Catechetical sermons preached in PCC Evening Worship Services, Feb 2013 to Dec 2017
WSC 26 of 107
“11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-16).
WSC 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself,1 in ruling2 and defending us,3 and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies.4
1 Acts 15:14-16; 2 Isa 33:22; 3 Isa 32:1,2; 4 1 Cor 15:25; Ps 110 throughout
The book of Revelation is a mystery to many if not most of us. It is full of symbols and allegories that are difficult to interpret. But some parts of this book are easier to understand than others.
One of these portions is our text for this evening. It is still allegorical. There is a war with armies, horses, vestures, swords, vestures and crowns; there is a rod of iron and a winepress. But those familiar with other parts of Scripture will immediately understand much of what is being conveyed.
In particular, this passage paints a picture of Christ as the King of kings and Lord of Lords, going forth conquering, and to conquer (cf. Rev 6:2).
Most commentators believe what is prophesied here in chapter 19 will happen towards the Last Day. This may or may not be correct. My own view is that the book of Revelation is a book of seven sevens. There are (1) Seven Letters to seven churches (2-3); (2) Seven Seals (5-7); (3) Seven Trumpets (8-11); (4) Seven Symbolic Histories (12-14); (5) Seven bowls (15-16); (6) Seven messages against apostasy and (7) Seven summaries of judgements and blessings (19:11-22:6).
In this scheme, Revelation 19:11 begins the final seven. It reveals seven summaries of judgment and blessings. Each of these summaries covers the entire period of redemptive history, though the emphasis is shifting nearer and nearer to the end.
But in any case, even if our text is taken to be prophetic of what will happen at the end, it is not difficult to see that Christ does not suddenly appear on a white horse.
After all, He was already on the white horse in chapter 6 when the first seal was opened. Look at Revelation 6:1-2:
“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. 2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Rev 6:1-2).
John would go on to describe the appearance of a red horse, a black horse and a pale horse. No doubt, these symbolise how war, suffering and death will continue to confront human civilisations and the church of Christ throughout history.
But it is the white horse and his rider that stands out. “He that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Rev 6:1-2). Can you see how He is none other than the King of kings and Lord of lords who is still conquering in Revelation 19 with His army behind Him?
With this in mind, let us consider how Christ, as our Redeemer executes the office of a king as part of our series on what we believe as a church.
Our Shorter Catechism, 26 asks: “How doth Christ execute the office of a king?” Answer: “Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies.”
Let’s see how this is fleshed out in our text. In particular, consider how Christ exercises His kingship, firstly, over us and, secondly, over His and our enemies. When we have done that, we must draw some conclusions and applications.
1. Christ Subdues, Rules and Defends Us
Let’s look at our text. Here is a picture of the King on a white horse conquering and to conquer. We know He is a king because we are told he is a king. He has a name written on His vesture and on His thigh: “The King of kings and Lord of lords” (v. 16).
We know He is a king also because He has a crown upon His head. We see that in chapter 6, verse 2. “He had a bow; and a crown was given unto him.” But wait, what is He wearing in Revelation 19? Notice that it is not just a crown. Instead, He has many crowns (v. 12)!
What does that mean? Now, obviously, this is symbolic. Christ could not be wearing so many crowns on His head. What do these crowns represent? Well, it could suggest that Christ has conquered many nations. We see how Christ smites the nations in verse 15.
But how does He smite the nations? It is with a sharp sword that comes out of his mouth (v. 15a)! What is that but the preaching of the Word?
And how does He conquer? He conquers in faithfulness, truth and righteousness! Verse 11: “He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” And whom does He conquer? Look! Those whom He conquers are following Him, verse 14:
“And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.”
Now, these cannot refer to angels. They refer instead to the redeemed. They are clothed in fine linen, white and clean. Why are their garments white? Because they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb! (Rev 7:14).
Can you see the picture emerging? The many crowns upon the head of the King represent His conquest or His subduing of His people. These were stubborn, proud, rebellious and autonomous like kings. But He has conquered them by His Word and Spirit. He has subdued them. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,” says the Psalmist (Ps 110:3).
Like conquered kings of old, they have presented their crowns to Him. They are no more a law unto themselves. They have received Him as their King. They have put themselves under His Kingship. And He has covered them with His righteousness. And He leads them on.
What a beautiful picture. What we are taught in pictures here, we are taught in the clear in many passages of Scripture.
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Tit 3:3).
“And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled” (Col 1:21).
But Christ does not only reconcile and subdue us. He continues to rule and defend us. We are told in verse 15 that He not only conquers the nations but also rules them. How does He rule? He rules with those whom He has conquered, who ride upon white horses with Him (v. 14). He has made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth (Rev 5:10).
