the last battle
The Bible is a single, unified story. It can be easy to forget this since the Bible is made up of 66 books, 1,189 chapters, and 783,137 verses. These divisions, which are helpful reference points, can accidentally trick us into seeing the Bible as a collection of loosely related stories. But it’s not. The Bible is one beautiful, grand story that tells a complete story of redemption and should cause us to feel the weight of God’s sovereignty and glory.
But that begs the question: What type of story is the Bible?
Over 40 years ago, author Frederich Buechner wrote a powerful little book titled Telling the Truth in which he shows how the Gospel story is reflected in the general story types of tragedy, comedy, and fairy tale. Through each of those story’s lenses, Buechner draws attention to powerful truths of the Gospel. In the final chapter, he explores the Gospel as fairy tale. He sees this as a fair comparison because in each fairy tale, there is a very real battle taking place.
“It is a world where goodness is pitted against evil, love against hate, order against chaos…Yet for all its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily ever after…”
It is that happy ending, that guaranteed conclusion of the war that’s been raging for millenniums, which we get a glimpse of in this week’s passage. Revelation 19 describes the last battle—the war of all wars.
The Happy Ending
There’s no suspense as to what the second coming of Christ will result in. To be honest, it’s generous to even refer to this as a battle because of how mismatched the sides are and how guaranteed the outcome is. Jesus will ride in on a white horse, and when He does, who can stand against Him?
“From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh, He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’”
What follows this arrival of Christ in Revelation 19:15–16 is inevitable. The army, the beast, and the false prophet that oppose Him will be struck down or thrown into the lake of fire. Just in looking at Christ, we know He will be victorious in His second coming. When we truly know God, then we will know that evil has no chance against Him.
In this passage, Jesus is described as the faithful, true, and righteous judge who has a flame of fire for eyes, meaning that He knows all things. And then there’s Jesus’ title as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No one in Heaven or on Earth rules over God. He is all-powerful and every nation, king, and person is under His authority. He is the Alpha and Omega who rules the universe. When God declares war, it is the same as Him declaring victory.
There’s no need to put a spoiler alert on this ending. The victory of Jesus over evil in His second coming is good news that we need to share with everyone. This happy ending will draw in those who are lost and give peace to those who are found.
In the Meantime
But we are not at this point in the story yet. One look around at the world confirms that though Jesus is still sovereign, evil has not yet been struck down forever. We’re still at the point where things look pretty grim, and we’re left wondering how a story like this could ever end well.
And that is exactly why knowing the whole story is so important!
We must know the beginning and rising action to appreciate the ending. Only by remembering the fall of man, the exile of Israel, the martyrs of the Church, the suffering of our own time, and so much more can we begin to grasp the meaning and significance of Christ’s victory in Revelation 19.
On the flip side, we must know the ending to appreciate the present. Only by remembering that that good will win in the end can we live faithfully no matter what happens around us right now. When we see wickedness, we can find hope in knowing that evil won’t have the final word. When we see flickers of goodness, we can cherish and appreciate them as signs of what’s to come.
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, also believed that the fairy tale—though often referred to as “fantasy”—is an appropriate way to describe reality. Tolkien believed this because the fairy tale “does not deny the existence of…sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of the deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat…, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.”
We may still be in the midst of the story, but in the meantime, we can have joy because we know that the ultimate happy ending is coming.