Most Christians assume that the marriage supper of the lamb is the rapture, when the church is united with Jesus in a great celebration of togetherness in the air. This is not true. The marriage supper is a description of the defeat of human governments and rulers. This is made clear in Revelation 19.

This passage begins with a description of a rider on a white horse

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God (Rev 19:11-13).

The widespread view that this is a description of the second coming comes from an over-literal interpretation of what is clearly a figurative passage. Jesus will not be riding a white horse when he returns. If taken literally, the passage portrays Jesus as revelling in blood as he destroys people with a sword. This grotesque interpretation is contrary to the gospel. He refused the power of the sword and warned that those who did would fall by it.

In biblical times, a white horse was the preferred mode of transport for a victorious king or general. The white horse proves that victory has been achieved. A vision of Jesus on a white horse is a reminder that Jesus has already won the battle. The blood on his robe explains how victory was achieved. This vision reminds us that the cross was a victory over the enemies of God.

Jesus is called "faithful and true", because he is faithful to his promises. His truth will drive all darkness and evil out of the world. The vision describes how this happens.

With justice, he judges.

Jesus does not use warfare to establish victory. He achieves victory by replacing human government with a justice system based on his word.

Jesus is followed by a huge army.

The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean (Rev 21:14).

The heavenly army that rides behind Jesus is the church. It is dressed in clean white linen to show that its sin has been washed away by the blood of Jesus. The followers of Jesus are riding on white horses to show that they understand the implications of his victory on the cross. They are not sitting around worshipping the political power while waiting for Jesus to rescue them, but are serving him in the power of the Holy Spirit. These people know that human government is a false hope.

John described the weapon used by this army.

Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written (Rev 21:15).

This is not a literal sword, but symbolises the word of God (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12). The sword in Jesus' mouth represents the words that he spoke. The followers of Jesus will destroy his enemies by speaking his word in prophetic power. Christian prophets will speak out against the kings and rulers that oppose the kingdom of God.

King of Kings

Jesus has his name written on his thigh.

KING of KINGS and LORD of LORDS (Rev 21:16).

This name shows that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to him. As the Church proclaims the gospel in the power of the Spirit, the nations of the world will choose to submit to Jesus. Nations, political powers and human governments will be swept away as the Holy Spirit advances the Kingdom of God. This is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great" (Rev 19:17-18).

The supper of God is the defeat of kings, generals and might men and those who rely on their power. This is not a literal supper, but a symbol of their downfall. Human governments and those who support and trust them will fall away before the advance of the Kingdom of God.

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army... The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh (Rev 19:19-21).

As the Holy Spirit advances the gospel, rulers, kings, presidents, parliaments and their bureaucracies will wither away and disappear.

Iron Rod

Many Christians believe that Jesus will eventually return to earth and rule the world from Jerusalem. He will oversee a large bureaucracy and powerful army that will force people to obey and worship him. This view of Jesus is based on a misunderstanding of an expression used several times in the Bible:

He will rule them with an iron rod (Rev 19:15).

The iron rod is a fairly simple image. Iron represents permanence and strength. The rod is a shepherds crook. New Zealanders should understand this phrase, because the aluminium shepherds crook was invented here. Aluminium was a superior metal for crooks, because it is lighter to carry and can be bent more accurately.

When I was a young farmer in the late 1960s, I would use my crook to catch a sheep that needed assistance. While the sheep was staring at my dog, I would sneak up behind the sheep and hook its hind leg. The crook presses on a nerve that forces the sheep to move backwards towards me, so I could grab it and tip it up to give the attention needed.

I used my crook to catch sheep the needed assistance and to catch lambs that had strayed from their mother. If a sheep was being attacked by wandering dogs, I would have used my crook to drive them away from the sheep. I never used my metal crook to strike the sheep.

The iron rod is an image of Jesus caring for his flock; it is not a weapon used by him to enforce obedience.

Many Christians think that Jesus sitting in Jerusalem and ruling as a king would be the perfect government, but this is awful. The thought of Jesus using an "iron bar" to crush his opposition is repulsive, because it is contrary to the gospel. God will never use force to change to the world. He prefers to touch the hearts of people, so that they will freely choose to obey him. His answer to the problems of the world is the gospel of Jesus and the healing power of the Spirit. If Jesus has to come back to sort out the world, the gospel must be powerless and the Holy Spirit is a failure. God is backing the Holy Spirit to get the job done, so wait for Jesus to return to do it is a false hope.

We must never forget a very important fact. God's greatest gift to mankind is freedom. Therefore, he will never force people unwilling to obey him. He will allow them to experience the consequences of their choices, because that is part of freedom, but he will not stop people choosing. God wants people to obey him, because they love him, not because they have to. The most that he will do to make them obey him is the stirring of the Holy Spirit in their conscience.

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