Military Campaigns of the Beast

The language of “war” is used metaphorically to portray the attacks of the “beast” against the saints – Revelation 11:7

Map Plan - Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
 uses the language of “war” 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 to annihilate the church before his allotted time expires by employing deception, compromise, and persecution against the “saints.” - [Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash].

References to “war” employ the Greek verb polemeō and its noun form polemos. Both terms describe the cosmic battle in chapter 12 when “war (polemos) arose in heaven” between the “Dragon and his angels” and “Michael and his angels.” Having been expelled from heaven, Satan now wages brutal combat against those who have the “testimony of Jesus.” The “battles” are waged between Satan and the “Lamb” through their respective earthly followers – (Revelation 12:1-17).

In the interim between his first and second comings, the cosmic battles between Jesus and the “Dragon” manifest in the daily lives of Christians as they battle false teachings and deceivers within the church, and often suffer persecution for their faith. But the day is coming when the Devil will assemble all his forces in one last-ditch effort to destroy the people of God.
  • (Revelation 11:7) – “And as soon as they have completed their testimony, the beast that is to ascend out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them, and slay them.
The “beast” first appears as he “ascends from the Abyss” to destroy the “two witnesses.” The Greek verb rendered “overcome” or nikaō means “conquer; to overcome,” and is the same verb found in the letters to the seven churches in the exhortations for believers “to overcome.” The ascent of the “beast” 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 “two witnesses” are not two individuals. They are identified as the “two lampstands,” and in Revelation, “lamp-stands” represent churches. The “war” against them represents the persecution of the church. Although the “beast overcomes” and kills them, it proves to be a hollow victory, one quickly overturned by the intervention of God when the seventh trumpet sounds - (Revelation 1:20, 11:15-19).

In chapter 12, Satan was defeated and cast out of heaven.  Enraged, he descended 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 as in chapter 11, though from different perspectives. As before, the forces of Satan wage “war” on the followers of the “Lamb” (“who have the testimony of Jesus”), not against other nation-states - (Revelation 12:12-17).

Next, John saw the “beast ascending from the sea,” an image parallel to the “beast that ascended from the Abyss.” The same events are in view. Rather than resist the “beast,” the “inhabitants of the earth” are overawed by its irresistible power and exclaim, “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 “military campaign” against the “saints.” Moreover, it “overcomes (nikésai) them,” that is, it slays 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 language for the “war” against the “two witnesses” and the “woman’s seed” is now employed in chapter 13. Once again, the same reality is in view. All three passages allude to a key passage from the book of Daniel:
  • (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” attacks “the saints.” Elsewhere, the term “saints” refers to the men and women who follow the “Lamb wherever he goes,” to those who do not render homage to the “beast” or take its “mark,” and to those who have the “testimony of Jesus” - (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 1:92:2-32:193:1014:12).
Thus, the battle scenes in Revelation are not literal descriptions of wars between nation-states, but assaults by Satan and his minions against the people of the “Lamb.” The cosmic battles in the heavens manifest in the daily lives of Christians, in their daily struggles against false teachers, false prophets, deception, and persecution.

From its inception, persecution and deceivers have been common realities in the life of the church. Revelation exposes the true source of Christian suffering and provides insight into the opposition experienced daily by the “saints.”

The book does foresee the final assault by Satan against the Church prior to the return of Jesus, a “battle” it portrays in several ways with language from the Old Testament. This final assault by the “Dragon” will cause the “Lamb” to intervene and destroy his enemies, and to deliver his people into the coming New Creation.


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