We all know we have a mortal enemy, the devil. We experience his attacks, temptations, accusations and lies all the time – and we also know that his activity will increase exponentially towards the End of the Age.
The bible doesn’t mince words in describing just how widespread, powerful and persuasive the latter-day deceptions will become, such that “even the very elect” could be deceived by them. Are we not already seeing deception spreading in almost every large church and ministry? As well as deception, the devil aims accusations and lies at us all the time.
But we have not yet reached the endgame of the devil’s plan, so we have to know HOW to stand firm.
(Let no one be disdainful about this! 1Cor 10:12 “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” It’s the people who don’t believe they can be deceived who are more at risk.)
The Revelation Way
It’s little discussed, that the book of Revelation explains how to overcome the age-old Deceiver! This truth is as vital for us now today as it will be in the time of that Revelation vision.
The War in Heaven: Revelation Chapter 12
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.”
There are three spiritual defences here against the Deceiver.
1. The blood of the Lamb (Jesus Christ)
2. The word of their testimony (the gospel and faith in it)
3. Abandoning all earthly hopes for the sake of these two things.
The first-mentioned defence is perhaps the most obvious, but how many read that passage without really understanding it? How does the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ defend us, and how is it our shield against the Deceiver in particular?
One clue is the previous verses that call the Dragon (satan) the Accuser of the Brethren. Exactly in what way satan is accusing us day and night to the Father is not known, but the fact remains. As long as there is a godly remnant on the earth, it will be maligned continually.
Sometimes we do sense that accusation drifting into our minds, telling us just how rotten and worthless we really are! We hear an inward argument – despite the faith that refutes it – that past sins and present disobedience, and the failure to live up to what we believe, disqualifies us! We overhear a dialogue that we sincerely hope is not being spoken aloud before the Throne, that we are unworthy, fallen, lax – and so on.
As startling as it seems, those accusations MAY indeed be spoken aloud in Heaven, as God the Father is regaled by facts that appear to have no refutation.
Unfortunately, all that the devil knows about us is true, and more besides – and therein lies our plea. Agree with the devil! Say “It’s true, I’m unworthy and never did deserve to be saved, but Jesus Christ came and died on the cross for me anyway!”
God KNOWS all about our lives, our thoughts and deeds, from the moment of conception to today, yet HE does not condemn those who have been washed by the blood. If the qualification for heaven is PERFECTION (which it is) then whoever can go there? Indeed, nobody DID go to heaven (that is, the Throne of God) before the cross! It was the blood sacrifice and death of the Son of God that opened the way to the Father, that alone. By ourselves we could never hope to begin to be acceptable.
So all those accusations levelled at us, and the truths whispered or shouted into God’s ears, are pointless noise, that’s all. What is our answer – as Revelation says THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB.
The Lamb was the atoning sacrifice that enabled fallen human beings to relate to God. Yes indeed we were sold out to satan, the god of this world system, but the important fact is that we were bought back! We were redeemed like something valuable left at the pawn shop. The blood was the redemption price for our souls, as it says in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins…” We are “bought with a price…” [1Corinthians 6:20]
The offering of the lamb symbolically atoned for the sins of the people so that they could commune with God. Jesus’ sacrifice does the same for us. The writer of Hebrews says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:11-15a). It is Jesus’ blood that atones for our sins and restores our relationship with God. It is because of His death and bodily resurrection that we can meet with God and hear Him. [Source]
Therefore, we can avoid self-justification by looking away from ourselves to the blood of the sacrificial lamb who died to make us acceptable, and who lives to present us IN HIMSELF to his Father. We can also avoid, therefore, being persuaded to adopt any alternative to the blood redemption, an alternative that involves either MORE or LESS, or a DIFFERENT scheme to attain acceptance and the Kingdom.
That is important. Despite the shed blood and resurrection of Jesus, we are not in and of ourselves worthy of a relationship with God. We ourselves never will be. We are not righteous in the way that we would need to be, on earth, to satisfy God’s holiness! Don’t even think it. We are righteous only because the God of Righteousness has made us his own:
Romans 8:9 “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.…”
Our righteousness comes ONLY from being incorporated into the Body of Jesus Christ – we are acceptable because HE is acceptable. So you see how point one of Revelation’s defence system works?
Romans 10:8-11 “But what does it say? “the word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”– that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.”
As we saw in point one, it is by the GRACE of God through the atonement that we are made acceptable. However, it is through FAITH in that blood sacrifice that we become personally involved in its effective covering. We exercise faith to receive the gift of salvation; we trust in God’s promise.
But look at the second portion of that verse. We believe in our hearts, and because of that we testify of it with our words. One truth leads to another. If it does not there is something amiss. Almost the very first thing I was told on the day that I accepted Jesus was, “now go to your family, church, and others that care for you, and tell them what has happened. Bear witness to your faith.”
We testify of the truth to others and to ourselves and to God. We refute the devil’s lies with God’s promises, either speaking, praying or singing them, and experience the freedom and joy that it brings.
