War Against the Saints

SYNOPSIS - Language from Daniel’s vision of the “little horn” that waged war against the “saints” is applied in Revelation to the church – Daniel 7:21

White Horse Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash
In the interpretation of the image of the “
little horn,” this malevolent figure made “war on the saints and prevail over them.” That same image is reapplied in the book of Revelation to the “war” of the “Dragon” and his vassals against the “saints,” those who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” Similarly, descriptive language from this same vision was applied by the Apostle Paul to the coming “man of lawlessness.” - [Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash].
  • (Daniel 7:21-22) – “I considered the horns and there came up among them another horn, a little one…it made war with the saints and prevailed against them.”
In the book of Revelation, the “four beasts” that Daniel saw “ascending from the sea become a single “beast ascending from the sea.” Like Daniel’s “fourth beast,” it had “ten horns,” but also “seven heads” and a “mouth speaking great things and blasphemies.”

The single “beast” included the animalistic characters of all four of Daniel’s “beasts” – The leopard, the bear, the lion, and the monstrous “beast with ten horns.” In Revelation, this final incarnation of the age-old “beast” received its power from the “Dragon.”

Rather than make war with any nation-state, the “beast from the sea” was authorized to wage war against the “saints,” just like Daniel’s “little horn”:
  • (Daniel 7:21) - “I considered the horns and there came up among them another horn, a little one…this horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them.”
  • (Revelation 13:7) - “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.”
The single “beast from the sea” was introduced previously in the vision of the “two witnesses” - also described with language from Daniel – except he was seen “ascending from the Abyss” rather than the “sea.” Whether from the “sea” or the “Abyss,” it is always “ascending”:
  • (Revelation 11:7) - “When they have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them.”
Likewise, the “Dragon” and his war against the “seed of the woman” is described with the same language from Daniel:
  • (Revelation 12:17) - “The dragon was enraged with the woman and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, those who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus.”
Whether it is the “Dragon” or the “Beast,” the victims of his war are always the same. The “two witnesses” are identified as the “two lampstands,” and elsewhere, “lampstands” represent churches. The targets of the “Dragon” are men and women who “have the testimony of Jesus.” The “beast from the sea” wages war against the “saints,” a group identified in chapter 14 as “they that keep the commandments of God, and the faithfulness of Jesus” - (Revelation 14:12).

The clause from Daniel is applied once more, but in a rather ironic fashion:
  • (Revelation 17:12-14) - “And the ten horns you saw are ten kings, who have received no kingdom as yet; but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. These have one mind, and they give their power and authority unto the beast. These will war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
This declaration of the victory of the “Lamb” and his faithful followers is portrayed graphically in the vision of the “rider on a white horse,” and the verbal links between the two passages are deliberate.

The “rider on a white horse” was called “Faithful and True; and in righteousness he is judging and waging war.” He was followed by the “armies in heaven upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white, pure.” His robe was “sprinkled with blood” even before he engaged in “combat.” Whose blood was it? The only weapon in his possession was the “sword” flashing from his mouth – The Word of God – (Revelation 19:11-21).

The “rider” was identified as the one who is to “shepherd the nations,” an allusion to the second Psalm applied previously to Jesus, leaving no doubt about the rider’s identity. Similarly, the Risen Jesus promised the “seven churches of Asia” that the one who “overcomes - just as I did - will sit down with me in my throne.” They reign with him, a reality portrayed in the vision of the “rider on a white horse” – (Psalm 2:1-9, Revelation 3:20).

On his thigh a name was written, the “King of kings, and Lord of lords”; thus, he is identical to the “Lamb who will overcome them,” that is, the “beast” and its allies. The final overthrow of the “beast” is detailed in the second half of the vision, using language and imagery from Ezekiel’s ancient prophecy about “Gog and Magog” – (Revelation 19:17-21).
When interpreting the visions of John, the reader must remember that Revelation communicates through visions and symbolism. Insisting on “strictly literal” applications of its images produces inaccurate interpretations, ones that often miss the fundamental points of the book.
Jesus is not a “literal” lamb with “seven horns and seven eyes.” Angels and other heavenly beings do not ride “literal” horses across the sky. Consistently, the language of “war” is applied to the persecution of the saints by the Devil and his agents, not to conventional battles between national armies.

Similarly, in chapter 13, the “beast slanders they who are tabernacling in heaven,” the same group – the “saints” - against which he “wages war.” This is not a description of the physical location of the group – “in heaven” – but a contrast between it and the “inhabitants of the earth” that render homage to the “beast.” Likewise, the “armies in heaven” that ride white horses is the same group of redeemed saints who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” seen standing with the “Lamb” on “Mount Zion.”

The “beast” is seen “ascending” from the “Abyss” and from the “sea” to “make war.” Do these passages describe separate incidents or the same reality from different perspectives?

In Revelation, the reign of Jesus with his saints began with his death and resurrection. He is the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” - the one who “loosed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests unto his God” – present tense.

Calvary - Photo by Sangia on Unsplash
Calvary - Photo by Sangia on Unsplash

Likewise, in chapter 5, the “
slain Lamb” is declared “worthy” to open the “sealed scroll” because, “by your blood, you purchased men and women from every nation…and made them a kingdom, priests unto our God; and they ARE reigning on the earth” – Again, present tense – (Revelation 1:4-6, 5:6-11).

The followers of Jesus “overcome the Dragon” and his allies “by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they loved not their lives unto death,” NOT by killing their enemies. Instead, they overcome by enduring faithfully in their testimony regardless of whatever Satan may throw against them.

The “rider and the white horse” is “waging war” (progressive present tense) with the “sword” of his mouth – The Word of God. Does this mean lopping heads off his enemies, or “overcoming” them through the proclamation of the gospel?

Just as important as understanding this symbolic world, is the recognition of how Revelation applies passages from the Hebrew Bible, often in unexpected and paradoxical ways. The book does not simply cite Old Testament verses word-for-word – It reinterprets and reapplies them in the light of the new reality that has dawned in the death and resurrection of Jesus.



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