People of the Last Days

The church is the battlefield where the final war is being waged between the Lamb and the “Ancient Serpent,” Satan

Lighthouse Starry Night - Photo by Nathan Jennings on Unsplash
The book of 
Revelation is addressed to seven first-century churches in the Roman Empire. It focuses on their real-life trials and tribulations, and, in the process, it presents messages relevant to all churches throughout the present age. The daily struggles of the churches are the microcosm of the vast cosmic battle that is being waged between Jesus and the “Dragon.” - [Photo by Nathan Jennings on Unsplash].

Every man and woman who hears and heeds Revelation’s message is pronounced “blessed” for the “season is at hand.” This last clause alludes to the passage in Daniel where the prophet was commanded: “Seal the scroll until the season of the end.”

In contrast, John the Revelator is commanded NOT to seal the book - “for the season is at hand.” What for Daniel was in a remote future is all too real for the “churches of Asia” – (Daniel 12:4, Revelation 1:3, 22:10).

THE LAST DAYS

All this reflects the consistent New Testament teaching that history’s final era, the “last days,” began with the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus. Satan, sin, and death were defeated decisively on Calvary. And following his resurrection, Christ was exalted to being his reign “at the right hand of God.”

Consequently, Christ poured out the Holy Spirit to empower his church to proclaim the “kingdom of God” throughout the earth. And the arrival of the Spirit is irrefutable evidence that the “last days” are underway – (Acts 2:17-21, Hebrews 1:1-3).

In Revelation, the church is called the “saints,” the “servants of God,” the “seed of the woman,” the “kingdom of priests,” “brethren,” and the people who “have the testimony of Jesus,” “keep the faith of Jesus,” and have “washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” What determines inclusion in this great final company is identification with the “slain Lamb.”

SERVANTS AND PRIESTS

The book is addressed to the “servants of God.” They are identified in the prologue as members of the “seven churches of Asia.” They have been “loosed from their sins” by the blood of Jesus and constituted a “kingdom of priests.”

The last phrase is from the book of Exodus when Yahweh summoned Israel to the same mission. But she failed to perform that task, and now it has fallen to the saints of the “Lamb” - (Exodus 19:4-6).

When the “nationality” of God’s saints is revealed, they are identified as the men who have been redeemed by Christ from “every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation” - (Revelation 5:8-10, 7:9-17).

The adversary of the “Lamb” is the “Great Red Dragon,” that “Ancient Serpent” who is called the “Devil and Satan,” the one who is “deceiving the inhabitants of the earth.” Having failed to destroy the “son,” he is expelled from the heavenly courtroom. Now, through his earthly vassals, he is “waging war” against Jesus by persecuting his people on the earth - (Revelation 12:8-17).

SATAN’S WAR

Thus, the Devil’s war against the “woman’s seed” plays out on the earth as the “beast” is granted authority to “make war against the saints.”

In Revelation, martyrdom is not unexpected, but neither does it constitute defeat. Satanic forces can only attack the “saints” when authorized to do so - the “Lamb” who “sits on the throne” remains in firm control of history.

And the “saints” are those “that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” It is their identification with him that enrages the Devil - (Revelation 12:17, 13:6-10, 14:12).

In the end, the “beast” and the “kings of the earth” unite to wage a final “war” against the “Lamb.” In describing the battle, John uses language from Ezekiel’s vision of “Gog and Magog.”

However, in Revelation, the attacking force consists of the nations from the “four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog…and they ascended over the breadth of the earth and encompassed the camp of the saints.”

The image of “Gog and Magog” describes the final worldwide assault against the church, Satan’s last-ditch effort to annihilate the “saints” – (Revelation 16:2-16, 17:14, 19:11-21, 20:7-10).

These cosmic battles manifest in the daily struggles of the churches. The evidence for this is found in the letters to the “seven churches of Asia.”

For example, the church at Pergamos lives in the shadow of “Satan’s throne.” The saints in Smyrna are under assault from members of the “synagogue of Satan.” Though local magistrates cast some members “into prison,” Jesus lays the blame for this squarely on Satan (“The devil is about to cast some of you into prison”).

Members of the church in Thyatira are being deceived by “Jezebel,” a surrogate and agent for the “Great Harlot, Babylon.” What she calls the deep things of God are, in fact, the “deep things of Satan.”

IN THE CHURCH

In the province of Asia, the churches battle with “false apostles,” compromise, apathy, the “Nicolaitans,” the adherents of the “teachings of Balaam,” persecution, and so on, all attempts by the “Dragon” to deceive and derail believers. His war is with the “Lamb.” However, he cannot attack Jesus directly, so, at every opportunity he seeks to destroy his people.

None of this is to say the visions of Revelation amount to little more than allegories intended to teach Christians how to live. The temptations, sufferings, and persecutions endured by the “churches of Asia” are all too real.

Lattern Desert - Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
[Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash]

The attacks by the “
Dragon” are deadly serious and have eternal consequences. And the war between the “Ancient Serpent” and the “Lamb” does consummate with the final assault against God’s people and the final judgment of the wicked.

But when we focus primarily on the end of the book, we lose sight of its relevance for every Christian throughout history.

Nor does Revelation picture believers as mere pawns stuck between two great warring powers. It is the “Lamb” who has redeemed them “by his blood,” and the same “Lamb” who will vindicate them in the end.

Already believers have been “loosed from their sins”; already they are a “kingdom of priests” and are “reigning with him on the earth.” Our final victory over sin, Satan, and death is a foregone conclusion.

In the interim between his resurrection and return, Jesus summons his people to “overcome” and qualify to reign with him. And they do this through “perseverance,” faithful “testimony,” by recognizing and rejecting the lies of the Devil, understanding the true nature of our struggle, and emulating the self-sacrificial service of the “slain Lamb.”

And by recognizing “who” and “when” we are, we learn how to live in the present, “in these last days.” Already, the present age and its institutions are “passing away.” They will not endure forever, and we must live accordingly.

Both individually and corporately, we are “caught between the ages,” still living in the old fallen age, but at the same time, citizens of the “New Jerusalem” that even now is “descending from heaven.”



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