by Karen Wesolowski
Coming off of the Christmas season, as we are, a dominant image floating around Christendom’s brain may be of the baby Jesus. It is an immensely touching – really unimaginable, if it were not so familiar to us – picture of the immortal, eternal, omnipotent God as a human baby utterly dependent on the good graces of a simple girl and her new husband. A more vivid image of humility and meekness is not conceivable.
As Christmas recedes, the “picture in our heads” of Jesus might more often be of a tall, handsome, smiling man reaching out to heal, teaching beautiful truths, and astonishing and/or frightening his followers with miracles of walking on water and multiplying bread. It is a God tremendously accessible and approachable.
A third prominent image, one often depicted even in private homes, is of the dying Christ. He is hanging from a cross, and agony is etched deeply on his face. The evils and the sorrows of all of mankind are joined in the painful image.
Each of these images is “true” and capture something of the infinite essence of the Lord God. But our imaginings are far too small if they do not include, maybe even at the forefront, the picture of Christ given in the last book of the Bible. The first three descriptions represent Jesus at a particular point in time. Revelation 19:11-16 describes Jesus as He is today and as He will be seen by all of mankind. It is not for the faint of heart.
The Lord gave us his Word so that we would know Him to the extent our human capacity permits. Go ahead and let these words come alive. Feel the force of them.
John sees heaven standing open and simultaneously he sees one whom he names as Faithful and True. It is Jesus himself sitting astride a white horse; his eyes blazing like fire. Crowns (plural) top his head, and a sharp sword emerges from his mouth. His robe has been dipped in blood—perhaps the blood is still dripping—and on his thigh, a tattoo is visible: “KING OF KING AND LORD OF LORDS.” He has a mission: “He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” (v. 15).
Whatever other images of Jesus we hold, this image must be included: Jesus, the all-powerful, warrior Messiah coming with the wrath of God. Pure holy love demands an answer to all of the assaults against it, and Jesus has arrived to execute on that demand.
This vision of Jesus may seem fantastical and improbable. After all, two millennia have passed since He promised to return. “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4). So say the scoffers. So say some of his own people.
Scripture tells us that it is not slowness or indifference that stays his coming. Instead his own character, his near infinite mercy, holds Him back. And so He holds back as young girls are being trafficked for sex. He holds back as young and old are beaten for the color of their skin. He holds back as widows are deprived of their life savings; as aging wives are abandoned by their husbands; as the faithful are imprisoned and tortured; as whole people groups are herded off to be executed. He holds back though mankind, each one of them, engages routinely in gossiping, lying, mocking, belittling, flattering, stealing, undermining, betraying. He holds back because He longs that no one would perish, and that everyone would to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).
But the time of mercy and grace will end. On an ordinary day, while humankind is doing ordinary things, the warrior Lord and King will arrive to execute judgment. And as every enemy, every evil arrayed against them, is vanquished, all those who love Him will call him Faithful and True. This is the image we should carry in our hearts and minds until faith becomes sight.