The Savior Goes to War


Revelation 19:13-15 “He (Christ) is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.”

John mentioned earlier that Jesus was riding a white horse. Behind him are columns of the armies of heaven, the angel hosts, riding on horses as well. This is no pleasure trip or holiday parade. Our Savior is going to war.

That means a bad day for his enemies. His robe is dipped in blood. So often when we hear of blood in the Bible, we think of Jesus’ own blood, the blood he poured out on the cross to cleanse us of our sins.

This time the blood does not belong to Jesus, and it does not cleanse us of our sins. It is the blood of his enemies (and ours) because he is cleansing the world of them. This becomes clearer as John describes his task further: “Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.”

Each of these pictures is a description of his power to defeat his enemies. A sharp sword, the word of his law, the words of his judgment, comes out of his mouth to strike down the nations. If God’s word could create the world in the beginning, if Jesus’ words could drive demons from their helpless victims during his ministry, a simple word from his mouth still has the power to overthrow anyone who stands in his way.

Ruling with an iron rod is sort of a photo negative picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The word for “ruling” here is, more literally, “shepherding.” But it is not “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me” that he is using. It is an iron rod of punishment for those who refused to submit.

The last picture speaks for itself. We all know what happens when you step on grapes. Jesus is going to crush the enemies of his people, his church. No wonder John said his robe was dipped in blood.

So how are we supposed to feel? Terrified? No, relieved, defended, and delivered! Don’t forget, salvation and judgment are opposite sides of the same coin. In order for the Israelites to be delivered from their slavery in Egypt, the army of Egypt had to be drowned in the Red Sea. In order for Noah and his family to be spared from unbelief the world had to be destroyed in the Flood. If Jesus is going to win, if we are going to be saved, his enemies must suffer defeat.

Again, that does not mean that we prefer such a terrible fate for the unbelievers in the world. Our task is to bring them the gospel at all costs, so that we can save as many of them as possible. But where they not only reject the gospel, but persecute its messengers and try to prevent its spread, Jesus’ task is now to bring God’s judgment.

Maybe I can illustrate with an old commercial for fire ant poison. It went something like this: “There’s nothing good about fire ants. They don’t pollinate your roses. They don’t make cute little sounds when they rub their legs together. All they do is build a big mound in your yard and bite…anyone who gets near it. That’s their soul contribution to mankind. And that’s why they have to die. It’s that simple. You cannot rehabilitate a fire ant. You have to kill it.”

It’s not for us to relish the death of God’s enemies. Their fate grieves God himself. But it is for us to understand the necessity, the advantage, even the godliness of this part of Jesus’ work. It is the other side of the task of salvation. It is our final deliverance. As we celebrate Jesus’ ascension to God’s right hand in power, our hearts fill with hope and our mouths with song at the thought of his final victory. To him be the glory.

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