The End of the World: “The Ghost of Christmas Future” – Revelation 19:11-21

Every Christmas, I have to watch one of the many versions of “A Christmas Carol” at least one time – or it doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. For the unenlightened, the made for TV movies all follow, more or less, the story line of Charles Dickens classic novella. The story was first published by Chapman & Hall in 1843, when early Victorian era Brits were experiencing a nostalgic interest in its forgotten Christmas traditions. This was the time when Christmas trees and greeting cards were just being introduced into the home experience to recall the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. The greed of some amid the rising industrial revolution was the backdrop for the visit of three ghosts – the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of Christmas future. In the novella, each of these ghosts helped Ebenezer Scrooge find his kinder and gentler self from the calloused old miser he had become. It was a tale of redemption.

What does that have to do with Revelation 19? Good question! If Jesus’ coming as a servant and a sacrifice to Bethlehem long ago was “Christmas past” – His coming as the Victorious Prince and Mighty Ruler is “Christmas future”! He is, however, no ghost – if that word implies a spirit with no corporeal elements – He is very much a real and discernible body. He is the Risen Christ.

Key Principle: Jesus will come again. He will be real, visible, powerful and princely. He will establish a reign on the earth to fulfill all that God promised to Abraham and his descendants long ago. He is the “omega” of God’s promises to His ancient people. It is central to the message of Christianity.

Before you think to yourself, well duh! Of course His coming is a central part of our message, you should know that this is no longer a self evident statement – even among Christian groups. Many today have been drawn into one of the modern cultural statements of Christianity. They see Christ as a symbolic liberator – as in Liberation theology preached in many parts of Christendom. Still others, in an adaptation to our modern tolerance based culture, see the teaching concerning Jesus as an aside to the real purpose of Christianity, which is to lead people to peace, prosperity and human unity. For them, the Christian message is not so much about Christ, as it is about US – our needs, our desires, our fulfillment.

I want deliberately to challenge any view of Christianity that is not chiefly about the exaltation of Christ. If our message is not that we exist to bring our Maker honor and glory by submission to Him and praise for Him – it is NOT Biblical Christianity. If our message is NOT that we exist to glorify Him and place every other desire behind that – it is NOT the historic faith that the Apostles delivered. So we come today with the message that Christianity savors the glory and exaltation of Jesus Christ – the Son of the Living God. We are in good company today, for the angels of Heaven have long rejoiced over Him.

In our study together, the Tribulation was completed, and marked the end of the punishing time of the ages of humanity with the coming of the Great Prince. Even the names of the period of judgment bear the weight of that time. its descriptions in the Word are hard for those who have lived under such a period of grace such as ours:

  1. It is called “tribulation”  by Jesus, who said there “has never been a time like this one!” (Matthew 24:21).
  2. It was frequently called out in the Hebrew Scriptures by such references as “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 61:2).
  3. It was cited as a time focused on Israel and called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” in Jeremiah 30:7 – specifically in reference to its Divine purpose to bring Israel to her knees of worship.
  4. It was considered God’s “strange work” in Isaiah 28:21, and a “time of trouble” in Daniel 12:1.
  5. Writers of the Christian Scriptures used terminology like “day of wrath” in Romans 2:5 and Colossians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 1:10.

It is next to impossible to mistake the nature of the period – it is one that is not like our day. We seek God after a lifetime of sinful behavior, and God pulls us from darkness into light. We cry out, and God hears us. The time of the Tribulation will be a time when God holds back His merciful hand until the threshing of the harvest is complete. From the standpoint of the grapes, the making of wine is a crushing and painful process – but that is the language God uses in His Word of the Tribulation Period.

In Revelation 19, the transition from that time is made complete with the Entry of the Victorious Prince. God is always gracious, and will not trouble earth forever. In fact, lest we fail to make the connection, much of God’s mercy was seen even in that terrible period. How?

