in him.

1. He is “Faithful and True”. The words “faithfulness and truth” describe the unfaltering Covenants of Promise. Both words are used copiously in the Old Testament in this sense. The only place in the prophets where these terms occur together has a specially appropriate context: “O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee ... thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin ... Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee ...” (Isaiah 25:1-3).

2. “His name is called The Word of God.” Scripture quotes his self-identification as “I that speak in righteousness”. In this vision there goes out of his mouth a sharp sword, “that with it he should smite the nations”. It is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. Now he speaks the word of power, and judgement ensues. As preacher and prophet, as healer and example he was “the Word made ~7esh” in the days of his weakness, but now in the time of his power he is the glory and justice and sovereignty of God.

3. “He hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords.” It is a title of Almighty God (Deuteronomy 10: 17) which the Son inherits, yet it is noteworthy that the title which goes with this in the words of Moses - “God of gods” - is not also passed on. Again there is marvellous aptness about the attribution of such a title to Christ in this prophecy. “Of a truth it is that your God is the God of gods, and the Lord of kings”, confessed Nebuchadnezzar to Daniel when he learned how “the Stone cut out of the mountain without hands” was to smash for ever all human rule and dominion (Daniel 2:47, 45). Very impressive also is the contrast with the Beast who has ten satellite kings willing to yield to him all their power and strength. Yet one has to read only a few verses further in Revelation 19 to learn how this Beast who deems himself a king of kings is vanquished by the Lord’s Christ and cast into the lake of fire.

It is not difficult to see why this title of majesty should be written “on his thigh”. The steward of Abraham swore loyalty to his master’s will by putting his hand under his thigh (Genesis 24:2, 3), and so also Joseph with his aged father (Genesis 47:29, 31). Similarly, “all the princes, and the mighty men, and all the sons of David gave the hand under Solomon” (1 Chronicles 29:24). So there is indication in this symbol that ultimately all kings will humbly accept the authority of Christ.

But why should the royal name be written “on his garment”? The psalm, which described the marriage of the Lamb, has this eloquent passage: “The sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness (only Jesus has truly done both!): therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia” (Psalm 45:6-8). It is in this way that the name of majesty is written on his raiment - by the holy anointing oil which was first compounded for God’s High Priest (Exodus 3(1:23-32) and which speaks of suffering as well as glory - properly so, for this man now honoured as King of kings first wore a royal robe in his suffering (Luke 23:11) and saw men cast lots for his vesture as he hung on a cross, acclaimed as King of the Jews.

This title “King of kings, and Lord of lords” applied to the Messiah presents something of a problem inasmuch as in its only other occurrence it is a title of Deity. There need be no problem. This phenomenon - the sharing of the same title by both Father and Son - is common enough in the prophetic Scriptures.[76]

4. “On his head were many crowns, and he hath a name written which no one knoweth (that is at the time of writing Revelation), but he himself.” Again, the contrast with the Beast is inevitable, for he bears upon his seven heads the names of blasphemy. This might suggest that the Messianic title referred to here is “Holy to Jehovah,” the name which the high-priest bore on his forehead (Exodus 28:36). Yet even though this involves the unutterable Covenant Name (which to this day Jews always replace by Adonai), it is hardly correct to describe it as a name, which others do not know.

Then, since “name” is inevitably and inextricably associated in Scripture with “character” and “power”, it is perhaps more likely that this unrevealed name of Messiah signifies wondrous powers committed to him for the searching judgement and beneficent rule which he is to practice (compare 2:17 and 14:3).


The immediate work of this King of kings is to assert the authority and judgement of God over the Beast and his confederates. This is proclaimed by one of the Thunder angels making in a loud voice a dramatic call to all the carrion birds in creation to accept God’s invitation to a mighty feast.

Here is one of the best demonstrations that could be sought, that the visions of the Book of Revelation are not to be regarded as set out in chronological order.

This gathering of the birds of prey is, of course, a symbolic way of picturing the titanic destruction of the forces of evil. What a ghoulish contrast it forms with the marriage supper of the Lamb! The description is taken almost verbatim from Ezekiel’s prophecy (39:17-20) of the destruction of Gog-Magog and the ten-king confederacy, which comes against a restored Israel in the Last Days.

Certain interesting and useful conclusions follow from this fact. Unless it be assumed that the citation of Ezekiel 39 is haphazard - an assumption which would cut right across all experience of New Testament usage of Old Testament authority - there is here a clear identification of Gog-Magog with the Beast and the False Prophet (19:19). Also, because of the close connection between this passage in ch. 19 and the Sixth Thunder (14:18 20), which itself employs the familiar words of Joel 3:13, confirmation is thus supplied for the equation of Joel 3 with Ezekiel 38, 39. Again, since Revelation 19:17, 18, 21 is very evidently symbolic and not at all literal in its meaning, any literal interpretation of the corresponding details in Ezekiel is suspect. This suggests that it would be highly unwise to take other similar details in that passage - bows and arrows, burial of the slain, burning of weapons - in a dogmatically literal fashion. With such a lead supplied by Revelation, a certain caution is right and proper.


A further unexpected conclusion, which follows from this equation with Ezekiel 38, 39, concerns the ten kings with the Beast and the False Prophet. It is only possible to find a total of ten allies in Gog’s confederacy by including “Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish” (and omitting “Rosh” - for which transliteration the evidence has always been hopelessly inadequate).[77] For a number of years now the utterly unconvincing nature of the identification with Britain has been evident enough. Perhaps the change in the political scene in the quarter-century just past may make some students more ready to consider this alternative hinted at in Revelation 19.


The time of fulfilment of Ezekiel 38 is also suggested. The common assumption that the invasion from the north is to take place before the coming of the Lord is challenged by the facts in Revelation, for this is a “war with the Lamb” (17:14), “against him that sat on the horse, and against his army” (19:19). Also, at the time of the conflict there are already “on his head many crowns” (19:12), and his name is “King of kings, and Lord of lords”. This suggests strongly that Ezekiel 38 is to be fulfilled after the coming of the Messiah - as indeed the sequence in Ezekiel 37, 38 pointedly indicates. The quotation from Psalm 2 in this vision has the same implication: “he shall rule them with a rod of iron”, for this prophecy is to be fulfilled when “the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision ... Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (v. 2-6). Here, as has long been recognized, every phrase requires a fulfilment after Messiah’s kingdom has been proclaimed in Jerusalem.


The figurative language of the Second Vision (19:19-21) in which the overthrow of human opposition to Christ is described has several variations but its theme and mode are the same. In Revelation 19:20: “These both (i.e. Beast and False Prophet) were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” - it is the sea of Sodom, appropriate to a civilization steeped in wickedness. Ezekiel 38:22 has this: “And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone.” In Daniel 7:11, “the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame;” whilst Isaiah’s version is this: “And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice (the Word of God and an angel with a loud voice) to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, with scattering and tempest, and hailstones ... For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it” (30:30, 33).

A terrible judgement, truly!

[74] Reading aritz = oppressor, for eretz = earth.
[75] See ch. 26.
[76] Reference may be made to a study of this in The Testimony (May 1969: “The Man My Fellow”). See also the notes on Revelation 1:8.
[77] More detail on this in “The Time of the End,” Chapter 18.
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