Dr. S. Lewis Johnson expounds the Scriptures which record how God's promises are fulfilled at the return of Christ.
[Message] I have an announcement to make. Mr. Lawrence Bate went home to be with the Lord yesterday morning or yesterday evening, and his body is at Ben Brown’s Funeral Home. There is a time for visiting with his wife and viewing the body from six to nine PM tomorrow evening. And it’s Ben Brown’s Funeral Home in the new building at MacArthur Pioneer in Irving. The funeral is at eleven o’clock in the morning on Friday. I presume, Howard, at the same place, Ben Brown’s Funeral Home in Irving?
Let’s open our class with a word of prayer.
[Prayer] Father, we thank Thee again for the word of God, and for the significance of it. We reflect upon its importance in the light of the fact that one of the names of our Lord is the “word of God.” And we thank Thee that it is a communication from Thee to us to be one of the means of the guiding of our steps while we’re here upon this earth. We thank Thee also for the Holy Spirit who is our teacher; the one who illuminates its pages, enables us to understand, draws us closer to Thee through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, and guides and directs us all the days of our lives. We thank Thee that this is one of the great gifts in God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and another is the gift of the word of God. Help us, Lord, as we read and ponder it, to learn the things that Thou wouldst have us to learn and give us submission to them. Father, we thank Thee for our Lord Jesus Christ, who has made it possible for us to know Thee by that great offering that he offered himself on Calvary’s cross. Accept our thanks for him and be with us as we study. May the Lord Jesus be exalted in it. May the triune God be properly praised, and may our hearts be lifted up.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
[Message] We’re drawing near the end of the study of “The Divine Purpose in History and Prophecy,” and it is inevitable that in the study of it, we must come to the study of the second advent, and that’s what we want to look at tonight, and we’re using the passage in Revelation chapter 19, verse 11 through verse 16 as our passage. One of the problems that Bible teachers and preachers have in dealing with a subject like this is, what passage in the Bible shall I use as the basis for an exposition of the idea, the fact and the ideas that surround that fact of the second coming of Christ, because there are so many passages in the Bible that have to do with this great event. Many of them in the Old Testament, looking at it from the Old Testament standpoint, and many of them in the New Testament, and this, of course, is one of the most important of them because it’s one of the last ones that is set forth in the word of God. So we’re looking at Revelation 19: 11 through 16, and I hope you’ll listen now as I read these verses.
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and he who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns. 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. Now 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 wine press 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.”
Now, as I look out over this audience this evening, and know something about you and about your advancement in the spiritual life, I’m sure from looking at you, that it’s common knowledge, probably in the heart of everyone present, that the Old Testament is the book of the coming one. When we think of Genesis chapter 3: 15, and the first preaching of the gospel, which we looked at a number of weeks ago, and then reflect on the Old Testament, all the way to Malachi chapter 4, verse 2 and verse 5 and verse 6, I’m sure that you realize, that what the Old Testament has given us is just a picture of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in each of the passages that have to do with it, adding something further to the total picture. In fact, if you had begun without any knowledge of Scripture, and had begun at chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, and read through the Old Testament, and had come to Malachi chapter 4, and finished that chapter, you would undoubtedly, if you had been paying attention as you read through it, you would have wanted to ask the question, “Where is he?” Because that’s the natural question that one would have, not knowing the New Testament, and reading through the Old Testament.
W. H. Griffith Thomas, in his book “Principles of Sacred Theology,” has an illustration in which he has sought to bring that to the foreground. He imagines a stranger who didn’t know anything about the Bible, beginning to read the Old Testament, and reading through the Old Testament, and coming to the end of it, and reflecting upon what he has read. And he would have come to the understanding, so Dr. Thomas said that, “The Bible is a book of unfilled prophecies, from the beginning in Genesis to the end of it in Malachi.” And then if the stranger went back and read through the Old Testament again, and again reflected on what impressed him, he would have realized that the Bible was a book of unexplained ceremonies. Large amounts of the text devoted to minute aspects of the Levitical cultus. And then he imagines, if the man’s still pondering what he’s reading, went back and read through again, he might come to the conclusion, that the Bible was a book of unsatisfied longings because reflecting upon the experiences of the Old Testament saints, the desires, the expressions of devotion to the Lord, the expression, the aspirations for a deeper relationship with God, expressed in so many of the books, particularly in the Psalms, he would have come to the conclusion that the Bible is a book of unsatisfied longings. There is a great deal of crying after God. Though God responds, as the one who initiates all such crying after him, nevertheless, he would have that feeling of incompleteness when he read through the Old Testament like that.
