December 10, 2023


Passage: Revelation 6:4, 12:17, 17:14, 21:4

6:4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

12:17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

17:14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.

21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

— Revelation 6:4, 12:17, 17:14, 21:4, ESV

War and peace.  Sounds like a catchy title for a book, doesn’t it?  Admirers of Tolstoy would agree.  Though uniquely Russian, many consider it to be the world’s quintessential novel.  In the words of one critic, “A story that encapsulates the human experience.”  We live through war — military wars, political wars, economic wars, family wars, even church wars — and we long for peace.

The truth is, however, there will be no real, lasting peace on earth until the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ, appears at His second coming.  Jesus came the first time for war, the war against sin and the war for our salvation, and it is still ongoing.  Christ will come the second time for peace, and establish it forever, for those who know and trust Him.

If Tolstoy had written a book of the Bible, I suppose it would have been The Revelation.  But the Apostle John proved an even better scribe.  It is the perfect apocalyptic vision written with brutal honesty about the constancy of war and the confident expectation of peace.

Here is a brief summation of how we progress from war to peace from the beginning of history until the second coming of Christ.

The Red Horse Brings Us War 

In Revelation 6:1-4 we are introduced to the well-known “four horsemen of the apocalypse.”  Some say they only appear at the very end of time.  I say they are around for all time, appearing in the Garden and lasting until what is revealed on the isle of Patmos.

The rider on the white horse wears “a crown … to conquer.”  He is not the Creator returning at consummation, but rather a creature who comes from the human race.  He is pride, the worst of all sins.  Pride desires to “conquer,” one-up, take-from, be-better-than, rule-over other people.

Such pride is the source of war, the rider on the red horse, who causes people to “slay one another.”  We see him in Cain.  We see him in all the biblical wars.  We see him in all the historic wars.  We see him today, with sword unsheathed, in the horrific Hamas attack and Israel’s necessary response.  Will this red horse ever ride off into the sunset?

As the white horse summons the red, so the red ushers in the black.  He is ridden by the destruction caused by the weapons of war wielded by the depravity of pride.  And of course, he is quickly followed by the pale rider, Clint Eastwood.  No, much more seriously, the pale horse brings represents death and the grave, the tragic end of every war.

My point, and more profoundly Tolstoy’s, and much more perfectly John’s, is that war is an inescapable part of the human experience.  War is in our history because war is in our character.  It is villain against villain, or villain against victim, or even sometimes victim against victim.

War is constant.  War was not detoured by the first coming of Christ, but intensified, as we shall see in the next text.  War will never end in perfect peace until the second coming of Christ.

The Dragon Makes War Personal

War is the condition of persons and nations, but against two nations it is personal.  Above the normal and hateful prejudices people have against one another, two entities come under unusual attack.  They are the nation of Israel and the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The chief antagonist is symbolized by “the dragon,” who is identified earlier in the chapter as “that ancient serpent, the devil and Satan.”  He perpetuates particular warfare against “the woman” who gave birth to the Messiah, which is not merely Mary, but the entire nation of Israel.  When not engaging in antisemitic warfare against Israel, he pursues anti-Christian attacks against “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus,” the Christians and the Christian church.

The irony for Israel is they have utterly rejected Jesus Christ as Lord.  But, they brought the Lord into a flesh and blood Jewish carpenter who turned out to be the Savior of the world.  For that, Satan and satanically inspired people, will hate them and make war against them until the carpenter comes back having exchanged the hammer for a “rod of iron” in His hands.

The good news for the church is the dragon has been put on a chain.  The bad news is it is a long chain that allows him to roam the earth for a millennium, or two, devouring some of the choicest members of the church.  Apostles, missionaries, pastors, and other wonderful Christian people have been put to death, like their Lord, for simply loving God and promoting peace.

When will these wars of antisemitism and anti-Christianity end?  These wars will end with the war to end all wars.  It is not a world war, but a cosmic showdown of cataclysmic proportions.

The Lamb Will End All Wars

“The Lamb” is the most precious of prophetic symbols in Revelation, elsewhere in John’s writings, and in other portions of Scripture.  “The Lamb" is a type of Christ in the Old Covenant sacrifices.  “The Lamb” takes away the sins of the world in the New Testament writings.  “The Lamb” appears twenty-eight times in the grand finale of Revelation, including this text, which depicts the final war.

Criminals get caught because they are stupid.  They clumsily leave clues for cops to catch.  As the end of time draws near, it seems the building of more jails, prisons, and other places of incarceration has no end.  When will they ever learn?  When the iron bars clang shut?

Wars are lost for the same reason, stupidity, with an admixture of overconfidence.  At some point, the loser miscalculates the victor.  The loser makes some power play, only to find the victor has more power.  When will they ever learn?  When the freedom they sought to take from others is taken from them?

A bad bunch of bumpkin boys trap a baby bear in the woods.  Another cub comes to its rescue.  But the cruel young men surround both cubs, pelting them with rocks first, then arrows, then up close with their knives.  There is no sense for such cruelty.  When will they ever learn?  When mama bear shows up!

In this passage in Revelation, after tormenting the Jews, after persecuting the church, Satan and his other infidel enemies “make war on the Lamb.”  It will be the most hateful, arrogant, stupid maneuver in the history of warfare.  It will end all wars.

Mama bear will show up.  “The Lamb will conquer them.”  Jesus, “Lord of lords and King of kings,” will return to earth for the second time.  All the enemies of God from all time will be imprisoned, defeated, and suffer the awful wrath of God.

The only escape, and the only lasting peace, will be for those who are “with Him.”  This includes every Old Testament saint and every New Testament Christian, all saved by grace through faith in the written word of God, the Bible, and the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.  They are identified as those “called and chosen and faithful.”

Here is a burst of blessed assurance for the believer (another theme of The Revelation).  If you are called of God, and have called on the name of the Lord for salvation, if you have been chosen by God and have chosen to be a fully devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, if you have been given faith and are faithful to the gospel and the word of God, then Christ is not coming to war against you, He is coming, at His second coming, to give you the perfect gift of peace.

Peace in the Second Coming of Christ

In the final war between rebellious unbelief and the One in whom we believe, we will see Satan crushed under our feet.  We will see fallen angels falling for the final time.  We will see the utter demise of the antisemites and antichrists of the world.  Revenge is real, and it belongs to the Lord, and we will see it with our own raptured eyes.

But we will also see the demise of family, friends, and neighbors.  We will see nominals, Christians in name only, who since they were never born again will die forever.  We will see those who were good followers of false religions.  We will see polite people, pretty people, popular people who are not among God’s people, therefore they will fall on the wrong side of the war against Christ.

We, God’s people, will weep, but “He will wipe away every tear.”  We will be aghast at the “death” of at least some of God’s enemies, because they were our friends, and we will mourn until “there be no mourning.”  Many of us will reflect upon the pain of discrimination and persecution forced on us because of our faith, until we realize there is “[no] pain anymore.”  “The former things,” all those wars, “have passed away.”

John Calvin said, “True peace will be found nowhere but in Christ.”  This is true spiritually and personally the first time Christ comes into your life.  And it will be true, ultimately and eternally, at the second coming of Christ.

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