29 September 2022

The Final War


At the end of the age, Satan will launch his final attempt to exterminate the church, the saints who have the testimony of Jesus

Battlefield - Photo by Diana van Ormondt on Unsplash
In several passages, the book of 
Revelation refers to “the war,” the coming assault by Satan against the followers of Jesus. In each case, the term “war” is singular, and in the Greek text, its noun form is accompanied by a definite article - it is “THE war.” And both the Greek noun and verb are applied to the same future event - [Photo by Diana van Ormondt on Unsplash].

In part, the language is derived from the book of Daniel in its description of the war against the saints by the malevolent figure known as the “little horn” - “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them” – (Daniel 7:21-22).

In Revelation, this “war” is referenced first in the vision of the “Two Witnesses” and its description, using language from the passage in the seventh chapter of Daniel.

THE WAR BEGINS


After the “Two Witnesses” complete their “testimony,” the “Beast” ascends from the “Abyss” and kills them. They are identified as the “two lampstands.” Elsewhere in the book, “lampstands” represent CHURCHES – (Revelation 11:4-7).

But Satan cannot unleash his minion from the “Abyss” until AFTER the “Two Witnesses” complete their “testimony” to the world, and they have been allotted “twelve hundred and sixty days” for doing so. Whether this figure is literal or figurative, the Devil is NOT free to inflict his destruction UNTIL the appointed time – someone or something else controls events.

That does not mean the saints are free from suffering during this period. The “Two Witnesses” prophesy “clothed in sackcloth,” and attempts are made “to hurt them.”

After their “death,” singular, the “inhabitants of the earth” rejoice since they will no longer be “tormented” by the words of “these two prophets.” But their celebration is premature – God raises His “witnesses” from the dead, vindicating their “testimony” - (Revelation 11:8-10).

WAR IN HEAVEN


The same war is described from another perspective in the twelfth chapter. John sees the “war in heaven” between Satan and “Michael and his angels.” The Devil is represented as the “Great Red Dragon, that Ancient Serpent,” and he has seven heads, “ten horns,” and “crowns” on each head – (Revelation 12:1-11).

The description links the Devil to the “serpent” that targeted Adam and deceived Eve. This is an ancient battle. But once the messianic “son” is “caught up to the throne” of God, the “Dragon” is defeated and expelled from heaven. The “son” has crushed the head of the Serpent; therefore, heaven celebrates since the “accuser of the brethren” has been cast down to the earth.

Though defeated in heaven, Satan is not yet out of the picture. Consigned to the earth, he sets out to destroy the “woman clothed with the sun.” But he is thwarted from doing so. And he is “enraged” since he has only a “short time” left to wreak havoc on the earth.

WAR ON THE EARTH


Next, the “Dragon” launches his “war” against the woman’s “seed,” and once more, the conflict is described with the same clause found in Daniel – “And the Dragon waxed wroth with the woman and departed TO MAKE WAR with the rest of her seed, they who keep the commandments of God and have the TESTIMONY OF JESUS.”

And as previously in his attack on the “Two Witnesses,” the targets of his “war” are the followers of the “Lamb.” The Greek noun translated “testimony” here is the same one used previously for the “testimony” of the “Two Witnesses.” This is not coincidental. The same company of believers is portrayed in both visions – (Revelation 11:7, 12:17).

The twelfth chapter ends with Satan standing on the seashore where he summons his “SEED” to prosecute his “war” against the “SEED of the woman,” the “Beast from the sea” and the “Beast from the earth.” The latter is identified later as the “false prophet.”

ATTACK FROM SEA AND EARTH


Next, John sees the first “Beast ascending from the sea.” This image parallels the previous “ascent from the Abyss” by the “Beast” – (Revelation 13:1-10).

Here, it has “ten horns and seven heads,” and a “crown” on each of its heads. This “Beast” has all the political authority of the “Dragon,” which it uses to “wage war against the saints and overcome them.” As before, the passage echoes the same words from the passage in Daniel.

And as previously, the “Beast from the sea” can only attack the “saints” when authorized to do so, and only for a limited time:

  • And there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and slander, and there was GIVEN to him authority to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth for slander against God, to slander his name and his tabernacle, even them that dwell in the heaven.  And it was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.

The term “saints” refers to the same company as the “Two Witnesses” and the “seed of the woman, those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.” This is confirmed in the next chapter when the “saints” are described as those who “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.  In chapters 11, 12, and 13, the same “war” against the followers of Jesus by the Devil is in view – (Revelation 14:10-12).

For his part, the “false prophet,” the “Beast from the earth,” uses religious deceit, mimicking the “Lamb,” as well as economic control to compel men to render fealty to the first “Beast.”

Those who refuse to “take the mark of the Beast” are persecuted and martyred, namely, the followers of Jesus who give their allegiance to the “Lamb” by “following him wherever he goes.” Rather than being “branded” with the “name of the Beast,” they have the name of Jesus “inscribed” on their foreheads – (Revelation 13:11-16, 14:1-5).

