War Against the Saints

The “beast from the sea” is authorized to wage war against the followers of the Lamb on behalf of the Dragon – Revelation 13:6-10

Dragon Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash
The “
Dragon” tasked the “beast from the sea” with annihilating the “saints.” To facilitate this, he gave the “beast” authority over all peoples. Humanity was divided into two groups: Those who “render homage to the beast,” the “inhabitants of the earth,” and those who “tabernacle in heaven,” the “saints” - [Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash].

The “victory” of the “beast” over the “saints” becomes the very thing that vindicates them but also seals the fate of the “Dragon” and his “seed” - The “beast from the sea” and the “False Prophet” - all of whom are cast into the “lake of fire.” For “overcomers,” martyrdom is not a 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.”
The “beast slandered” God, His “name” and “tabernacle” - Those who were “tabernacling in heaven.” The imagery is derived from the portable Tabernacle carried by Israel in the wilderness - (Revelation 15:5).

When John was commanded to “measure the sanctuary,” the “outer court” was handed over to the “nations” and “trampled” for “forty-two months.” Likewise, the “beast” was authorized to “slander the tabernacle and they who tabernacle in heaven” over the same period - “forty-two months.”

The “priestly” company John saw worshiping in the “sanctuary” was identical to the group described here. During the “forty-two months,” the “beast” was authorized to slander and “trample underfoot” the “saints” - (Revelation 11:1-2).

The term “those who tabernacle in heaven” does not refer to supernatural beings but to believers in contrast to 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 25:926:1-35, Revelation 3:10, 15:521:3).

This understanding is borne out by the clause “His name and his tabernacle, those tabernacling in heaven.” There is no conjunction, no “and” preceding the two clauses. “Those that tabernacle in heaven” 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.”

Slander” refers to accusations made against the “saints.” Among the seven churches of Asia, this was seen in accusations laid against them by members of the “synagogue of Satan” - (Revelation 2:93:912:10).

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 the “saints,” the “seed of the woman,” or “they who have the testimony of Jesus” amounts to the same thing. Satan attacks the “Lamb” by persecuting anyone whose name is written in the “book of life.” The description of the war against the “saints” uses language from the Book of Daniel, a passage used previously in the book - (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 11:7, 12:17).
The war against the “saints” is the same “war” waged against the “two witnesses” and the “seed of the woman.” “Enraged” after his expulsion from heaven, the “Dragon” began his final assault against the “seed of the Woman” by raising up “his seed,” the “beast from the sea” and the “beast from the earth” - (Revelation 11:7, 12:17-13:1).

The “beast” cannot persecute the “saints” until authorized to do so - (“it was given to it”). The same verbal formula was used when one of its “ten horns” received “a mouth speaking slanders against those who were tabernacling in the heaven.” Thus, those who were “tabernacling in heaven” are identical with the “saints” persecuted by the “beast” - (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4, 11:18, 14:12).

The passage ends with the exhortation, “Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” That the “saints” were 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 13:10, 14:12).

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 rendered homage to the “beast” or followed the “Lamb.”

Slain from the foundation of the world.” The clause employs the same Greek verb for “slain” applied previously to the “slain Lamb.” It was also applied to the souls under the altar that were “slain for their testimony,” and to the deadly wound of the “beast” in imitation of the “Lamb” - (Revelation 5:6-12, 6:9, 13:3, 18:24).

This does not mean Jesus has died repeatedly since the creation. The participle is in a perfect tense, signifying an action completed in the past. Revelation traces the destructive efforts by the “Dragon” to the Garden of Eden, which is why he is identified elsewhere as the “ancient serpent.” From the moment of humanity’s downfall, Yahweh promised that Adam’s “seed” would crush the “head of the serpent” - (Genesis 3:15, Revelation 12:9, 20:1-3).

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 by Jeremiah against the kingdom of Judah, but with an ironic twist. What was a word of judgment on Judah becomes the means by which the “saints” overcome the “beast,” whose “victory” is only apparent - (Jeremiah 15:1-2).

The call for the church to “hear” echoes the repeated exhortation given in each of the letters to the seven churches - “If anyone has an ear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” The persecution that “saints” suffer is their “perseverance.” The verse begins with the Greek adverb hōde or “here,” which is emphatic.  What looked like defeat to the “inhabitants of the earth” becomes the victory of the “saints.”

Thus, the victims of Satan’s “war” are the “saints,” those who “have the testimony of Jesus.” As for the rest of humanity, the “inhabitants of the earth” are under the authority of the “beast,” and therefore, they render homage to it, and by association, to the “Dragon.”

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