In 1944 the United States was involved with World War II. The US armies were charged with the duty of holding the line just outside of Belgium. Because the war had taken its toll, the US army along that front was depleted and spread thin.
Seeing their chance the German powers concentrated their forces on that point and charged forward into it. The American forces, as lean as they were, fought with great valor and valiantly withstood much of what was thrown at them.
It was to these soldiers that the 3rd army, under the leadership of General George S. Patton, came to the rescue. Patton and his men barreled through weather and opposition on their cavalry of tanks. The arrival of this company brought relief to those haggard soldiers, and basically broke the back of the Germans’ last offensive.
The Bible describes the Christian life as a war. We combat our flesh in order to subdue it unto righteousness. Romans 8 says that we struggle against the powers, principalities, and rulers of the air. As Christians, we are in the trenches of a heavy battle, a constant conflict.
And constant conflict can take its toll. As with any soldier in the midst of combat, we can become wearied by our warfare. We can be tempted to give up. We may want to surrender so we will not have to fight any longer. On the other hand we may know that surrender is not an option. Perhaps we just need some encouragement to keep fighting. Maybe just a glimpse of the end.
Here in our passage we have just such a glimpse. To strengthens his wearied warriors God gives the vision of King Jesus’ victorious arrival. In this vision see that we do have a Patton. Our Mighty Messiah will arrive to claim his victory once and for all.
But how do you know Christ will be victorious? The battle hasn’t even started! We can know because this passage communicates details that show he cannot be beaten. We can know by virtue of Christ’s names, His glory, and his power.
I. His descriptive names
In this passage we find that Jesus goes by four names. And you need to remember that in the Bible names are descriptive of things. Jesus is being described by these names. The first name we come across is in verse 11. He is called “Faithful and True”
In other words, Jesus is the one who is worthy of all of our confidence. Remember God’s promise. From the very beginning of Scripture God promised his people deliverance. He would crush the head of the serpent. Throughout the Bible we read how God has, time and again, delivered them. They were rescued from Egypt. They were delivered from foreign powers. We are rescued from death in the death and resurrection of Jesus. And we have here the assurance that He will be true to his promise to the very end.
He is not going to fail us. He cannot fail us. In the last and final battle we will be delivered because He is Faithful and True.
In verse 12 we find another name. Well, we don’t find the name actually. It says that he has a name that “nobody knows but him.”
I just got done saying that names in the Bible reveal something about a person. How is this descriptive of Jesus? How can we know, if they don’t tell us? That’s exactly the point. What is being revealed is that God is beyond our finite capacity. Ed Vallowe, a Bible commentator, says this with regard to this verse: “Since God is divine it would seem only natural that some aspects of his nature are incomprehensible to our finite minds.”
In a way this is saying that there is no one greater than Jesus. An admiral in the Navy has access to all the files and information of those under him. He can go and find out anyone’s name and background at will. But a low ranking sailor cannot do the same to the admiral. The admiral has all authority and power.
Jesus is that one with all authority and power because he has access to information that is not available to others. He is assured the victory.
In verse 13 we see that Jesus is also called “The Word of God.” You may remember that John uses this description of Jesus in the beginning of his gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing has been made.” It’s a description of Christ’s divinity. It is no ordinary man who rides upon this horse. It is God who comes riding into battle. Who then can stand?
Lastly, verse 16 gives us the summation. His name is “King of kings, and Lord of Lords.” In other words, all must surrender to him. Even the most powerful authorities on earth are subject to him.
So we are not presented with one who simply has a fighting chance. In the names of Jesus we are presented with one who cannot be stopped.
And that is good news to us, because it often seems like it will never end. When we are caught in those times of weariness we don’t see the end of the line.
Perhaps its just that we are struggling with temptation. For the Christian temptation can be a double edged sword. For we not only struggle not to sin, but we also struggle when we fall into temptation.
Think about how the devil turns on us. First he fires his flaming arrows of temptation at our weakest points. Sometimes we fall right into the sin, but sometimes we try to resist. We wrestle with all our might, even to the point of agonizing. But still, God allows us to fall into that sin.
But that’s where Satan really digs his claws into us. Almost kicking us while we are down. After we have committed the sin, he turns on us and starts pressing lies upon us. He makes us question God’s love for us. He says, “What kind of Christian are you? How can God ever forgive you, if you keep acting like this? You knew that was wrong.”
