It seems to have been my strange lot lately, to be confronted with troubling insights into scriptures, especially passages that, to all appearance, are a contradiction either to themselves or to long-held religious ideals. One of them, Revelation 19:11-13:

11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God (Revelation 19:11-13).

Does it not sound contradictory to speak of righteousness together with war? Should or do the righteous go to war? In my traditional theology, “righteousness” does not agree with “war.” It seems to me more agreeable to speak of “Making peace in righteousness” than “Making war in righteousness.” Can anything be righteous about war? Can anyone “in righteousness …make war”?

Many things simply do not rhyme in the passage. Apart from righteousness which does not go with war, whiteness does not agree with blood. How can we speak of a rider on a white horse “clothed with a [whitevesture dipped in blood” (v.14)? Next, how can anyone with flaming eyes be said to be righteous, let alone be described by so superlative a name as Faithful and True? How can such a gory warrior in bloody garments be called “The Word of God”? How can he be called by such a noble name so apparently loudly contradicted by his bloody acts and costumes?

On his head were many crowns”; many crowns from where? From fighting wars? And such a person was found in “heaven opened”? Does such a bloody fighter deserve to have an open heaven? Can heaven ever be opened to a person such as this? Can heaven be a place of such war and bloodiness? Or, is it possible that there is something more about Kingdom life and righteousness that I do not yet understand?

A few weeks back, Revelation 12:7 had similarly hit me with such compelling paradox and freshness that my mind had been bombarded with many questions. “And there was war in heaven,” the passage said. “War in heaven?” I had asked. “Does the loving, holy God fight?” I used to think that holy people had no troubles, and that the battles of life were the consequence of the sins of men.  So, what sin did God commit that “war broke out in heaven” (NKJV)? Do they go to war in heaven? Does God fight? If He is a fighter, shouldn’t I also be a fighter?

In that same passage, the Bible records, “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels” (v.7). Again, I ask, How could such commotion of war take place in the Paradise of God which is supposed to be the very home of peace? Or, once more, is there something more about God that I do not yet know? Have I misunderstood, or not fully grasped, the meanings of righteousness and holiness? Is it possible that I do not yet understand what making peace really means?

14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God (Revelation 19:14-15).

Are there armies in heaven? Airforce, navy, marines? For what? Should a people clothed in white soil their garments with blood? How can one whose name is Righteousness ever “smite” anyone, let alone “smite … nations”? Should a righteous person rule with a rod, let alone a “rod of iron”? Does it not sound finer to the ears to match the righteous with a shepherd’s staff than with a “rod of iron”? Or, could it be that there is something about God and peacemaking that I do not yet understand? If God is a fighter, can I be more righteous than the Righteous God by refraining from the blood of war?

It would appear to me that anyone who claims to be so ‘righteous’ as to ignore their enemy will become a quick and foolish casualty. The enemy you spare may never spare you. Not only is life war, the call to righteousness is itself invariably a declaration of war against unrighteousness. To choose to be righteous in an unrighteous world is a declaration of war. Whoever does not wish to fight that war implicitly chooses to be compromised and victimised.

The Righteous One of whom our passage speaks was crowned with “many crowns” (v.12). What is a crown? It is a symbol of territorial authority; a sign that the wearer has power over a people, over a territory. Such authority does not usually come from negotiations. Very rarely does it come from inheritance. Often, it comes from winning wars.

In any war, there will be casualties. Any soldier who is so ‘careful’ as not to stain his garments with blood is in the wrong place. If the very One called “The Word of God” may have His attire soaked with the blood of His victims, then perhaps, there is something more about Kingdom life and the enforcement of righteousness that someone is yet to learn. Some peace will never come unless through war. Peacekeeping, very often means war; and righteousness does not mean docility or pacifism; it is the declaration of a bloody war. In any war, it is better to take out your enemy before they take you out.  The enemy you ignore might never spare you. Relocate them or they will relocate you. The righteousness that disarms may be of dubious origin. In fact, the Bible in Ephesians 6:14 even speaks of righteousness as an armour.

Should the righteous make war? Yes, otherwise they could get swallowed up in the same war they avoid, by the same ones they have allowed in ‘peace.’ The enemy you spare may never spare you. If in ‘righteousness’ you do not dislocate them before they get you, you might never even be there anymore to practise that righteousness.

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Matthew 11:12).

From The Preacher’s diary,
June 25, 2010. 

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x