By Christmas Evans (1766-1838)
“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.” — Isaiah 63:1-6
This passage is one of the sublimest in the Bible. Not more majestic and overwhelming is the voice of God issuing from the burning bush. It represents “the Captain of our salvation,” left alone in the heat of battle, marching victoriously through the broken columns of the foe, bursting the bars asunder, bearing away the brazen gates, and delivering by conquest the captives of sin and death. Let us first determine the events to which our text relates, and then briefly explain the questions and answers which it contains.
I. We have here a wonderful victory, obtained by Christ, in the city of Bozrah, in the land of Edom. Our first inquiry concerns the time and the place of that achievement.
Some of the prophecies are literal, and others are figurative. Some of them are already fulfilled, and others in daily process of fulfillment. Respecting this prophecy, divines disagree. Some think it is a description of Christ’s conflict and victory, without the gates of Jerusalem, eighteen centuries ago; and others understand it as referring to the great battle of Armageddon, predicted in the Apocalypse, and yet to be consummated before the end of the world.
I am not willing to pass by mount Calvary, and Joseph’s new tomb, on my way to the field of Armageddon; nor am I willing to pause at the scene of the crucifixion and the ascension, without going farther on to the final conquest of the foe. I believe Divine inspiration has included both events in the text; the victory already won on Calvary, and the victory yet to be accomplished in Armageddon; the finished victory of Messiah’s passion, and the progressive victory of His gospel and His grace.
The chief difficulty, in understanding some parts of the word of God, arises from untranslated words; many of which are found in our own version, as well as in that of our English neighbors. For instance—it is said, “He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” Where in the prophets is it predicted that Christ shall be called a Nazarene? No where. When the proper names are translated, the difficulty vanishes. “He came and dwelt in a city called plantation, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, He shall be called the Branch.” This name is given him by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. Now this is precisely the difficulty that occurs in our text, and the translation of the terms unties the knot: “Who is this that cometh from Edom,” red earth—“with dyed garments from Bozrah,” tribulation?
The former part of the text has reference to the victory of Calvary; the latter part anticipates the battle and triumph of Armageddon, mentioned in Revelation. The victory of Calvary is consummated on the morning of the third day after the crucifixion. The Conqueror comes up from the earth, exclaiming: “I have trodden the winepress alone on Calvary; and I will tread them in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, at the battle of Armageddon. I will overtake and destroy the beast, and the false prophet, and that old serpent the devil, with all their hosts.”
When the tide of battle turned, on the field of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington mounted his horse, and pursued the vanquished foe. So Isaiah’s Conqueror, having routed the powers of Hell on Calvary, pursues and destroys them on the field of Armageddon. Here He is represented as a hero on foot, a prince without an army; but John, the revelator, saw Him riding on a white horse, and followed by the armies of Heaven, all on white horses, and not a footman among them.
The victory of Calvary is like the blood of atonement in the sanctuary. The cherubim were some of them looking one way, and some the other, but all were looking on the atoning blood. Thus all the great events of time—all the trials and triumphs of God’s people—those which happened before, those which have happened since, and those which are yet to happen, are all looking toward the wrestling of Gethsemane, the conflict of Golgotha, and the triumph of Olivet. The escape from Egypt, and the return from Babylon looked forward to the cross of Christ; and the faith of the perfect man of Uz hung on a risen Redeemer. The Christian martyrs overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and all their victories were in virtue of one great achievement. The tomb of Jesus is the birthplace of His people’s immortality, and the power which raised Him from the dead shall open the sepulchres of all His saints. “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast forth her dead.”