Dr. Thomas said, “It’s only when we turn to the New Testament, and take a careful look at what the New Testament has to say that we find the explanation of these questions and problems that the reader of the Old Testament might be given. In fact,” he said, “on the very first page, we have the keynote of the New Testament, in the expression in Matthew chapter 2, well, chapter 1 also and chapter 2, that it might be fulfilled.” You’ll remember that there are at least four occurrences of that statement, “that it might be fulfilled” linking the New Testament revelation concerning Christ to the Old Testament in Matthew chapter 1 and 2. And so if you read through the New Testament with that in mind, asking the question, “Where is he and what’s the significance of the New Testament,” you would come to realize, that Jesus, the Lord Jesus, is the prophet who fulfills in his life, the prophecies of the Old Testament. And then you would realize secondly, that Jesus Christ is the priest of God; the genuine, final priest of God who explains by his death, the ceremonies of the Levitical cultus. And thirdly, that Jesus the King satisfies in his resurrection, the longings of the saints of God to know God better.
And so Dr. Thomas said, “Jesus my prophet, priest, and king is the key of the lock; the perfect explanation of the Old Testament and justification of its spiritual teaching.”
Now, I would only like to express one small demurer with what Dr. Thomas has said, and it’s this; that the Lord Jesus satisfies our longings, not simply in his resurrection, but also in his second advent. The New Testament itself becomes a book also of the coming one, because while we know he has come, we look forward as we read the New Testament, and as we reflect upon it, to the second coming of the Lord Jesus. It is not surprising really that the Old Testament readers of the Bible and the early students of the word of God, especially those among the Jewish people, who had turned against our Lord, that they would find the Old Testament a bit of a puzzle. If you read through the Old Testament not knowing the New Testament, you could find plenty of reason to be puzzled. I don’t mean ultimately. I just mean that the Old Testament states things that could be thought to be contradictory.
Let me illustrate specifically. In the Old Testament, there are passages and prophecies that deal with the “king who is to come,” and they express the fact that this one who is coming is going to suffer. Now at the same time, there are passages in the Old Testament that refer to this “one who is to come, the Messiah” that speak glowingly of the glories of the messianic kingdom. So how would you put those things together if you did not know the Bible, as you know it now with the New Testament that we know; the little book that helps to explain the big book. Well then, you can see how they would be a problem, and you can understand too, that since the natural heart rebels against the truth of God, it’s not surprising that Israel should rebel against the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The history of the human race from Genesis chapter 3, is the history of rebellion. If you want to understand man, if you want to understand family, if you want to understand society, if you want to understand politics, reflect on Genesis chapter 3, and the story of the effects of it throughout the Bible and throughout human history. If there is anything that brings conviction that the Bible is truly the word of God, it’s that marvelous revelation of the nature of man.
Just before I left to come over here, Mr. Christopher was telling of the new rules that the new administration would have in order that individuals in politics would not take advantage of their positions. Why is that necessary? Here we have two hundred years or more, and we still have human beings who parade their so-called ethics before us in campaigns, and then write up all kinds of rules to try to plug the gap, so that individuals’ sin nature will not be manifested. He didn’t say that, of course, but that, of course, is what he’s thinking about, and what I’m thinking about, except he doesn’t understand, and others don’t understand on either side of the aisle in Congress, the nature of man.
So you can understand then, why there was this problem, and you’re not surprised as I mentioned in one of the earlier studies that the Jewish people who were studying the Bible, in order to deal with the Christian claims that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah who suffered, devised a theory by which they could explain the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ without acknowledging him. They devised the theory of the two messiahs;
remember Messiah Bin David, Messiah Bin Joseph. And this, incidentally, I mentioned earlier in the series. This theory was not devised until after the Christian Church came into existence, which is obviously supportive of the fact that the theory arose because of the need of debate and a ground for debate. And so Messiah Bin Joseph is the suffering Messiah, Messiah Bin David is the Messiah of glory. Now, we know from the word of God, that there is one Messiah, and that these two things, the suffering and the glory belong to the one man, but I’m not surprised that we should have this particular doctrine arise.
