Last Days People

The church is the battlefield where the final war is waged between the Lamb and the “Ancient Serpent,” Satan. 

Beach Twilight - Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash
In the book of 
Revelation, the Risen Jesus addresses the real-life trials and tribulations of seven first-century churches. In the process, he presents information and exhortations relevant to all churches throughout the present age. The daily struggles of these marginalized congregations are a microcosm of the ongoing cosmic battle between Jesus, the “Dragon,” and his people - [Beach Twilight - Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash].

Everyone who heeds the book’s message is pronounced “blessed,” especially since the “season is at hand.” This clause alludes to the passage in Daniel when the prophet was commanded: “to seal the scroll until the season of the end.”

In contrast to Daniel, John is commanded NOT to seal the book since “the season is at hand.” What for Daniel was in a remote future has become all too real for the “churches” of Asia – (Daniel 12:4, Revelation 1:3, 22:10).

THE LAST DAYS

All this reflects the consistent New Testament teaching that history’s final era, the “last days,” began with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Satan, sin, and death were defeated decisively on Calvary.

And following his resurrection, he was exalted to reign “at the right hand of God,” and he then poured out the Holy Spirit to empower his church to proclaim his sovereignty throughout the earth. The bestowal of the Spirit was and is the irrefutable evidence that the “last days” are underway – (Acts 2:17-21, Hebrews 1:1-3).

In Revelation, the followers of Jesus are labeled “saints,” the “servants of God,” the “seed of the woman,” the “kingdom of priests,” “brethren,” and the people who “have the testimony of Jesus,” “keep the faith of Jesus,” and have “washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.”

What determines membership in this company is identification with the “slain Lamb” - one’s allegiance to and emulation of him.

The book is addressed to the “servants of God” who are identified as members of the “seven churches of Asia.” They have been “loosed from their sins” by the blood of Jesus, and they now constitute a “kingdom of priests.” The latter phrase is used in Exodus when Yahweh summoned Israel to the same mission. However, she failed, so it has now fallen to the churches of the “Lamb” to implement it - (Exodus 19:4-6).

When the “nationality” of God’s saints is revealed, they are identified as the men who have been redeemed by Christ’s lifeblood from “every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation- (Revelation 5:8-10, 7:9-17).

DRAGON AND BEAST

Christ’s Great Adversary is the “Great Red Dragon,” that “Ancient Serpent” who is called the “Devil and Satan,” the one who is “deceiving the inhabitants of the earth.”

Having failed to destroy the “son,” he is expelled from the heavenly courtroom, and now, through his earthly vassals, he “wages war” against Jesus by persecuting his people on the earth - (Revelation 12:8-17, 13:7).

Thus, the Devil’s war against the “woman’s seed” plays out on the earth as the “beast” is granted authority to “make war against the saints,” a war that began with the Devil’s expulsion from heaven following Christ’s death and resurrection.

In Revelation, martyrdom is not unexpected, but neither does it mean defeat. Satanic forces can only attack the “saints” when authorized to do so since the “Lamb” who “sits on the throne” remains in firm control of history.

And the “saints” are those “that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Especially in times of tribulation and persecution. It is their identification with the “slain Lamb” that enrages the “Dragon” and caused him to pursue them - (Revelation 12:17, 13:6-10, 14:12).

In the end, the “beast” and the “kings of the earth” unite to wage a final “war” against the “Lamb.” In describing this battle, John uses language from Ezekiel’s vision of “Gog and Magog.”

However, in Revelation, rather than the regional enemies of Ancient Israel, the attacking force consists of the nations from the “four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog…and they ascended over the breadth of the earth and encompassed the camp of the saints.” This describes the final worldwide assault against the church, Satan’s last-ditch effort to annihilate the “saints” – (Revelation 16:2-16, 17:14, 19:11-21, 20:7-10).

These cosmic battles portrayed so graphically manifest in the daily struggles of the churches. The evidence for this is found in the letters to the “seven churches of Asia.”

For example, the church at Pergamos lives in the shadow of “Satan’s throne.” The saints in Smyrna are under assault from members of the “synagogue of Satan.” Though local magistrates throw some members “into prison,” Jesus lays the blame for this squarely on Satan (“The devil is about to cast some of you into prison”).

Members of the church in Thyatira are being deceived by “Jezebel,” a surrogate and agent for the “Great Harlot, Babylon” who is teaching the “deep things of Satan.”

In Asia, the churches are battling with “false apostles,” compromise, apathy, the “Nicolaitans,” the adherents of the “teachings of Balaam,” persecution, and so on, all attempts by the “Dragon” to deceive and derail believers.

Satan’s war is with the “Lamb.” However, he cannot attack Jesus directly, so he seeks to destroy his people through his surrogates on the earth.

SUFFERING FOR THE KING

None of this means the book’s visions amount to allegories intended to teach Christians timeless truths. The temptations, sufferings, and persecutions endured by the “churches of Asia” are all too real, just as has been the case with Christians throughout the present age.

The attacks by Satan are deadly serious, they have eternal consequences. And the war between the “Ancient Serpent” and the “Lamb” does consummate with the final assault against God’s people and the final judgment of the wicked.

Hourglass Beach - Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash
[Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash]

But when we focus only or primarily on the end of the book, we lose sight of its relevance for every Christian throughout the existence of the church to this very day.

Nor does Revelation picture believers as mere pawns stuck between two great warring powers. It is the “Lamb” who redeemed them “by his blood,” and he will vindicate them in the end. Already they have been “loosed from their sins”; already they are a “kingdom of priests” and are “reigning with him on the earth.” Our final victory over sin, Satan, and death is a foregone conclusion.

In the interim, Jesus summons us to “overcome,” and thereby qualify to reign with him and partake of the glories of “New Jerusalem.” And we do this through “perseverance,” faithful “testimony,” by rejecting the lies of the Devil, understanding the true nature of our struggle, and emulating the self-sacrificial and priestly service of the “slain Lamb.”

As Revelation puts it, the “brethren overcame the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they loved not their lives unto death.”

And by recognizing just “who” and “when” we are, we learn how we must live in the present, “in these last days.”

Already, the present age and its institutions are “passing away.” They will not endure forever, and we must live accordingly. Both individually and corporately, we are a people “caught between the ages,” still living in the old fallen age, but at the same time, citizens of the “New Jerusalem” that even now is “descending from heaven.”



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