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Revelation 19:15 says,
15 And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
The first obvious fact to consider in this verse is that if Christ had smitten the nations in a carnal manner, they would all be dead. How, then, could He “rule them with a rod of iron?” Some might say that He will rule over the survivors. Those same people, however, are fond of telling us that Christ’s coming is a deadline, after which no man can be saved. Will He then rule unbelievers who are locked into their faithless mindset? Will He use His “rod of iron” in a tyrannical manner, enslaving those who hate Him and forcing obedience from all who disagree with His law?
Not at all. The “rod” is His scepter, a symbol of the right to rule. It is not a rod that is used to beat the disobedient ones. An iron rod is not a painful stick that might break their bones; it is an unbreakable scepter. An overthrown king has a broken scepter, but Christ carries a “rod of iron.” He has laid claim to the scepter of a Kingdom that will not pass away, that cannot be broken, and that can never again be usurped.
Recall from Jesus’ parable in Luke 19:12 that He was to go “to a distant country” (i.e., heaven) “to receive a kingdom for Himself, and then return.” In the parable, the “citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’.” This parable described the conflict between Jesus and the chief rulers (priests) in Jerusalem. They rejected His right to rule and appealed to the heavenly court, begging God not to let Jesus be the heir to the throne.
The interim between the two comings of Christ was the time allotted for this court case to be settled. In the end, however, the nobleman was to “return,” and after giving rewards to His supporters, Luke 19:27, 28 gives us the conclusion to the matter,
27 But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence. 28 And after He had said these things, He was going on ahead, ascending to Jerusalem.
It is clear that Jesus was speaking of the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem when He sentences them to death. But the command to “bring them here” suggests that they were not here until they were brought to Jerusalem. It suggests that the underlying purpose of modern Zionism is for God to bring a representative group back to the old land for sentencing at the scene of the crime. These would be the representatives today of those who rejected Christ and usurped His throne many years ago. As for the judgment itself, Jer. 19:10, 11 tells us that Jerusalem and its inhabitants is to be destroyed in such a way that it will never again be repaired (rebuilt).
Likewise, Paul, who identifies the earthly Jerusalem as Hagar, and its citizens as the children of the flesh (Gal. 4:25, 29) must be “cast out,” for they cannot be heirs with the Isaac company, “the son of the freewoman” (Gal. 4:30).
This prophecy, however, is not referenced directly in Revelation 19. John gives us a picture of Christ returning to the earth, but not specifically to Jerusalem. Yet from many other prophecies it is clear that Jerusalem is the place of divine judgment at His second coming. Most modern teachers tell us that He will come to save Jerusalem and its Jewish inhabitants, but in fact He comes to Jerusalem to “slay them in My presence” (Luke 19:27). His enemies are not Arabs or Russians or Chinese troops, but those Jewish leaders and their supporters “who did not want Me to reign over them.”
How will Christ accomplish this? The overall purpose of the sword coming from His mouth is to convert men, rather than to kill them. But this spiritual sword is also the judgment decreed by the spoken word. What, then, will actually happen? In my view, the destruction of Jerusalem will surely involve the deaths of many people—particularly those who continue to oppose Christ’s right to reign over them, those who usurped the scepter in His first appearance.
Some may repent at the last minute, even as some have repented over the centuries, but this will not prevent the destruction of Jerusalem. Individuals who repent could be divinely protected during this time of destruction, or perhaps they might be led to leave Jerusalem, even as the early Church left the city before it was destroyed in 70 A.D. The real solution will be to evacuate the city before its destruction, because Christ will not save the city at the last minute in order to make it His capital city.
While the city itself will be destroyed, it appears that a third of its inhabitants will repent and be spared (Zech. 13:8, 9).
Whatever covenant a man claims, that is how he will be judged. Whoever claims to be under the Old Covenant will be judged in an Old Covenant manner. Whoever claims to be under the New Covenant will be judged in a New Covenant manner. Of New Covenant believers, Jesus says in John 5:22-24,
22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
But to those Jews who rejected the Mediator of the New Covenant in order to continue following (so they think) the mediator of the Old Covenant, Jesus says in John 5:45,
45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.