  1. God sent His Holy Spirit in profound ways during the last days to move men and women toward Him (Joel 2:28-32 Acts 2:41).
  2. God commission two special and powerful sign bearing witnesses to point to His power and draw men to God (Revelation 11:3).
  3. God will release 144,000 bond servant evangelists to spread the message of God’s redemption (Revelation 7 and 14) with all Heaven cheering them on! (Revelation 7:9).
  4. God will put His hand over Israel to protect her in spite of every sign that she is about to be annihilated (Revelation 12:6ff).
  5. God will make sure that Heaven is marshaled to make the Gospel clear (Revelation 14:6).

The Victorious Prince returns to earth with His Bride in tow. He comes to rescue the woman that bore Him. It is the climax of the book, and the climax of the fallen world.

Before marching to the Revelation narrative, we should set it in the Biblical context. Lest anyone think the New Testament or the Book of Revelation is presenting something God had not long before revealed in His Word, we should pause to recall the visions of Zechariah, son of Iddo, that told the same story long before. The exaltation of the Prince that followed the Great Tribulation was not a NEW THEME – but one that God revealed five hundred years before John was ever born.

Zechariah said it all before!

The Prophecies of Zechariah are found in an ancient Hebrew book that can be easily divided into two parts. Chapters 1-8 were visions and messages contemporary to Zechariah’s present situation in the sixth century BCE. Chapters 9-14 contain prophecies of a time after Zechariah. In that second half, the “future” prophetically presents stages of the Coming of God’s Redeemer. In Zechariah 9-11, the story of Israel’s re-gathering appears  – as the scattered Jewish people move back to their ancient homeland. In the last part of the book, Zechariah 12-14, the story of Israel’s redemption appears – the coming of the Victorious Prince is unfolded.

You see, the story was very old and followed a pattern that is essential to understand, even for one watching today’s news:

Scattered Jews would one day be re-gathered to their ancestral home, yet they would not yet be walking with God. Her restoration was not because of HER, but by God’s mercy to her fathers (Zechariah 9 and 10). This was after the return from Babylon – so another return was foreseen.

  • From Zechariah 9:11 “As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you.”
  • From Zechariah 10, it sounds like this: Zechariah 10:5 “They will be as mighty men…6 “I will strengthen the house of Judah, And I will save the house of Joseph, And I will bring them back, Because I have had compassion on them; And they will be as though I had not rejected them, For I am the LORD their God and I will answer them.”

If these were mere statements of returning Jews from the exile, they were offered AFTER those Jews had already come. With Zerubbabel, nearly 50,000 returned under the decree of Cyrus years BEFORE this prophecy. No, this was a FUTURE re-gathering brought on by God Himself.

Beside the re-gathering, God took time to explain the reasons for the severity of the judgment against them. The chief reason was God’s disgust with their poor and stubborn hearted leaders that led them FROM God, not to God. The most profound act of disobedience was the betrayal of God’s redeeming emissary – traded away for mere shekels in Zechariah 11:

  • Zechariah 11:11 So it was broken on that day, and thus the afflicted of the flock who were watching me realized that it was the word of the LORD. 12 I said to them, “If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!” So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. 13 Then the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.” So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD.”

What a picture! God called them to give themselves to Him as His rightful duty, and they offered 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave’s redemption in place of their hearts. This all hearkened to the coming of the Redeemer that was rejected by the nation’s leaders. Was He not traded for 30 pieces of silver, and that money used to buy a potter’s field? Was that money not tossed at the leaders by Judas himself in the Temple? Once again, when the Bible prophet spoke, it wasn’t all flower and allegory. In so many cases – what happened was just as it was long before described!

If you kept pursuing Zechariah’s prophecy, you would see that God was going to re-gather His people after a severe judgment, but it would lead – not to their destruction – but to their NATIONAL SALVATION. God turned to their redemption, but even this was preceded by devastation, just as it would be told in Revelation. Jews and their homeland became the problem for the whole world. After her return to the land, for a time – Jerusalem specifically would become a problem to the nations of the world. It would become the “heavy stone” for ALL THE WORLD. (Zech 12:1-4), causing all people of the world to turn against it.

  • Zechariah 12:2 “Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. 3 “It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.

