A War of Word, Witness and Wine

Peter Leithart has written a remarkable commentary on the book of Revelation. He describes the book of Revelation as being fundamentally about the victory of the Church’s witness in the midst of the world. In describing the war imagery of Revelation 19, he says this:

The logic of the narrative seems to be this: The horns attack the Lamb and his followers; God turns that attack into his victory over the harlot city; and then the Lamb goes on the offensive against the same enemies, the “nations” that he smites (19:15). If chapter 19 is a battle scene, it is not a military operation, or, better, it is the most intensely contested, the most important and decisive form of military operation—a spiritual war, carried on by Word, Witness, Wine. Whatever fulfillment we find, it will not look like the latest news bulletin from Syria or Afghanistan. It will look like a sermon delivered at a table spread with bread and wine. It will look like a humble Christian woman refusing to renounce Jesus even when threatened with beheading. It will be a battle of Har-Magedon, a battle of the mountain of festival assembly.

Leithart, P. J. (2018). Revelation. (M. Allen & S. R. Swain, Eds.) (Vol. 2, p. 287). London; Oxford; New York; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury; Bloomsbury T&T Clark: An Imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

His point: There is a war being waged on the nations in chapter 19, but it is not a typical military operation. Rather, it is a battle fought and won as the word of Jesus is faithfully proclaimed, bread and wine are faithfully eaten, and as God’s people faithfully worship in the midst of the nations. This is the grand strategy of our Lord for the renewal of all things - including our city - a people joyfully committed to faithfully witnessing to the Word about Jesus in the midst of our city, in our homes around tables with wine and food, and gathered together in the midst of our liturgies. In these gloriously mundane things, Jesus rules the nations.

Considering Jesus

I remember my first trip to Colorado. I was 11. I had an old walkman and 1 cassette tape. I had listened to that tape countless times between the northern oil fields of Northwest Texas and the drive over Raton pass outside of Trinidad. And suddenly there were mountains. Real mountains. I don’t remember much about what we did during our two weeks visiting friends in Denver, but I do remember craning my neck to see the tops of the mountains. I remember standing on Mount Evans not being able to breathe. I remember marveling at the size - feeling my smallness and a sense of awe that I’d never felt before.

Perhaps the fundamental downside to raising a family in Colorado is how mundane the mountains can become to your kids. They’ve seen them almost every day of their self-conscious lives. When we drive up to Summit County or down to Ouray, I find myself trying to wrestle my kids’ attention from their books or games to stop and, well, just look! Feel Awe! Its a silly sense of urgency that we’re going to miss the grandeur, the glory, the majesty because we’re stuck on the page or the screen sitting in our laps.

Christianity is remarkably practical. It speaks to marriage, children, work, play and rest. It encompasses all of life and reorders every part of our loves and desires. It really does deal with the “page and the screen in our laps.” But at its absolute center is something that feels as impractical as it gets. We want help navigating the noise and business of life. We want practical steps. We want a life coach. The stuff of life feels so important, and then Christianity calls us to stop, to look elsewhere and to consider, to marvel at, Jesus.

Again and again, without rushing to practical application or how to’s, the Scriptures just seem to stop and invite us to see Him, to marvel at Him. It warns us not to miss the glory, the grandeur, the beauty. It commends us the glory of feeling small and inconsequential again when so much of our life feels disproportionately important.

I felt that invitation again this morning reading through Revelation 19 in preparation to preach this Sunday. Verses 11-16 are meant to communicate some marvelous and frightening truths to us concerning the church’s identity and mission, but I think first they are an invitation to, well, marvel.

To behold, and tremble and feel again how gloriously small we are and how terrifyingly strong and holy and good He is. So put your pages down, turn away from your screen (maybe this screen) and consider again the terror and wonder and beauty of who Jesus actually is:

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