A Robe Dipped in Blood – Revelation Bible Guide Day 25
March 23, 2018
10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Day 25 – 5th Friday
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of the mighty, the flesh of horses and their riders—flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against the rider on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed in its presence the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were killed by the sword of the rider on the horse, the sword that came from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.
Points of Interest
- “Then I saw” – Revelation moves to a close with a final series of seven visions, each beginning with these words.
- “Faithful and True” – Revelation’s first white horse (Chapter 6) was the first of four that represented some of the worst trials of human history, such as military conquest. This time around it is Jesus on the horse. If John has encouraged one thing most in the house churches he wrote to, it has been faithfulness – don’t fall prey to Rome’s propaganda, and don’t be intimidated by their violence. Stick with Jesus. Live your life of faith and all it calls you to. Jesus, John says, was the model of faith in his life in Palestine, and is faithful to people and faithful to his purposes in history as well.
- “clothed in a robe dipped in blood” – Like the four horsemen, Jesus is presented as a warrior as well, but an unusual one – his robe is bloody before he’s even met an enemy. We’ll remember this is also the slaughtered Lamb. His robe is stained with his own blood, no one else’s.
- “the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen” – No one wears fine linen into battle. Jesus’ armies are not dressed for war but dressed as Jesus’ followers are, for a wedding feast.
- “From his mouth comes a sharp sword” – Warrior/Lamb/Groom Jesus also has an odd weapon: a sword protruding from his mouth. Jesus accomplishes things through speech, not violence. His name, after all (at least the one in this passage that isn’t a secret) is “The Word of God.”
- “will rule them with a rod of iron” – This is another reference to the Bible’s second psalm, one of the first century’s more popular Messianic passages of the Old Testament, that roused hopes that God would send a human leader to rule in God’s name.
- “will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God” – Revelation has used this imagery before, back in Chapter 14’s seven angels of judgment. This paragraph has been working references to Isaiah 63, one of the Old Testament’s sections most associated with Jewish thought about of the end of history, the end of the world as they would know it. In that section of Isaiah, the narrative is oscillating between vengeance and redemption, violence and mercy, as if Isaiah isn’t quite sure how things will go. Here Revelation uses the symbolism of vengeance and warfare, but without any violence. It’s possible that Jesus will speak a change in history into being with a word, end evil without violence, consummate God’s Kingdom without war.
- “the birds that fly in midheaven” – vultures, and other birds that feast on carrion
- “gather for the great supper” – I hope this isn’t the wedding supper! The birds are feasting on the flesh of people and animals of warfare. We can guess this is symbolic because just about all of Revelation is – that’s its genre – and because there hasn’t even been a war in this chapter. It’s an image of poetic justice and the end of the terrors of war.
- “the beast was captured” – Human empire’s rulers resist Jesus, as they will, but between vs. 29 and 30, the anticipated battle ends awfully quickly. In fact, it never occurs.
- “These two men were thrown alive into the lake of fire” – The violent imagery of Revelation 14 is again summoned, into this scene that reframes symbolic imagery of warfare. The message is that human evil and violence is eliminated, even if John strongly implies that Jesus – stained with his own blood, armed only with his word – will never use the technology of warfare to do the trick.
This week, in light of the judgment on all human systems that resist God and God’s good and humane ways on earth, we consider the command to, “Come out” and turn away from the evil baked into human societies, our own included. Today, remember any ways that you have perpetrated or cheered for violence, in your own words or actions or in cheering on your nation’s armies or any other violence. Consider that Jesus is opposed to violence in all forms, and will bring it to an end. Ask God what coming out of violence looks like.
A Direction for Prayer
Odds are that if you’re praying regularly for six people, at least one has perpetrated verbal or physical violence – likely covered up, perhaps cloaked under regret or shame – and at least one has been subject to verbal or physical violence as an adult or child. Perhaps without knowing which ones you are praying for, pray for God’s work in their lives of repentance and healing.
The Bible Guide
This blog post is part of a Lenten journey through the book of Revelation. Every year during the season of Lent, we take a focused look at a portion of Scripture as part of our communal spiritual practice. This year, we are exploring what it means to be Children of God in a Fractured World, with Revelation as our lens. On Sundays, we’re exploring this with our sermons; on weekdays, we’re doing so with our bible guide. The bible guide series starts here.