Christ offered Himself a sacrifice for us, and drank the cup of God’s righteous indignation in our stead. He was trodden by Almighty justice, as a cluster of grapes, in the winepress of the law, till the vessels of mercy overflowed with the wine of peace and pardon, which has made thousands of contrite and humble spirits “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” He suffered for us, that we might triumph with Him. But our text describes Him as a king and a conqueror. He was, at once, the dying victim and the immortal victor. In “the power of an endless life,” He was standing by the altar, when the sacrifice was burning. He was alive in His sacerdotal vestments, with His golden censer in His hand. He was alive in His kingly glory, with His sword and His sceptre in His hand. He was alive in His conquering prowess, and had made an end of sin, and bruised the head of the serpent, and spoiled the principalities and powers of Hell, and turned the vanquished hosts of the prince of darkness down to the winepress of the wrath of Almighty God. Then, on the morning of the third day, when He arose from the dead, and made a show of them openly—then began the year of jubilee with power!
After the prophets of ancient times had long gazed through the mists of futurity, at the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, a company of them were gathered together on the summit of Calvary. They saw a host of enemies ascending the hill, arrayed for battle, and most terrific in their aspect. In the middle of the line was the law of God, fiery and exceeding broad, and working wrath. On the right wing, was Beelzebub with his troops of internals; and on the left Caiaphas with his Jewish priests, and Pilate with his Roman soldiers. The rear was brought up by Death, the last enemy. When the holy seers had espied this army, and perceived that it was drawing nigh, they started back, and prepared for flight. As they looked round, they saw the Son of God advancing with intrepid step, having His face fixed on the hostile band. “Seest thou the danger that is before thee,” said one of the men of God. “I will tread them in mine anger,” He replied, “and trample them in my fury.” “Who art thou?” said the prophet; He answered: “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” “Wilt thou venture to the battle alone?” asked the seer. The Son of God replied: “I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered there was none to uphold; therefore mine own arm shall bring salvation unto me; and my fury it shall uphold me.” “At what point wilt thou commence thy attack?” inquired the anxious prophet. “I will first meet the Law,” He replied, “and pass under its curse: for lo! I come to do thy will, O God. When I shall have succeeded at the centre of the line, the colors will turn in my favor.” So saying He moved forward. Instantly the thunderings of Sinai were heard, and the whole band of prophets quaked with terror. But He advanced, undaunted, amidst the gleaming lightnings. For a moment He was concealed from view; and the banner of wrath waved about in triumph. Suddenly the scene was changed. A stream of blood poured forth from His wounded side, and put out all the fires of Sinai. The flag of peace was now seen unfurled, and consternation filled the ranks of His foes. He then crushed, with His bruised heel, the old serpent’s head; and put all the infernal powers to flight. With His iron rod He dashed to pieces the enemies on the left wing, like a potter’s vessel. Death still remained, who thought himself invincible, having hitherto triumphed over all. He came forward, brandishing his sting, which he had whetted on Sinai’s tables of stone. He darted it at the Conqueror, but it turned down, and hung like the flexible lash of a whip. Dismayed, he retreated to the grave, his palace, into which the Conqueror pursued. In a dark corner of his den, he sat on his throne of moldering skulls, and called upon the worms, his hitherto faithful allies, to aid him in the conflict; but they replied—“His flesh shall see no corruption!” The scepter fell from his hand. The Conqueror seized him, bound him, and condemned him to the lake of fire; and then rose from the grave, followed by a band of released captives, who came forth after His resurrection to be witnesses of the victory which He had won.
John in the Apocalypse did not look so far back as the treading of this winepress; but John saw Him on His white horse, decked with His many crowns, His eyes like flames of fire, a two-edged sword in His hand, in the van of the armies of Heaven, going forth conquering and to conquer. This is the fulfilment of his declaration in our text: “For I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury.” This is the beginning of the jubilee, the battle of Armageddon, wherein all heathen idolatry and superstition shall be overthrown, and the beast and the false prophet shall be discomfited, and the devil and his legions shall be taken prisoners by Emmanuel, and shut up in the bottomless pit. He who hath conquered principalities and powers on Calvary, will not leave the field, till He make all His enemies His footstool, and sway His scepter over a subject universe. Having sent forth the gospel from Jerusalem, He accompanies it with the grace of His Holy Spirit; and it shall not return unto Him void, but shall accomplish that which He pleaseth, and prosper in the thing whereto He hath sent it.
