Jesus Christ the Lord is terrible and tender. When I say terrible, I don’t mean it in the narrower sense we might hear of today: “that movie was rotten because of the terrible acting!” I mean in the sense we see in the NAS version of Malachi 4:5, “the great and terrible (terror-inspiring) day of the Lord.” When I say tender, I’m thinking of the caring hands of a gracious shepherd, tending to a frail lamb.
There is an incredible tension between the terror-inspiring and tenderness of our Savior that is wonderfully displayed in an often quoted conversation between the Pevensie children and the Beavers (from C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe“) where Mr. Beaver says of Aslan the lion: “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe! But he’s good, I tell you!“
Revelation reveals to us a Christ who is not safe for those who would ignore or fall away from him in preference of sin. This Jesus in John’s vision has a sword coming out of his mouth, signifying the omnipotent and destructive power of his words. Jesus merely speaks and entire nations might unravel into chaos and carnage might ensue as judgment for unbelief. Our world is full of fools who take his sword lightly, and for believers it is only because of his mercy that we tremble and fear.
A “safe” Christ whom we do not fear is a Christ of our own making. We serve a Savior who is both dreadful in omnipotence and sweet in tenderness towards those who fear and love him.