Church of the Last Days

The church is the battlefield where the final war is waged between the Lamb and the “Ancient Serpent,” Satan

Cape Spear Photo by Ibrahim Alonge on Unsplash
The book of
Revelation is addressed to seven first-century churches in Asia, and it deals with their real-life trials and tribulations. In the process, it presents messages relevant to all churches throughout the present age. Their daily struggles are a microcosm of the ongoing cosmic battle between Jesus and the “Dragon” - [Photo by Ibrahim Alonge on Unsplash].

Every man and woman who heeds the book’s message is pronounced “blessed,” especially since the “season is at hand.” This clause alludes to the passage in Daniel when the prophet was commanded: “Seal the scroll until the season of the end.”

In contrast, John is commanded NOT to seal the book since “the season is at hand.” What for Daniel was in a remote future has become all too real for the “churches” – (Daniel 12:4, Revelation 1:3, 22:10).

THE LAST DAYS

All this reflects the consistent New Testament teaching that history’s final era, the “last days,” began with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Satan, sin, and death were defeated decisively on Calvary.

And following his resurrection, he was exalted to reign “at the right hand of God,” and consequently, he poured out the Holy Spirit to empower his church to proclaim his sovereignty throughout the earth. The bestowal of the gift of the Spirit is irrefutable evidence that the “last days” are underway – (Acts 2:17-21, Hebrews 1:1-3).

In Revelation, the followers of Jesus are labeled “saints,” the “servants of God,” the “seed of the woman,” the “kingdom of priests,” “brethren,” and the people who “have the testimony of Jesus,” “keep the faith of Jesus,” and have “washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.”

What determines membership in this eschatological company is identification with the “slain Lamb” - one’s allegiance to and emulation of him.

The book is addressed to the “servants of God” who are identified as members of the “seven churches of Asia.” They have been “loosed from their sins” by the blood of Jesus and constituted a “kingdom of priests.” The latter phrase is found in Exodus when Yahweh summoned Israel to the same mission. However, she failed in that task, and it has now fallen to the churches of the “Lamb” to execute it - (Exodus 19:4-6).

When the “nationality” of God’s saints is revealed, they are identified as the men who have been redeemed by Christ’s lifeblood from “every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation- (Revelation 5:8-10, 7:9-17).

DRAGON AND BEAST

The Great Adversary of the “Lamb” and his people is the “Great Red Dragon,” that “Ancient Serpent” who is called the “Devil and Satan,” the one who is “deceiving the inhabitants of the earth.”

Having failed to destroy the “son,” he Is expelled from the heavenly courtroom, and now, through his earthly vassals, he is “waging war” against Jesus by persecuting his people on the earth - (Revelation 12:8-17, 13:7).

Thus, the Devil’s war against the “woman’s seed” plays out on the earth as the “beast” is granted authority to “make war against the saints.”

In Revelation, martyrdom is not unexpected, but neither does it constitute defeat. Satanic forces can only attack the “saints” when authorized to do so since the “Lamb” who “sits on the throne” remains in firm control of history.

And the “saints” are those “that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” It is their identification with the “slain Lamb” that enrages the “Dragon” - (Revelation 12:17, 13:6-10, 14:12).

In the end, the “beast” and the “kings of the earth” will unite to wage a final “war” against the “Lamb.” In describing that battle, John uses language from Ezekiel’s vision of “Gog and Magog.”

However, in Revelation, the attacking force consists of the nations from the “four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog…and they ascended over the breadth of the earth and encompassed the camp of the saints.” This describes the final worldwide assault against the church, Satan’s last-ditch effort to annihilate the “saints” – (Revelation 16:2-16, 17:14, 19:11-21, 20:7-10).

Dusk - Photo by Tim Peterson on Unsplash
[Dusk - Photo by Tim Peterson on Unsplash]

The cosmic battles portrayed so graphically manifest in the daily struggles of the churches. The evidence for this is found in the letters to the “
seven churches of Asia.”

For example, the church at Pergamos lives in the shadow of “Satan’s throne.” The saints in Smyrna are under assault from members of the “synagogue of Satan.” Though local magistrates throw some members “into prison,” Jesus lays the blame for this squarely on Satan (“The devil is about to cast some of you into prison”).

Members of the church in Thyatira are being deceived by “Jezebel,” a surrogate and agent for the “Great Harlot, Babylon” who is teaching the “deep things of Satan.”

In Asia, the churches are battling with “false apostles,” compromise, apathy, the “Nicolaitans,” the adherents of the “teachings of Balaam,” persecution, and so on, all attempts by the “Dragon” to deceive and derail believers.

Satan’s war is with the “Lamb.” However, he cannot attack Jesus directly, so he seeks to destroy his people through his surrogates on the earth.

SUFFERING FOR THE KING

None of this means the visions of Revelation amount to allegories intended to teach Christians how to live. The temptations, sufferings, and persecutions endured by the “churches of Asia” are all too real, just as has been the case with Christians throughout the present age.

The attacks by the “Dragon” are deadly serious and have eternal consequences. And the war between the “Ancient Serpent” and the “Lamb” does consummate with the final assault against God’s people and the final judgment of the wicked before the “Great White Throne of Judgment.”

But when we focus only or primarily on the end of the book, we lose sight of its relevance for every Christian throughout the existence of the church, including to this very day.

Nor does Revelation picture believers as mere pawns stuck between two great warring powers. It is the “Lamb” who redeemed them “by his blood,” and the same “Lamb” who will vindicate them in the end. Already they have been “loosed from their sins”; already they are a “kingdom of priests” and are “reigning with him on the earth.” Our final victory over sin, Satan, and death is a foregone conclusion.

In the interim, Jesus summons us to “overcome,” and thereby qualify to reign with him and partake of the glories of “New Jerusalem.” And we do this through “perseverance,” faithful “testimony,” by recognizing and rejecting the lies of the Devil, understanding the true nature of our struggle, and emulating the self-sacrificial service of the “slain Lamb.”

As Revelation puts it, the “brethren overcame the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they loved not their lives unto death.”

And by recognizing just “who” and “when” we are, we learn how we must live in the present, “in these last days.”

Already, the present age and its institutions are “passing away.” They will not endure forever, and we must live accordingly. Both individually and corporately, we are “caught between the ages,” still living in the old fallen age, but at the same time, citizens of the “New Jerusalem” that even now is “descending from heaven.”



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