Faithful and True: Revelation 19:11

faithful and true

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4) Rev 19:11: Noah’s generation came to an end due to an act of God’s judgment (Gen 7:21–24). Those living when Christ returns will undergo a similar experience (Rev 19:11–21).

Esoteric symbolism and exhortation characterize apocalyptic (end-times) literature.[1] Nevertheless, the metaphors in the Apostle John’s vision portray actual events.[2]

In Rev 19:11–16, John reported his vision in the form of a chiasm, with the central focus falling upon the armies of heaven clothed in white linen.[3]



Verse 11 says, “And I saw heaven had been opened, and behold, a white horse. And the one sitting on it [is] faithful and true, and in righteousness he judges and wages war.”

The first phrase indicates that John reported a new vision which he received.[4]

That heaven had been opened not only announces new divine revelation (Mark 1:9–11; John 1:51; Acts 7:55–56),[5] it can portend judgment (Ezek 1:1; Ezek 2:1–4; Rev 4:1, 5; Rev 11:19; Rev 15:5–8).[6]



This imagery mirrors Jewish interpretations that the messiah,  the Lord’s anointed one, would come as a great warrior (Ps 2; Ps 110).[7]

For example, a second century BC apocryphal book written from the perspective of the patriarch Levi expands upon Gen 34:1–7, 25–27. This work links the opening of the gates of heaven and judgment upon the wicked.

It states:

Know therefore, know that the Lord shall execute judgement upon the sons of men… They that bless Him shall be blessed, and they that curse Him shall perish. And thereupon the angel opened to me the gates of heaven, and I saw the holy temple, and upon a throne of glory the Most High…

Then the angel brought me down to the earth, and gave me a shield and a sword, and said to me, “Execute vengeance on Shechem because of Dinah, thy sister, and I will be with thee because the Lord hath sent me.”

And I destroyed at that time the sons of Hamor, as it is written in the heavenly tables.[8]



Greco-Roman authors also associated the opening of heaven with divine revelation and doom.[9]

According to Virgil (70–19 BC):

While thus in distant region moves the war…Saturn’s daughter sends celestial Iris…And thus [she]…called with lips of rose, “Behold, Aeneas…has left behind the city with his fleet and followers…Call for thy chariot and steeds! Away! Take yonder tents by terror and surprise!”

She spoke; and heavenward on poising wings soared, cleaving as she fled from cloud to cloud a vast, resplendent bow.

The warrior saw, and, lifting both his hands, pursued with prayer the fading glory, “Beauteous Iris, hail…Such solemn sign I shall obey.”[10]

John’s original audience recognized the motif of judgment occurring when the heavens opened.



Through the opened heavens, the apostle saw a white steed and its rider. White represents both purity and vindication in the book of Revelation (Rev 3:3–5; Rev 6:9–11).[11]

Greco-Romans considered white steeds the most prized, appropriate for high-ranking officials and conquering kings.[12]

The historian Suetonius (ca. 69–130 AD) noted the elevation of Domitian’s (51–96 AD) status after an initial debasement.

Suetonius reported:

He likewise designed an expedition into Gaul and Germany, without the least necessity for it, and contrary to the advice of all his father’s friends; and this he did only with the view of equaling his brother in military achievements and glory.

But for this he was severely reprimanded, and that he might the more effectually be reminded of his age and position, was made to live with his father, and his litter had to follow his father’s and brother’s carriage, as often as they went abroad; but he attended them in their triumph for the conquest of Judaea, mounted on a white horse.[13]



Furthermore, Greco-Romans believed in the existence of supernatural, immortal steeds which traveled between heaven and the earth.[14]

Ovid (43 BC–17 AD) wrote this in praise of the sun god’s horses, saying, “The dark-night pastures of Apollo’s steeds are hid below the western skies; when there, and spent with toil, in lieu of nibbling herbs they take ambrosial food: it gives their limbs restoring strength and nourishes anew…his winged steeds.”[15]

In Revelation, the appearance of a rider on a white horse represents the return of Christ, the long-awaited second coming (parousia).[16]

If a Roman king on a white steed imparted fear, how much more should the conquering Lord of heaven.[17]



The first of four titles borne by Christ in this account of his return is “Faithful (pistos) and True” (alēthinos) (Cf. Rev 3:14).[18]

In extra-biblical Greek, this name appears only in 3 Macc 2:11, where the high priest petitioned the Lord to defend his honor by overthrowing a profane tyrant:[19]

And because you love the house of Israel, you promised that if we should have reverses, and tribulation should overtake us, you would listen to our petition when we come to this place and pray. And indeed you are faithful and true…

In our downfall this audacious and profane man undertakes to violate the holy place on earth dedicated to your glorious name…Speedily let your mercies overtake us, and put praises in the mouth of those who are downcast and broken in spirit, and give us peace” (3 Macc 2:10–20, RSV).