We refuse to be ashamed, even when alternative gospels are pushed that capture the hearts and minds of the world around us! We stick to the truth when everyone is falling for the lie.
More particularly, we testify of Jesus and the gospel even when brought to trial for it:
Matthew 10:18-19 “and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.”
The disciple Peter, having vowed he would never deny Jesus, found it all too easy for the sake of expediency to do just that. Wanting to stay close to Jesus at his trial, Peter three times told the others he didn’t know him. How quickly we fall back into self-protection mode even for all the best reasons! I certainly do not want to be the one who has to see the disappointed eyes of Jesus as he turns to look at me, as he looked at Peter that day!
Testifying to the truth may become very uncomfortable, or dangerous, and it may even mean martyrdom for some – it has already! May God eternally comfort and bless those who have refused to give up Jesus, despite the fear of death – and that brings us to the third point.
The two previous methods of overcoming are bound up in the third. All are important, but Jesus stressed this third point in his warnings and parables more than anything: do not give in to fear and self-protection and thereby deny the Lord. For “If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us…” [2 Timothy 2:12] and “whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” [Mark 8:38]
Clearly then, this is some thing to be avoided. If overcoming the Accuser means denying ourselves even to the point of death, so be it! That must be our attitude. The Overcomers in Revelation did it by forsaking their own earthly lives, even to the point of death!
“Loved not their lives….” Instead of this being a panic reaction at the last moment, it’s supposed to be a hallmark of every Christian, and the entire Christian life. In fact, if self-denial hasn’t become a feature of our lives then it will hardly spring up by itself in the last day, under intense trials. Is this what Jesus meant by not falling asleep? He contrasted the tribulations to come with this present world – its cares, worries, riches, idleness, comforts and everything that demands our attention! It’s not safety and ease that threatens us, but the lack of them – do we know how to endure?
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved”. [Matthew 24:9-13]
Endurance is a bible theme almost universally shunned in this day of ease and plenty – that is, unless you happen to live in a nation where Christians like the Early Church are mercilessly persecuted! Then the idea of endurance makes much more sense. Instead of overlooking it, let’s take to heart that “you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised”. [Hebrews 10:36]
Be like Lot, not his Wife
In using the example of Lot and the fate of Sodom & Gomorrah as a parable of the endtimes, Jesus was pointing out how intolerably wicked the world would become, but that those who determined to stay firm in their love and obedience to God would be rescued before the final destruction.
In this, Jesus could just have used the example of Lot who (albeit rather reluctantly) gave up his house, family, livelihood, status, friendships, wealth and all else to escape the city with nothing but what he wore. That was sacrificial obedience! Nonetheless Jesus felt the need to add one more warning to his disciples: “Remember Lot’s wife!” adding that “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it”.
Lot’s wife “looked back” because in her mind and soul she was more a part of her friends, family and home than the rescue plan of God and the path that lay beyond. She was doubtful, double-minded and uncommitted, like the ploughman who started a straight furrow in the field but then “looked back” behind him: But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Luke 9:62.]
Lot and his wife and daughters were commanded to hurry out of the doomed city and never look back, to abandon their former lives and count them as nothing for the promises of God. Is that not EXACTLY what we read in Revelation, point three? “They did not love their lives, even to the point of death”.
Those who overcame “lost” their lives in this world and possibly also on this earth in order to gain a life and a world to come that was infinitely greater.
Our natural inclination is, by any means, to save our lives. Jesus said that’s the problem – human nature! As Christians, in all things, and in matters of life and death supremely, we are to lay down human nature with its drives, urges, needs and demands, and give ourselves up entirely to the NEW life of the Spirit in Jesus Christ.
But how will we survive? Is God to be trusted? Jesus said,
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature? And why take you thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say to you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Why, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. (Luke 12:22-34)
We have to fix our minds and hearts on the one single truth, that NOTHING of ourselves or this world is worth saving if it means losing our eternal salvation and place in Heaven. Without making that decision, we could waver at the wrong moment, falter in our commitment (like Lot’s wife) and try to hang onto something we think is more valuable than God. Nothing but absolute determination will do. Only then is the Accuser thwarted in his deceptions.
Past, Present, Future
The three important safeguards in Revelation will mean different things to different people, according to their maturity in the Lord and their situation and lifestyle. But in general we can see that number one (the Blood) is the FACT of our certain redemption, number two (Testimony) relates to FAITH and the proclamation of the facts to ourselves, to the world and to the devil, and number three (forsaking self) is the resolution of both.
That is, the certainty of our salvation coupled with full assurance of faith leads to a vow to endure, no matter what.
We can also relate these three to:
- PAST cleansing by the Blood already accomplished;
- PRESENT testimony of ongoing victory in the Christian life;
- FUTURE determination to stand firm to the end.
Not just one but all three conditions are needed, and to all three at once we should be prepared to commit absolutely. Be prepared!