John Chrysostom, who was a minister of the word of God, very famous one in the fourth century, I know you’ve heard people speak of him also in order to illustrate the point from the Christian standpoint, imagined someone approaching a range of mountains to explain the fact that the Bible could be read and in such a way that you’d be difficult to distinguish the two comings. As you look toward the range of mountains, you see the peaks, the individual peaks, and if you stand off far enough from them when you go to near Colorado, you can see them; you know that it looks to your eyes as if it’s one great body of mountains together, one great range of mountains. But then often, when you cross one mountain, a lower mountain, you discover that there is a lengthy space, sometimes miles and miles, between one peak and the next peak, but get far enough away, and it looks as if it’s one range of mountains. John Chrysostom originated the illustration which preachers have used so often of the Old Testament being like that. Looking at the prophecies of the coming of the Lord Jesus, you look at a range of mountains, and you could easily see how there could be some confusion of the texts that have to do with the first coming, and the texts that have to do with the second coming, because the time in between is not revealed fully in the Old Testament; that interval that has now stretched to nineteen hundred plus years.
Now, the New Testament then is the book of the coming one too. This is the historic faith of the church, and the hopes of the ages. The prophets speak of the second coming of Christ, as we’ve said. The apostles speak of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord speaks of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church fathers, the earliest church fathers, they speak also of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; Ignatius in the second century, Arinius in the third century, Tertullian in the third century, and so on, speak of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and then the creeds of the Christian church. The creeds of the Orthodox Christian church, speaking generally, all affirm the doctrine of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Alexander McLaren once said, “Paul’s Christianity gathered around two facts and two moments; one in the past that Christ has come; one in the future that Christ will come.” I think it’s startling to realize that people in our society, though they often give no evidence whatsoever of believing much about the Bible, still affirm their belief in the second coming of Christ. Isn’t that interesting?
A Gallup poll was taken after Nixon’s winning of an election, I believe, in 1968 and I’ve forgotten how many years after it, but it was some time afterward. The American people were polled by Gallup on belief in the second coming of Christ, and it turned out in their poll that three and a half times as many people as voted for Nixon when he won the election, said they believed in the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Isn’t that interesting? In other words, they believed it as a doctrine, but you don’t see very much evidence of it in our national life. But still, it’s like, “Do you believe in, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?” You’d get lots of people to say they would, even though they don’t follow him, and in the case of the Second Advent, the same thing.
Well, this is one of the great passages, and we want to look at it now. It’s a representation of the Lord Jesus symbolically, spiritually, and there is a reality behind it, of course. The symbolism is simply the means by which the reality is presented. The representation in this passage is of the Lord sweeping down at the head of the armies of heaven, and it’s a majestic picture of him, and it concludes, incidentally, this chapter with another picture of the vultures gorging themselves on human flesh. And it’s a kind of satanic marriage supper of the lamb contrast, of course. You have the coming of our Lord, and then you have the vultures feeding on the flesh of the individuals who are not related to him.
But now in the first verse is the introduction. He’s been talking in chapter 18 and 17 about Babylon. That was the last form of Gentile power; the last stage of the revived Roman Empire that Daniel talked about so much, and there we saw the collapse of it; said several times, “Babylon the great is fallen.” And so the last form of Gentile power is overthrown in Babylon’s collapse, and now by means of seven last things, beginning in chapter nineteen, and this is the first of them, the second coming of Christ, the author will fill in the details, but the advent is first. And let me repeat, it’s a literal historical event set forth in symbolical language. There is, so far as I know, no Calvary in heaven, and so when we read now, “So heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and he who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war,” we are to understand by this, that this is symbolic language.
So we have our Lord arriving on a white horse. “He who sat on him was called Faithful and True.” These are words that the author, in the earlier part of the book has attributed to the Lord Jesus. “And in righteousness he judges and makes war.” So an historical event set forth in symbolic language. What we have is picture thinking, but remember, when we have symbolism, we do not necessarily deny the reality that lies behind it. I’ve often used it, the illustration. I can use it even more impressively now. But if we read in the newspaper, “the Crimson Tide swamps the Volunteers,” we would understand that, that’s nothing more than the great University of Alabama football team defeating the Tennessee Volunteers. We wouldn’t have to have that interpreted for us. We would know that, that language was symbolical language. Crimson Tide. Volunteers. You might even say, “The Crimson Tide would easily defeat the Texas Longhorns.” I won’t say anything about Texas A & M. We’ve got some Aggies present. They might debate it. But at any rate, the point I’m making is that we use symbolism, but when we use symbolism, we don’t deny reality. We don’t deny the historic reality of the event, so when we read here that, “heaven opened, and a white horse comes from heaven, and he’s called, who sits upon the Horse, Faithful and True,” we are to think of a real event presented in symbolical language; a literal historical event. This is picture thinking.
