Shakshuka and the Last Battle
No Masterchefs are won by hacking at vegetables with a hunting knife, but at least this made for a filling and tasty weekend brunch when mopped up with some hot crusty multigrain bread. The base shakshuka recipe was from Yotam Ottolenghi‘s Plenty but with ingredients slightly modified:
cumin seeds + za’atar
2 large onions
2 red peppers, 1 orange pepper, 1 yellow pepper
6 sprigs of thyme haphazardly thrown in
5 ripe tomatoes
Tellicherry pepper + sea salt
The sermon this Sunday brought up a side of Jesus I’d known about, but never seriously considered:
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. 12 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. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 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 wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-21)
The Book of Revelation can be slotted in the literary genre of visions – most of the picture language in Revelation is meant by its writer, John, to be symbolic. So while it cannot be used to justify end-of-the-world theories about the mega-disasters of the day, nor to back-up fear-mongering about the latest scary modern technology, the imagery helps us “feel” its message.
Most pictorial representations of Jesus have him as a little blonde child asleep in a clean straw-stuffed trough, or as a shiny white lamb, or as a thin-faced bearded Caucasian chap with shoulder-length hair wearing a white nightie. Basically, we think of him as a mild man, probably soft-spoken, and, like Santa Claus, kind to children.
But the reality (as prophesised in the Old Testament, as observed by the Gospel writers, and as seen by John in Revelation) is far from it. In Revelation 19:11-21, the scene is of the somewhat climatic last battle between Satan and Christ.
The rider of the white horse (aka “Faithful and True”) can be identified as Jesus, who has been called the “true witness” (Revelation 1:5), the “true one” (Revelation 3:7) and a “faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14).
He is shown here as a fearsome warrior and ultimate ruler – his many diadems (crowns) signify royalty (Revelation 19:12); he is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). He is also the Son of Man (prophesised in Daniel 7), with eyes like a flame of fire and a sharp sword coming from his mouth (Revelation 1:14, 1:16). And he is also named the “Word of God” because he is the only one who has ever seen God and therefore the only one who can give any proper revelation of the Father (John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 1:1-2),
He is the LORD and the Son prophesised by David in Psalm 2 – who will break the nations with a rod of iron and dash them to pieces like pottery (Revelation 19:15, Psalm 2:9). He will judge those who do not worship God and, as one treads grapes to make wine, so he will trample on these enemies until his robe is stained with their blood (Revelation 19:13, 15; not a new imagery – see Isaiah 63 on the day of the Lord’s vengence).
Even more terrifying, even though their defeat is certain, the kings, captains, mighty men, and all men, both free and slave, both small and great still refuse to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and continue to serve the beast and wage war against Jesus. The forces of evil cannot withstand Christ’s power and are easily defeated. Their corpses serve as the main course for birds who are invited to gorge themselves on their flesh (an OT covenant curse in Deuteronomy 28:26 and was God’s prophetic word against Gog and Magog, who oppressed his people in Ezekiel 39:17–20).
Hardly Jesus meek and mild. This puts to shame people who claim that the Old Testament Yahweh was full of violence and wrath, whereas the God of the New Testament is all about love. And it is actually right and just that Jesus acts in this way, right that the Creator destroys the parts of his creation that refuse his kingship and set themselves up as kings instead.
This is not a call to new-age crusades or Christian jihad – it’s pretty clear that it is Jesus who judges in this ultimate way not his followers; rather, it is an urgent call to be on Jesus’ side so as to survive this destruction.