WE ARE INVOLVED IN A WAR
We have a sermon series at present on the book of Revelation. There is much in this book about spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is a very important topic. We are involved in a war. But what does this war entail and how do we fight it?
Right from the start of the book we are told that we are partners in “tribulation”
(Revelation 1:9). Tribulation is another word for suffering. Christians will suffer in this world. Like John we will be persecuted for our witness to Jesus. Thus the churches of Smyrna, Pergamum and Philadelphia all experienced persecution. Christians are killed because of the word of God and their witness to Jesus
(Revelation 6:9). So right from the start it is clear that as we hold on to the truth and proclaim it, we will suffer.
Of course we can avoid the fight. Churches like Sardis and Laodicea don’t seem to suffer. In fact at Laodicea they are wealthy and comfortable. They have shielded themselves from suffering and persecution by their wealth. But because they are lazy and apathetic, indifferent to the fight, they are about to be spat out of Jesus’ mouth (Revelation 3:15-17). Avoiding the fight by refusing to live for Jesus, to witness to him, to suffer for him, will end up meaning that we are on the opposing side.
THE VICTORY HAS ALREADY BEEN WON
In each of the seven letters the call at the end is for us to overcome, to conquer. But the good news in the war is that the victory has already been won! Jesus has conquered (Revelation 5:5). He was faithful to the end, even to death on the cross. And by his death he shows that he loves us and has freed us from our sins
(Revelation 1:5). The victory has already been won, and it is in the past – at the cross.
And yet the devil still fights us. Though he has been defeated by Jesus he goes on to make war on the church (Revelation 12:7f). The devil attacks the church by physical persecution (Revelation 13). But he also attacks the church by the more subtle attack of false teaching, which distorts the truth and takes Jesus’ servants away from him. The churches of Pergamum and Thyatira were particularly struggling with this attack. So there is the external attack of physical persecution (from outside of the church), and the internal attack of false teaching (from within the church).
FIGHT BY PATIENT ENDURANCE & BY TEACHING & KNOWING THE TRUTH
How do we fight these attacks of the devil? First, Jesus has won. That is the most important truth in the war. Second, we fight by trusting in Jesus and bearing testimony to him. Christians, Revelation 12:11 says “have conquered the devil by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”. We fight persecution by patient endurance (Revelation 1:9, 13:10, 14:12). We fight false teaching by knowing and believing the truth.
It doesn’t sound too spectacular does it? But it is a great fight. Victory comes by the way of the cross: by patiently enduring suffering, with faith in God, knowing that God will raise us from the dead to be in heaven with him forever
(Revelation 7:15-17). In the daily struggle against temptation, against the devil’s lies, against mocking and persecution, we are to keep bearing witness to Jesus and trusting in him. We mustn’t capitulate by becoming like the world and giving up on bearing witness to Jesus. Suffering, humiliation, and even death, while holding true to the faith, will mean victory. Jesus has shown us the way, and he has won the war.
The call to each church is to overcome, to conquer: to trust in Jesus and bear witness to him even to the point of death. How are you going in the fight?