Now it is said, that he is called “Faithful and True.” That’s very interesting, because that term is referred to back in chapter 3 in verse 14, and there is a definition given to it, or associated with it, that’s interesting, and I’m going to read it. Chapter 3, verse 14, “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; these things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” Now, what is interesting about that is that the term “the Amen” is a term that is used in Isaiah 65, for God himself. So for him to be called “the Amen, the faithful and true one” in the light of chapter 3, and the light of Isaiah chapter 65, is to affirm of our Lord that he is the eternal God. But now let’s look further at the words “faithful and true.” What does he mean by that? Well, think of the context. When you’re studying the Bible, always think of the context. “Faithful and true” as over against what that is unfaithful and not true or not genuine; “Faithful and true”.
Well, what has he been talking about from almost the beginning of the Book of the Revelation? Well, he’s been talking about the conflict between the truth and error, and specifically, the conflict between the Lord and the forces of evil, and in fact, as represented in history, the conflict is between the Lord Jesus Christ and the anti-Christ. And so when we read here that, “this one who comes is on the horse is called Faithful and True,” we recognize that’s a term for God because only he could ever be truly faithful and true. But the point is that he’s different from the beast about whom the author has been speaking. So this designation of him as the “Faithful and True” horseman is to distinguish him, to contrast him, with the beast, the anti-Christ of the last days.
Now, we also read here secondly, “And he makes war. He judges and makes war.” But now, did you notice reading through, most of you’ve read through Revelation chapter 19, I’m sure, looking out and knowing you as people who at least have read the Book of Revelation. You read through chapter 19, you discover there is no war, or shall I put it this way, there is no battle. It is said here that, “he judges and makes war”, but there is no battle. What we see in the remainder of the chapter, is that evil is utterly helpless before the Son of God, who comes at his second advent. There is no way in which any human being can really wage a war against the Lord Jesus, in the physical sense, and so we have him saying, “He judges and he makes war,” but there is no battle. Well, of course, evil is totally helpless before him.
Now, a lot of people that are pacifistic and I don’t have time nor the wisdom to enter into that topic this point, but one would think that something like this, “He judges and makes war,” would indicate that there are certain circumstances in which pacifism does not fit the teaching of the word of God.
But now, let’s notice the description that is given of the Messiah, verse 12 through verse 15. “His eyes were like a flame of fire.” This is the description of the royal commander who comes on the horse, followed by a dazzling retinue as appears, because we have here the armies of heaven that are following him. “His eyes were like a flame of fire.” Now, if you will think of passages in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ in which this aspect of his person becomes a bit more prominent than normal, you would think of passages I’m sure like, John chapter 2 in verse 13 through verse 16. I’m going to read it. John 2: 13 through 16.
“Now the Passover of Jesus was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and he found in the Temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When he had made a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money, and overturned the tables, and he said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away. Do not make my Father’s house a house of merchandise.’”
What amazing courage on the part of our Lord, and what amazing success he had in entering into that den of robbers and thieves, and overcoming them, but not only that, if you’ll turn to chapter 18 in verse 6, this is our Lord in Gethsemane when the soldiers come to arrest him. In verse 2 of chapter 18 we read.
“And Judas who betrayed him also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. Then Judas having received a detachment of troops and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus, therefore, knowing all things that would come upon him, went forward and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?’ They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’ And Judas who betrayed him also stood with them. Now when he said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back, and fell to the ground.”
Do you think that would ever happen if I were to say something like that? You’d come seeking me, if the police would come seeking me, and they would say, I would say to them, “Who are you looking for?” And they would say, “We’re looking for S. Lewis Johnson Jr.” If I said, “I am he,” would I expect them to fall back on the ground? No, of course not. It’s ridiculous to even think of it. But when our Lord said this, they drew back and fell to the ground. Almost a foreshadowing, I would say, of the way in which those in Revelation chapter 19 shall react when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven. The full shock of his holy glory is something that no person, no human person, could ever bear; no angelic being could bear, for that matter. That’s why even the seraphim hide their faces from the Lord God in heaven. This is the penetrating judgment of the Son of God, and my Christian friend, think of it when you realize, that it is this person with whom you ultimately have to do.