So Satan can dog us almost continually. And this is why you need to know that Christ will deliver. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, a finish line to your fight. One day you will lay down the gloves.
God seeks to strengthen his soldiers for battle by showing us Christ’s names, he also strengthens us by showing us Christ’s…
II. His majestic glory
The passage describes the physical person of Jesus. And the imagery presents you with one who is a victor.
You read in verse 1 that he rides a white horse. He doesn’t ride a donkey. There was a time when he came riding into Jerusalem on a colt, lowly and humble. But here he is on a horse, a mighty creature.
Verse 12 says He has eyes that are like blazing fire. He is one who is ready to consume because of his indignation.
And in the same verse it says he wears on his head, not one crown, but many crowns. Verse 13 says he wears a robed sopped with blood. That’s an allusion to Isaiah 63. Listen to these verses,
Isa 63:1-3 Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? "It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save." (2) Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? (3) "I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.
This is a king who has slaughtered his enemies. And here he comes again to do the same. He is not satisfied, but filled with vengeance.
But he is described as one who is not alone. Behind him come the armies of heaven, and they are all riding on horses. Whether these are angels or the saints, or both, we don’t know for sure. But we do know that that they are a great and mighty multitude. Its not just one army, it is a plurality of armies. And they are all riding on horses. In a war, very few would be mounted on horses. A cavalry would make up only a small portion of an army. But here all God’s host come riding upon horses.
This is a picture of a glorious king. A warrior who cannot be moved. One to whom the weary can look.
During the Civil War there was a General nick-named “Stonewall” Jackson. Jackson came to have this name during a battle in 1861. The confederate forces were hard pressed. Brigadier General Barnard B. Bee, CSA, was desperately trying to rally his troops to withstand the Federal attack. As he was trying to do so he looked across the battle field and saw his West point friend Jackson steadfastly holding ground against their enemy. Bee shouted to his troops, "Look, men, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer!"
The men rallied around Jackson and by doing so they were able to stay off their opponents.
We have presented before us one who is like that. The majestic glory of Christ shows him to be a stonewall. If we are going to remain steadfast in the fight, we must gather ourselves around him. Of course I am speaking metaphorically. We rally ourselves around him by setting our thoughts on Him. We look to the future and this presentation of Jesus Christ, and we set our hope in him.
The certainty of Jesus’ victory is revealed in his descriptive names and his majestic glory. And it is also revealed in…
III. His remarkable power
His power is remarkable because he is able to strike down the nations with his sword. No one else is involved in this battle. The host of heaven, riding on the horses, do not do lift a finger. He alone subdues his enemies.
And it is even more remarkable when we realize that his sword is his word. That’s what it means when it says that a sword comes out of his mouth. It is symbolic of his voice.
If I might quote from Ed Vallowe again. He reminds us of what happened on the night that Jesus was betrayed. Vallowe says, “When Judas led the soldiers to arrest Jesus, Jesus simply spoke—and his enemies fell to the ground. The power of the Word is irresistible. His Word is like a sword that cuts, smites, slays, and destroys.”
In J.R. Tolkein’s book “The Lord of the Rings” describes this event quite graphically. Those of you who have read the book or seen the movie will know exactly what I mean. Toward the end of the book the enemy forces organize a great war. All sorts of beasts and gargoyles march out en mass against the city. Like an army of ants smothering a mound of sugar the creatures converge on the city. They have one goal in mind: destroy the city and every person living within it.
As they wage that war and the guardians of righteousness begin to deteriorate. Wearied and overwhelmed by the immensity of their opposition, their defenses collapse. Their enemies move in to squelch them once and for all, and it looks as if all hope is lost.
But in that darkest moment, out of the far reaches of the horizon Gandalf comes galloping on his horse towards the city. Dressed in pure white and riding on a white horse, this man single handedly annihilates the hostile throng. The scene is virtually fanciful in its unfolding. This one man conquers the masses with a single, magical wave of his staff.
It is a depiction of Christ’s arrival. On the day of the final battle Christ shall come riding on his horse. In a single moment He shall vanquish all his enemies. Not a single opponent will be able to withstand the power of his voice.
Christ’s fury is so fierce that it is compared with that of a winepress. I read to you already from Isaiah 63, but remember what a wine press was. When the grapes were harvested, they would be placed in a large vat. Then the servants would remove their shoes and stop upon the grapes to retrieve the juices.