At some point, when the nations first attempted to squash Jerusalem, God protected her for Himself, and Jews around the world pay attention to God’s goodness – the beginning of the end (Zech. 12:4-9):

  • Zechariah 12:4 “In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. 5 “Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the LORD of hosts, their God.’…7 “The LORD also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah. … 9 “And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem….

Following the story, then – we have a painful re-gathering, followed by a stubborn world-wide perception that Jews and Jerusalem once again need a “final solution”. In order to complete this, the nations gather at Armageddon and try to solve, once and for all. This time, the nation of Israel will be SAVED both physically and spiritually – drawing the whole populace of the survivors of the woes of recent days to the Lord. They will recognize the Prince they once rejected.

  • Zechariah 12:10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. 11 “In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, … in the plain of Megiddo. 12 “The land will mourn, every family by itself

God will provide salvation, cleansing and restoration:

  • 13:1 “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity. 2 “It will come about in that day,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land…8 “It will come about in all the land,” Declares the LORD, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. 9 “And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” …

In final analysis, God made the whole promise of the Coming Prince long before the Suffering Servant arrived. Jesus was promised to come both as a crucified servant, and then later as a Reigning Prince. He would come to pay the price of sin as a Lamb, and later to defend the estranged wife of His Father as a Lion:

  • Zechariah 14:1 Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. 4 In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. …9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.

This was the story revealed long before John beheld Heaven revealed in the Book of Revelation. This is the great climax – the Prince comes to liberate those who have been under the bondage of a hateful world and an unparalleled time of judgment.

John said it in three parts:

The Coming of the Prince

Revelation 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

The Call of the Vultures

Revelation 19:17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in mid-heaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”

The Culmination of the War

Revelation 19:19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

In the quick view, Jesus’ coming ended the war. The Living Word of God spoke the verbal Word of God and destroyed the enemies of God. What a powerful scene. Yet, the war is not the great moment – but rather the appearance of the GREAT WARRIOR PRINCE.

Take a moment today, surrounded by the physical things of this world, overcome by some of your earthly troubles, to gaze into the Heavens. Take a moment to LEAVE HERE and look behind the curtain of the Alpha and Omega of human history. Seize this moment to see the Savior in His glory. Worship Him, and you will grow hungry for MORE of Him. Look at the description up close when Heaven opened in verse 11. Organize the list of thirteen descriptions and you will see three clear truths about the Coming Prince:

First, His LOOK explains His character!

  • Eyes: His eyes are a flame of fire (12)

The “Coming Prince” is One who has seen it all. His eyes are piercing, and His power refining. He will not be tricked by our manipulative words. He will know who belongs to Him, and who is playing God games. He can see through works of a religious man and know if what beats within him is the heart of a yielded and surrendered Christian who clings to the work of the Cross alone for salvation. His eyes flame – and they see the truth. Darkness cannot defeat light.

  • Head: His head is covered with many diadems (12)

The “Coming Prince” is the designated ruler of the nations. Our world may not see it, nor desire it – but His rule will come. Every knee shall bow. No more talk of modern morality. No more compromising political posturing. All rulers will see themselves as subservient to the One true ruler – the One who spoke for His Father, and created light itself.

  • Garment: His robe is dipped in blood (13)

The “Coming Prince” has felt throbbing, neglect, the angry spittle of men, the horrid sting of death and the stench of false religious pomposity. He paid with His blood before men. His robe is soaked with the memory of the result of sin and rebellion. That robe is not draped across a limp body, as the Pieta of Michelangelo recalls, but adorns a living body, full of breath and life and power.

Yes, His look tells His story. But that isn’t all – His NAMES proclaim His power!

  • He is called Faithful and True (11)

The “Coming Prince” is known as both Faithful and True. He is both “trustworthy” and “genuine”. He asked for our lives, and He preserved them in eternal salvation. There is nothing fake about Him. No amount of examination of Him will reveal a character flaw or imperfection. He was called the Faithful Witness in Revelation 1:5, because His Word is completely reliable. No doubt of His Word is justified – for He meant every word and fulfills every promise.

