Teaching series from Revelation

The Victorious Return of Jesus

Revelation 19:11-20:10

Teaching t09182


Remind of theme of 4-18 (Great Tribulation) and key evil characters (Dragon, Beast, False Prophet & Harlot/Babylon).

Chapter 19 narrates the climax of Revelation—the victorious return of Jesus. Everything leads us to or flows from this event, which terminates the Great Tribulation and begins the establishment of God's kingdom on earth. This is when God begins to answer what Jesus taught us to pray for (Matthew 6:10).

Let's examine John's vision of these events, filling in additional details from other parallel biblical passages.

Jesus' return to earth (19:11-16)

John first sees a vision of Jesus when he returns to earth (read 19:11-16). This highly symbolic description emphasizes his majesty and authority.1 If you are at all familiar with Jesus' first Coming, then you can't miss the striking contrasts.

He came the first time in deliberate weakness (Philippians 2:5ff.); he will come the second time in great power (“white horse” of Roman Triumph; “sharp sword”).

He came the first time in isolation (NATION >> MULTITUDES >> FOLLOWERS >> 12); he will come the second time accompanied by a great host of angels and redeemed humans (“armies” of 19:14).

Men mocked him the first time by putting a crown of thorns on his head and a reed in his hand; he will come the second time crowned with crowns (19:12) and with a scepter of universal dominion (19:15).

When he came the first time, he was apparently defeated by his enemies (“scandal” of the Cross); when he comes the second time, he will triumph completely over all his enemies (19:15 “smite the nations . . . tread the winepress of God's wrath”).

SUMMARY: He came the first time as the Savior to die for humanity. John reminds us of this by describing his “robe dipped in blood.” And because he has come to Savior to die for humanity; he has the right to come the second time as the King to judge and rule humanity. (See also LION who is a LAMB in Rev. 5.)

Other biblical passages provide additional important details of this event:

His appearance will be worldwide and unmistakable. Just like a summer thunderstorm that lights up the entire sky, everyone will see Jesus coming (Matthew 24:26-27, 30).

His return will also be accompanied by awesome cosmic events (Matthew 24:29-30). These events will herald the end of this age and the beginning of a new age in which both the heavens and the earth are cleansed and transformed by God.

Jesus will return bodily to the very place from which he ascended—the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem (read Acts 1:11-12; Zechariah 14:3,4a).

His return will touch off a tremendous earthquake (Zechariah 14:4b). This is the great earthquake often mentioned elsewhere in Revelation (6:12; 11:19) and by other Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 24:19; Joel 3:14-16).

SUMMARY: Jesus' return will be the most dramatic event in human history, and it bring to an end human history as we know it.

Jesus' defeat of the beast (19:17-21)

John next describes the first order of business for Jesus at his return—to defeat his satanic counterfeit (beast/Antichrist) and those allied with him (read 19:17-21).

This event is (symbolically?) described as “the great supper of God”—a grim supper for scavenger birds (see also Matthew 24:28)—because Jesus will slay not only the beast and his cohort the false prophet, but all who have followed them and given their allegiance to the beast.

There will be no raging battle in which the outcome hangs in the balance. The beast and the false prophet will be cast into the lake of fire, and Jesus' authoritative word (the large “sword” in 19:15,21) will slay all their followers.

Jesus will simultaneously rescue his followers who remain alive. This is what Jesus means in Matthew 24:13 (read)—those believers who endure to the end of the Great Tribulation will be saved/rescued by Jesus at his return. This is exactly what Jesus describes later in this same passage (read Matthew 24:31). These are the people who go into the first phase of God's kingdom on earth . . . 

SUMMARY: Jesus compares this to the “days of Noah” when the Flood carried away all of God's enemies and left only those who belonged to God (read Matthew 24:37-41).

Jesus' 1000-year reign (20:1-10)

John next describes Jesus' 1000-year reign on earth. Six times in this passage (20:2-7) John states the 1000-year duration of this period. Some think this number is symbolic for eternity, but it is evidently literal for the following reasons:

Notice the contrast between 1000 years for Jesus' reign and the duration of Satan's damnation (20:10 - “forever and ever”). John is emphasizing that this phase of Jesus' kingdom has a definite beginning and end, while Satan's judgment is never-ending.

Chapters 21-22 make it clear that this is only the first phase of God's kingdom. The second phase (called the “new heavens and earth”) is different in many ways and lasts forever (22:5). We'll study this second phase in TWO WEEKS. But by contrast, this first phase is limited in duration.

