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 no interest in conventional or nuclear warfare between nation-states. Instead, the “Dragon” strives mightily to annihilate the church before his allotted time expires, and to do so, he employs deception, compromise, and outright persecution.

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

Expelled from heaven, Satan began to wage brutal combat against those who have the “testimony of Jesus.” The “battles” were fought between Satan and the “Lamb” through their respective earthly followers – (Revelation 12:1-17).

This war between Jesus and the “Dragon” manifests in the daily lives of believers as they struggle against deceivers within the church, and additionally, they often endure persecution. Moreover, the day is coming when the Devil will assemble all his forces in one last-ditch effort to destroy the people of God.

THE BEAST FROM THE ABYSS


The “beast” first appears in chapter 11 as he “ascends from the Abyss” to destroy the “Two Witnesses.” The Greek verb rendered “overcome” or nikaō in the passage means to “conquer, overcome.” It is the same verb found in the letters to the seven churches in the several exhortations summoning believers “to overcome” - (Revelation 11:7).

The Beast’s ascent results in its “victory” over the “Two Witnesses.” However, it will not be unleashed to kill them until they have “completed” their prophetic “testimony.”

The “Witnesses” are not two individuals, but “two lampstands,” and in Revelation, “lampstands” symbolize churches. The “war” against them represents the persecution of the church by the “Beast.”

Although the Beast “overcomes” and kills the “Witnesses,” it will be a hollow victory, one that is quickly overturned by the intervention of God when the seventh trumpet sounds - (Revelation 1:20, 11:15-19).

THE DRAGON


In chapter 12, Satan is defeated and cast out of heaven.  Enraged, he descends to the earth to “make war” with “those who are keeping the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.”

The same reality is in view that is portrayed in chapter 11, but from a different perspective.

As before, the forces of Satan wage “war” on the followers of the “Lamb,” namely, “those who have the testimony of Jesus”), and not against other nation-states - (Revelation 12:12-17).

BEAST FROM THE SEA


Next, in chapter 13, John sees the “Beast ascending from the Sea,” an image parallel to that of the “Beast ascending from the Abyss.” Once again, the same events are in view.

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 it by the nations of the earth - (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, it kills the “saints.” However, it 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” in the singular number found in chapters 11 and 12 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”:

  • (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” makes war on “the saints.” Elsewhere, the term “saints” refers to men who follow the “Lamb wherever he goes” - (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.” The violent assault is described as 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 assaults by Satan and his servants against the people of the “Lamb.”

The cosmic battles in the heavens manifest in the daily lives of Christians as they struggle with false teachers, false prophets, deception, and persecution.

From its inception, persecution and deceivers have been common in the life of the church. The visions of Revelation expose the true source of persecution and provide insight into the opposition experienced in the daily lives of the “saints.”

The book does foresee a final assault by Satan against the church prior to the final judgment, a “war” it portrays in several ways with language from the book of Daniel. That 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.”


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