The sixth cycle is one of the most graphic. It is very appropriate for a word-vision to be graphic. But it is not just graphic because of the white horse and its rider and the name on his head but as you read on you will find the robe of Christ is stained with the blood of His enemies and birds of prey are called to start circling for a feast!
Here continues the third vision with the visionary formula “and I saw…” (Rev 19:11). The vision is of a white horse and its rider. We have already seen a white horse and rider in Revelation. There the color white symbolized victory as it does here. But the contrast of the two is revealing. The first rider had a bow and a crown and he came out conquering (Rev 6:2). But the rider of this second white horse is crowned with many diadems (not just ‘a crown’) and his conquest is the final judgment — a conquest that “in righteousness he judges and makes war.” The rider of this second white horse leads the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure (i.e. the white linen symbolizes purity) who follow on white horses (white symbolizing victory). The color white symbolizes two different things in this passage.
The rider of the white horse in Revelation 19 is Jesus Christ Himself. He is identified as being called “Faithful and True” (Rev 19:11). This phrase comes from Rev 3:14 where the vision of Christ is the words “of the Amen, the faithful and true witness.” These words were written to the church of Laodicea, which was just the opposite of a faithful and true witness. Here again the theme of witnessing to Jesus Christ is forefront. Jesus is the faithful and true witness to God the Father and we are to be faithful and true witnesses to Jesus. The other name that he is called is “The Word of God” (Rev 19:13). This should remind us of John telling us that he “bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:2). Witnessing to the word of God is often parallel to testifying to Jesus Christ in Revelation (cf. Rev 1:9, 6:9, 20:4).
Between these two “names” it says that the rider has on his head “a name written that no one knows but himself” (Rev 19:12). The name is YHWH. This is an allusion to Exodus 6:3. Beale notes that the Jerusalem Targum translates “by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them” as “but the name of the Word of the Lord was not known to them” (Revelation, 955). The unknown name of God in Scripture is always YHWH. Here another way of saying it is to call Him “The Word of God” as in Rev 19:13. Besides, He is not only King of kings and Lord of lords but also the priest of the word of God. This is why it mentions that He is clothed in a robe (cf. also Rev 1:13). And the high priest would wear the name YHWH on a gold plate on his forehead.
The robe being dipped in blood is an allusion to Isa 63:2-3, which says, “Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? ‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.” This imagery of treading “the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” is made explicit later in the paragraph (Rev 19:15). But this is why his robe has blood on it. The blood is not the blood of Christ, but of the nations who stood against Him.
Many of the images are familiar ones explained earlier in Revelation. “His eyes are like a flame of fire” referring to how Christ can see the mind and heart (Rev 19:12, cf. Rev 1:14, 2:18, 23). The sharp sword that comes from His mouth is the word of God (Rev 19:15, 21, cf. Rev 1:16, 2:12, 16). The final judgment penetrates to the mind and heart rather than just observing the outside. The final judgment is the triumph of the word of God by the Word of God. The final judgment vindicates those who have witnessed to Jesus Christ. Their words are revealed to be faithful and true.
The second paragraph of this cycle begins with the vision formula “And I saw” (Rev 19:17). This time the vision shifts to an angel who calls on the vultures and similar birds of prey to begin circling above. Beale points out the recaptiulation of Rev 18:1-2. In both an angel, reflecting brightness, calls out with a loud voice and in both unclean birds are mentioned in the content of the speech. The imagery in Rev 19 picks up on Ezekiel 39. Ezekiel prophesies about the defeat of the armies of Gog saying, “You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your hordes and the peoples who are with you. I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured” (Ezek 39:4). The image continues: “Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field, ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth–of rams, of lambs, and of he-goats, of bulls, all of them fat beasts of Bashan. And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors,’ declares the Lord YHWH” (Ezek 39:17-20). This battle will be recapitulated again in Rev 20:7ff.
Some observations: First, this sacrificial feast being prepared for the unclean animals and birds is in sharp contrast to the wedding feast being prepared for those who hold to the testimony of Jesus (cf. Rev 19:9 and surrounding context). Second, the victory is sure — thus the birds can begin circling before the fighting starts. Third, those who rise to fight Jesus are all kinds of people “all men, both free and slave, both small and great” (Rev 19:18) or “with mighy men and all kinds of warriors” (Ezekiel 39:20). When John says “all men” he is referring to all kinds of men, as is common in the New Testament. Fourth, the theme of gathering should remind you that these warriors and the unclean birds and beasts have assembled at the Mount of Gathering (Har Magedon) — Mount Zion. They have gathered on the mountains of Israel to surround the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven (cf. Rev 20:9).
And fifth, the mention of unclean birds reminds us that this is the judgment of Babylon (cf. Rev 18:1ff). In other words, this is the new Tower of Babel effort where the nations come together as a world-government united by their refusal to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This observation prepares us for the third paragraph marked by the vision formula “and I saw” (Rev 19:19). The beast, the image of the dragon, is this world-government. This is the counterfeit Christ. The false prophet is the propagandist for this world-government who does signs to deceive the people (cf. Rev 13:14) and sealed people with 666. This is the counterfeit Spirit. The false prophet is selling a faith that believes in salvation by the government — the state is the Messiah or Christ. This is not a problem limited to monarchies but a very present issue in democracies. And so in the vision the beast and the kings of the earth gathered at the Mount of Gathering to make war against the rider of the white horse and his army. But the beast and the false prophet are caught and thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest, the armies of the kings of the earth, were killed by the two-edged sword of the word of God.