“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
–Revelation 19:11-16 (ESV)
You know that Johnny Cash song “When the Man Comes Around”? I love how that song captures the majesty, the spine-crackling scariness, of Jesus Christ. In numerous places, the Scripture pictures God and His Son in these terms. In soft, wishy-washy, felt-needs evangelicalism, where worship songs are really all about us, and sermons revolve around what we want, and God seems small in our everyday lives, this kind of passage is especially strange. Jesus going to war is not the image we regularly lift up on Sunday morning.
In a way, that’s understandable. We tremble for those outside of Christ. We pray for them to escape this vengeful Son. In another way, however, it’s not. The Son of God as pictured in the Bible is not tame and weak and boring. He’s awesome. In his second coming, He is the scariest hero literature has ever known. No science fiction ruler or fantasy king comes close.
Revelation is a tough book to understand, but it also includes some really important passages on Christ that, regardless of our view of the millenium, need to factor heavily into our daily worship and our devotional lives. Speaking as a young, wannabe pastor-theologian, while we definitely need to try hard to study and understand Revelation (as with all of Scripture), we can fall into the trap of viewing the book as only a kind of theological puzzle to decipher. I’m afraid that this happens to many Christians. Those who don’t love untangling dense theological knots might stay away from this dramatic text as a result. If and when this is the case, our exegetes and theologians have done us a disservice. On a literary, theological, and spiritual level, Revelation is engrossing and deeply rewarding, if we read it with patience and an openness to all of its beauty, not just its apocalyptic code.
If we only to study it along one line, we will miss many things, including Christ the warrior-king, who infuses our worship with smoke and flame.
(Image: White Men Can’t Blog)