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Monday, November 8, 2010

The White Rider

One of Clint Eastwood’s best roles is as the Pale Rider, a shadowy figure called “the Preacher,” who single handedly fights off a group of toughs that intimidate the prospectors gold rushing in the Old West. The title of the movie is from Revelation 6:8, the Pale horse with the rider named “Death,” one given Heavenly authority to “kill with the sword.” Clint kills with the gun, with dynamite, and with a hickory axe handle. In the movies, nothing is more reliable than the grit, toughness, and destructiveness of Clint Eastwood.

In the battle for the souls of men and women, and in the quest for hope in life and for eternal life, we’d do better to rely on the White Rider than the Pale.

11Then 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. 12His 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. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15From 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” (Revelation 19:11-15).

“Then I saw Heaven opened.” Recall the night of Jesus’ birth. Heaven rejoiced as a multitude of angels appeared to the shepherds to sing praise to God at the birth of Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). “His eyes are like a flame of fire.” Recall the vision John had at the very beginning of this book. In his description of the resurrected Jesus, he said, “His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14b).

Continuing in Revelation 21, we read that the White Rider is “clothed in a robe dipped in blood and his name is called The Word of God” (v.13). We recall Revelation 7, where John sees a multitude too great to count from all peoples of the earth. He is told they, dressed in dazzling, spotless white, are those who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb” (7:14c). In the Gospel of John, it is Jesus who is called the Lamb of God (John 1:29). Also in John, Jesus is the Word (1:1), who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

In Revelation 19:14, the armies of heaven are following the White Rider. Clearly he is their commander and they give him complete loyalty. And we remember in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the temple police came to arrest Jesus, Peter defended him, cutting off the ear of the high priest’s assistant Malchus (John 18:10). Jesus reprimanded Peter saying, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels” (Matthew 26:53)? Even at that juncture, in the incarnation, before the cross, Jesus had authority in Heaven. Angels, beings far mightier than humans, were at His service.

Finally, Revelation 19:15, “from his mouth … a sharp sword,” recalls chapter one, again the initial description of John’s visit from the resurrected Jesus. “From his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword” (Revelation 1:16b). This Jesus who speaks truth is the one who will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God, and we remember among other references the assurance that there is a “Day of Wrath” (Romans 2:5).

Why take the time to locate all these depictions of the White Rider in Revelation 19 in other places in scriptures? We do this for a couple of reasons. First, as has been stated often in this column, Revelation need not be as confusing as some suggest. At the center, we see Jesus. By cross-referencing the description, we see that Jesus is the subject of the story.

Second, knowing that Jesus is at the center of Revelation, we know we have hope. This is not a story to be feared or avoided. It is to be read and celebrated. The blood Jesus shed, he shed for sinners, for me, and for you. He is fearful and awesome and almighty, and he has come for us, to save us. So, read and reread Revelation 19. As you read, know that you are reading about Jesus, our Savior and Lord. And then have hope in the future and hope for today.

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