The Beast goes to War

The Book of Revelation uses “war” and related terms to illustrate Satan’s attacks against the followers of the “Lamb.” The Book shows little to no interest in conventional or nuclear warfare between nation-states. Instead, the “Dragon” strives mightily to annihilate the saints before his allotted time expires. To do so, he employs deception, compromise, and on occasion, outright persecution. The target of his hostility is the Church of Jesus Christ.

References to a coming “war,” SINGULAR, employ the Greek verb polemeō and its noun form, polemos. Both are applied to the cosmic battle described in Chapter 12 when “WAR (polemos) arose in heaven” between the “Dragon and his angels” and “Michael and his angels.”

Beast - Photo by LINLI XU on Unsplash
[Photo by LINLI XU on Unsplash]

Expelled from heaven, Satan begins his brutal campaign against those who have the “
Testimony of Jesus,” not the nations of the Earth. This “battle” is fought between Satan and the “Lamb” through their respective earthly followers – (Revelation 12:1-17).

This war manifests in the daily lives of believers as they struggle against deceivers who are active in the church. “False apostles,” “Nicolaitans,” the proponents of the “teachings of Balaam,” and the “prophetess Jezebel” who promotes the “deep things of Satan.”

In addition, the “saints” often endure persecution from outsiders, and the time is coming when the Devil will assemble all his forces in a last-ditch effort to destroy the people of God. The struggles of the Seven Assemblies of Asia provide a microcosmic picture of the larger war being waged wherever and whenever the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, a conflict that will culminate in a final global “war” against the saints at the end of the present age.

Satan has been targeting the Church for destruction since it was founded. Jesus himself warned his disciples of this very thing. The Devil will send “false prophets” and “false messiahs” who employ “great signs and wonders,” not to deceive an already deceived world, but “to deceive, if possible, the ELECT.”

THE BEAST


The “Beast” first appears in Chapter 11 of Revelation as he “ascends from the Abyss” to “overcome” and kill the “Two Witnesses.” Its ascent results in “victory” over the “Two Witnesses.” However, it will not be unleashed to kill them until they have “completed” their prophetic “testimony” - (Revelation 11:7).

The “Witnesses” are not two individuals but “Two Lampstands,” and in Revelation, “lampstands” symbolize churches, “assemblies” of God. The “war” against the “Two Witnesses” is a graphic representation of the persecution of the Church by the “Beast.”

Although the “Beast from the Abyss” kills the “Two Witnesses,” it will be a short term and hollow victory as it is quickly overturned by the intervention of God when the Seventh Trumpet sounds - (Revelation 1:20, 11:15-19).

In Chapter 12, Satan is defeated and cast out of heaven.  Enraged, he descends to the Earth to “make war” with the “seed of the woman,” namely, “those who are keeping the commandments of God and have the TESTIMONY OF JESUS.” This group represents the followers of the “Lamb.”

The same reality is in view as in Chapter 11, though from a different perspective. As before, the forces of Satan wage “war” on the “saints,” not against other nations or the “Inhabitants of the Earth.” Chapter 12 ends with Satan standing on the seashore where he summons his own “seed” to execute his war on the “saints,” beginning with the “Beast from the Sea” - (Revelation 12:17).

In Chapter 13, John sees Satan’s first “Beast ascending from the Sea,” an image parallel to that of the “Beast ascending from the Abyss.” Once again, the same “war” – singular - is in view (In the Greek text, it is “THE war”). Rather than resist the “Beast,” the “Inhabitants of the Earth” are awed by its irresistible power, “Who is like the Beast and who can make war with it?”

No resistance or revolt is raised against this creature by any of the nations of the Earth. The “Inhabitants of the Earth” are the worshipful subjects of the “Beast,” not its mortal enemies - (Revelation 13:1-4).

After receiving the authority of the “Dragon,” the “Beast” launches its campaign against the “saints,” and it “overcomes (nikésai) them,” meaning, they are killed. However, the “Beast” can only do so when and within the limits authorized by the “Lamb” – (“It was given to the Beast” - Revelation 13:7).

The same term for “war” found in Chapters 11 and 12, and once more in the singular number, is employed in Chapter 13 when the “Beast wages WAR on the saints.” All three passages allude to the same verse in the Book of Daniel that describes the attack on the saints by the “Little Horn.” This is a verbal link between the visions of these three chapters:

  • (Daniel 7:21) - “I continued looking when THIS HORN MADE WAR WITH THE HOLY ONES AND PREVAILED AGAINST THEM: until that the Ancient of Days came, and justice was granted to the holy ones of the Highest, and the time arrived that the holy ones should possess the kingdom.

Just as the “Beast from the Abyss” attacked the “Two Witnesses,” so the “Beast from the Sea” wages “war” against “the saints.”

Elsewhere in the Book, the term “saints” refers to men who follow the “Lamb wherever he goes.” In Chapter 14, they are identified as those men “who have the faith of Jesus.”

They are recognizable NOT by their nationality, ethnicity, or geographic location, but by their attachment to Jesus, their perseverance, and their “testimony” for him - (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4, 11:18, 13:7-10, 14:12, 16:6, 17:6, 18:20-24, 19:8, 20:6-9).

This “war” results in the “captivity” and death of the “saints” (“If anyone is for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he is slain”), and it is also called the “perseverance and the faith of the saints” - (Compare - Revelation 1:9, 2:2-3, 2:19, 3:10, 14:12).

SUMMARY


The battle scenes in Revelation are not literal descriptions of military conflicts between nation-states but of assaults by Satan and his servants against the people of the “Lamb.” The cosmic battles in the heavens manifest in the daily lives of disciples as they struggle with false teachers, false prophets, deception, and persecution.

The “Dragon” is engaged heavily in an existential battle with the Church. Either he or the people of the “Lamb” will be destroyed. There can be no compromise, no negotiations.

From its inception, persecution and deceivers have been common in the Church. The visions of Revelation expose the true source of persecution and deceivers and provide insights into the opposition and tribulations experienced daily by the followers of Jesus.

The Book does foresee a final assault by Satan against the Church prior to the Day of Judgment. The Devil’s final assault will cause the “Lamb” to intervene directly by destroying his enemies and delivering his people into the coming New Creation, the city of “New Jerusalem.”

In Revelation, the “Ancient Serpent” targets the people of Jesus and does everything in his power to destroy them, whether persecution, deception, compromise, apathy, essentially, whatever works. His war is against the sacrificial “Lamb,” and he wages it by attacking his Church - Those who have the “Faith and the Testimony of Jesus.”


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