Victims of the Beast

SYNOPSIS - The Dragon and his servants wage war against the saints of the Lamb, the Church, not against national and ethnic groups

Small Church Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
The visions of the book of Revelation portray a cosmic war being waged between Satan and Jesus – Between the “Dragon” and the “Lamb” – But a “war” that plays out in the daily struggles of the “saints” – Those who follow the “Lamb wherever he goes.” The earthly vassals of the Devil execute his attacks on the Church, especially the “Beast from the sea,” the “False Prophet,” and the “Great Whore, Babylon.” Consistently, the victims of this “war” are the men and women who follow Jesus and have “his testimony” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1-10, 14:1-4). - [Church Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash].

After the “sixth bowl of wrath” is emptied, the persecuting efforts of the “Dragon” culminate in a final confrontation between its forces and the “Lamb” - The so-called ‘Battle of Armageddon.’ Likewise, all the “nations of the earth” – Gog and Magog – mount a final global attack to destroy the “saints” at the end of the “thousand years” - (Revelation 13:7-10, 16:12-16, 19:17-21, 20:8-10).

The book of Revelation is addressed to churches located in seven key cities of the Roman province of Asia. Its contents concern the “things that must come to pass shortly” to God’s “servants” - The seven churches of Asia. At the time John wrote these congregations were under assault from within and without – Persecution, false teachers, deception, and pressure to compromise with an idolatrous society. The source behind these attacks was the “Devil” - (Revelation 1:41:11, 2:8-133:9).

At the time, there was a growing conflict between the Church and Roman authorities. The reference to “Satan’s throne” in the letter to Pergamos alluded either to the Roman provincial government based in the city or its temple dedicated to the veneration of the Emperor and “Roma,” the patron deity of the city of Rome - (Revelation 2:13).

The seven letters to the churches of Asia provide a microcosmic view of the cosmic-level conflict between the “Dragon” and the “Lamb.” The visions recorded in chapters 4-21 provide the macrocosmic view of the “war” waged in the daily lives of increasingly marginalized believers.

In the book, humanity is divided into two groups – Men and women with the “seal of God” who follow the “Lamb,” and the “inhabitants of the earth” that render homage to the “Beast” - There is no middle ground - Either one has the “seal of God” or takes the “mark of the Beast” - (Revelation 3:10, 6:10, 7:1-4, 8:13, 14:1-520:4).

Individual men and women can change sides – An “inhabitant of the earth” may decide to follow the “Lamb” and, presumably, receive the “seal of God.” Likewise, a follower of the “Lamb” may apostatize and submit to the “Beast”; hence, the admonishments for believers to “overcome” and reject the lies of “Jezebel,” the “Nicolaitans,” the false “apostles,” and the “doctrines of Balaam.” To “eat meat offered to idols and to fornicate” is what the “Great Whore” attempts to seduce the “saints” into doing.
  • (Revelation 11:7) - “And as soon as they completed their testimony the Beast that is to come up out of the Abyss will make war with them, and overcome them, and slay them.”
  • (Daniel 7:21) – “I continued looking when this horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them.
The “two witnesses” engaged in prophetic witness for “a thousand two hundred and sixty days.” They are identified as the “two olive trees and two lampstands.” Elsewhere, “lampstands” represent churches, therefore, the “two witnesses” symbolize churches engaged in prophetic testimony - (Revelation 1:20).

The “two olive trees” provide a link to the vision of Zechariah in which he saw “two anointed ones who stand near the Lord of all the earth”, Zerubbabel, the ruler from the house of David, and Joshua, the high priest.  This explains why in John’s vision there are “two lampstands” rather than seven, or “two witnesses” rather than seven. Furthermore, the “two olive trees” point to the Church in its role as a “kingdom of priests” - (Zechariah 4:1-14, Revelation 1:65:9-1020:6).

At the end of their ministry, the “Beast that will ascend out of the Abyss will make war against them and slay them.”  This “Beast” cannot overcome the “two witnesses” until they have completed their mission, then he ascends to carry out this dastardly deed. Thus, this “Beast from the Abyss” makes war on the churches, not on nation-states.
  • (Revelation 12:7-8, 17) - “And there came to be war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the Dragon; and the Dragon fought and his angels. And he prevailed not, neither was place found for them any longer in heaven…And the Dragon was angered against the woman and went away TO MAKE WAR WITH THE REST OF HER SEED, with those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.”
  • (Daniel 7:21) – “I continued looking when this horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them.
Note well that the passage from chapter 12, as well as the description of the “war” against the “two witnesses” from chapter 11, alludes to the same passage from the book of Daniel.

