There is a distinctive facial expression that is common in all countries and cultures. It is something that happen to any human being at any place or any time. It doesn’t matter what language is spoken, what skin color a person has, or the nation in which the person is living. The response is always the same. The expression is the “surprise brow.” We all have it – when we are surprised, our eyebrows immediately rise, and our eyes widen so we can see more clearly. The surprise brow is the body’s way of forcing us to see more. We may even do a double-take to make sure we saw what we thought we saw. Not only do our eyebrows raise, but our jaws often drop. 28 years ago while I was greeting church members coming into the building at Kanawha City Baptist Church, my eyebrows raised and my jaw dropped as a cute, spunky 20 year old came into the foyer. We shook hands and she said with dancing blue eyes and a fantastic smile, “I’m Jeannie Smith.” A couple of Sundays later she returned for a Sunday evening service, and we walked back through the church together talking. After she left, I thought about how I felt and the eyebrows went up again. One thing led to another, and less than a year later the single pastor of the church was getting married! Anyway, when we are taken by surprise, everything comes to a halt, every activity is interrupted, and our attention becomes completely focused, involuntarily, on whatever it was that surprised us. When we begin reading the Bible, the first two chapters are pretty smooth. Things are rolling forward, then we are jolted with the events of chapter 3. The surprise comes in the form of the serpent and the response of the woman and the man to his temptation. Quickly all of God’s creation is spiraling downward. Mankind is in rebellion against God and is alienated from Him. Everything has changed. From that moment until now, the human race has faced an enemy we cannot defeat and has been involved in a war we cannot win. How does God respond? He promises to send a Champion to take back what has been lost to the serpent, the devil. His promise comes as another surprise. Genesis 3:15 says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Thousands of years pass, and the people of Israel wait for the Champion to arrive. When He is born, it is another surprise. He isn’t born to royalty, but to a peasant girl, in a little country town, in a stable full of animals. There was another surprise when this Champion died – no one thought He would die. As he hung on a criminal’s cross and breathed his last breath, his followers hopes were shattered. Just when everyone thought that it was all over, another surprise occurred – he was alive again! He had overcome death. He is the only Champion who died on a battlefield then returned to life again as a victor. So after he conquered death his followers assumed that now he would conquer the world and establish an earthly kingdom. In Acts 1:6 they ask, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Instead of beginning a political kingdom, He is taken into heaven, promising to return. It has been over two thousand years since that event took place, and we are still waiting and watching for him to return. Many people may think, “It has been over 2,000 years since Jesus walked on the earth. I don’t really think he’s coming back.” Remember however, our God is a God of surprises. Jesus says to us in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” In other words, His return will be a surprise. The Champion came, he died, he rose again to life. The battle however, is still raging. Satan is still alive, and sin is still very real. Sorrow is still present, and suffering is everywhere we look. His kingdom has begun in the hearts and minds of his followers, but the victory is not yet complete. One day, according to this passage and many others similar to it, our Champion will return bodily to earth. Peace will replace war. Justice will replace injustice. Righteousness will replace corruption. The world will be restored to a perfect place where God and His people will live together, as was intended at the beginning. When Jesus returns, what was started in the Garden of Eden will be continued. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, this event will bring you incredible joy and happiness. If you are not a follower of Christ and refuse to be one, then it will be a fearful time.
First of all, the Champion returns to fight the last battle. Verse 11 of our passage says, “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.” As the Apostle John describes this rider, he is not imagining things. He is describing what God has revealed to him, and every detail is important. Jesus is riding a white horse, because that is the color horse that was ridden by victorious Roman generals. White symbolizes not only purity, but supremacy. In many old Western movies, the hero rides a white horse – it isn’t a coincidence. The Champion’s name here is “Faithful and True.” He is the embodiment of God faithfully keeping His promises. 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” Then He is true. He is true to God, and He is true to fulfilling the mission that God has given Him to do. Fulfilling that mission is why He is returning. Once and for all, good will triumph over evil. Justice will triumph over injustice. God will triumph over Satan. This Champion, Jesus, isn’t coming to take sides – He is coming to take over. The Champion returns to fight the last battle.
Then, the Champion returns to face the last enemy. Verses 17-18 of this passage say, “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” The Bible describes this war as the greatest, largest war that has ever taken place. The surprise is, it is over before it can begin. The angel announces the victory before any conflict starts. Verse 19 continues, And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. The beast is here, one of Satan’s main representatives. The leaders of the nations and their armies are all amassed here. They are poised to fight one great battle against the Champion – they all together are the last enemy. One preacher said that the forces brought together for this battle will make D-Day look like a church picnic. All the military might of the world is focused in one place, for one battle against the Champion. Despite the tremendous weaponry these combined forces have to offer, they are no match for the Champion. So the Champion returns to face the last enemy.
Then we see in this passage that the Champion returns to forge the last victory. Listen to verses 14-15, “And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From 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 winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” This battle is the only one in history in which the general does all the fighting. Normally the general would give orders and the soldiers would do the fighting, but not here. This Champion does need anyone to fight his battles. In fact, the only weapon he uses is his words. So let’s get the clear picture here. The whole world will be gathered together with guns, planes, tanks, jets, nuclear missiles, laser-guided weaponry, etc. – the most modern weapons available, and the Champion will only use his Word. The God that spoke the world into existence will speak these armies into oblivion. Isaiah 11:4 says, “…with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.” Consider it – a war won with the Word. It shouldn’t be surprising, though it may be. Jesus spoke a word to a fig tree, and it withered. Jesus spoke to the wind and waves, and they immediately calmed. Jesus spoke a word to a legion of demons, and they fled from his presence. Jesus spoke a word to Lazarus who was dead, and he came back to life again. Verse 16 gives us our Champion’s title,
“On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” Exodus 15:3 also tells us, “The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.” Then, verses 19-21 of our passage tells us how the battle that never really started is finished, “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” The Champion returns to forge the last victory.
The point of all that has been said today is that Jesus is coming to rule and reign, and we must be ready for him. What do we do to prepare? First we believe he died for our sins and rose again, and we surrender our lives to Him. If we don’t know Jesus when He returns, we won’t be ready. Second, we follow Him, we live the rest of our lives for Him. Nothing will give us greater pleasure than to have Him return and find us doing his work with our whole heart and mind. If we have not been baptized, we need to do it. It is the way we publicly identify ourselves with Jesus. We can put a fish sign on our car, wear a cross around our neck, sport a tee-shirt with a Christian message, post Bible verses on Facebook, but until we are baptized we haven’t identified with Jesus God’s way. If we don’t have a church family, we need to become a part of one to be prepared. The Champion is returning, and it will be a surprise to many – will you be ready?