Day 11. Overcoming by the Blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11)


Audio (11:26)

Agnus Dei, mosaic, Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem.
Agnus Dei, mosaic, Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem.

Before we reach our next mention of the Lamb in Revelation 12:11, a lot is happening. Revelation 8 and 9 take us through the six trumpets of judgment upon the earth. Then there's an angel with a little scroll (Revelation 10) and the two witnesses (Revelation 11:1-15). Finally, the seventh trumpet is blown with the ringing declaration,

"The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord
and of his Christ,
and he shall reign forever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)

This statement seems to mark an end and a new beginning in the Book of Revelation, for at this point, "God's temple in heaven was opened and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple" (Revelation 11:19)

The Woman, the Dragon, and the Male Child (Revelation 12)

Now, Revelation shifts from a series of unfolding judgments to an allegorical vision in chapter 12 that reveals a cosmic drama taking place between heaven and on earth. A woman gives birth to a male child (verse 5a), obviously Jesus the Messiah. A red dragon, who represents Satan, tries to devour it (verse 3). But the male child is "caught up to God and to his throne" (verse 5b). War breaks out in heaven (verse 7) and the dragon is defeated and thrown down to earth, identified as "that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan" (verse 9), so that the war continues on the earth against God's people. The battle is intense, but the end is in sight (verse 12).

The Kingdom Has Come (Revelation 12:10)

In the middle of this conflict with the red dragon, a loud voice from heaven heralds:

 "10 Now the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Christ have come,
for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.
11  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they loved not their lives even unto death." (Revelation 12:10-11)

Scholars have debated exactly where on the time-scale we can place the downfall of Satan. I'm not sure. Jesus refers to it when he receives reports of demons being exorcized by the seventy (or seventy-two) disciples that were sent out.

"I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." (Luke 10:18)

But certainly this Kingdom has come by the time when John the Baptist comes preaching,

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:1)

Jesus is baptized by John (Matthew 3:13-17). Immediately after, Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Then Jesus himself comes proclaiming,

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven53 is at hand." (Matthew 4:17)

Conquering Satan (Revelation 12:11)

I particularly want to explore the next verse:

"And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they loved not their lives even unto death." (Revelation 12:11)

First, let's get our pronoun references straight. It is obvious from the context of verse 10 that the phrase, "they have conquered him..." means, "the brothers and sisters have conquered Satan...." Many examples in ancient Greek indicate that the plural of "brothers" (adelphoi) can also mean "brothers and sisters," not just males.

"Conquered" is the verb nikaō, "to win in the face of obstacles, be victor, conquer, overcome, prevail."54 Jesus tells his disciples:

"In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

This word "to overcome, to conquer" is a key verb and theme in the Book of Revelation.

  • The Lamb is worthy because he (as the Lion) has conquered (Revelation 5:5).
  • Each of the seven Letters to the Churches in Revelation 2 and 3 gives a promise to "the one who conquers."55
  • The Lamb conquers those who make war on the Lamb and his Kingdom, utterly defeating them. "The Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings" (Revelation 17:14). Ultimately, he brings Satan (the serpent), the Antichrist (the beast from the sea), and the False Prophet (the second beast from the earth, Revelation 19:20) to judgment in the Lake of Fire.
  • And in our passage, the saints conquer Satan "through the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11)

Victory by Refusing to Surrender (Revelation 12:11)

You might ask, "What good is victory if you die in the process?" Good question. Let me respond in two ways.

  1. Jesus won a victory on the cross, though he died in the process. On the cross he paid the ransom for all our sins to set us free.
  2. Great warriors are honored, even when they die in battle. They don't give up. They don't surrender. They die with their sword in their hands.

Standing rather than retreating is what we are called to. Paul writes,

"Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,56
and after you have done everything, to stand."57 (Ephesians 6:13, NIV)

One of the differences between a casual believer and a disciple is that a disciple deliberately follows Jesus and consciously stands against the pull and undertow of the culture. If we are willing to die rather than turn away from Jesus, then we are disciples indeed.