  • He has a private name written on Him (12)

The “Coming Prince” has a personal and private name. It is not that no one could see or recognize His name, but the idea is, that no one could fully understand its import. One  scholar noted: “It involved a depth of meaning, and a degree of sacredness, and a relation to the Father, which he alone could apprehend in its true import.” It is why He has been named “Wonderful” in Isaiah 9:6. The wonder part of wonderful is that there is depth beyond the surface and meaning beyond the obvious. We make a terrible mistake when we see Jesus as ONE OF US. His description here alone should caution us. John knew Him well, but fell at His feet as dead when He saw the WONDERFUL ONE in all His glory. How can we do less?

  • His name is called The Word of God (13)

The “Coming Prince” is called the very Word of God, because He is the very expression of all that His Father says and thinks. He is the “expressed image of His person”. He speaks for His Father, as the Very God of the Ages. There is no word from His Father kept from Him. There is no secret that passes His understanding. There is perfect respect for the Father’s controls, but perfect knowledge of all that God has, and will, ever say.

  • Etched on His robe and thigh is this name: “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (16)

The “Coming Prince” is the Supreme above all. There is no power that was not originated in Him, and flowing from Him. There is no sovereign that is His equal, and no political structure that can withstand His might. He is above all, reigning Supreme above the earth and the heavens that surround it.

His Works explain His purpose!

  • He who sat on a white horse

The “Coming Prince” comes on a white horse. The prototype for a victor of the day of John was none other than Julius Caesar himself. Though he had many horses, scholars note that for propaganda purposes, he bred white ones with a “toe” above its hoof, which was considered lucky. He rode them for triumphs – or public parades of recognition, or used them to draw his chariot. White horses became, for many centuries, synonymous with the transport of conquering heroes. Truly the Coming Prince is every bit the hero of our lives. We were lost, imprisoned and blind – and He came in power to release us and restore our sight. He IS our noble Victorious Prince.

  • He judges and wages war and in perfect righteousness

The “Coming Prince” is the Judge. Thayer’s lexicon comments that “the proper meaning of krínō is to pick out or choose by separating”. Jesus did not come to make all ONE. He came to divide those who surrender to Him from those who do not. He said that He would divide families and nations. No one will join what He separates, and no one will contest His absolute right to make judgment – for none are His equal. Complete righteousness is matched with unlimited power and unbridled goodness. His war is the right one, His cause is just, His victory is assured!

  • The armies of heaven follow Him

The “Coming Prince” has, at long last, the undivided loyalty of His judged church. They have waffled a wavered, but then stood before His Bema Seat. They have seen what they were to become, and we forever changed by the seeing. They are now His loyal and faithful subjects, having shed their sinful past and donned robes of righteousness. They follow Him for He alone deserves their loyalty and allegiance!

  • From His mouth comes the sharp sword that strikes down the nations

The “Coming Prince” speaks words of truth, and those words cut through mockers and rebels like a sharp blade against mere flesh. The end comes when all mouths are stopped. All brilliant arguments and fleshly thoughts are laid down before the One who embodies the absolute Truth of life and the ages.

  • He treads the wine press of the Almighty’s fierce wrath

The “Coming Prince” brought salvation on His first coming, and will end the Great Tribulation of God’s wrath on His return. All mankind will know where they stand with the Truth, and those who position themselves in opposition will at once be felled.

  • He rules them with a rod of iron

The “Coming Prince” is the Ruler of the Age to Come. He does not come simply to judge and destroy – but to separate out those who will build with Him. A Kingdom follows His entrance.

Jesus will come again. He will be real, visible, powerful and princely. He will establish a reign on the earth to fulfill all that God promised to Abraham and his descendants long ago. He is the “omega” of God’s promises to His ancient people. It is central to the message of Christianity.

Let us speak His Word clearly: Christians live to exalt Christ. He is our judge and our glory. We do not seek a life to honor ourselves.

We follow His very word: “Whoever gives their life to Me, gains their life. It is our highest honor – to live honorably and lovingly for Christ or die and gain. Our focus is not THIS LIFE as an end in itself. We know this life may not right the wrongs we witness. We know this is a mere shadow of the eternal life that awaits us! We trust our COMING PRINCE – It is the heart of all of our message.