Revelation 17:14

these will make war
Πολεμήσουσιν [Polemēsousin] , which indicates a protracted engagement rather than a single battle. The same word is translated, somewhat misleadingly, as “battle” in Revelation Rev. 16:14+. See commentary on Revelation 16:14.

with the Lamb
This is not speaking of the ages-long opposition between the spiritual forces of darkness and the spiritual forces of the Lamb (although such ongoing opposition is a fact of Scripture), but speaks of the final physical conflict of the armies of the world as they attempt to thwart the installation of Messiah upon the throne of David in His Millennial Reign. The Beast, his kings, and kings from all around the word (Rev. Rev. 16:14+) will eventually gather to war against God at the Campaign of Armageddon. See commentary on Revelation 16:16. See commentary on Revelation 19:20. The Lamb which they fight with is Jesus Christ, the “Lamb as though it had been slain” which took the scroll from the right hand of God before initiating the first seven judgments by opening the seven seals (Rev. Rev. 5:6-7+). They war against the Lamb in a doomed attempt to forestall His taking back that which is rightfully His, as documented by the scroll. See commentary on Revelation 5:1. In the previous chapter, the war was described with reference to God the Father: “The battle of that great day of God Almighty.” Here, we are told they will make war with the Lamb. Later, the same conflict will be described as a gathering to “make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army” (Rev. Rev. 19:19+). The text provides another indication of the deity of Christ and the essential identity of the Lamb and the Father.

the Lamb will overcome them
He shall overcome is νικήσει [nikēsei] : the Lamb is The Overcomer. From the perspective of earth, the Beast is the overcomer (Rev. Rev. 6:2+). But he only overcomes while he is temporarily given authority to do so (Rev. Rev. 13:7+). Ultimately, it is the Lamb Who is the true overcomer (John John 16:33; 1Jn. 1Jn. 4:4; Rev. Rev. 3:21+). See Who is the Overcomer? In a vision of Daniel which many believe is not entirely fulfilled in the events of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, Daniel sees a fierce king who “shall even rise against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without human means” (Dan. Dan. 8:25). If the Prince of princes refers to the Lamb, then Daniel’s vision prophesied this same conflict.1 The kings participate in the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm Ps. 2:1: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed [Messiah = Christ], saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’ ” (Ps. Ps. 2:2-3). At that time, the long wait of the Son at the right hand of the Father will come to an end:

The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. The LORD has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries. He shall drink of the brook by the wayside; therefore He shall lift up the head. (Ps. Ps. 110:1-7) [emphasis added]

Isaiah spoke of this time:

Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it waste . . . The earth mourns and fades away . . . Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned and few men are left. . . . And the foundations of the earth are shaken. . . . The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; . . . It shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and will be shut up in the prison; after many days they will be punished. (Isa. Isa. 24:1-23)

The context is The Day of the Lord where conditions are so extreme that relatively few are left alive. The kings who rebelled (Psalm Ps. 2:1) will be gathered together and shut up in the prison and then punished—possibly a reference to their entry into Hades after being killed by the Lamb (Rev. Rev. 19:21+) followed by their ultimate punishment upon being subsequently cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. Rev. 20:15+).

for He is Lord of lords and King of kings
He will overcome them because He is Lord over all other lords. He is “the ruler over the kings of the earth” (Rev. Rev. 1:5+), even though at present most kings do not recognize His rule. At His Second Coming, His legal status as King of kings and the factual reality of earthly rule will be united for His kingdom will then be on earth where He physically rules over lords. The Lamb is given a title which is uniquely that of the Father in the OT. “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe” (Deu. Deu. 10:7). Ascribing the title Lord of lords to the Lamb is no small matter . . . unless He is God! And indeed He is. Paul describes Jesus in similar divine terms: “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1Ti. 1Ti. 6:15-16). See commentary on Revelation 1:18.

those who are with Him
Although all the saints are with Christ in the sense of their spiritual unity and membership in His Kingdom, the reference here is primarily to those who are with Him at the time of His Second Coming. In the same way that the angels accompanied the Father in His descent upon Mount Sinai (Deu. Deu. 33:2), so too shall Jesus bring “the armies in heaven” with Him (Rev. Rev. 19:14+, Rev. 19:19+):

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men [the dreamers who reject authority] also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all.” (Jude. Jude 1:14-15) [emphasis added]

Proclaim this among the nations: “Prepare for war! Wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’ ” Assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together all around. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD. Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow-For their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. (Joel Joel 3:9-14) [emphasis added]

And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You. (Zec. Zec. 14:4-5) [emphasis added]

The saints (ἁγίαις [hagiais] ) which attend Jesus’ return are “holy ones.” They are set apart for the service of God. This term is used of both the faithful (e.g., Ps. Ps. 16:3; Ps. 34:9 ; Acts Acts 9:13) and angels (e.g., Dan. Dan. 8:13). We know from other passages that angels will come with Him:

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to His works. (Mtt. Mat. 16:27) [emphasis added]

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. (Mtt. Mat. 25:31) [emphasis added]

Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2Th. 2Th. 1:6-8) [emphasis added]

are called, chosen, and faithful
Called is κλητοὶ [klētoi] , chosen is ἐκλεκτοὶ [eklektoi] . The same terms are used when Jesus says, “Many are called (κλητοί [klētoi] , but few are chosen (ἐκλεκτοί [eklektoi] ” (Mtt. Mat. 20:16; Mat. 22:14). Peter uses the same terms when writing to predominantly Jewish believers. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” [emphasis added] (1Pe. 1Pe. 2:9 cf. 1Pe. 1Pe. 1:1). The angels which did not follow Satan in his rebellion (Rev. Rev. 12:4+) are also said to be “chosen”: “The elect angels” is τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν ἀγγελων [tōn eklektōn angelōn] . But being called speaks of a time prior to having come to the faith—something the elect angels do not experience for they have never been lost, but remained continually faithful. Calling is unique to those saints who at one time were not saints, that is, human beings rather than angels (Rom. Rom. 1:6; Rom. Rom. 8:28-30; 2Ti. 2Ti. 2:9).2 “These epithets called, chosen, and faithful, can only strictly apply to saints [not angels].”3 Those who are both called and chosen are “His own elect who cry out day and night to Him” (Luke Luke 18:7). They did not choose Him, but He chose them (John John 15:16). This speaks of human beings, not just angels, who will return with Christ at His Second Coming. They do not remain in heaven, but return to participate in the Millennial Kingdom which follows (Rev. Rev. 20:4-6+). They are said to be faithful because they are human beings, born among those who were fallen, but who then exercised faith to salvation. At the time of Christ’s Second Coming, there are three categories of believers in heaven:
  1. Pre-Church Saints - Believers who died prior to the formation of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Since the Spirit did not begin baptizing believers into the body of Christ until then (John John 7:38-39; Acts Acts 2:1; 1Cor. 1Cor. 12:13), they were never part of the body of Christ. At death, their souls and spirits entered paradise in Abraham’s bosom (Luke Luke 16:22) until they ascended when paradise relocated to heaven following the crucifixion (Luke Luke 23:43).
  2. Church Saints - Believers who lived after the giving of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (John John 7:38-39; Acts Acts 2:1) and were baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 1Cor. 12:13). The spirit and soul of those who died prior to the Rapture ascended to heaven at death (2Cor. 2Cor. 5:6; Php. Php. 1:23) Being in Christ, they were physically resurrected (or translated if alive) at the Rapture of the Church prior to the Tribulation (John John 14:1-3; 1Th. 1Th. 4:13-18).
  3. Post-Church Saints - Believers who come to faith after the Rapture of the Church—the removal of the body of Christ. They died a natural death or were martyred (Rev. Rev. 2:10+, Rev. 2:13+; Rev. 12:11+; Rev. 15:2+) and their spirit and soul ascended to heaven at death (2Cor. 2Cor. 5:6; Php. Php. 1:23; Rev. Rev. 7:14+).
Only one of these three categories of saints is resurrected prior to the Second Coming: the Church Saints—those who were baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Church: the body of Christ in His absence. When Christ returns at the Second Coming, His spiritual body (the Church) returns with Him. During the Second Coming, Christ’s army will include both angels (Joel Joel 3:11; Mtt. Mat. 25:31) and Church saints (Col. Col. 3:4). Saints who have not yet been resurrected seem unlikely to participate in the Second Coming (Rev. Rev. 19:14+). They receive their resurrected bodies after the Second Coming, prior to the Millennial Kingdom (Dan. Dan. 12:2; Rev. Rev. 20:4+). See commentary on Revelation 20:4.

Notes

1 “It may be concluded that this difficult passage apparently goes beyond that which is historically fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes to foreshadow a future personage often identified as the world ruler of the end time. . . . He indeed will be ‘broken without hand’ at the time of the second advent of Jesus Christ.”—John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago, IL: Moody Bible Institute, 1971), Dan. 8:26.

2 Concerning the choosing or election of believers: Ps. Ps. 65:4; Eze. Eze. 3:17; Mtt. Mat. 24:24, Mat. 24:31; Mark Mark 13:20; Luke Luke 18:7; John John 1:13; John 6:37, John 6:44, John 6:65; John 13:18; John 15:16, John 15:19; John 17:2-11, John 17:24; Acts Acts 13:48; Rom. Rom. 1:7; Rom. 8:28-31, Rom. 8:33; Rom. Rom. 9:15-16, Rom. 9:23; Rom. 10:20; Rom. 11:5, Rom. 11:7; 1Cor. 1Cor. 1:2, 1Cor. 1:21, 1Cor. 1:26, 1Cor. 1:30; Eph. Eph. 1:4; Eph. 4:1; 1Th. 1Th. 1:4; 2Th. 2Th. 2:13; 1Ti. 1Ti. 6:12; 2Ti. 2Ti. 1:9; 2Ti. 2Ti. 2:10; Tit. Tit. 1:1; Heb. Heb. 9:15; 1Pe. 1Pe. 1:2; 1Pe. 2:9; 1Pe. 5:13; 2Pe. 2Pe. 1:3; Jude Jude 1:1; Rev. Rev. 17:14+.

3 Walter Scott, Exposition of The Revelation (London, England: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), Rev. 17:14.

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