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The Glorious Return of Jesus Christ, Part 2

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
June 22, 2022 4:00 am

The Glorious Return of Jesus Christ, Part 2

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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It will be different when Jesus comes, different than it was the first time. There's a warning of that in the seventeenth chapter of Acts when it says in verse 31, He has fixed the day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed. What is the man? The man Jesus Christ. So He's coming back to judge. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. It's been said that the difference between victory and defeat in battle is simple. It all comes down to which side you're on. Now, that's an obvious oversimplification, but the truth is, when Jesus Christ returns, the difference between eternal agony and eternal bliss truly will be as simple as which side you're on. And with that in mind, John MacArthur continues his current study on grace to you, titled When Jesus Comes, with a look today at the triumphant return of Christ, whom He's coming to conquer, and who will be coming with Him. To help you find out where you're going to be in that scene, here's John with today's lesson. It is our great privilege to open our Bibles to the nineteenth chapter of Revelation and to look at that great text which details for us the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation chapter 19, verses 11 through 16. I want to read this text. It's such a powerful text.

I want you to have it in mind. Starting in verse 11, John, of course, is given this great vision while on the island of Patmos in exile for the preaching of the gospel. And he says, I saw heaven opened and behold a white horse and he who sat upon it is called Faithful and True and in righteousness he judges and wages war. And his eyes are a flame of fire and upon his head are many diadems and he has a name written upon him which no one knows except himself. And he's clothed with a robe dipped in blood and his name is called the Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following him on white horses. And from his mouth comes a sharp sword so that with it he may smite the nations and he will rule them with a rod of iron and he treads the winepress of the fierce wrath of God the Almighty.

And on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Here is the great presentation of the vision of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now I want to divide these verses up into three parts, the return of the conqueror, the regiments of the conqueror, and the rule of the conqueror...the return, the regiments and the rule. Let's look then, first of all, at verses 11 to 13 and look at the return of the conqueror. The return of the conqueror, verse 11, and I saw heaven opened and behold a white horse and he who sat upon it is called Faithful and True and in righteousness he judges and makes war. Again, for another time in the book of Revelation, heaven is opened. And we are going to see a glorious glimpse of heaven, a glorious vision of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It's very different than the one we saw in chapter 1 where he was ministering in his church. Here he is obviously coming in fiery flaming vengeance. He is coming with a sword of judgment.

He is coming with blood-splattered garments. This is the point of his return. This is the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus Himself from His own lips in Matthew chapter 24 where He said in verse 27, just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. It will be a time of great carnage. Immediately after the Tribulation it will happen. The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

In other words, the whole universe goes pitch black. Then the sign of the Son of Man appears in the sky. All the tribes of the earth will mourn and they'll see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds from one end of the sky to the other. That is that which now is being described in Revelation 19. So as the scene unfolds, our eyes are fixed on this majestic, regal, mighty rider. Heaven is open to us and we see the white horse and on the white horse we see the rider.

Let's talk about these details because they're important. The reason heaven is open this time is to not let us in, but to let Him out. A number of times in the book of Revelation, heaven has been opened and we've been given access to that. We can go back, for example, to chapter 4 and we remember, don't we, that John the apostle says in verse 1, Behold, I looked and a door standing open in heaven, the first voice which I heard like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me said, Come up here and I'll show you what must take place after these things. So the door of heaven was opened in chapter 4 so John could go in and see and now the door is opened so the Son of Man can come out. Jesus, the one who ascended to heaven is recorded in Acts chapter 1, the one who has been seated at the Father's right hand is now coming back.

He is going to receive the kingdom which the Father had promised to Him, the kingdom to which He was entitled. As you go back into chapter 5, you remember that the Father was seated on the throne in heaven. In His hand He held a book which was the title deed to the universe. And you remember, no one in heaven or on earth, verse 3, or under the earth was able to open the book or look into it. In other words, no one had the right to take possession of the universe. No one had the right to open the sealed scroll and take possession. And so John says, I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or look into it. In other words, was the world always going to belong to the usurper, to Satan, to sin?

Was there no one who could take it back? And one of the elders said to me, Stop weeping, behold the lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the root of David is overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals. And I saw between the throne with the four living creatures and the elders a lamb standing as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

That too a reference to Isaiah 11. And he came and took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And there you have the Lamb, the Son, Christ, the Messiah having the privilege and the right to take the title deed out of the hand of God because it is His right to take the universe. And everyone sang a new song, Worthy art Thou to take the book and break its seals for Thou was slain and did purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation and Thou has made them to be a kingdom and priest to our God and they will reign upon the earth. You have a right to take possession of the world.

