THE WHITE HORSE RIDER–Rev. 19
Rev. 19:11-16 says, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and with righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. And he had a name written that no one knew except Himself. And He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords."The subject of this message is, "The Rider on the White Horse and His Army." In this passage we see a picture of a mighty conflict in which a great army is engaged. Every soldier is dressed in white, riding on a white horse. At the head this army of white-clad soldiers and white horses is their Captain who rides all alone in the front. He, too is riding on a white horse. The description of this victorious leader and conqueror is awesome indeed. As I look at this picture, it makes me feel good that 1 am a Christian. To all who are not Christians, whatever their reasons may be, the scene is enough to cause a heart attack. One thing is absolutely clear from this amazing scene, and it is that Christians are going to win. We have read the last chapter in the book of human history, and we know how the story is going to end. Christians are going to sing the victor's song at last.
Let us first take a look at the white-robed captain who sits on a white horse, leading his great snow-white army. He is called Faithful and True. He personifies truth, and you remember that Jesus said, "I am.. the truth." He also said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." In addition the white horse rider had eyes like a flame of fire. They were all-seeing eyes. There were no secrets he did know or see. No enemy escaped his sight. There is no evil thought, unbelief, skepticism or falsehood which Christ does not read. There is no hypocrisy, formalism or deceit that he does not scan as easily as a person reads the page of a book. His eyes are like a flame of fire to read people through and through.
We are told that he has a name that no one knew but himself. There is much which has not been revealed to us about Christ. He is much greater than any of us can imagine or comprehend. He was dressed in a white robe, but it was soaked in blood. This blood most likely refers to the blood of his enemies who made the mistake of engaging in battle with him. However, it is possible that there is here a reference to the blood of Christ himself which he shed in his warfare with Satan.
In addition to these attributes his name is also called the Word of God. A man's speech is the embodiment of his thought, and Christ is God's word. During his pre-earthly existence and before his .incarnation, the apostle John called him, "The word" who was with God and was God (John 1:1). 1 will mention one more name given the white horse rider. On his blood-soaked robe and thigh was written the name, "King of Kings and Lord pf Lords." This name gives Christ supremacy over all earthly names. He rules the earth and all kings who sit on thrones. Christ does not simply rule over the church; he rules over the entire earth. There is no one who is not subject to his laws. On the head of the white horse rider were many crowns. The last crown John had seen on his head was a crown of thorns, but that was gone and in its place were many crowrts of the jewels of heaven. These crowns symbolized the many victories he had already won and those he would yet win. 1 can't leave this white horse rider without the mention of one more thing. John said, "with righteousness He judges and makes war." This vision symbolizes war, conflict and fighting. Jesus is the only King who ever wars in this fashion. All of his conquering and military exploits are based on righteousness. There .have been a few brilliant exceptions to the rule, but, war is usually as deceitful as it is bloody, and the words of diplomats and peace representatlyes are a mass of lies. It seems impossible that men should deliberate about peace and war without straightway forgetting the meaning of words and the virtue of honesty. There is always a way to justify the killing, blood-letting and destruction of war. War still seems to be a piece of business in which tru|h is out of .place. It is a matter so accursed that falsehood is there at home, but righteousness is on the outside. But as for our King, sitting on this white horse, it is in rightequsness that he judges and makes war. The kingdom of Christ on this earth needs to use no deception. The plainest speech and the clearest truth—these are the weapons of Christ's warfare. In 2 Cor. 10:4, one of the field commanders of this white horse rider said, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled." That passage describes every enemy which this white horse rider is looking for. The forces which have to be subdued are worldly power in every unrighteous form, false religious systems of every kind, corrupt forms of Christianity itself, sin and crime whether open or secret and any other evils which are manifest in the world. He captures the minds of people and brings them to obedience to himself, and he is prepared to bring swift punishment to any and all who would disobey him.
