War Against the Saints

In John’s vision, the “Dragon” tasks his “Beast from the Sea” with the destruction of the “saints,” and the “Beast” receives authority over all nations to do so. Humanity is divided into two groups: The “Inhabitants of the Earth” who “render obeisance to the Beast,” and those who “tabernacle in the heavens,” namely, the “saints.” The “Beast” attacks the followers of the “Lamb,” NOT the nations of the Earth.

Dinosaur Bones - Photo by Narciso Arellano on Unsplash
[Photo by Narciso Arellano on Unsplash]

In the end, the apparent “victory” of the “
Dragon” via his “Beast” over the “saints” serves to vindicate them and seals the fate of the “Dragon” and his vassals. They will be cast into the “Lake of Fire” at the end of Satan’s war. For overcoming disciples, martyrdom is not 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 sword he must be slain. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.”

The “Beast slandered” God, His “name” and “tabernacle,” namely, those who are “tabernacling in heaven.” As elsewhere in the Book of Revelation, imagery of the “Tabernacle” is derived from the portable tent carried by Israel in the wilderness - (Revelation 15:5).

Previously, John was commanded to “measure the Sanctuary” and the “outer court” was handed over to the “nations” and “trampled” for “FORTY-TWO MONTHS.” Likewise, the “Beast from the Sea” is authorized to “slander the Tabernacle and they who are tabernacling in heaven” over the same period, the “forty-two months” – (Revelation 11:1-2).

The “priestly” company John saw worshiping in the “Sanctuary” in Chapter 11 is identical to the group now described as 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 who are 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 translation 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 by Satan’s proxy, the “Beast from the Sea.” 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 manifested 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 obeisance 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 found in the Bo0k of 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).

The war by the “Beast from the Sea” against the “saints” is the same “war” as the one waged by the “Beast from the Abyss” against the “Two Witnesses” and the “seed of the woman.” The “Abyss” corresponds to the “Sea” from which the “Beast” ascends. In Chapter 11, the “Two Witnesses” are identified as “two lampstands,” and in the Book, lampstands represent churches - (Revelation 1:18-20, 11:4).

Thus, rather than against nation-states, 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” – Revelation 11:4-7, 13:7).

The passage in Chapter 13 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” – (Revelation 14:12).

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 he renders obeisance to the “Beast from the Sea” or the slain “Lamb.”

The clause, “slain from the foundation of the world,” employs the same Greek verb for “slain” applied earlier to the “Lamb.” It is also applied to the souls under the altar in the opening of the Fifth Seal who were “SLAIN for their testimony,” the mortal wound received by the “Beast” in imitation of the slain “Lamb,” and the “blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were SLAIN upon the earth” by “Babylon, the Great Whore” - (Revelation 5:6-12, 6:9, 13:3, 18:24).

The 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.

PERSEVERANCE


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

The passage in Chapter 13 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 the Book of Jeremiah that applied originally to the Kingdom of Judah:

  • (Jeremiah 15:1-2) – “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 faithfully 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, their victory.

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

Hence, the victims of the Dragon’s “war” are disciples of Jesus, not nation-states. As for the rest of humanity, the unrepentant “Inhabitants of the Earth,” are under the overlordship of the “Beast from the Sea” because they render obeisance to it. The “Beast” does not wage war against them since they are under his authority. Instead, Satan uses them to facilitate his assaults against the Assembly of Jesus Christ.


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