You have a right to establish Your kingdom. And so the one who has a right now is on the edge of heaven and heaven is opened and He is about to come. That great wonderful anticipatory prayer that comes from the sixty-fourth chapter of Isaiah, this first couple of verses, O that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Thy presence as fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil to make Thy name known to Thy adversaries that the nations may tremble at Thy presence. That's the prayer, O that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down. And what Isaiah anticipated and prayed for in chapter 64 now unfolds in Revelation 19 as heaven is opened and He's ready to come. And this time John doesn't see a lamb in the midst of the throne, rather he sees, according to verse 11, a white horse. This is not a lamb, this is a white horse. Riding on that white horse is the great conqueror, the Messiah.

Riding no longer the way He rode when He rode in His earthly life, but now coming as a conqueror in a typical fashion of Roman triumphal processions. Now let me mention something at this point, would you? Capture this because it's very important. What you have in the imagery of this vision is a mingling of symbol and reality. And you have to comprehend that or you can't comprehend this. There is language here that is the expression of reality.

And there is language here that is the expression of symbol. Of course that symbol points to a reality. People ask the question, does this mean there are real horses in heaven?

Answer, no. Anymore than it means that when Jesus comes, He's actually going to have dangling off His head a whole lot of crowns. Or that when He returns, He's actually going to have sticking right out of His mouth between His lips some kind of sword. Or any more than it means that all who come with Him are going to be riding on a myriad of white horses.

Listen, there is nothing to indicate anywhere in Scripture that horses get glorified, that horses get eternally glorified and go to heaven. There is a mixture here of symbol and reality. This is not necessarily actual reality any more than that Jesus Christ when He sets up His kingdom is going to roam the earth with a huge iron stick in His hand, mashing people's skulls with it. Yet it says He'll rule with a rod of iron.

You have to understand that the symbolic language here expresses reality but in itself is symbolic of that reality. And the symbol here, the majestic symbol here is of a Roman conqueror who is coming back in a triumphal procession. He's coming to a great battle to triumph and to enter into the glory of that triumph. A general would ride to war on his white horse. He would come with his battle garb, leading his tremendous battle troops, as it were.

They would engage in war and when the war was won, he would then come to Rome and up the Via Sacra, the main street of Rome, to the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill and there he would enter into his glory. So the imagery is vivid. John sees Jesus no longer as a lamb, no longer as He was portrayed in Zechariah 9, 9, coming in humility riding on the colt the full of an ass. But in this case, he sees Him as a conqueror.

White is not only the color of war chargers in the ancient Roman world, but it is the symbol of purity, it is the symbol of spotlessness of unblemished holy power. And in fact, everything in that imagery is in contrast to the humble fall of a donkey which Jesus rode into the city. Now He comes as the conqueror. Now He comes as the warrior king.

Now He comes to destroy the wicked, to overthrow the Antichrist, to bind Satan, take control of the earth and the universe and establish Himself as King of kings and Lord of lords. The horses are symbolic. The sword out of His mouth is symbolic. The rod of iron is symbolic. The crowns are symbolic.

But the coming is reality. And the psalmist himself wrote of this event when he wrote, And Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O most mighty, with Thy glory and Thy majesty. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the King's enemies whereby the people fall under Thee. Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever. And even the psalmist, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could get a glimpse of the coming of God in the glory of messianic rule to establish His eternal kingdom. And so He comes. Scripture tells us He comes in glory.

We read that in Matthew 24, Matthew 25. In Revelation 1 and 7 it says, When He comes, every eye will see Him. Obviously the whole world will have gone black and dark, as we read to you. Everything will be turned out. The blazing glory of Jesus Christ will come with such startling reality that everyone on the face of the earth will see Him. And He will come not only in glory, not only visibly, but He will come with vengeance to judge and make war.

Now at this point I want to digress for just a moment and just kind of talk to you about something you need to keep in mind. There is nothing in this scenario that matches descriptions of the rapture of the church in the New Testament. There are two Scriptures in the New Testament that refer to the catching away of the church. One is in John 14 and the other is in 1 Thessalonians 4. John 14, one and following, 1 Thessalonians 4, 13 and following. Both of those describe the coming of the Lord for the church, coming of the Lord for His beloved. In John 14, Jesus said, When I go away, I will prepare a place for you and I will come again to receive you unto Myself that where I am, there you may be also. That was not a warning, that was a promise.

That was not an event to be feared, that was an event to be anticipated. I'm going to prepare a place for you and I'm going to come and get you and take you to that place. That's very important because whatever the catching away of believers is, it is something we long for, look for, love, anticipate, hope for because He's going to come and He's going to get us to take us to the place He's preparing for us. Where is He now? He's in heaven.