In chapter 12, “the Dragon” is expelled from heaven - No longer able to accuse the “brethren” before the “throne.” He failed to destroy the messianic “Son” as well as the “Woman Clothed with the Sun.” Enraged, he proceeded to make war “against the seed of the woman,” identified in the passage as those who keep the “commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus” - (Revelation 12:17).

Church Ruins - Photo by Elisabeth Arnold on Unsplash
Photo by Elisabeth Arnold on Unsplash

In the passage from Daniel, the “
little horn” waged war against the “saints” and prevailed over them – The “saints” linked to the “one like a Son of Man.” Thus, the same reality or “war” is in view in the effort by the “Beast” to slay the “two witnesses” and the assault by the “Dragon” on the “seed of the woman.”
  • (Revelation 13:7-10) - “And it was given to it TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS AND TO OVERCOME THEM; and there was given it authority against every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all they who are dwelling upon the earth will render homage to it, everyone whose name is not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be slain with sword, with sword he is to be slain. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.”
  • (Daniel 7:21) – “I continued looking when this horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them.
The “Beast ascending from the sea” is identical to the “Beast that will ascend from the Abyss.” This “ascent” is how the “Dragon” wages war against the “seed of the woman,” the “saints.” – Satan executes his plan through his earthly agent, the “Beast” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1-10).
The “Beast” is released “TO MAKE WAR with the saints and TO OVERCOME THEM.” Once again, language from Daniel is applied. It makes war against “the saints and overcomes them.
The latter clause is taken directly from the passage in Daniel. This same group is described as “those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus,” using virtually the same words used to define the “seed of the woman” – They who “have the testimony of Jesus” - (Revelation 12:17, 13:7, 14:12).

Thus, Satan makes "war" against the church, not nation-states. The language of warfare is employed metaphorically to portray the persecuting activities of the “Beast” against the followers of the “Lamb.”
  • (Revelation 20:7-10) - “And as soon as the thousand years shall be ended Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and will go forth to deceive the nations that are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they came up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints, the beloved city. And fire came down out of heaven and devoured them; and the Devil who was deceiving them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where were both the Beast and the False Prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night unto the ages of ages.”
This passage describes the final battle in the book, using language from the book of Ezekiel about the armies of “Gog and Magog.” But now the language is universalized. The prophet Ezekiel saw regional powers attacking Israel in the promised land. In contrast, John saw all the nations of the earth attacking the “camp of the saints” throughout the world - (“Ascending over the four corners of the earth”).

Language from the prophecy of Ezekiel was used earlier to describe the war against the “rider on a white horse” by the “Beast,” the “False Prophet,” the “Kings of the Earth,” and their armies. The same final battle is seen in both passages - (Revelation 19:17-21).

The book of Revelation mixes its metaphors, “camp” and “city.”  “Camp” echoes the story of Israel, the pilgrim people wandering the wilderness on the way to the land of Canaan.  “City” speaks of the permanent residence of the people of Yahweh in the Promised Land. The language is metaphorical - The verse does not refer to the city of Jerusalem in Palestine or to Jews camping out in the wilderness.

This is the “camp of the SAINTS.” Elsewhere, “saints” are followers of the “Lamb” persecuted by the “Beast” - Those “who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” They have the “testimony of Jesus” by which they overcome the “Dragon” - (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4, 11:18, 13:7-10, 14:12, 16:6, 17:6, 18:24, 19:8).

Satan “deceives the nations” in order to “gather them together to THE WAR.” This repeats a phrase seen previously. In each case, it refers not to one “war” among many others but to “THE war” - Singular.  The same “war” is in view in each instance - (Revelation 16:14 - “To gather them to THE WAR”; Revelation 19:19 - “I saw the Beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make THE WAR”).

The language of “war” portrays the climactic cosmic battle that is waged between God and the “Dragon” on the earth. The earthly agents of Satan attempt to destroy the followers of the “Lamb,” the church.  The book provides no descriptions of bloody battles between conventional armies and nation-states. The victims of the “Dragon” are the “saints,” the “beloved city,” the Church, and beginning with the seven churches of Asia.


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