Now, we read about his head. “He had a name written that no man knew but himself.” Well, I should read the lines before it. “On his head were many crowns.” Many crowns, as over against, well, you read through the Book of Revelation, and the Book of Daniel, and you’ll remember that some of those kings are represented in ways that suggest crowns. And in fact, there are diadems on the figures of the Book of Daniel, representing kings, ten kings with ten crowns. But here is a person upon whose head, symbolically, are many crowns, representative of the fact that he is the one who rules over all things. And then in verse 12 we read that, “He had on a name written that no one knew except himself.”
Now, this is a strange thing because we have three names for him in this very passage, and yet we read, “He had a name written that no one knew except himself.” Well, look at verse 13. He’s called, “The word of God.” In verse 11 we read, “He is called Faithful and True,” “Word of God.” And then in verse 16, “He had on his robe, and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” So we have three names for our Lord, and yet we read here, “He had a name written that no one knew except himself.” That’s a formal kind of contradiction; not a real contradiction, in the sense that it said, “He had a name that no one knew,” but we have three names here which we do know.
Of course, the name that he is talking about here is the name that sets him forth in his essential being, and in that sense, no one knows him, just as no one knows God, ultimately. I’ll underline that. No one knows God, ultimately. Now, of course, we say, “If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you know God.” Yes, you know God in one aspect of his being, but to know, in the sense of the full knowledge of God, no one knows God fully but God. Just get a grasp of how great God really is. I think of Matthew 11 in verse 27 again because this is one of the things that, that particular text sets forth. The Lord Jesus is speaking and he says, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son.” In other words, there is an absolutely unique knowledge that the Father has of the Son, and the Son of the Father and the Spirit of both and they of the Spirit. We might add and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal him. That means that whatever knowledge we have of God is something that is the result of the divine will. Whenever anyone believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s the divine will that that individual believe in him. And, of course, if a person does not believe in God, ultimately, it is the divine will. Paul explains to some extent those things in Romans 9:10 and 11. So this is a statement of the fact, that no one ultimately knows him in his essence.
There is a new book that has just been written on the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s written by a Britisher. He is a biographer and has done some other writing in literary matters; written a number of books; a novelist. He’s written a new book, and it’s called, “Jesus.” The purpose of the writing of the book is to set forth the fact that while he used to believe in Jesus, and believed in him for a long time, he no longer believes in him. He admits, he says that he no longer believes that a first century Galilean holy man could believe that he was the second person of the Trinity. It was such”, he said, “an inherently improbable thing for a monotheistic Jew to believe.” Well, I must say it probably is something improbable for a Jewish man to believe, but that does not mean that it is not true. The very fact that he says, “It is such an inherently improbable thing for a monotheistic Jew to believe,” would indicate right at the beginning that this man doesn’t understand the divine Trinity. Our Lord was not a monotheistic Jew. Our Lord believed in the Trinity, and so right at the beginning, Mr. Wilson lets us know he does not understand much of the word of God. The question that he seeks to answer is the question that our Lord posed, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man am?” And then you’ll remember that the apostles responded by saying, “Some say this, and some say that.” And then our Lord made it more personal, “But whom do you say or who do you say that I am?” It’s who, not whom. Pardon me. I saw several frowns in the audience. “Who do you say that I am?” And then Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Now, it’s been well known for a long time that when people ask the question, “Who was Jesus Christ?” if one listens to the answer, one is likely to learn more about the person answering, than about the Lord Jesus Christ. So to ask the question, “Who was Jesus Christ?” is a question that elicits a response, and you can tell from the response, just how much they know about him, and thus, it’s really a response that reveals what we are, so often. So I ask you the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” I won’t listen to your answers but, “Who is Jesus Christ?”