What's He doing there? Preparing a place for us in the Father's house. But when He comes to judge, He comes to the earth, stays on the earth and sets up His kingdom here. The rapture is a very different event. It's a catching away of the church into heavenly homes that have been prepared for the believers.

And that's why it's very difficult to see these two things as the same event. At the rapture, furthermore, Christ doesn't come to the earth, He meets us in the air. Here He comes all the way to the earth and He doesn't come down to meet His saints, He brings them with Him and they follow Him as they come. In the rapture, He comes and meets His saints in the air and takes them to heaven. In the second coming, He comes all the way to earth with His saints and establishes their kingdom on earth. At the rapture, there's no judgment. There's nothing in the text of John 14 or 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 to speak of judgment, but here everything is judgment. The rapture is a time of blessing.

This is a time of cursing. There will be blessing for the godly when He comes back, but the emphasis is here on judgment and no such emphasis is made with regard to the rapture. At the rapture, as I said, He meets His own in the air and here He sets His feet on the Mount of Olives, according to Zechariah 14.

He puts His feet right on the Mount of Olives, splits the Mount of Olives, creates a valley in which He judges the world and establishes His kingdom. Furthermore, the event of the second coming of Jesus Christ is preceded by blackness, the darkened sun, the darkened moon, the stars are falling, smoke fills the universe, lightning and blinding glory introduce the coming of Jesus Christ. Such aspects are not associated with His coming for His saints in John 14 or 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. And that's why we believe that the coming for the church, which we call the rapture, the catching away is a different event that precedes the coming of Christ in judgment to set up His kingdom. And so we say we believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, that is that Jesus catches away His own before the breaking out of the terrible judgments of His wrath during that seventh period at the end of which He comes back to earth with His already raptured saints to set up and to reign with Him in the kingdom. And so we see here then that Jesus is coming in judgment fury.

He's coming as a conqueror. Now let's look again at verse 11 and see some more about the return. It says that He who sat upon this white horse, this symbol of conquering and symbol of holy, pure power is called faithful and true. He is called faithful and true.

Really there couldn't be a more appropriate name for the Lord Jesus. You remember He is called back in chapter 3 verse 14, the Amen, the faithful and true witness. So here for the second time, Jesus is identified as faithful and true. He is faithful to His promises. He is faithful to whatever He promises and He speaks only the truth.

Faithful and true returns. In the third chapter of Revelation, in the seventh verse, He is described as He who is holy, He who is true. Why is He called faithful and true? Because He's keeping His Word, right?

He promised He would come, He promised He would come and He comes. He is faithful to keep His Word. He is faithfulness and truth personified.

By the way, His name is certainly in vivid contrast to the unfaithfulness and the lying hypocrisy of Antichrist and Satan. Jesus always tells the truth because He is the God who cannot lie. He is always the faithful and true one. He will always keep His Word. He promised He would come, He comes because He is faithful and true.

Today I'm sure there are many who would be happy to sort of sort out the teachings of Jesus that they like, the teachings of Jesus that fit their sentiments, and happily they would reject His solemn judgments and His promises of fury and vengeance and wrath. But He is just as faithful and just as true to those promises as He is to the promises of salvation and grace and mercy. He's faithful and true. And you're never going to see it more clearly than when He returns because He will be faithful and true to His promise to bring the righteous into a kingdom and to destroy the wicked. The dragon is a deceiver. The beast is a false Christ.

The second beast is a false prophet. And the world is filled at that time with false worshipers, but Jesus Christ is faithful and true. And because He is faithful and true, it says in verse 11, in righteousness He judges and wages war. If He is faithful and true to His Word, He has to act in righteousness.

He has to do what is right. He has to have a holy and righteous reaction against sin, so He does. Faithful to His righteous character, faithful to His holy nature, true to His Word He comes. And when He comes, He has to do what He promised to do, what righteousness demands He do, He judges. Once He came as Savior, and then He comes as Judge. When He was here the first time, wicked men judged Him. When He comes the second time, He will judge wicked men.

He will not only be the Judge, by the way, but He will also be the executioner. Remember Isaiah chapter 11 that He treads the winepress of the wrath of God alone? Angels are not executioners.

Angels are simply sort of the mop-up crew. And they are the sorting crew, according to Matthew chapter 13, but He alone treads the winepress. He alone has the power to execute. He alone has the power to bring final fury and the wrath of God. There was a time when in His first coming He was brought before Pilate and Herod and Caiaphas and Annas and brought before the crowd who cried for His blood, and they judged Him unrighteously. And there will be a day when He comes back to judge the world righteously. It will be different when Jesus comes, different than it was the first time. There's a warning of that in the seventeenth chapter of Acts when it says in verse 31, He has fixed the day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed.