God will do the same to his enemies. He will not relent nor have any mercy. He will relieve his people by utterly ravaging his enemies.
Right now I am reading a book about Mt Vesuvius, the volcano that erupted in 79 AD. In that book it describes how molten lava builds up in chambers beneath the earth’s crust. The pressure continues to mount over time until it cannot be contained any longer. When the pressure was released a furry of ash, molten lava and debris were cast into the atmosphere. Grey ash rushed through the atmosphere at hundreds of miles per hour and suffocated the town of Pompeii, virtually freezing the town in its tracks.
While this world continues unwittingly along (like those unwitting people living around that volcano), Jesus Christ’s anger is building. One day the Lord Jesus will return. Like Vesuvius he will unleash his anger. Those who are his enemies will be destroyed, and we who are his people shall be relieved. No more will the devil’s temptations afflict us, and no more will man oppose us.
Yet until that day we are to continue in the battle. We are to persevere in the good fight of faith. Yet while we fight, we must not take our eyes of the coming day. For the end is a source of strength to us. Christ, our mighty Messiah, is our promise of victory. And the promise of final victory is the hope of the church militant.
Tonight we have enjoyed seeing some in our midst stand up and profess their faith publicly. And it is appropriate that we do this in our evening time because we are studying what it means to “have no other gods” before our God.
Those of you who stood up here have just declared that Jesus is going to be your God. In professing your faith in Jesus Christ and taking the vows to this church you have said that Jesus is Lord and he alone is going to rule over your heart.
In looking at the first commandment we have said thus far how important it is for us to Know God. It is so important for us to study to show ourselves approved unto God. A relationship is built when two people get to know each other. As they get to know one another they grow together.
But it is not enough for us to simply know God. If God is going to be preeminent in our lives we must also acknowledge him.
Let’s say that I am sitting down to fill out some paperwork at the doctor’s office. I am going along checking all the boxes and filling in all the necessary information. But then I come to a question that asks my marital status. Let’s say that I purposely check “single.” What is that going to say about how I regard my wife?
The litmus test of how important someone or something is to us is our acknowledgement of it. The same is true with our relationship to God. If God is number one in our lives we will acknowledge him—and we will acknowledge him publicly, passionately, and intelligently.
The first and most obvious way we show that God is preminent is by acknowledging him openly.
That is to say, we claim him before others.
In Matthew 10:32-33 we read “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
The Bible makes it clear that a hidden faith is no faith at all. If you hide your faith in Christ Jesus, you make a declaration that you have no faith in Christ Jesus. If you don’t own him before the world, then you don’t own him at all.
You can easily imagine a person who might say, “I am a Christian. I go to church, but I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t want people to know about it at the office, because if they did, it would really ruin how things are going for me.”
That is not openly confessing your faith. That is being ashamed of God. He no longer has the number one place in your life, but your job does.
All of you who have stood up here this evening have openly acknowledged Christ. That’s a great thing. You have just proclaimed to the world that Christ is your Savior. But don’t think that this is the only time that you need to do that. It needs to be affirmed everyday, outside these walls. I might even say, “its easy to do that here.” This is a safe environment. Here we are surrounded by people who are like minded. Nobody is going to make fun of us or oppose us here. But on the outside, it’s a different story. And we have to be ready to make the same profession—even when the tide is against us and we are in the minority.
Let’s be sure, we can all sin. We can lapse when we are called to affirm our faith openly, and still be a Christian.
This morning I mentioned the persecution that existed under the Roman Emperor Decious. I mentioned that there were many Christians who boldly professed their faith in the midst of that persecution. When the authorities told them that they had to renounce Christ, they wouldn’t do so. They would rather face the lions than speak such a terrible thing.
But don’t think that everyone was so bold. There were many Christians during that fierce persecution that failed to stand up for Christ. There were many Christians, who were weak. And when given the choice to say “Caesar is lord,” or be fed to the lions, they chose to renounce Christ. A lot of these people would then come back to the church weeping because they had turned their backs on Christ.
Even the Apostle Peter denied Christ openly, and three times in a row at that! When that little girl asked him if he was one of Christ’s disciples he cursed and said “NO WAY! I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He was weak, wasn’t he?