How will we rule? We will rule with His authority, sitting upon His horses. We will rule with His Word, which He has given unto us, which conquered us in the first place. We will also rule by the Spirit, which He has given us to subdue us in the first place.
In other words, we will rule the same way He rules us. As He rules us with His Word and Spirit, so we shall rule by His Word and Spirit. As we rule by His Word and Spirit, so He rules us by His Word and Spirit.
You see, there are only one Word and one Spirit.
By His Word, we are made to know what is right and what is wrong. By His Word, we are taught how to live in a way that will conduce to our good and His glory.
By His Spirit, we are made willing in the day of His power. By His Spirit, we are inclined to love His word and to desire to walk in His ways. This is how Christ rules us as King. He rules us internally by His Spirit. He rules us externally by His Word together with all the ordinances built upon His Word, such as Church government and discipline.
But not only does Christ subdue and rule us, but He also defends us. We see His work of defending us hinted in our text in the fact that He rides on ahead of us, whereas we follow behind, clothed in garments washed in His blood.
He has owned us as His and covered us with His righteousness. Therefore, He will defend us.
When Stephen was being stoned, he saw heaven open and the son of man standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:56). What was the Son of God doing at the right hand of God? No doubt, he was standing in defence of Stephen. He was sending a strong signal to Stephen that though the earthly council might condemn him, he was being defended in the heavenly council and would be exonerated.
“Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:34).
You see, Christ is not only making intercession for us as our Great High Priest, but as our King as well. He is defending us.
He has subdued us, He is ruling us, and He is defending us. Nothing shall separate us from His love. Nothing shall harm us ultimately. As the late Dr Gerstner once said, Tragedy never happens to believers. Christ, our king, is in control. He is ruling at the right hand of the throne of God, ensuring that only what is good happens to us. This is the first part of Christ’s kingly office.
But secondly, let us consider how…
2. Christ Restrains & Conquers All His and Our Enemies
Now, you will realise that this is quite evident in our text. Christ is on the white horse conquering and to conquer. A sharp two-edged sword is proceeding out of His mouth. It is a sword that cuts both ways. It cuts off sin so His elect may be subdued and will cheerfully hand over their crowns to Him. But it also cuts sinners who remain stubborn and unbelieving.
Indeed, notice how we are told that His vesture is dipped in blood (v. 13). Whose blood is this? At first look, we might think that this must be the blood of Christ himself. But wait, we are told verse 15, “he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Now, this is where the blood comes from! It is the blood of His enemies!
This vision is really connected to the prophecy in Isaiah 63:2-3. Here we read:
“2 Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine vat? 3 I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment” (Isa 63:2-3).
It is clear, isn’t it, that the blood on the garment of the King of kings belongs to His enemies!
He conquers and restrains them by ruling them with a rod of iron. But let us pause for a while and ask: Who are these enemies of Christ?
Well, from our text, it looks like the enemies are persons who remain in unbelief. If those who sit on the white horses following the king are believers, then surely those who are vanquished in His wrath must be unbelievers or, more specifically, the reprobates. After all, Elect unbelievers will be subdued and fall in behind the King.
So the enemies of the King and our enemies will be all the reprobates. And this agrees well with the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that there would be a cosmic war between the Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent. The Seed of the woman would no doubt be Christ, and all united to Him, namely the elect, whereas the Seed of the serpent would be the devil and all united to him, namely the reprobate.
All who are the enemies of Christ will suffer His fierce wrath on the day of the wrath of the lamb. Christ will vindicate His people. When the world persecutes His people, they touch the apple of His eyes, and will not go unpunished.
But this is not all Christ our King does for us, for when we search other parts of Scripture, we realise that our enemies are not just unbelievers who mock our faith or persecute us. Instead, our enemies include the devil, the flesh, the world and even death.
In Romans 8, the apostle Paul suggests that many things can be regarded as our enemies. He says:
“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:35-39).
In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Can you see how our enemies come in many shapes and sizes: large and small; animate and inanimate; rational and irrational; material and immaterial? Anything hindering our enjoyment of God in Christ is our enemy and His enemy.
Can you see how Christ our King not only defends us against all these our enemies, but restrains and conquers them so that nothing can separate us from his love?
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:25, “For He [Christ] must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.”
How does Christ our King restrain and conquer these, our enemies and His enemies? He does so by setting bounds and limits to which they can frustrate us in this life. Yes, He does, as it were, give them permission to afflict us, but only so much that we may learn to cast our cares upon Him and find His grace sufficient.