Well, Mr. Wilson asks that question, and finally he admits that, so far as he’s concerned, he cannot any longer believe in the Lord Jesus, but he goes on to say one interesting thing. He admits that, “The critics would find his historical methodology, “sadly illogical.” His interpretive rule that he follows in examining the gospels is, “if it makes sense, it’s wrong.” That’s the only reliable rule of thumb which we can use when testing the innumerable interpretations of Jesus, his being and his place in human history. So if it makes sense, it’s wrong. It takes only a scholar to come to a conclusion like that, but New Testament scholarship has precisely reached that conclusion that things that make sense, were probably the product of the church, and were probably not the product of our Lord and the others who wrote on him in our Gospel accounts. Well, I must hasten on.
We also read in verse 13 of his garment. “He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God.” The “dipped in blood” has been understood in two ways, but in the light of the fact, that the expression in verse 13, “He was clothed in a robe dipped in blood,” is probably taken from Isaiah chapter 63 in the messianic passage there in which the Lord is dipped in the blood of the enemies that are destroyed by him. That’s probably the way we are to understand it here. In other words, the blood is the blood of the enemies that he overcomes physically. In chapter 17 in verse 14 we read, “These will make war with the lamb, and the lamb will overcome them, for he is King of King, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and those who are with him are called Chosen and Faithful.” And so the blood picture is the picture of a conquering Messiah who is victorious and destroys the beast and the armies that are with him, and the final Gentile Empire collapses at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then we read in verse 4:13, that his name is called the “Word of God.” I think that name is a word that’s designed to express the fact that our Lord Jesus is something of a cosmic mediator; that is, that if you want to know God, you must know him through Jesus Christ. We know that expressed in various ways in the Bible; that we come to know God through Jesus Christ. He’s the revelation of God. The incarnation itself, is part of the manifestation of the Lord God, and the work of the Lord Jesus in his incarnation; in his death, burial, and resurrection, is designed to display facts concerning the Lord God. And so for his name to be called the “Word of God” is expressive of the fact, that if we are to understand God at all, we have to understand the Lord Jesus Christ, and in that sense, he is something of a cosmic mediator revealing God throughout the whole of this universe. He’s the center of everything in the Old and the New Testament, of the whole Bible.
If we’re looking for a name that is specifically relevant to the church, this would be one relevant to the church. He is the “Word of God.” John begins his Gospel, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” And then says in verse 14 in the familiar text, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John goes on to tell us what we learn from that great fact; the mediator, the “Word of God.”
We read of his companions in verse 14, “And the armies in heaven clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed him on white horses.” So the struggle is presented, but it’s not much of a struggle from the standpoint of the Lord God. These individuals, the armies or apparently the angelic beings which, “clothed in fine linen, followed the Lord Jesus,” and you’ll notice that they’re just spectators. They just come with him. They just, in a sense, appear in order for us to see how glorious this One is, accompanied by the angelic hosts. They just look on at what transpires. We don’t read about them going out and destroying this, and destroying that, as if they had regiments and companies and armies, and carrying out a battle campaign like we have in the history of battle campaigns in human history. But they just accompany him.
And then we go on to read in verse 15 of his mouth. Special attention is given to that because in the Old Testament again, the Old Testament speaks specifically of this. In verse 15, “Now out of his mouth goes a sharp sword that with it, he should strike the nations.” This passage, I wish it were possible for us to spend a lengthy time on it. We can’t possibly do that in this series, but it would be nice if everyone in this audience could read Greek and could read Hebrew. You can do it by just reading English. I don’t want to discourage you, because we have great helps in the center column references in the books that we have the texts of the Bible. Mine has all of this information here, if we just follow it out, but there are four great messianic passages from the Old Testament, the language from which is used by the Apostle John in this revelation that was given to him. Let me turn it around, and put it this way; God the Holy Spirit used phrases from the Old Testament in giving this picture, this symbolic picture of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me speak, just speak, just specially of them. In Isaiah chapter 49, one of the great servant of Jehovah passages, it has a passage from which this statement, “Now out of his mouth goes a sharp sword” is taken. I’ll just turn to that one. We don’t have time to do all of them, but I’ll just look at this one so you can see what I’m speaking about. In Isaiah chapter 49 in verse 2, talking about the Messiah from the Old Testament standpoint we read, the prophet saying, “And he has made my mouth like a sharp sword.” He’s giving the word of God concerning the Messiah, and he says, the Son of God, the Messianic of whom he speaks says, “He, God, has made my mouth like a sharp sword.” And so we read here, “Out of his mouth goes a sharp sword.” Isaiah chapter 49, then Isaiah chapter 11, verse 3, verse 4; Isaiah chapter 63. All of these three are messianic passages that speak of the Messiah to come, the language from which is drawn upon here in this picture of our Lord, and then there’s one more, Psalm 2 in verse 9. And in Psalm 2 in verse 9, this, at least to me, very familiar Psalm, I think of you too where we read that the Father says to the Son, “You shall break them with a rod of iron. You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.” And so we read here, “He will strike the nations. He will himself, rule them with a rod of iron. He himself treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of almighty God.” That’s Isaiah 63. And so here we have then, four great messianic passages combining to give us a picture of the one who’s coming and, of course, the message that the Bible wants to make clear to us is that the one who is coming, is the one who’s been talked about throughout the whole of the Bible. Psalms and the prophets, they speak of him.