The victory of Armageddon is obtained by virtue of the victory of Calvary. It is but the consummation of the same glorious campaign; and the first decisive blow dealt on the prince of darkness is a sure precursor of the final conquest. “I will meet thee again at Philippi!” said the ghost of Julius Caesar to Brutus. “I will meet thee again at Armageddon!” saith the Son of God to Satan on Calvary—“I will meet thee in the engagement between good and evil, grace and depravity, in every believer’s heart; in the contest of Divine Truth with human errors, of the religion of God with the superstitions of men; in every sermon, every revival, every missionary enterprise; in the spread and glory of the gospel in the latter day, I will meet thee; and the heel which thou hast now bruised, shall crush thy head forever!”
Man’s deliverance is of God. Man had neither the inclination nor the power. His salvation originated in the Divine Love, and burst forth like an ocean from the fountains of eternity. Satan, as a ravenous lion, had taken the prey, and was running to his den with the bleeding sheep in his mouth; but the Shepherd of Israel pursues him, overtakes him, and rends him as if he were a kid. The declaration of war was made in Eden: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” It shall be fulfilled. The league with Hell, and the covenant with death shall not stand. The rebellion shall be quelled, the conspiracy shall be broken, and the strong man armed shall yield the citadel to a stronger. The works of the devil shall be destroyed, and the prey shall be taken from the teeth of the terrible. The house of David shall grow stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul shall grow weaker and weaker, till the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, and Satan shall be bound in chains of darkness, and cast into the lake of fire. All the enemies of Zion shall be vanquished, and the forfeited favor of God shall be recovered, and the lost territory of peace and holiness and immortality shall be restored to man.
This campaign is carried on at the expense of the government of Heaven. The treasury is inexhaustible; the arms are irresistible; therefore the victory is sure. The Almighty King has descended; He has taken the city of Bozrah; He has swayed His scepter over Edom; He has risen victoriously, and gone up with a shout, as the leader of all the army. This is but the pledge and the earnest of His future achievements. In the battle of Armageddon, He shall go forth as a mighty man; He shall stir up jealousy as a man of war; and He shall prevail against His enemies. They shall be turned back—they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images—that say unto molten images, “Ye are our gods!” Then He will open the blind eyes, and bring the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. He will make bare His holy arm—He will show the sword in that hand which was hidden under the scarlet robe—He will manifest His power in the destruction of His enemies, and the salvation of His people. As certainly as He hath shed His blood on Calvary, shall He stain all His raiment with the blood of His foes on the field of Armageddon. As certainly as He hath drained the cup of wrath, and received the baptism of suffering, on Calvary, shall He wield the iron rod of justice, and sway the golden scepter of mercy, on the field of Armageddon. Already the sword is drawn, and the decisive blow is struck, and the helmet of Apollyon is cleft, and the bonds of iniquity are cut asunder. Already the fire is kindled, and all the powers of Hell cannot quench it. It has fallen from Heaven; it is consuming the camp of the foe; it is inflaming the hearts of men; it is renovating the earth, and purging away the curse. “The bright and Morning Star” has risen on Calvary; and soon “the Sun of Righteousness” shall shine on the field of Armageddon; and the darkness that covers the earth, and the gross darkness that covers the people, shall melt away; and Mohammedism, and Paganism, and Popery, with their prince, the devil, shall seek shelter in the bottomless pit!
After a battle, we are anxious to learn who is dead, who is wounded, and who is missing from the ranks. In the engagement of Messiah with Satan and his allies on Calvary, Messiah’s heel was bruised, but Satan and his allies received a mortal wound in the head. The head denotes wisdom, cunning, power, government. The devil, sin, and death have lost their dominion over the believer in Christ, since the achievement of Calvary. There is no condemnation, no fear of Hell. But the serpent, though his head is bruised, may be able to move his tail, and alarm those of little faith. Yet it cannot last long. The wound is mortal, and the triumph sure. On Calvary the dragon’s head was crushed by the Captain of our salvation; after the battle of Armageddon, his tail shall shake no more!
