Revelation 19 & the Light that Pierces the Darkness

(For the message from Sunday, October 24, 2021: “The King Returns: The Word Comes Again.” You can view this sermon at the bottom of this post.)

Yesterday we continued our series through the book of Revelation by walking through verses 11 through 21 in chapter 19. After the series of hallelujah choruses cascading from heaven in response to the fall of Babylon in the first half of the chapter, these closing verses describe the next scene as the King appears on a white horse, prepared for battle–a battle that is shown to be no battle at all, actually. The scene is set, and then all expectations built are dashed as it concludes as quickly as it begins. Pastor Gerald spent a good portion of the sermon walking through the vivid description of King Jesus provided by the text.

What a scene that John was graciously able to behold! I would encourage you to listen to the sermon, as Gerald did such a wonderful job of helping us understand how each descriptor reveals the reality of who Jesus is, and how these descriptions set the scene of judgment that he brings.

In this Monday reflection I wanted to comment a bit further on something that Gerald touched on towards the end of our time together yesterday. He mentioned the various correlations and contrasts between this passage in Revelation 19 and the opening chapter of John’s gospel. In both passages we see a vivid picture of the light piercing the darkness; and yet, there is a stark contrast in both the manner and purpose for which this takes place. As I have considered this since Gerald first asked me to think about it this past week, one thought has overwhelmed my heart: how great is the mercy of God.

First, we see a contrast in the manner in which the light pierces the darkness in these two passages. In John 1:1-18 we are drawn back to the first arrival of the King. This is the arrival that we will prepare our hearts to celebrate over the next few weeks as Christmas season draws near. In his first coming, the arrival is shrouded in humility–a baby born in a lowly manger. The King had stepped out of the glory of heaven to enter into the time and space of his creation, into a tent of flesh that veiled his glory. But more, he stepped into the brokenness and despair of our sin-sick world. Other than the appointed audience God had ordained to witness his arrival on the night of his birth, most of the world he had created missed it altogether. And most would go on to reject him. Isaiah offers the following somber description:

…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:2b-3

The contrast with the King’s arrival portrayed in John’s vision from Revelation 19 could not be any more dramatic. Here the King arrives on the cosmic stage set by the hallelujah choruses ringing from heaven. He is the focus of all creation, as he appears on the back of his white horse. Every description provided in verses 11 through 16 proclaim his glory, culminating in the name written on his thigh, “King of kings and Lord of Lords!” He is dressed for battle, already bearing the blood of his enemies upon his robe. At this second appearing no one will miss his arrival. We are told that no one will reject him. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he alone is Lord and King.

But, second, and what has captivated my mind and heart these past few days, we see a contrast in the purpose of the light piercing the darkness in both advents. Beginning this time with this scene in Revelation 19, the King’s arrival marks the coming judgment upon his enemies. And we see the commencement of his judgment in explicit detail. In his second arrival, the purpose of the piercing is condemnation, wrath, and eradication of the King’s enemies. It is a purging of evil that makes way for a new creation to come, completely free from sin and its consequences.

In his first coming, however, the light is shown to pierce the darkness, but for a different purpose: the redemption of his enemies! John writes,

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

John 1:4-5, 9-12

John states the purpose of this first instance of the light piercing the darkness in chapter 3 when he writes,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17

The first time the light pierced the darkness, it did so in order to dissipate the darkness in the dead hearts of sinners for the purpose of regeneration and redemption! What mercy! Especially when we see the picture in Revelation 19 of that same light piercing the darkness for the rightful purpose of judgment and woe, we should be overwhelmed with what Christ has done for us that we might be saved from that very wrath and destruction! For those who are in Christ Jesus, although we deserve the piercing of Revelation 19, we have instead experienced the gracious piercing of John 1 that led us to repentance and resulted in justification and life!

Despite the contrasts, though, we must also realize that these two light-piercing episodes are two parts of the same great work. In his first coming, as Paul relates, “[Jesus] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15) through all that he accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection. That triumph wrought the already/not yet reality that we see fully realized in the closing chapters of Revelation.

What a glorious gospel!

Gerald closed his sermon by exhorting everyone to assess their own standing before God by looking to that day described in Revelation 19. The light has pierced the darkness of the sin that has darkened our hearts and broken his good creation. Jesus has revealed the Father to us, and in so doing accomplished everything necessary to transfer us out of darkness and into his marvelous light! The Spirit of God now is at work, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). That light pierces the darkness, bringing dead people to life through the power of new life. Has his light pierced the darkness of your heart? Have you repented of sin and trusted in Jesus? He is the ONLY salvation from the light that will pierce the darkness at his second coming.

If you have trusted in Jesus, Paul prays for all believers in his letter to the Ephesians, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened,” in part, “that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” (Ephesians 1:17-18a). Our study through Revelation should work to help us to see things as they really are, and to give us a picture of this hope to which he has called us. Is your focus fixed there?

Praying Through This Passage

I think a prayer response to this passage must focus on the person and work of Jesus.

We should reflect in prayer upon the redemptive work of Christ that causes us to have a different posture toward the coming reality of Revelation 19.

We should ask the Lord to focus our hearts through the Spirit on the hope to which he has called us–the hope that we begin to see fully realized in the picture of Revelation 19.

We should focus on all the descriptors of Jesus offered in this passage. We need to pray that God would work in our hearts to help us have and keep an appropriate view of our King. We need to pray that we would have a view that is shaped by Scripture alone…and that we would respond to that King accordingly.

We need to ask the Lord to give us a heart of evangelism that is fueled by worship–that all may hear and join in the hallelujah chorus and find refuge in Christ from the devastating condemnation of his judgment.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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