In this passage the
battle is not so called, but vs. 19-21 make it evident that it is the
battle for which preparation was being made by the Dragon, the Beast,
and the False Prophet, who gathered their armies together "into
the place which is called in Hebrew Har-Magedon" (16:12-16). In
this battle they are decisively defeated, however, and the Dragon’s
confederates, the Beast and False Prophet, are captured and cast alive
into the lake of fire, their final and ultimate doom. (This is the "perdition"
of the Beast as foretold in 17:11.) As a sequel, the Dragon was chained
and incarcerated and his power drastically limited for "a thousand
years" before the time of the end of history (see Chapter 20).
For that reason, in these Notes this battle is associated with the overthrow
of Rome in significant aspects rather than with the end of time a popularly
This battle itself
is not depicted, but the opposing armies are described and the results
are told. The text is divided into three paragraphs, as follows:
1. The Armies of Heaven
and Their Captain (vs. 11-16). "And I saw the heaven opened; and
behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True;
and in righteousness doth he judge and make war. And his eyes are a
flame of fire, and upon his head are many diadems; and he hath a name
written which no one knoweth but he himself. And he is arrayed in a
garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called The Word of God.
And the armies which are in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothe
with fine linen, white and pure. And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp
sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them
with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness
of God, the Almighty. And he hath on his garment and on his thigh a
name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
The Captain of the
armies of heaven can be none other than the Jesus Christ.
And his armies must be his saints, for they are "clothed with
fine linen, white and pure," which, in v.8, is said to be "the
righteous acts of the saints." Moreover, the war he wages is not
carnal, but ideological or spiritual, the sword he uses proceeding "out
of his mouth"; and one of his names is "The Word of God,"
which links him with "The Word" of John 1:1-18, who is "the
only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father."
2. Invitation to the
Victory Celebration (vs. 17-18): "and I saw an angel standing in
the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that
fly in mid heaven, Come and be gathered together unto the great supper
of God; that ye may eat flesh of kings, and flesh of captains, and flesh
of the mighty men, and flesh of the horses and of them that sat thereon,
and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, and small and great.
This invitation to
all the vultures to feast upon all flesh of those making up the armies
and supporters of the Dragon and the Beast and the False Prophet, means
they have been or else will be slain in the battle. If this is an invitation
before the fact, it is taunting perdition of victory. If, on the other
hand, it is an invitation after the fact, the blood sprinkled on Christ’s
garment, mentioned above in v. 13, may be that of defeated enemies (cf.
3. The Beast and False
Prophet vanquished (vs.19-21): "And I saw the beast and the kings
of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against
him that sat up the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken,
and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight,
wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and
them that worshipped his image: they two were cast alive into the lake
of fire that burneth with brimstone: and the rest were killed with the
sword of him that sat upon the horse, even the sword that came forth
out of his mouth: and all the birds were filled with their flesh."
Now John sees the
opposing armies drawn up in battle array, the victory of the armies
of heaven, and the birds gorged with flesh of the slain in battle. But
the battle, so far as the saints were concerned, was spiritual, and
the consumption of flesh by the birds was figurative. It was decisive,
also, bringing an end to the persecution of Christians by Imperial Rome
and the priesthood of the Emperor Cult, symbolized as the Beast and
the False Prophet being cast into the lake of fire. (The False Prophet
is the same as the Second Beast in 13:11-18, hence the priesthood of
the Emperor Cult.)
The following paragraph
seems appropriate at this point: "John’s understanding of the messianic
war is now plain. John viewed the battle as the struggle between the
early church and the Roman Empire, in which Rome (as the embodiment
of the ancient beast) attacked the Lamb by attacking his followers.
The battle was not fought with carnal weapons on an earthly battlefield.
It was fought with the gospel of Jesus Christ, as that gospel was proclaimed,
lived, and witnessed in death by the followers of Jesus Christ."
(J, W. Roberts, The Revelation of John, 1974, p. ,169.)
Or, as stated in chapter
12:11, "and they overcame … because of the blood of the Lamb, and
because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life
even unto death."
The effects of that
victory are described as lasting for a long period of time described
as 1,000 years, as will be seen in Chapter 20.