Jesus told them that Moses will accuse them, because they appealed to him and the covenant that he mediated. The problem was that they did not believe the words of Moses either, for he wrote of Jesus on virtually every page of the law. So Jesus continued in John 5:46, 47,
46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?
It is clear, then, that the Jews will be judged by Moses, because they have appealed to him as their judge. Christians who are under the New Covenant will “not come into judgment,” and this includes any individual Jew that may repent even at the last minute. The gray area, of course, is seen with Christians who claim the New Covenant but who, in practice, live by the Old Covenant. Perhaps this is the type of believer who will be “saved yet so as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:15).
Getting back to our study in Revelation 19, the second coming of Christ brings judgment upon the earth. The manner of judgment will be according to each person’s level of knowledge and covenant (vow) that he claims before the judge to whom he appeals.
The verdict from the divine court will also depend upon each person’s identity when each identifies himself in court. Those who claim fleshly identity as a son of the old Adam or of fleshly Israel will be judged according to the Old Covenant standard, which regulates fleshly behavior. He who claims spiritual identity, one that has been begotten by the Spirit, will not be judged, for he is a New Creation that is sinless (1 John 3:9, literal translation).
In Rev. 19:15 John pictures the nations being judged in a metaphorical wine press. The nations are thus pictured as grapes that are trodden down in the wine press in order to extract the new wine for God’s great Communion Table. These “grapes” differ from barley (which is winnowed) and wheat (which is threshed). Yet all three forms of divine judgment are designed to remove the flesh and to extract the bread from the grain and new wine from the grapes.
The “fierce wrath of God,” as we have already shown, is His passion, or “heat,” which comes from His nature. God is love (1 John 4:8), and God is also “jealous” (Exodus 34:14). The Hebrew word translated “jealous” is kanna, from the root word kana, “to be zealous.” Jealousy is a negative manifestation of being zealous, but the primary meaning of the word is not about jealousy.
In John 2:2 we read that Jesus attended a marriage feast at Cana. In John’s explanation of this miracle, he tells how Jesus cleansed the temple (John 2:13-16). The next verse (17) says,
17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Thy house will consume Me.”
In other words, the disciples recalled Psalm 69:9, where “zeal” is from the Hebrew word kina, whose root word is kana, or cana. The point of John’s account is to show how Christ’s passionate zeal for His Father’s house had estranged Him from His brethren (Psalm 69:8).
At the marriage feast in Cana, Jesus changed the water to wine to portray the atomic change that is coming in our bodies. The water was in six stone waterpots (John 2:6). The number six is the number of man, so we are the waterpots being changed into His image. He is zealous and passionate about doing this. He will not stop until He has fulfilled that passion.
The story of Jesus cleansing the temple is another side to this story, for we are also the temple of God that needs to be cleansed before our bodies can be glorified. Changing the water to wine is the equivalent of casting out the love of money from our hearts, so that our temples no longer portray a den of thieves.
Cana is also the root of Canaanite, which means “merchant, banker, or lowlander.” Zech. 14:21 prophesies, “there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts in that day.” Hence, Jesus cast out the bankers, i.e., Canaanites, shouting, “Stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:16).
All of His judgments are extensions of His nature and are designed to win the love of His creation. His passionate love and zealotry is unrelenting and will not cease until every temple has been cleansed, every waterpot filled with new wine, and all of creation has been reconciled to Him. When all are finally in agreement with Him, and He has no more “enemies” fighting Him, then death itself will be abolished (1 Cor. 15:26), and God will be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
Then will come to pass the word written on His robe in Rev. 19:16,
16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
He will be King over all that He has created, for He has vowed to make all of mankind His people. He has taken this responsibility upon Himself to turn the hearts of all enemies and sinners, so that they will indeed acknowledge Him as the Heir of the world.