ARMAGEDDON


The “war” is described again when the angel empties the sixth bowl of wrath “on the great river, Euphrates.” Its waters are dried up so the “kings of the east” and their armies can attack. The intended target of this assault is not identified in the passage; however, in it, the “kings of the east” are identified. They are none other than the “kings of the earth” – (Revelation 16:12-16).

Demons released from the mouths of the “Dragon,” the “Beast,” and the “false prophet” orchestrate the “gathering together” of the “kings of the earth” to “the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” at the placed called “Armageddon.”

Previously, neither the “Beast from the Abyss” nor the “Beast from the sea” could attack the “saints” until the time appointed. Likewise, the “kings of the earth” are gathered for this final battle on the “great day of God” to be destroyed, although demonic forces are employed to deceive them. What Satan intends for evil against the “saints,” God will use to judge and destroy their persecutors.

And the “sixth bowl” is part of the series of judgments that “complete the wrath of God” and conclude with the final destruction of the world city, “Babylon the Great.” Her downfall results in terrestrial and celestial upheaval - the end of the present age – (Revelation 16:17-21).

JESUS RIDES TO VICTORY


And in the next chapter, the “ten horns” of the “Beast” represent the “ten kings” who give their political authority to the beastly empire so that it can “wage war against the Lamb.” However, the “Lamb will overcome them - “for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings” - along with those who are with him, the “called and chosen and faithful.

This picture anticipates the victory of the one who is “riding the white horse” in the nineteenth chapter. And Jesus is that “rider.” He is followed by his “armies in heaven,” and on his thigh is the same designation, “King of kings and Lord of lords - (Revelation 17:14, 19:10-21).

The resulting battle is described with language from the book of Ezekiel that originally applied to the army of “Gog and Magog.” Just as the “kings of the earth” are “gathered together” to Armageddon for destruction, so the “Beast and the kings of the earth and their armies” are “gathered together to make war” against the one sitting on the “white horse,” a battle that ends in their utter destruction – (Revelation 19:10-21).

The passage provides no descriptions of the actual battle scene, only its aftermath when the “Beast” and “false prophet” are thrown alive into the “lake of fire,” and the rest of their unholy force is destroyed by the “sword of him that sat upon the horse.”

This is the battle of the “great day of God the Almighty” when the armies of the “kings of the earth” are gathered for destruction at “Armageddon.” Again, God uses Satan’s attempt to destroy the “saints” to overthrow his forces.

SATAN UNLEASHED AND JUDGED


Finally, in chapter 20, Satan is released from the “Abyss” for a “short while” at the end of the “thousand years.” His release is conceptually parallel to the “ascents” of the “Beast from the Abyss” and “Beast from the sea.”

The Devil then “gathers together” the nations “from the four corners of the earth to the war, Gog and Magog.” Here, the verbal links to Ezekiel’s vision and the final battle in chapter 19 are explicit.

Thus, the same attack by “Gog and Magog” portrayed in chapter 19 is now presented as Satan’s final attempt to destroy the “saints” during the “short while” allotted to him at the end of the “thousand years.”

Likewise, this final “war” parallels the attack by the “Beast from the Abyss” against the “Two Witnesses” at the end of their “twelve hundred and sixty days” of “testimony,” the assault against the “woman’s seed” by the “Dragon” during his “short season,” and the “war” against the “saints” by the “Beast from the sea” after his authorized period of “forty-two months.”

Revelation describes this force as “ascending over the breadth of the earth to surround the camp of the saints.” The extent of this attack is global, not regional.

And as in chapter 19, no description of the actual battle is provided. The passage simply states that “fire came down out of heaven and devoured them,” and this is followed immediately by the final judgment at the “Great White Throne” when Satan is cast into the “lake of fire” where he joins the “Beast from the sea” and the “false prophet” – (Revelation 20:10-20).

THE FINAL ASSAULT


The verbal parallels in chapter 20 with the preceding visions are clear. This is the same “war” portrayed in chapters 11, 12, 13, 16 and 19. And here, the victims of this final assault are identified as the “saints,” the same group persecuted previously by the beasts from the “Abyss” and the “Sea,” and by the “Dragon” after his downfall from the heavens.

The use of the same language from the books of Daniel and Ezekiel to describe the “war” in these several passages, the verbal links, the conceptual parallels (e.g., ascent/release from the “Abyss”), and the identity of Satan’s victims (the “saints,” those who have the “testimony of Jesus”) demonstrate that the same final “war” is in view in each vision.

Prior to the end of the age, Satan will launch his final assault against the “saints,” those who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes,” namely, the church. This “war” will include deception and deceivers active within the church, economic pressure from without, and outright persecution and martyrdom.

This final “war” will be the Devil’s last-ditch effort to destroy the people redeemed by the “blood of the Lamb,” which is the only way he can wage an effective war against Jesus. The “Lamb” reigns from the throne of God, but his overcoming saints remain on the earth as a priestly company.

Thus, at the end of the age, centuries of Satan’s effort to destroy the church will consummate in one last violent conflagration unleashed against the church of Jesus Christ.



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