April 9 – Overcoming Through Suffering

They overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Revelation 12:11

 

Christians are aliens and strangers in the world, waging war against fleshly lusts and being slandered and persecuted. As a result, we must expect to suffer in the name of the One who endured all manner of suffering for us (1 Pet. 2:11–25). The central thrust of Peter’s message is to remind us of the necessity of suffering. When in the midst of suffering we sin in thought, word, or deed by retaliating, we lose our victory and damage our testimony.

According to today’s verse, you overcome the insults, persecutions, and accusations of Satan by the blood of the Lamb, our Savior. That’s the power of God. You’re an overcomer when you don’t lose your testimony by retaliating during times of persecution, and when you don’t compromise—even to the point of death. Are you willing to stand strong in the suffering?[1]


The heavenly worshipers also offer praise because of events on earth, where their brethren overcame Satan. Ejected from heaven, Satan and his hellish hosts will vent their full fury on God’s people on earth (cf. 12:6, 13–17). There too, however, they will suffer defeat. Again speaking of a future event in the past tense because of its certainty, the inspired apostle John sees the victory already won and notes that the believers alive on earth overcame Satan, though it is yet to happen. How they did so is most instructive. They did not defeat him by means of incantations, exorcisms, ritual formulas, or by “binding” or rebuking him. Satan, being far more powerful than any human, is impervious to such fleshly tricks and gimmicks. Nor was it through their own personal power that the Tribulation believers defeated Satan. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3–5).

The apostle John gave the only basis for victory over Satan when he wrote, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). It is only through God’s power that any believer in any age can defeat Satan. Accordingly, the Tribulation believers overcame Satan first of all because of the blood of the Lamb. Like their martyred brethren already in heaven, they “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14). “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,” wrote Peter, “but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18–19). These suffering believers knew the forgiveness that Paul wrote of in Romans 4:7–8: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” The truth that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) applied to them. No accusation against the suffering saints of the Great Tribulation will stand, just as no accusation against any believer in any age will stand, because the Lamb’s blood was shed for all their sins. The first and most important key to defeating Satan’s assaults is to “take the helmet of salvation” (Eph. 6:17; cf. 1 Thess. 5:8). The unshakable foundation of all spiritual victory is Christ’s purchase of redemption at Calvary.

A second way these Tribulation saints overcame Satan’s assaults was through the word of their testimony. Despite all the persecution (and even martyrdom) they suffered, they will remain faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ; their testimony will never waver.

The suffering Tribulation saints also were able to fend off Satan’s onslaught because they did not love their life even when faced with death. Their faithfulness extended all the way to death; they willingly paid the ultimate price for their loyalty to Christ. They knew that all martyrdom could do to them was usher them into the eternal bliss of Christ’s presence (Phil. 1:21, 23; cf. Matt. 10:38–39; Acts 20:24; Rom. 8:38–39). Because their faith was genuine, it not only justified and sanctified them, but also enabled them to persevere all the way to glorification. A sure mark of true believers is that they continue in the faith even to death (cf. 1 John 2:19). In the words of Jesus, “The one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matt. 24:13).[2]


11 This stanza is both a statement and an appeal. It announces that the followers of the Lamb also become victors over the dragon because they participate in the “blood of the Lamb,” the weapon that defeated Satan, and because they have confirmed their loyalty to the Lamb by their witness, even to death. The blood of the martyrs, rather than signaling the triumph of Satan, shows instead that they have gained the victory over the dragon by their acceptance of Jesus’ cross and by their obedient suffering with him. This is one of John’s chief themes (1:9; 6:9; 14:12; 20:4).

Verses 12 and 17 lead to the conclusion that only a portion of the martyrs are in view (cf. 6:11). Thus this hymn of victory also becomes an appeal to the rest of the saints to do likewise and confirm their testimony to Christ, even if doing so means death. This seems to suggest that, in some mysterious sense, the sufferings of God’s people are linked to the sufferings of Jesus in his triumph over Satan and evil (Jn 12:31; Ro 16:20; Col 1:24). Since the martyrs have won the victory over the dragon because of the cross of Jesus (i.e., they can no longer be accused of damnable sin, since Jesus has paid sin’s penalty [1:5b]), they are now free even to give up their lives in loyalty to their Redeemer (Jn 12:25; Rev 15:2).[3]


12:11 The announcement continues. Persecuted Jewish believers overcame the evil one by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. Their victory was based on the death of Christ and their testimony to the value of that death. In faithfulness to Him, they sealed their testimony with their blood.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 114). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). Revelation 12–22 (pp. 21–23). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 699). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2369). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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