These attributes also describe the credibility of the words spoken in the book of Revelation (Rev 21:5–6; Rev 22:6).[20]

In the Old Testament, the description “faithful and true” appears only once, applying to God as a witness (Jer 42:5).

However, the men who appealed to the Lord failed to do what they had promised, bringing judgment upon themselves (Jer 42:20–22).[21]

Removing any doubt about the intention of the rider upon the white steed, John wrote, “And in righteousness he judges and wages war.”

The book of Revelation repeatedly reinforces the justness of divine judgment (e.g. Rev 16:5–7; Rev 19:2).[22] At last the followers of the beast will receive the answer to their question (Rev 13:4).[23]



Judging with righteousness involves not only destroying God’s enemies but also saving his people (Ps 9:7–10; Ps 96:7–13; Isa 11:1–5).[24]

By the first century BC, Jewish people expected the messiah to judge the nations in one final conflict:[25]

Behold, O Lord, and raise up unto them their king, the son of David…that he may reign over Israel Thy servant. And gird him with strength, that he may shatter unrighteous rulers, and that he may purge Jerusalem from nations that trample (her) down to destruction…

At his rebuke nations shall flee before him, and he shall reprove sinners for the thoughts of their heart. And he shall gather together a holy people, whom he shall lead in righteousness…

And he shall not suffer unrighteousness to lodge any more in their midst, nor shall there dwell with them any man that knoweth wickedness, for he shall know them, that they are all sons of their God.[26]

John identified this messiah as Jesus (Rev 1:12–18).



Righteous judgment characterizes the Lord’s actions (2 Tim 4:7–8; 1 Pet 2:21–25).

Therefore, he expected Israel’s judges, kings, and even individuals to judge justly (Deut 1:16–17; Deut 16:18–20; Prov 31:1, 8–9; Zech 7:8–10).

Jesus demanded that the people of God apply the same principles (John 7:24).[27]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


a) Read Rev 19:11. Why is it significant that heaven had been opened? What does riding upon a white horse symbolize? How does knowing that Jesus will judge justly make you feel?




Go to Ruler of All Nations (Rev 19:12–13)

[Related posts include Ruler of All Nations (Rev 19:12–13); The Armies in Heaven (Rev 19:14); Striking the Nations (Rev 19:15); King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 19:16); The Great Supper of God (Rev 19:17–19); Cast into the Inferno (Rev 19:20–21); The Waters Prevail (Gen 7:17–20); The Breath of Life Extinguished (Gen 7:21–24); Not Knowing the Day or the Hour (Matt 24:36); As in the Days of Noah (Matt 24:37–39); One Will Be Left (Matt 24:40–41); Continually Watch! (Matt 24:42–44); Pleading for Justice (Rev 6:9‒10); The Full Number of Martyrs (Rev 6:11); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 7: God Opens the Heavens and the Earth (Genesis 7:1–24)]


[1]Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, 2nd Ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 278.

[2]Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 351, note 1.

[3]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 956.

[4]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 949.

[5]David E. Aune, Revelation 17–22 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1998), 1052.

[6]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 949.

[7]Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 351.

[8]Rutherford H. Jr. Platt, “Testament of Levi,” in The Forgotten Books of Eden (New York: Alpha Place, 1926), 2:1–12,

[9]Aune, Revelation 17–22, 1052.

[10]Virgil, Aeneid (trans. Theodore C. Williams; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1910), 9:1–21,

[11]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 950.

[12]Keener, Revelation, 453.

[13]C. Tranquillus Suetonius, “Domitian,” Pages 500–25 in The Lives of the Twelve Caesars (trans. Alexander Thompson; Philadelphia: Gebbie, 1883), 501,

[14]Keener, Revelation, 456.

[15]Ovid, Metamorphoses (trans. Brookes More; Boston: Cornhill, 1922), 4:214–6, 262,

[16]Aune, Revelation 17–22, 1053.

[17]Keener, Revelation, 453.

[18]Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 352.

[19]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 950.

[20]Aune, Revelation 17–22, 1053.

[21]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 951.

[22]Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 352.

[23]Keener, Revelation, 452.

[24]Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 950–1.

[25]Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 351.

[26]G. Buchanan Gray, trans., “The Psalms of Solomon,” in APOT (ed. R. H. Charles; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), 17:21–22, 25–27,

[27]Aune, Revelation 17–22, 1053.