This is War!

© Dusan Kostic – Fotolia.com

WE ARE INVOLVED IN A WAR
We have a sermon series at present on the book of Revelation.  There is much in this book about spiritual warfare.  Spiritual warfare is a very important topic.  We are involved in a war.  But what does this war entail and how do we fight it?

Right from the start of the book we are told that we are partners in “tribulation”
().  Tribulation is another word for suffering.  Christians will suffer in this world.  Like John we will be persecuted for our witness to Jesus.  Thus the churches of Smyrna, Pergamum and Philadelphia all experienced persecution.  Christians are killed because of the word of God and their witness to Jesus
().  So right from the start it is clear that as we hold on to the truth and proclaim it, we will suffer.

Of course we can avoid the fight.  Churches like Sardis and Laodicea don’t seem to suffer.  In fact at Laodicea they are wealthy and comfortable.  They have shielded themselves from suffering and persecution by their wealth.  But because they are lazy and apathetic, indifferent to the fight, they are about to be spat out of Jesus’ mouth ().  Avoiding the fight by refusing to live for Jesus, to witness to him, to suffer for him, will end up meaning that we are on the opposing side.

THE VICTORY HAS ALREADY BEEN WON
In each of the seven letters the call at the end is for us to overcome, to conquer.  But the good news in the war is that the victory has already been won!  Jesus has conquered ().  He was faithful to the end, even to death on the cross.  And by his death he shows that he loves us and has freed us from our sins
().  The victory has already been won, and it is in the past – at the cross.

And yet the devil still fights us.  Though he has been defeated by Jesus he goes on to make war on the church (f). The devil attacks the church by physical persecution ().  But he also attacks the church by the more subtle attack of false teaching, which distorts the truth and takes Jesus’ servants away from him.  The churches of Pergamum and Thyatira were particularly struggling with this attack.  So there is the external attack of physical persecution (from outside of the church), and the internal attack of false teaching (from within the church).

FIGHT BY PATIENT ENDURANCE & BY TEACHING & KNOWING THE TRUTH
How do we fight these attacks of the devil?  First, Jesus has won.  That is the most important truth in the war.  Second, we fight by trusting in Jesus and bearing testimony to him.  Christians, says “have conquered the devil by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”.  We fight persecution by patient endurance ().  We fight false teaching by knowing and believing the truth.

It doesn’t sound too spectacular does it?  But it is a great fight.  Victory comes by the way of the cross: by patiently enduring suffering, with faith in God, knowing that God will raise us from the dead to be in heaven with him forever
().  In the daily struggle against temptation, against the devil’s lies, against mocking and persecution, we are to keep bearing witness to Jesus and trusting in him.  We mustn’t capitulate by becoming like the world and giving up on bearing witness to Jesus.  Suffering, humiliation, and even death, while holding true to the faith, will mean victory.  Jesus has shown us the way, and he has won the war.

The call to each church is to overcome, to conquer: to trust in Jesus and bear witness to him even to the point of death.  How are you going in the fight?

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,

13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear:

10 If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Revelation 13:10

10 If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

Revelation 14:12

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

2 thoughts on “This is War!”

  1. Hi Martin… thanks for this post. I am looking forward to getting back to church this week after my 2 week holiday and learning more about the book of Revelation!

    Would you mind expanding on what you would describe specifically as persecution? You seem to articulate it predominantly as direct opposition/ridicule for our faith from others or the subtle (and not so subtle) distortions of biblical truth, which it clearly is. How about our daily struggle with sin? How would you categorise that? Clearly it’s a very real struggle in every faithful Christian life. Surely, that too, is involved as part of our “daily war”… a relentless battle that by the grace of God alone we are able to stand up in.

  2. Hi Stu
    Yes, I have had a few questions at church about persecution. I think primarily Revelation has physical persecution in mind. However it is clear that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (), and I think that this does include lesser forms of persecution such as mocking, being ostracised, etc.

    As for our daily battle against sin, I’m pretty sure that is not persecution! However I do think it is part of spiritual warfare. It is a helpful summary that we fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. The second of these, the “flesh”, is what you are referring to. In church history ascetism (being a monk) began after the physical persecution of Christians stopped when the Roman empire became Christian under Constantine (generalised statement here…). Anyway, the point is, if you’re not being physically persecuted, you’ll be tempted (pardon the pun) to focus on the daily battle against sin. Fair enough to an extent. Revelation, I think, doesn’t leave that out, but focuses more on the battle against the world and the devil.

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