Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and TA: On your radio program not too long ago, you stated that you didn’t think that the white horse that Jesus is seated upon in Revelation:19:11 was a literal horse, a glorified heavenly one that will be incapable of being injured or killed by the armies of Antichrist. I believe the same would be true of horses in v. 14 that the armies of heaven are riding. My question is why would these horses not be literal? And if they are only symbolic, what are they symbolizing?”
Tom: In Revelation Chapter 19:11—actually 11-21, which describes this event—there are so many things that are obviously symbolic. The horses may be a little bit of a problem, which I’m going to let you talk about, but for example, v. 12, it says: “His eyes were as a flame of fire,” and in v. 15 it says, “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations.” So that’s obviously figurative or symbolic, but what about these horses? Because we’re going to have horses; we’re coming back with Him. When I say “we” I’m talking about all true believers.
Dave: Tom, what it will actually be like is beyond our comprehension. The Scripture says, “Eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those that love him,” and this would be one of those things. Jesus doesn’t need a horse to ride on, of course. Does He have to get on that horse every time He is going to go somewhere? He walks through the wall, I guess, or the door—it doesn’t matter, because the door was locked where the disciples were hiding for fear of the Jews after His death. They didn’t know He was resurrected. I don’t think He had his horse tethered outside and, you know, He said, “I ascend to my Father…” When He ascended into heaven when they were at the Mount of Olives, you remember, 40 days later, and suddenly He is caught up and disappears in the clouds. And the angels say, “This same Jesus that you have seen going into heaven will come again in like manner.” I don’t recall reading about a horse, so what were the angels talking about? The Second Coming, exactly what we have. So then why all this talk about horses and armies and so forth? Well, the earth has armies.
Tom: We’ll be part of that army, but we don’t do any fighting.
Dave: The sword that proceeds out of His mouth, of course, is the Word of God. Let me just turn to 2 Thessalonians 2 around verse 8. It talks about the Antichrist being revealed—[v. 8 says]: “And then shall that Wicked be revealed [this is Antichrist], whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” The Spirit of His mouth, that’s the Word of God. And in John 12, Jesus said, “The words that I have spoken will judge you in that day.” So the God who spoke the universe into existence—“God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” He doesn’t have to have guns and tanks, and it’s not going to be a struggle for him to overcome the armies of the Antichrist. He says the Word—this is the sword that comes out of his mouth—He speaks the Word and they are destroyed, they are sent to where they belong, to await the final judgment. People in that day, and even in our day, don’t really understand. We don’t understand what is really happening; we don’t understand the evil of Satan, the evil of the human heart; we don’t understand the power of God and of His Word in combating this.So, okay, here He comes on a horse, his armies, and so forth, but it’s not about armies fighting, it’s about the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, earlier in Revelation it says, “They overcame him through the word of their testimony and the blood of the Lamb.” How does the blood of the Lamb overcome? So there’s something deeper here for us to understand, but it’s just given to us in terms that we would recognize.
Tom: Dave, one of the reasons I appreciate this question is the writer of this is really being thoughtful. He’s trying to think through and make a distinction between figurative language and literal, and that’s so important. You know, growing up Roman Catholic, we took eating the body and blood of Jesus Christ literally from John 6, and it was a serious mistake. So the idea that this person and others, hopefully, out there are trying to understand or make a distinction between what to take figuratively and what to take literally is really important.
Dave: Well, Tom, I mean, let me just interject quickly: John 6, when Jesus says, “Except you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you,” this is the only place that the Catholic Church takes it literally, or that anyone would take it literally. And you don’t take it literally when Jesus said, “I am the door. By me, if any man enter in,” He didn’t mean He was literally a door swinging on its hinge.
When He said, “I am the light of the world,” He didn’t mean that he was a light bulb or a candle or a search light.
When He said, “I am the good shepherd; you are my sheep,” He didn’t mean that we are [bleats] sheep, you know, that He’s literally running around with a shepherd’s crook grabbing the sheep.
When He said, “I am the true vine, you are branches in me,” of course He didn’t mean that literally.
And when He says, “Except you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you,” He doesn’t mean that literally. He’s talking about believing that He became a literal flesh and blood man. So the Catholic Church has really gone astray—why? Because this empowers them, because their priests now can claim that they can turn this little wafer into the body and blood of Jesus, and only thereby can you have forgiveness of sins.
Tom: And, Dave, this is important for evangelicals as well. Those who study the Bible, they need to make the distinctions between figurative language and literal language.