An End-Time People

The Assembly of God is the battlefield where the final war is being waged between the Lamb and the Ancient Serpent, the Devil. The Book of Revelation is addressed to seven first-century congregations in the Roman province of Asia. It deals with their real-life situations and trials. In the process, it presents messages relevant to all the assemblies of God throughout the present age, the period known as the “Last Days” which began following Calvary. The daily struggles of the Asian churches provide a microcosm of the great cosmic battle that is being waged between Jesus and the Devil.

Church graveyard - Photo by Martin Vysoudil on Unsplash
[Photo by Martin Vysoudil 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 where the prophet was commanded: “To seal the Scroll until the season of the end.”

In contrast, John was commanded NOT to seal the Scroll since “the season is at hand.” What for Daniel was in a remote future is now a reality for the “Seven Assemblies of Asia” – (Daniel 12:4, Revelation 1:3, 22:10).

All this reflects the consistent New Testament message that History’s final era, the “Last Days,” began following the death and resurrection of Jesus. Satan, sin, and death were defeated decisively on the cross of Calvary. Thereafter, Jesus was exalted to reign “at the right hand of God.” Subsequently, he poured out the Holy Spirit, empowering his disciples to proclaim his sovereignty and Gospel throughout the Earth. The bestowal of the Spirit was and is irrefutable evidence that believers live in the “Last Days” – (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 a person’s identification with the “slain Lamb” – His or her allegiance to and emulation of the man from Nazareth.

The Book is addressed to the “servants of God” who are identified as members of the “Seven Assemblies of Asia.” They have been “loosed from their sins” by the blood of Jesus and thereby constituted a “Kingdom of Priests.”

The latter phrase is found in the Book of Exodus when Yahweh summoned the people of Israel to the same mission. However, that nation failed to accomplish this task, and it has now fallen to the people of the “Lamb” to do so - (Exodus 19:4-6).

When the “nationality” of God’s saints is revealed in Revelation, they are identified as the men who have been redeemed by Christ’s shed blood 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 in Revelation 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 messianic “Son,” he is expelled from the heavenly courtroom. Subsequently, through his Earthly vassals, he “waged war” against Jesus by persecuting his “saints” on the Earth. The Devil’s war against the “woman’s seed” plays out as the “Beast from the Sea” is granted authority to “make war against the saints” - (Revelation 12:8-17, 13:7).

In Revelation, martyrdom is not unexpected or exceptional, neither does it constitute a defeat for the Asian congregations. Satanic forces can only attack them when authorized to do so since the “Lamb” now “sits on the throne” and remains in firm control of events.

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

In the end, the “Beast from the Sea” and the “Kings of the Earth” unite to launch a final attack against the “Lamb.” In describing this battle, John uses language from Ezekiel’s vision of “Gog and Magog.”

However, in Revelation, this 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).

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

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 the province of Asia, the churches are battling against “false apostles,” compromise, apathy, the “Nicolaitans,” the adherents of the “teachings of Balaam,” persecution, and so on, the various attempts by the “Dragon” to deceive and derail followers of the “Lamb.” Satan is unable to attack Jesus directly, so he seeks to destroy his people through his surrogates on Earth.

SUFFERING FOR THE KING


None of this means that the visions of Revelation amount to allegories intended to provide believers with instructions on daily living. The temptations, sufferings, and persecutions endured by the “Assemblies of Asia” were all too real, just as has been the case with the Church throughout the present age.

The attacks by the “Dragon” are deadly serious and have eternal consequences. The war between the “Ancient Serpent” and the “Lamb” does consummate with the final assault against God’s people and the 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 disciple of Jesus throughout the present age. 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 sacrificial “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.” 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.” By recognizing just “WHO” and “WHEN” we are – the people of the Last Days - 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,” 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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