Jesus himself modeled and taught this kind of radical commitment.

 "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." (Luke 9:23-24 )

If Satan can scare us into submission, or threaten us into being quiet about our faith, he wins. But when we wake up every morning willing to lay down our lives for Jesus, then we are truly out of control, so far as Satan is concerned. That is the only stance we can take and still follow Jesus wherever he leads us.

By the Blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11)

Our salvation, however, isn't dependent upon how faithful we are. How courageous. Rather, we are saved by trusting that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We are saved by his grace -- solely, completely. Dying to self comes after this, and that's why this order is maintained in verse 11:

  1. Saved by the blood of the Lamb
  2. Saved by our consistent testimony, even in the face of death.

The shed blood of Jesus is God's unilateral payment of a ransom for our souls. It stands in history, redeeming all believers under the Old Covenant as well as all believers under the New Covenant. The blood of a young sheep, a lamb, might represent atonement for the sins of a man or his family, but the blood of the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world! (John 1:29). This is the main message of the Book of Hebrews. Animal sacrifices may cover sin, but the sacrifice of the Son of God is "able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him" (Hebrews 7:25). (You may recall that we explored the power of the blood of the Lamb in greater depth on Day 9.)

By the Word of Our Testimony (Revelation 12:11)

One of the most moving scenes recorded in early Christian literature is the martyrdom of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. During a period of intense persecution in 155 AD, this venerable saint and leader -- now an elderly man -- is hauled before a Roman magistrate who insists that he deny Christ. He is threatened with death by lions, then to be burned alive, but he will not deny Christ. Church historian Eusebius records:

"When the magistrate pressed him, and said, 'Swear, and I will release you; revile Christ,' Polycarp said, 'Eighty-six years have I been serving him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?'"58

Finally, the proconsul sends his herald to proclaim three times in the midst of the stadium: "Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian." And the old man is delivered to the flames.


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Who conquered whom? Did the Christ-haters actually get the victory by killing an elderly Christian man? Hardly. Polycarp "overwhelmingly conquers" that day as his unshaken testimony rings out across the stadium. Indeed, even persecution and death are no defeat.

"In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer59 through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:37, NASB).

Prayer

Father, help us to take up our cross each day, willing to die trusting in the redeeming blood of the Lamb, refusing to be silenced by the world, and thus conquering by the Spirit's power. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Day 11 Meditation (Revelation 12:11). How does the blood of the Lamb enable us to conquer Satan? How does the word of our testimony show victory over Satan? Why is it necessary to "take up our cross daily" in order to conquer?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1885-day-11-overcoming/

Endnotes

(References and Abbreviations)

[53] Matthew is written primarily for Jewish readers for whom saying the word "God" was sometimes offensive, so in Matthew we read "Kingdom of heaven" where Mark and Luke use "Kingdom of God." They are the same thing!

[54] Nikaō, BDAG 673, 2a. In our verse the verb is transitive, "to overcome or vanquish someone." We're familiar with Nike® brand sports shoes and apparel, from the related Greek noun nikē, "victory."

[55] Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; also 21:7.

[56] "Withstand" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "stand your ground" (NIV) is anthistēmi, "to be resistant to power, resist" (BDAG 80, 2), "to set oneself against" (Thayer 45), from anti-, "against" + histēmi, "stand, set."

[57] "Stand" is histēmi, "stand on one's feet, set," here has the sense, "stand up against, resist" (BDAG 482, B3).

[58] Eusebius, Church History IV, 15, 20.

[59] "More than conquerors" (ESV, NIV, NRSV, KJV), "overwhelmingly conquer" (NASB) is the verb hypernikaō, as a heightened form of nikaō, "prevail completely" (BDAG 1034).

Copyright © 2020, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.