SYNOPSIS – Next, the Rider on a White Horse destroys the “Beast from the sea” and the “False Prophet” – Revelation 19:17-21.
The final paragraph of Chapter 19 details the destruction of the “Beast from the sea” along with the “False Prophet,” the latter called elsewhere the “Beast from the earth.” The passage does not state where this “war” will occur other than on the earth. What is in focus is the destruction of the “Beast” and the “False Prophet,” and their destruction in the “Lake of Fire.”
The passage is part of the third main division of the book of Revelation that began with Chapter 17 when John was “carried away in spirit” into the “wilderness” where he saw the “Great Whore, Babylon” – (Revelation 13:11-13, 17:1-5).
This third literary division is a detailed picture of the results of the “seven bowls of wrath” in which the “wrath of God was finished.” In the second division, the reader was introduced to the main cosmic enemies of the “Lamb” and his followers:
- The Dragon.
- The Beast from the Abyss/Sea.
- The Beast from the earth/False Prophet.
- The Great Whore, end-time Babylon.
Now, the adversaries of the Lamb are judged and destroyed, however, in reverse order from their introduction, beginning with “Babylon,” then the “Beast” and the “False Prophet,” and finally, the “Dragon.” The language used is derived primarily from the prophecy of an invasion by “Gog and Magog” found in the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of the book of Ezekiel.
“Great Supper of God”
(Revelation 19:17-18) – “And I saw one messenger standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying, unto all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, — Hither! be gathered together unto the great supper of God, — that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them who sit upon them, and the flesh of all, both free and bond, and small and great” – (The Emphasized Bible).
“I saw an angel standing in the sun.” This is not the same angel as the one who showed John the vision of the “Great Whore in the wilderness.” The description parallels the introduction of the destruction of “Babylon” at the start of the previous chapter – (Revelation 18:1).
“He cried to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven.” Although the summons to the birds is drawn from the book of Ezekiel – the book of Revelation has changed the original “birds of every sort and the beasts of the field” to the “birds that fly in mid-heaven.” This provides a verbal link to two previous passages in Revelation, namely:
- (Revelation 14:6) – “And I saw another angel fly in the mid-heaven having the everlasting gospel to preach unto the inhabitants of the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”
- (Revelation 8:13) – “And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the mid-heaven saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!”
In Chapter 8, the “angel” or “eagle” flying in mid-heaven announced the three final “woes” about to befall the “inhabitants of the earth” – (Several important Greek manuscripts read “eagle,” not “angel”).
The “first woe” or “fifth trumpet” unleashed a demonic horde from the “Abyss” that tormented men. In Revelation, the “Abyss” is a place ruled by the “angel of the Abyss – Abaddon and Apollyon – (Meaning, “Destruction” and “Destroyer,” respectively).
In turn, the “second woe” or “sixth trumpet” released a massive army from beyond the Euphrates River that was “prepared for the hour and day and month and year” to kill a third of humanity. This description parallels the “kings of the east” unleashed by the “sixth bowl of wrath” that were gathered by the “Beast” and the “False Prophet” to the final battle – “Armageddon” – (Revelation 9:1-12, 9:13-21, 16:12-16).
The “third woe” or “seventh trumpet” produced the final victory of the kingdom of God, the vindication of the righteous dead, and the judgment of “those who are destroying the earth,” all on the Day of the Lord – (Revelation 11:15-19).
In the passage from Chapter 14, the “angel flying in mid-heaven” proclaimed the “everlasting gospel to the inhabitants of the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people…because the hour of judgment is come.” Anyone who gave allegiance to the “Beast” would drink the wrath of God and be “tormented with fire and brimstone.”
In Chapter 19, the “birds that fly in mid-heaven” are summoned to the “great supper of God” that is here described with language from the prophecy of an invasion of ancient Israel by a force identified with “Gog and Magog”:
(Ezekiel 39:17-20) – “Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field, Gather together and come, gather from all sides to the sacrificial feast which I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast upon the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And you shall eat fat till you are filled and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast which I am preparing for you. And you shall be filled at my table with horses and riders, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors, says the Lord Yahweh.”
The “Great Supper of God” corresponds to the “Great day of the wrath” of the Lamb and of God in the “sixth seal” opening, and to the “great day of God the Almighty” that culminated in the battle at “Armageddon” when the angel emptied the contents of the “sixth bowl of wrath.” It is conceptually parallel to the “sacrificial feast which I am preparing for you” described in the prophecy of Ezekiel – (Ezekiel 39:17-20, Revelation 6:12-17, 16:12-16).
The birds were summoned to eat the “flesh of kings, captains, mighty men, and… the flesh of all men, free and bond, small and great.” Similarly, when the “sixth seal” was opened men from every level of society attempted to hide from the “wrath of the Lamb.” This suggests divine justice since the “False Prophet” had caused men and women from every societal class to render homage to the “Beast from the Sea” – The men “slain with the sword” in order to feed the “birds flying in mid-heaven” represent the judgment of the same group of unrepentant humanity, the “inhabitants of the earth” – (Revelation 13:17-18).
Armageddon and the “Lake of Fire”
(Revelation 19:19-21) – “And I saw the wild-beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together — to make war with him who was sitting upon the horse, and with his army. And the wild-beast was taken, and with him the false prophet who wrought the signs before him, whereby he deceived them who received the mark of the wild-beast and them who were doing homage unto his image, — alive were they two cast into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone. And the rest were slain with the sword of him that was sitting upon the horse, which went forth out of his mouth, and all the birds were filled with their flesh” – (The Emphasized Bible).
