Revelation 19:11 “I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.”
God gave the book of Revelation to the Apostle John for Christians who feared that the enemies of the Christian faith were winning. The emperor Domitian supported state-sponsored persecution of Christians. Attempts were made to force Christians to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods or to the emperor himself. Christian leaders were killed or exiled. Many individual Christians lost courage and left the faith. Some were lured away by some worldly pleasure or another.
They lived in an evil time, when Christians were considered a danger to the customs and values of the majority, and many appealing sins were made harder to resist because they were generally accepted, even promoted, by society as a whole. It looked like the other side was winning.
Other than relatively mild state-sponsored persecution where we live, does our world look so different? Churches are shrinking. People are forsaking the faith. So-called “sins-of-pleasure” trap more and more in their clutches–destructive addictions, sexual perversions, runaway greed. It is easy to lose courage and give up hope. Is God really going to let the other side win?
Despair, as you know, is more than a miserable feeling. It is also a sin, a symptom of faithlessness, a denial of God’s promise and power. Our pessimism and despair still find forgiveness in the gentle and merciful Savior and his atoning sacrifice at the cross. The Jesus we know from the gospels, who has washed us in our baptisms, who still feeds us in his supper, has taken all this guilt away.
But God offers us more as an antidote to our flagging faith. Note the qualities John describes here. “I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.” The one sitting on the white horse is called “Faithful” and “True.” It’s not that this is new information about Jesus. We have heard him assure us, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” “If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth.” “For this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” It’s always been there. But it’s not always the first thing we think of when we think of Jesus.
It’s a quality that waits to be emphasized for such a time as this–not just that Jesus tells the truth in a general way, but that he will be true to us and faithful to his promises. Politicians have a long history for being unfaithful husbands. I know of two, one on the right and one the left side of the political spectrum, who left their wives when their wives were fighting cancer. Just when they were needed the most they bailed out on their families. Unfaithfulness at a time like that especially offends our sense of goodness and decency.
Maybe John’s original audience was inclined to have similar suspicions about Jesus. The going had gotten tough. Where was he? We struggle with the same thoughts for our times. “He has abandoned us.” “He has not abandoned us” is the clear message to John. He is faithful and true.
“But I don’t see him,” we object. Since his Ascension, when has Jesus been in the habit of helping us in an explicitly visible way? That doesn’t mean he isn’t there. See him here in his word, and drink in the proof that your Savior is “Faithful” and “True,” even now.