What then? The man He raised from the dead, the man Jesus Christ. So He's coming back to judge. So He comes in fury to judge the world, and then this most amazing statement, and to wage war, to make war. He comes as a warrior king. He comes to fight. Back in chapter 2 verse 16, amazingly, astoundingly it is recorded that He said to the church at Pergamos, I'm coming to you quickly and I'll make war against them with the sword of My mouth. He is a warrior against the ungodly and against the unbelieving and against the wicked and the sinful. By the way, that mention of Him making war in chapter 2 verse 16 is the only other mention of Him making war in all of Scripture. And then it will be too late for the rejecters. They will obviously have been hardened beyond the point where they would respond positively, even in chapter 16 verse 21 when they are at the very culmination of the horrors of the last judgment, when the last seal has been opened and the last trumpet blown and the last bowl poured out and hundred-pound hailstones are crashing down on their heads and you'd think they might repent.

It says they blasphemed God. And they are at the point of absolute hardness and this is when He comes. When there's no more point in waiting, when nothing else will cause them to repent, when no judgment moves them and no preaching moves them and no preacher can reach their hearts, He will come back and He will make war. It's really a different Jesus than we're used to seeing, obviously. We're used to seeing Him ministering to the needy, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, casting demons out of people, giving peace to troubled hearts. We're used to hearing Him inviting those with heavy burdens to come to Him for rest.

But that's not how it's going to be. He now comes on a war mission. He comes to search and to destroy. This is not new character for God, nor is it a different personality than the God of Scripture.

At the Red Sea, you remember back in Exodus chapter 15 and verse 3 when Jehovah destroyed Pharaoh and his hosts, you remember that Israel said, the Lord is a man of war. The Lord is a warrior. It's an amazing title for God. It's an amazing title for the Son of God, but a true one.

You're listening to Grace to You with John MacArthur, chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary in Southern California. John's current study is showing you what will happen when Jesus comes. Now, John, today you identified a number of symbols in the book of Revelation. There's the horse that portrays Christ as conqueror, the white that symbolizes His purity.

With that in mind, let me ask a question that I'm sure many of our listeners have wondered. How do you know when to take a passage literally and when to treat it symbolically? Well, it's very obvious when literature is symbolic or using analogies. If I say about my son, he's as strong as an ox, you don't confuse that.

You know exactly what I mean. You don't think he's an animal. We use that kind of talk all the time. And the book of Revelation makes those kind of analogies and uses those kinds of symbols all the way through.

You have the same thing in the book of Daniel. You have visions of lions and various faces of animals, and we all understand that this is metaphoric language. This is used to symbolize some feature, like we say someone is as wise as an owl.

We don't think they're a bird. That's just part of human language. That's part of speaking in analogies and illustrating and making things clear. So when you come to studying the Word of God, you start out with the principle of interpreting natural meaning in a literal way. So we know there's not something mystical here. There's not something hidden, not something below the surface. We don't need some kind of esoteric knowledge or insight or secret knowledge. It's simply that when we come across symbols, we recognize them as symbols.

If in Revelation we see a beast coming out of the sea, we know that's not an actual beast coming out of the sea. That's not the point. The point is rising from the nations is a great, powerful leader. You take each passage on its own merit. You can look at the context. You can see what's before it, what's after it, how it fits in the bigger picture.

It isn't really as difficult as some people might think. So when you and I speak or read something that uses analogy, we don't struggle to understand that. We're ready for those kinds of things naturally. And the same thing is true scripturally. Thank you, Jon. And now, friend, if you're looking to better understand the book of Revelation and how it applies to you, let me encourage you to get a copy of Jon's two-volume commentary on the book of Revelation. It goes deep into every verse and makes the meaning clear. To pick up Jon's two-volume commentary on Revelation, contact us today.

You can call us at 800-55-GRACE or shop online at These commentaries are great for prepping Sunday school lessons and sermons or simply for getting more out of your personal devotions. To order Jon's commentaries on Revelation or the complete 34-volume New Testament commentary series, call 800-55-GRACE or order from our website This reminder, too, we appreciate hearing how Grace To You is helping you grow spiritually.

If you've never written or if it's been a while, jot a quick note to share your story. And be sure to include the call letters of this station when you write. That's a big help to us. Our mailing address is Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. And our email, letters at That's our email. One more time, letters at Now for Jon McArthur and the staff, I'm Phil Johnson with a request. Tune in to Grace To You television this Sunday. I think you'll benefit. Our website will show you if it airs in your area. And then join us tomorrow when Jon looks at the glorious return of Christ with another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-30 12:47:01 / 2023-03-30 12:57:50 / 11

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