This past weekend, I was preaching in another place, and I preached on the woman that was a sinner. And in preparing for it, I read something that I’d read before, but I really honestly had never noticed this fact; that, that particular passage, you’ll remember, it’s the story of the woman who was a sinner who breaks in on Simon the Pharisee’s great feast that he’s prepared for a lot of people, and she comes in and falls down at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ, bathes his feet with tears, wipes them with her hair, then takes an alabaster box of ointment out, and pours it on his feet. And all of this transpiring, and not a word is spoken. It’s a kind of pantomime.
It came home to me, specially, I must say, I read the article a long time ago. I had it in my notes, and I read it again and I said, “Oh, pantomime. It does. It’s something like that.” In fact, the only person who speaks is the Lord Jesus Christ, except that Simon does say, “Say on” at one place, and that’s all. But the whole thing is like a pantomime. Things are happening. Lots of things are happening, but not a word is being said. Not a sound is being heard, and then the author went on to say, “That’s very much like things in Germany. Great things are happening, but nothing is said.” And then he went on to deal with the fact that in Germany and I transferred it all to the United States, we have a lot happening. There are a whole lot of human words, but no real sound is heard, and then he said, “This pantomime depicts our situation. The quiet voice of Jesus is heard in this German room of ours and no one makes open answer. He’s banned from the newspapers. He’s banned from the television screen. He’s banned from the radio. And even in our reckoning of him, he’s become an anonymous figure. We no longer refer publicly to BC and AD, though nevertheless, he does still constitute the dividing point of world history, as we reckon it. And if he is deafly silent, we cannot but feel the tension around his figure. Some accuse him. They say, if he were a prophet, they don’t use his name, they use the term ‘God,’ if he were a prophet, would he not have ordered these two thousand years better? If he were a prophet, wouldn’t he come down and end the injustice and all of the things like that?”
And how true that is of our society, my Christian friend. You and I listen to the radio constantly. We listen to the TV constantly. We look at that screen, and our Lord Jesus is banned from it; practically banned from it. On Sunday, a few preachers preach, but even they are largely banned from the mass of the people because the kinds of stations that they’re on, are the kinds of stations that the average people don’t listen to. The average person doesn’t listen to, and so that’s largely true. It’s astonishing. Christ excluded from our day.
This is a remarkable prophecy, and do you know that some evangelicals today are denying that God evangelicals are denying that God can predict the future. For example, Clark Pennick, who is one of the leading evangelicals; in fact, at the Evangelical Theological Conference that took place in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, which I attended, he was one of the lecturers there. And Dr. Pennick has come to, he’s moved away from a strong belief in the inerrancy of Holy Scripture that he once had. He’s moved from a strong view of the sufficiency of Scripture for our life, but he’s moved to the position of denial of the omniscience of God that God does not understand everything, and everything that is going to happen, that God is not immutable, that he is changing, or may change. All of these are classical, historic, orthodox views, and he has moved away from them. In effect, he’s embraced a finite God. His God has limited knowledge, and he says that God does not have the power to tell us what the future is to be like. He contends that predictive prophecy does not prove divine foreknowledge. He says, “A very high percentage of prophecy can be accounted for by one of three factors; the announcement ahead of time of what God intends to do, conditional prophecies which leave the outcome open, and predictions based on God’s exhaustive knowledge of the past and the present.” It’s amazing thing that a person could actually deny that God in prophecy is able to predict the future. Astonishing.
