And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True…
There were three great enemies of Christ and his Church, each of which have been told of in the previous chapters of this book - the dragon, the first beast, and the second beast, or the false prophet. In the immediately foregoing chapters we have had told the destruction that came upon them that worshipped the beast. Generally upon them all by the outpouring of the seven vials; and then, more particularly, upon the city Babylon, which was the seat and centre of the authority of the beast. Then there came the vision of the blessed in heaven - a vision once and again given in this book, to reassure those on earth that, amid all the awful judgments of God upon their enemies, they, his faithful witnessing people here upon earth, should not be, were not, forgotten. Their bright, blessed condition in the presence of God is what is shown them for their comfort, their hope, their strength. That cheering vision having been given, the awful judgments upon the beast and the false prophet are next shown. We see the Lord summoning his armies, his eyes flashing in anger, the diadems on his head, the crimson vesture, the sharp sword, and the four names emblazoned thereon. Probably St. John had in view some near catastrophe on the enemies of the Church of his day, which supplies the groundwork of this vision. Or, as some affirm, the heathen nations who were slain, not so much by awful war as by the sword of the Spirit, and ceased to be heathen, and became Christian. For the kings - these say - are the heathen Goths, Vandals, and the rest who invaded the empire everywhere and destroyed Rome, but who soon became Christian and were received into the Church. Or, it may be, that the vision is all for the future. Who can tell? But the names of Christ, as here given, are for all time, and are full of instruction and help.
I. THE "FAITHFUL AND TRUE." (Ver. 11.) So was he:
1. In avenging his people. This is the thought suggested to those for whom St. John wrote. And so will he ever be.
2. In carrying out his purposes. It mattered not who or what withstood.
3. The past proves the righteousness of this name. His prophecies have been fulfilled. His promises made good. His precepts owned as just. Whoever disputes a verdict he has given? Who does not feel that, when he has spoken, the last word, be the subject what it may, has been said, and that there is nothing more to be said?
II. THE UNKNOWN NAME. (Ver. 12, "And he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.") It was a written name, but illegible, incomprehensible, to all but himself. The names advance in majesty. "Faithful and True" - that is an august name, but it cannot be said to be incomprehensible, and known to none but himself. Glory be to him that we do know him by that name, and that the name is rightly his. But now the ineffable nature of the Son of God seems to be suggested. "Who by searching can find out God?" Christ is more than all our thought, than all we have understood or have imagined. In him are "unsearchable riches." Who knows what is the relation between him and the Father, and what the nature of the union in him of humanity and God? Who can understand the profound philosophy of the atonement, the Incarnation, the Resurrection? "No man knoweth the Son but the Father" - so said our Lord; and this unknown name, written, though not read, endorses that sublime saying. And do we wonder that we cannot understand? Why, this we fail to do even with our fellow men if they be of higher nature than our own. Let us be glad and grateful that, whatever riches of grace and glory we have already known, there is an inexhaustible fountain and an unsearchable store yet remaining. And now a name more majestic still is given.
III. "THE WORD OF GOD." (Ver. 13.) This name refers to that "Word of God which is... sharper than," etc. (Hebrews 4:12). Also it points back to his name as given in John 1:1, "The Word, which in the beginning was with God, and was God." For the Word is the expression of the inner thought. And so Christ declares the mind of God; he is "the heart of God revealed." Hence "he who hath seen the Son hath seen the Father." Now, all this is true, or else he is what we would not even say. Si non Dens, non bonus - so of old was it argued, and so it must be still. The doctrine declared by this name is, therefore, of infinite importance. All our conceptions of Christ, all our hope, all our salvation, depend on it. If he be not the very Word of God, then we have no Saviour and no hope. The last of these names is -
IV. "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." (Ver. 16.) It is the battle of the ten kings against him to which he is on his way when St. John beholds him (vers. 18, 19). And now on his vesture and on the scabbard of his sword - "on his thigh" - are emblazoned these majestic words, this title prophetic of victory for himself and those with him, but of utter defeat to those who dared to oppose him. But how blessed to humanity at large is this name and the fact that it declares! Vast is the power that monarchs wield, and - alas, that it should be so! - bad is the use that most of them have made of it. And so the days of kingship are - it is said - numbered. But there may be worse depositaries of power even than kings, seeing that others called by lowlier names have used it not much better. But it is blessed to know that, let kings and rulers do and be what they may, our Lord is "King of kings, and," etc. Meanwhile
(1) see that he rules in us;
(2) take the rich comfort there is in these names. - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.