War on the Saints

The Beast from the sea is authorized to wage war on the saints for its overlord, the Dragon – Revelation 13:6-10.

Dragon Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash
Next, the “
Dragon” tasks the “Beast from the sea” with the destruction of the “saints,” and the “Beast” receives authority over all nations. Humanity is divided into two groups: The “inhabitants of the earth” who “pay homage to the Beast,” and those who “tabernacle in the heavens,” namely, the “saints.” - [Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash].

But, in the end, the Beast’s apparent “victory” over the “saints” serves to vindicate them and seals the fate of the “Dragon” and his vassals, all of whom are cast into the “lake of fire” at the end of the looming war. For overcoming disciples, martyrdom does not mean defeat.
  • (Revelation 13:6-10) - “And he opened his mouth for slander against God, to slander his name and his tabernacle, they who were tabernacling in heaven. And it was given to him TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS AND TO OVERCOME THEM, AND there was given him authority against EVERY TRIBE AND PEOPLE AND TONGUE AND NATION. And all the inhabitants of the earth will do homage to him, everyone whose name is not WRITTEN IN THE SCROLL 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 must go. If anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword he must be slain. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.”

TABERNACLING IN HEAVEN

The “Beast slandered” God, His “name” and “tabernacle,” and those who are “tabernacling in heaven.” The imagery is derived from the portable Tabernacle that Israel carried in the wilderness - (Revelation 15:5, “After these things I saw the sanctuary of the tent of testimony in heaven”).

Previously, John was commanded to “measure the sanctuary” and the “outer court” was handed over to the “nations” and “trampled” for “FORTY-TWO MONTHS.” So, also, the “Beast” is authorized to “slander the tabernacle and they who tabernacle in heaven” over the same period of “FORTY-TWO MONTHS” – (Revelation 11:1-2).

The “priestly” company John saw worshiping in the “sanctuary” in the eleventh chapter is identical to the group now called those who “tabernacle in heaven.” During the “forty-two months,” the “Beast” is authorized to slander and “trample underfoot” the “saints,” just as the “sanctuary” was given over to be trampled by the nations for the same period.

Those who “tabernacle in heaven” are not supernatural beings but believers being contrasted with the “inhabitants of the earth.”

The Greek verb rendered “tabernacling” or skénoō is from the noun skéné, that is, a “tent.” The same noun is used in the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible for the “tabernacle” of Israel. Elsewhere, both the noun and verb portray the people of God, His “tabernacle” - (Exodus 25:9, 26:1-35, Revelation 3:10, 15:5, 21:3).

This understanding is demonstrated by the clause, “His name and his tabernacle, those tabernacling in heaven.” There is no conjunction, no “and” preceding the two clauses in the Greek sentence, which identifies the “tabernacle” that is slandered. The New American Standard Version reflects the correct sense by rendering it - “His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.”

Blasphemy” or “slander” refers to accusations made against God’s people, not to profanity. Among the seven churches of Asia, this manifests in accusations laid against them by members of the “synagogue of Satan” - (Revelation 2:9, 3:9, 12:10).

THE WAR

The description of the “Beast” having authority over all nations alludes to the story of King Nebuchadnezzar and his “great golden image.” The Babylonian ruler commanded all “peoples and nations” to render homage to his image:
  • (Daniel 3:4-7) – “Therefore, at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the cornet… all the peoples, nations, and tongues fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”

Whether the “Dragon” wages war against Michael, the “Lamb,” the “saints,” the “seed of the woman,” or “they who have the testimony of Jesus,” it amounts to the same thing. Satan attacks the “Lamb” by persecuting anyone whose name is written in the “book of life.” The description of this war uses language from Daniel:
  • (Daniel 7:21) – “I beheld, and the same horn MADE WAR WITH THE SAINTS, AND PREVAILED AGAINST THEM.” (Compare Revelation 11:7, 12:17, 13:7-8).

Thus, the war against the “saints” is the same “war” as the one waged against the “Two Witnesses” and the “seed of the woman.” And rather than against nation-states or conventional armies, the “Beast” wages “war” on the Lamb’s followers. But it cannot persecute the “saints” until it is authorized to do so - (“it was given to it”).

Storm Panorama - Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash
[Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash]


The passage ends with the exhortation, “Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” That the “saints” are followers of Jesus is made clear in the expanded form of this declaration in the next chapter, “Here is the perseverance of the saints, they who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”

INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH

The “inhabitants of the earth” are identified negatively: “Everyone whose name is not written in the book of life of the Lamb.” What determines one’s identity is whether one renders homage to the “Beast” or the “Lamb.”

Slain from the foundation of the world.” This clause employs the same Greek verb for “slain” used earlier for the “slain Lamb.” It is also applied to the souls under the altar that are “slain for their testimony,” the deadly wound of the “Beast” in imitation of the Lamb, and the “blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” by “Babylon” - (Revelation 5:6-12, 6:9, 13:3, 18:24).

This clause does not mean that Jesus has died repeatedly since the creation of the universe. The participle is in the Greek perfect tense, signifying an action completed in the past with results continuing into the present.

The book of Revelation traces the destructive efforts by the “Dragon” to the Garden of Eden, which is why he is identified elsewhere as the “ancient serpent” - (Genesis 3:15, Revelation 12:9, 20:1-3).

PERSEVERANCE

The passage concludes with the exhortation: “If anyone is FOR CAPTIVITY, INTO CAPTIVITY he goes. If anyone is to be slain WITH SWORD, WITH SWORD must he be slain.” Saints do not escape persecution.

The verse alludes to a pronouncement in Jeremiah that applied originally to the kingdom of Judah:
  • (Jeremiah 15:1-2) – “Then said Yahweh to me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind would not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight and let them depart. And it shall come to pass, when they say to you, Where shall we go forth? Then you will tell them, Thus says Yahweh, Such as are FOR DEATH, TO DEATH; and such as are FOR THE SWORD, TO THE SWORD; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are FOR CAPTIVITY, TO CAPTIVITY.”

Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” This call echoes the repeated exhortation in each of the letters to the seven churches - “If anyone has an ear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

The persecution that “saints” suffer and endure is their “perseverance.” The verse begins with the adverb hōde or “here,” which is emphatic in the Greek clause. For the followers of Christ, what looks like defeat is, in fact, the victory of the “saints.”

Believers must endure trials and persevere in their testimony. This is how they “overcome,” and it is how God uses them to bear “witness” to the “inhabitants of the earth” and the “kings of the earth” – (Revelation 12:11).

Thus, the victims of the Dragon’s “war” are disciples of Jesus. As for the rest of mankind, the unbelieving “inhabitants of the earth,” they are under the overlordship of the “Beast” because they render homage to it. The “Beast” does not make war against them for they are under his authority. Instead, Satan uses them to facilitate his assaults against the church of Jesus Christ.



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