In verse 19, the “Beast from the sea” and the “kings of the earth” with their armies are “gathered” to “make war with” (poiésai ton polemon meta) the “Lamb” – (Note well – It is “THE war,” not “a war”).
Previously, the “Beast ascended from the Abyss to make war with” the “Two Witnesses,” the “Dragon made war with the seed of the woman,” and the “Beast made war with the saints.” And when the “sixth bowl of wrath” was emptied, demon spirits from the mouths of the “Beast and the False Prophet” gathered the “kings of the earth” to the battle of the “Great Day of God, the Almighty” – (Revelation 11:7, 12:17, 13:7, 16:14-16).
In each of the preceding “wars,” “the war” is referenced in the singular number and with a definite article (“the”). Thus, the same conflict is in view in each passage. In Chapter 19, the forces of the “Beast are gathered to make war with” the “Lamb and his army.”
The references to “the war” launched against the “saints” that is applied in all four passages in Revelation alludes to Daniel 7:21, originally a description of the war against the “saints” of Israel waged by the “little horn” of Daniel’s “fourth beast.” The same imagery from Ezekiel’s attack by “Gog and Magog”was used also in the “sixth bowl of wrath,” the so-called ‘Battle of Armageddon’. Once more, the same final battle or “war” is in view in each of the four passages.
The “Beast and the kings of the earth gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army.” Earthly forces cannot engage directly in battle with heavenly beings. Previously, the “saints” were called those who “tabernacle in heaven,” the same group against which the “Beast” was authorized to wage war, that is, the “saints,” and the same group now called the “army” that follows the “Rider on a White Horse” – (Revelation 13:5-7).
Note well – The following passages use the same or similar language to describe “the war,” singular, against the followers of the “Lamb” – The “Two Witnesses,” the “Seed of the Woman,” and the “saints”:
- (Revelation 11:7) – “When the two witnesses shall have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them.”
- (Revelation 12:17) – “The dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus.”
- (Revelation 13:7) – “It was given to the Beast to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.”
- (Revelation 16:14-16) – “They are spirits of demons, working signs; which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God, the Almighty…And they gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew Har-Magedon.”
- (Revelation 20:8-9) – “And the Devil shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven and devoured them.”
In the present vision, the armies of the “kings of the earth” are destroyed, the “birds of the air” are summoned, and the “Beast and the False Prophet” are “cast alive into the Lake of fire” that burns with “brimstone.” Likewise, in the passage from Ezekiel, the armies of “Gog and Magog” were destroyed on the “mountains of Israel” when God rained “fire and brimstone” upon them from heaven.
After the lengthy introduction to set the stage, no description of the actual conflict is provided. The “birds flying in mid-heave” are summoned, and the “Beast” and its allies gather to fight against the “Rider on a White Horse.” Next, the two are cast “alive” into the “Lake of Fire.” Meanwhile, the “rest” of their armies are simply rendered dead and fed to the “birds” – A perfunctory end to a long-anticipated battle.
There is a further allusion to Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 in verse 20. The “Beast” and the “False Prophet” are cast into the “Lake of Fire” (puros) that “burns with brimstone” (theiō). Likewise, in Ezekiel 38:21-22, God destroys “Gog” and his armies when he rains down “fire and brimstone” on them – (pur kai theion – Greek Septuagint).
“Alive were they two cast into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone.” The clause alludes also to the prophecy of Daniel about the destruction of the “little horn” and the four “beasts from the sea.” In his vision, the “Ancient of Days” sat in judgment when the time arrived for the destruction of the “little horn” and the fourth beast:
(Daniel 7:9-22) – “I beheld even until the beast was slain and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire.” This is the same “beast” that “made war with the saints, and prevailed against them,” but only until the “ancient of days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most-High.” The last clause from Daniel alludes to in the next chapter of Revelation when John saw thrones, “and they sat upon them, and judgment was given for them,” that is, for the saints beheaded for their witness.
“The rest were slain with the sword of him that was sitting upon the horse.” The “rest” or loipoi is the same group as the “rest (loipoi) of the dead” that lived not until the completion of the thousand years. The final fate of the “inhabitants of the earth” that opposed the “Lamb” awaits the “Great White Throne of Judgment” when they, too, are “cast into the Lake of fire,” however long or short the interim period is – (Revelation 20:5).
“The rest were slain with the sword.” When interpreting this image, it must be remembered that the “sword” wielded by the “Rider on a White Horse” is the “word of God,” not a literal sword manufactured from various metal alloys. This figure uses his “sword” to “judge,” “make war,” and “shepherd” the nations of the earth.
The Old Testament background must be kept in mind, and how Revelation reinterprets, expands, and universalizes these ancient prophecies. For example, the force of “Gog and Magog” is no longer limited to the regional enemies surrounding Palestine. Instead, it consists of “all the kings of the earth and their armies.” Rather than invade Palestine, this attack is global and waged against the “Lamb and his army,” that is, the “saints.”
The men and women who comprise the “saints” are not passive observers but human believers who “overcome” through persecution and other trials, and by giving faithful testimony even when doing so means a violent death. It is no coincidence that the one offensive “weapon” wielded by the “Lamb” is a “great sword,” an image that represents the “word of God” that is “proceeding from his mouth.”
Likewise, the victorious believers overcome the “Beast,” “Babylon,” and the “Dragon” through the “word of their testimony, and because they loved not their lives unto death.”