Because there is so much biblical material elsewhere on this period, John's vision focuses on things that were not previously revealed. We'll fill in some of the other material. John breaks this phase of God's kingdom up into 3 stages:

Read 20:1-3. It begins when Satan is bound in the abyss and thus unable to deceive the nations. The one who usurped authority over the earth through Adam's disobedience is now banished by the One who obeyed God and paid for Adam's (and his descendents') disobedience. During this period, God will evidently demonstrate what human history would have been like if humans had chosen to live under God's benevolent rulership instead of listening to Satan's deceptions.

Read 20:4-6. Jesus reigns from Jerusalem (20:9) with his resurrected followers.

John draws special attention to the tribulational martyrs. Because they were faithful to Jesus even unto death, they will be raised from the dead to reign with him during this portion of his kingdom.2

But 20:4a implies (“they”) what the rest of the Bible states explicitly—that true believers from other periods of history will be raised and reign with Jesus during this time. God promised Daniel that the “saints” would take possession of the kingdom with the Messiah (Daniel 7:22, 29). Jesus promised his disciples that they would sit on thrones and rule with him during this time (Matthew 19:28). Paul promised the Corinthian Christians that they would judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2).

Over whom do they reign? Evidently, over the mortal believers who were rescued by Jesus at his return—and over their offspring who repopulate the earth during this time (Ezekiel 47:22; Jeremiah 3:16).

What will life be like during this period? This period is the fulfillment of the promise God made to David—that one of his descendents would come as God's King and bring all the nations the blessing of God's good rule. Hundreds of Old Testament passages describe this period—but some of the clearest pictures of it come from Isaiah.

Jesus will govern the world with perfect righteousness, so there will be true social justice (Isaiah 29:19-21) and lasting world peace (Isaiah 2:4) for the first time. Finally, civil power will be wielded by One who has perfect wisdom and incorruptible character—and he will govern through his glorified and fully sanctified followers.

All people will be spiritually enlightened by Jesus' instruction (Isaiah 2:2-3; 11:9). The Holy Spirit will also be poured out on all people (Isaiah 44:3-5). Imagine being able to learn about God through Jesus' personal instruction and unimpeded by a world full of spiritual deception!

The curse over nature (Genesis 3:17-19) will be substantially removed. Because humanity is back under God's loving dominion, nature will be back under humanity's loving dominion. The earth will be abundantly productive (Isaiah 4:2; 35:1a,2a), and the destructive hostility of animals will be removed (Isaiah 11:6-9a).

The earth's inhabitants (except for the resurrected believers) will apparently still be mortal, but they will live much longer lives—and lives free from sickness (Isaiah 33:24) and calamity (Isaiah 65:19b-23). Imagine a world without hospitals and health insurance premiums!

For all of these reasons, it will be a time of great joy and celebration for God's people (Isaiah 25:6-9). God's kingdom will not be boring (like the church services of my youth)! It will be a fantastic party! All of our greatest experiences of closeness with loved ones and intimacy with God are but foretastes of this party. It will be the consummation of our love relationship with Jesus. This is why John calls this the “marriage supper of the Lamb” and says 19:9a (read).

GOSPEL: How do you receive an invitation to this feast? The great news is that Jesus has already purchased your ticket with his death for your sins—and he is offering it to you as a free gift. The only thing you have to do to be invited is to pick up your “ticket” by personally receiving Jesus and his gift of forgiveness. Have you asked Jesus for your invitation? Why not do so now?

But as wonderful as this period is, it is not the final phase of God's kingdom because evil will not yet be judged and finally banished and because all vestiges of the Fall will not yet be removed. Read 20:7-10. Satan is released at the end of the 1000 years. He immediately deceives the nations again, which culminates in a rebellion (among the offspring of the original inhabitants?) that God summarily squashes.

Why does God allow this to happen? God does not give us a clear answer to this question, so we can only speculate. Evidently, this is the final piece of evidence for Satan's judgment and eternal punishment. This event may also complete the demonstration of the folly of rebellion against God—which may explain why humans and angels will retain free will in the eternal state, but never rebel (Isaiah 66:24).

At any rate, Satan is condemned forever at this point—and this sets the stage for the final judgment of humanity, which we will study NEXT  . . . 


1 Victorious Roman generals rode upon white horses in their triumphal processions. Note also that the rider on the white horse in 6:2 is probably the Antichrist—the satanic counterfeit of Jesus who rules the world for a short time.

2 “This is the first resurrection” means the first resurrection after Jesus' return, not the first resurrection ever. Jesus has already been resurrected, and Christians will be raptured prior to this event.

Copyright 2002 Gary DeLashmutt