Next, I would like for us to take our eyes off the King of Kings on this white horse and direct our vision to the might army in white which follows him. Who are these snow-white soldiers on snow-white horses in full battle array? Some take these to be Christians who were faithful till death and are now glorified saints in the heavenly world. Others think that they are the mighty angels of heaven. However, there are no battles for departed Christians to fight in paradise and there are no battles for the angels to engage in, since the fallen angels have already been cast out of heaven. Hence, I am in agreement with many Bible commentators who see this entire vision as a symbolical picture of a conflict which takes place on the earth. I regard this army as the New Testament church which Christ leads on this earth and by which he fights all of his battles. Their white robes and white horses symbolize their holiness. This is an army of saints. True Christians are called saints because of the moral and religious excellence of their lives. They are sanctified or set apart to the service of God. If you are a true Christian you are one of these white horse riders, and in your mind's eye you should be able to see the great Captain and King on his white horse leading us all. When he gave the great com-mmission to make disicples and teach them all he commanded, then he said, "And behold I am with you always, even to the end of the world" (Matt. 28:18-20). This representation of Christ, out in front of the church, leading and protecting the church in battle, brings to mind an Old Testament passage. Isa. 52:12 says, "For the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard." This was a promise that God would deliver Israel from Babylonian captivity and return them to Palestine. On their return they would be protected from attack in the front and the rear. The Lord would go in front as he did when he led them out of Egypt, and the God of Israel would protect them from the back side. Israel again became a slave nation first to Assyria and then to Babylonia. God did not visibly and miraculously lead them out of Babylon as he did from Egypt, but he wanted them to know they would have the same providential protection. Similarly it is comforting to know that the New Testament church has the same promise of providential protection on its journey to the heavenly Canaan. Jesus our captain is leading the mighty host; God the Father protects from the back side, and the Holy Spirit dwells among us. This representation in our text of the Lord's church as an army is not something new in the gospel. The Church of Christ is frequently represented under the figure of an army. This may sound strange to some since Christ is called the Prince of Peace and the object of his kingdom on this earth is the establishment of peace. Moreover, his soldiers are men of peaceful disposition. Nevertheless, the church on earth has been and, must be till time is no more, the church armed, the church warring and the church conquering. That is the intended significance of this white horse rider and his army. The church symbolized as an army is most appropriate because of the nature of good and evil in this world. Truth could not be truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we would suspect at once that it would not be the truth if error were friends with it. The spotless purity of divine truth must always be at war with the contamination of falsehood
The white army led by the King of Kings is a vivid sketch of a mighty conflict, in which the Most High God, in the person of His Son, goes forth to war and victory. Strange as it may seem to speak of God being engaged in a struggle, yet it is clear that what we call good is in the world, but evil is also here. Both are at work, and it is but a rule of nature that holiness must be a enmity with sin. Moreover, God must be on the side of good. Hence, the war! 2 Cor. 6:14 says, "What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness?" The implied answer is, "None whatsoever!" Thus, you see, if the church be a true church and a holy church, she must be armed. There are so many untrue things and unholy things that she must be perpetually with her sword in her hand, carrying on combat against them. And every Christian proves by experience that this is a land of war. The day will come when this white horse rider will lead this army on the last leg of it journey to Canaan. The church will be caught up to meet him in the air. Behind, the church will leave this world in flames. The church is the salt of the earth, and when it is removed the earth will be destroyed. God will remove this earth as a tent is taken down, and the inhabitants thereof shall be gone. The heavens and earth must be folded up, as a vesture they shall be folded up and pass away. That is the end of the story; that is what the last chapter says, and Christians will sing the victor's song at last
When that day comes each one of us had better be sitting on one of these white horses, robed in white. But we will not be, unless we have been followers of Christ here and now. Jesus said, "Follow me." What is your answer? Jesus also said, "Whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32). What is your response? In recruiting people for his army he said, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned." It is at baptism that a person mounts his white horse; no one is fit for battle until he is baptized into the death of Christ and receives pardon of sin, reconciliation with God and a cleansed conscience. We must put on the snow-white garments now, and they are ready for you. When you put on your snow-white garment, which is the robe of righteousness, Jesus will give you a white horse. Then follow your leader all the way, wherever he goes till the last battle be fought, and you will join the mighty throng around God's throne who will sing the song of victory, the song of Moses and the Lamb. May you and I have a white horse with which to follow Christ. But we never shall have one unless we follow him here and now in this life. We must put on the snow-white garments now. The white garments of the army on the white horses were robes of righteousness which Christ gives to every baptized, penitent believer. When you have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, it is then that Christ gives every Christian a white horse. This figurative portrait of Jesus, as a conquering king on a white horse, reminds me of a story about a Saxon nobleman. In the chapel of a European church building there hung a picture of the suffering Saviour. It was only a picture of an artist's imagination. The unknown artist, with a great heart of love and compassion, had done his best to fill the picture with love. The picture seemed to say, "Behold, how He loved you." At the bottom of the painting the artist had inscribed these words, "All this I did for you. What have you done for me?" One day a young nobleman entered the place of worship, richly clad and swinging a cane. His attention was arrested by this picture of the crucified Christ. His eye saw what the artist had intended, namely the love and concern which Christ had for all mankind. Then his gaze fell to the bottom of the picture, and he pondered the words which said, "All this I did for you. What have you done for me?" This man of noble birth stood before the picture, spell-bound, drinking in its beauty, fascinated by its meaning and compelled by its appeal. He was greatly moved by the picture which brought to mind the story of Jesus and his love and how he died the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God. From this experience the Saxon nobleman was motivated to go on and become a follower of Christ and to live a life devoted to the Saviour of men. As you look at the picture of Christ with a blood-soaked robe riding a white horse, leading his church in the battle against evil and wrongdoing, ought not you be motivated to respond to the love of the crucified and resurrected Christ? May we turn our eyes upon Jesus and to the question, "I gave my life for you. What have you done for me?"