Now, the concluding appellation. I must stop with this. “And he has on his robe and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” The name, three times now; Faithful and True, the Word of God, and now King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. One name for the Church I should say in verse 12 or verse 13, the “Word of God.” One name for Christ himself; the name he had a name written that no one knew except himself, and then one name for the whole cosmos, and very fitting; “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” All can read that name, and even if John was writing with the emperor in Rome in mind and most feel that he probably was even Domitian, who was the Roman ruler at that time, could understand this, “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords”.
You know, there are many uncertainties in the prophetic word. We don’t for one moment suggest that we understand everything about the prophetic word. It is unwise. One well-known theologian wrote, “For Christians to claim any knowledge of either the furniture of heaven or of the temperature of hell or to be too certain about any details of the kingdom of God in which history is consummated.” Well, there’s something about that warning that is applicable to us. We do have lots of people who are engaging primarily in speculation when they write books about the word of God. Many errors are found in the popular books on prophecy, and any individuals who studied the Bible a bit more closely, can pick them out quite easily, but at the same time, while we heed that warning, we, nevertheless, believe that the New Testament teaches us something, and something significant about the heart of the Christian hope as it gathers around the future and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The certainty of the second advent is set forth right from the beginning of the apostles’ era, where we read in Acts chapter 1 in verse 11, as our Lord Jesus ascends into heaven, the angels saying, “They said to them; men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven.” The second advent of our Lord Jesus is surely, certainly set forth there. The one tomb that is open at this point is the tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ. No one else has ever been raised from the dead with a glorified body but he. As Paul says, “The first fruits of the resurrection are the Lord Jesus Christ,” but the first fruits suggest intimate, and we believe prove, in the light of the word of God that others will come.
Biblical teachers have used the illustration of the North Sea dikes, which we know so much from our youth, our youth, you understand. We used to read about how Holland, if those dikes did not hold, then the whole of the Netherlands would be covered with water. One hole in the dike meant, ultimately, the whole land over spread with the water. Well, the one grave that is open, the one empty tomb, may be likened to that because the fact that there is one, and the fact that, that one is our Lord, and who stands for others, and guarantees others, means that we too shall experience the same thing that he experienced; the rising from the grave with a resurrection body. What a grand hope that is, but, of course, the necessity for us is to be in him.
I read a statement about Luther that he made with reference to the Church, because I think in our day, sometimes we tend to think that perhaps, we’re going to be overcome by the world that is about us, but he made a great statement with reference to this, and I’m going to read it to you, and we’ll stop with this. He says, “It is not we who can sustain the Church, nor was it those who came before us, nor will it be those who come after us. It was and is and will be the one who says; I’m with you always, even to the end of time. As it says in Hebrews 13, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” And in Revelation 1, “Who was and is and is to come.” Truly, he is that one, and no one else is, or ever can be. For you and I were not alive thousands of years ago, yet the Church was sustained without us, and it was done by one of whom it says, “Who was, and yesterday. The Church would perish before our very eyes, and we along with it, as we demonstrate every day, if it were not for that other man, who so obviously upholds the Church in us. This we can lay hold of and feel, even if we are reluctant to believe it. We must give ourself to the one of whom it is said, “Who is, and today.” Again, we can do nothing to sustain the Church when we are dead, but he will do it, of whom it is said, “Who is to come, and forever.”
That is a magnificent tying of those things together. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. The one who was, who is, and who is to come; and thus, the past, as well as the future are in the hands of the Lord, and we can be sure that all of the purposes of God that he intends to bring to pass, will be brought to pass. Isn’t it marvelous that he offers to those who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins, the association with him, the assurance and security of the knowledge of the Lord God, now and forever. This is a Bible class. Pardon me. Come to him. Believe in him, if you don’t believe in him. Give yourself to him. Ask him also, to be more of a factor in your life. I encourage you to determine to spend more time with him, to grow in the knowledge of him, and allow him to have a bigger part of your life. May your life not be just a pantomime.
Let’s close in a word of prayer.
[Prayer] Father, we are so thankful to Thee for the Scriptures, because they give us such great encouragement, as they point us to him who is the person of whom they speak. Yes, as Luther said, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday” and, thus, the churches past has been in the hands of the Lord God “is” and the Church, the true believing Church, is in his hands today and “tomorrow” or “always” or “forever” we know that the strong hand of God holds us close to Thee. The one who was, who is, who is to come is the one in whom we trust. Lord, enable us to be faithful to him.
We pray in his name. Amen.