All of us probably have had times where we have failed to stand up for Christ. But let’s remember, that is a sin. It’s not the unforgivable sin. To be sure Christ can forgive you. But we should never presume upon him. As the Apostle Peter says, in our hearts we must “set apart Christ as Lord.” That is to say we need to convince ourselves of Christ’s exalted position. And we need to be ready to affirm our faith in him before the world at a moment’s notice.
And that really leads us to our second point. To acknowledge God openly, we must also acknowledge him passionately.
Turn in your Bibles to Rev. 3. If you are familiar with the layout of the Bible you may already know that these are the letters that Jesus sent to the seven churches in Asia Minor.
In Rev. 3:15 Jesus says to the church in Laodicea, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
It seems that the Laodicean church wasn’t as passionate about Christ anymore. They weren’t cold—they hadn’t fully turned away from him, they didn’t hate him. But they weren’t passionate about him either. They had become indifferent. They were lukewarm.
It is like a couple who have been married for a while and are starting to drift apart. They still acknowledge one another, but their heart really isn’t in the relationship anymore.
Nobody wants to remain in that kind of relationship, and neither does God. As a matter of fact, God shows by this passage that he hates people who are lukewarm more than he hates those who are cold!
Lukewarmness is a terrible condition of the heart, and we must guard against it. Matthew Henry with his usual eloquence says, “If religion is a real thing, then it is everything…. If it is a worth anything, it is worth everything.”
Many people think the puritans were the least passionate people alive, but that is not true. Of all things they were the most passionate people who lived—That’s because they had a fervent passion for God. As a matter of fact, we have what we call “Devotions.” When we say we are going to have our devotions, we mean we are going to read our Bibles and pray. That finds its roots in the Puritans. They believed and taught that one’s love for God was nurtured in those things.
Jonathan Edwards even picked up on this notion of passion for God. In his book, The Religious Affections, he said, “If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart.”
One of the greatest weapons in Satan’s arsenal is convince us that we need not press on in the faith. If he can lead us to be satisfied with how things are, and make us not wish to upset the status quo, then he will become the victor.
God hates someone who is complacent in the things of religion. Someone who claims to be a Christian, but really isn’t on fire for Christ is detestable to him.
Acknowledging God means we must do it publicly and passionately. But be careful. God does not want misdirected passion either. That is why we have to acknowledge God…
III. Properly (Rom 10:2,; luke 9:54-55)
Do you remember how zealous Paul was before he became a Christian? He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, wasn’t he? He was so zealous for his faith that he persecuted Christians. He actually thought he was doing a great thing for God.
In the book of Romans Paul talks about the same sort of Jews—those who shared his former convictions. He said, “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” They were passionate about God. They professed him publicly, but their zeal was misdirected.
We can be like that, can’t we? We can be so zealous for the truth that we really lay into someone. How come that happens when we are talking about the Bible. Instead of having a meek and patient spirit, we can become angry and lose our temper.
Such action does not flow from the Spirit of Christ. That comes as a result of our wicked impulses. How we show that the Lord is our God, can’t be done in any old fashion. Even how we express our love for God must conform to his desires.
Johannes Vos gives a good illustration of this in his commentary on the Larger Catechism: He said that a newspaper reported that somebody inscribed the words, “JESUS SAVES” in the fresh paint of someone’s car. Somehow I don’t think that God was pleased with that.
I find it funny that the ones that Jesus often became the most upset with were his own disciples. When you read the gospels, you find that he comes down on them pretty hard sometimes. And they deserved it because a lot of the time they had misdirected zeal.
We have to be careful how we acknowledge Christ. That old adage, “Look before you leap.” That’s good advice for Christians. Before you do anything, look at the Scriptures. See if Christ will really be pleased with it.
Peter Cartright, a Methodist circuit preacher in the 19th century, came to a town in which he was to preach. Before the service he was informed that President Andrew Jackson was in the congregation, and that he should temper his message so that he would not offend him. When it came time for Cartright to preach he stepped into the pulpit and said, “I hear that Andrew Jackson is in the congregation. He should know that if he does not repent, then he will go to hell.” After the service President Jackson came up to Cartright, shook his had and said, “If I had a regiment of men like you I could whip the world.”
That was a rather bold profession. And it was most proper for him to do so. And it certainly shows us that Cartright was not afraid to acknowledge God publicly and passionately.
We too may be tempted to turn the other cheek on God, but we should never do it. God calls us to courageously acknowledge him.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.