And one day, he will put down all our enemies so that forever and ever, nothing shall again hinder us in our enjoyment of God—Nothing: Not sin, not sinners, not the cares of this world, not spiritual powers, not things of this world, not death, not sicknesses and not separation.
Today, some things can afflict us with His permission, for He sits enthroned on the right hand of the throne of God, upholding all things by the word of His power. But the day is coming when He will not permit anything to afflict us. On that day, He will completely destroy all our enemies. And all our enemies are His enemies.
Once again, our Catechism (WSC 26) teaches us that “Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies.”
What shall we say to these things?
Let me suggest four simple applications worded with the acrostic, ‘KING’.
a. Know Your King
All of us in this room are in one of two kingdoms. You are either in the Kingdom of Christ with Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords as your King, or you are in the Kingdom of Satan, and Satan, the prince of the power of the air, is your king.
If Christ is not your King, then Satan is your king, regardless of whether you acknowledge him as king or not. Make no mistake; Satan is not a good king to serve. He is a proud and selfish deceiver whose only goal is to bait as many to go into eternal torment with him. Thus, he promises the riches, honour, and enjoyment in this life to entice, if possible, the very elect. But take his bait, and you will end up with a life of misery capped with eternal sorrows.
Oh, will you not instead serve Christ the King of kings, the Lord of lords? Behold Christ the King is on His white horse. He is still conquering. He is conquering today. He is conquering now. The double-edged sword is proceeding from His mouth. Will you fight Him? Oh, will you not instead fall behind Him? Oh, will you not renounce your sin and allegiance to Satan and confess your allegiance to Christ? Christ, our King, will never cast out those who come unto Him in contrition and repentance. He will give you a garment washed in His blood and a white horse to ride on.
But if you know Christ as your King already, blessed are you. Serve Him with joy and gratitude because He laid His life for you to redeem you from bondage to Satan and give you true freedom now and forevermore. Therefore, trust Him and walk gratefully with Him.
Moreover, secondly, …
b. Instead of Despair, Hope in Him
I am amillennial in my eschatological persuasion, but I do not think we should despair over the affairs of the world. The prophecy in our text does not allow us to despair. Christ is riding on, conquering and to conquer.
It may not be that all will be converted. But Christ is victorious, and we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. And as King, He is upholding all things by the word of His power to see to it that all things work together for the good of them who love Him, to them who are called according to His purpose.
With Christ our King leading the church militant, how can we despair? Shall we not rather hope in Him?
But thirdly, if Christ is your King, then…
c. Never Serve Your Enemy
Satan is the king of his kingdom. He is orchestrating everything in the world to oppose Christ and His kingdom. We must be aware of his devices, or we will end up serving him and doing his will.
The Lord our King Himself says:
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24).
Mammon is but one of the minions of the devil. We cannot serve Christ and serve Satan at the same time. But how do we know if we are serving Satan or serving Christ?
Well, the Kingdom of Christ has two main goals: the glory of God and the good of the saints. The Kingdom of Satan, conversely, has two main goals: the shame of God’s name and the destruction of the saints.
Therefore, if Christ is your King, see to it that you examine your heart and life to see how you are using your time and energy. Do not live your life without principles. Always reflect on your decisions:
Am I seeking first the Kingdom of Christ by this choice? Or am I giving excuses to pamper the flesh?
Was my action edifying? Or is it destructive to the saints and damaging to the cause of Christ?
Will my decision magnify Christ? Will I risk bringing shame to the name of Christ by what I allow? Will I edify the saints? Or will I stumble them?
Will this conduce to my growth in Christ? Or will I be in danger of backsliding if I take this option?
Remember: Never serve your enemy.
d. Glorify Your King
If Christ is your King, glorify Him. Glorify Him individually, as families and as a church.
Glorify Him individually by being witnesses for Him and shining forth for Him everywhere you go.
Glorify Him at home by worshipping the Father in His name. Christ is honoured when you worship the Father. Christ is magnified when husbands love their wives and wives submit to their husbands.
Glorify your King as a church by seeing that all things in the church are submitted to Christ the King. We must remember that Christ is the King of the church. Christ is honoured when we read and sing His word, when we exercise the keys of the kingdom which He has assigned, and when we observe the sacraments that He has appointed. Christ is shamed, on the other hand, when His Word is not preached, His sacraments are not faithfully observed, and discipline is not enforced. Christ is shamed when the church wants to do things her own way: to sing her own words, tell her own stories, and invent her own holy days.
If Christ is our King, let us submit to Him and honour Him in all our lives. Let us confess Him to be Lord and seek to ensure He is on the throne in all areas of our lives. Amen.