There is no discharge in this war. He that enlisteth under the banner of the cross must endure faithful until death—must not lay aside his arms till death is swallowed up in victory. Then shall every conqueror bear the image of the heavenly, and wear the crown instead of the cross, and carry the palm instead of the spear. Let us be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, that we may be able to stand in the evil day; and after all the war is over, to stand accepted in the Beloved, that we may reign with Him forever and ever.
II. It remains for us to explain, very briefly, the glorious colloquy in the text—the interrogatives of the church, and the answers of Messiah.
How great was the wonder and joy of Mary, when she met the Master at the tomb, clothed in immortality, where she thought to find Him shrouded in death! How unspeakable was the astonishment and rapture of the disciples, when their Lord, whom they had so recently buried, came into the house where they were assembled, and said, “Peace be unto you!” Such are the feelings which the church is represented as expressing in this sublime colloquy with the Captain of her salvation. He has travelled into the land of tribulation; He has gone down to the dust of death; but lo, He returns a conqueror, the golden scepter of love in His left hand, the iron rod of justice in His right, and on His head a crown of many stars. The church beholds Him with great amazement and delight. She lately followed Him, weeping, to the cross, and mourned over His body in the tomb; but now she beholds Him risen indeed, having destroyed death, and him that had the power of death—that is, the devil. She goes forth to meet Him with songs of rejoicing, as the daughters of Israel went out to welcome David, when he returned from the valley, with the head of the giant in his hand, and the blood running down upon his raiment. The choir of the church is divided into two bands; which chant to each other in alternate strains. The right hand division begins the glorious colloquy—“Who is this that cometh from Edom?” and the left takes up the interrogative, and repeats it with a variation—“with dyed garments from Bozrah?” “This that is glorious in his apparel?” resumes the right-hand company—“glorious notwithstanding the tribulations He hath endured?” “Travelling in the greatness of His strength?” responds the left—“strength sufficient to unbar the gates of the grave, and liberate the captives of corruption?” The celestial Conqueror pauses, and casts upon the company of the daughters of Zion a look of infinite benignity; and with a voice of angel melody, and more than angel majesty, He replies—“I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save!” Now bursts the song again, like the sound of many waters, from the right—“Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel?” and the response rolls back in melodized thunder from the left—“And thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat?” The Divine hero answers—“I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me. Even Peter has left me, with all his courage and affection; and as for John, to talk of love is all that he can do. I have triumphed over principalities and powers. I am wounded, but they are vanquished. Behold the blood which I have lost! Behold the spoils which I have won! Now will I mount my white horse, and pursue after Satan, and demolish his kingdom, and send him back to the land of darkness in everlasting chains, and all his allies shall be exiles with him forever. My own arm, which has gained the victory on Calvary, and brought salvation to all my people from the sepulchre, is still strong enough to wield the golden scepter of love, and break my foes on the field of Armageddon, I will destroy the works of the devil, and demolish all his hosts; I will dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. For the day of vengeance is in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. My compassion is stirred for the captives of sin and death; my fury is kindled against the tyrants that oppress them. It is time for me to open the prisons and break off the fetters. I must gather my people to myself. I must seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away. I must bind up that which was broken, and strengthen that which was weak; but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment; I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury, and bring down their strength to the earth, and stain all my raiment with their blood!”
Let us flee from the wrath to come! Behold, the sun is risen high on the day of vengeance! Let us not be found among the enemies of Messiah, lest we fall a sacrifice to His righteous indignation on the field of Armageddon! Let us escape for our lives, for the firestorm of His anger will burn to the lowest Hell! Let us pray for grace to lay hold on the salvation of His redeemed! It is a free, full, perfect, glorious, and eternal salvation. Return, we ransomed exiles from happiness, return to your forfeited inheritance! Now is the year of jubilee. Come to Jesus, that your debts may be cancelled, your sins forgiven, and your persons justified! Come, for the Conqueror of your foes is on the throne! Come, for the trumpets of mercy are sounding! Come, for all things are now ready!
From BaptistHistoryHomepage.com, Jim Duvall, editor.