God wins. If I had to summarize the message of Revelation in just two words, those would be my choice. They not only convey the point of the book but also hint at its main storyline. Despite what some overly speculative interpreters would have us believe, the main character in the last book of the Bible is not the Dragon, Beast, or False Prophet; rather, it is God. Revelation is primarily about Christ, not the Antichrist. And the main point of the book is to demonstrate in graphic imagery the victory of God in Christ.
Through the incarnate ministry of His Son, God has conquered the Devil and his demons; the world and its deceptions; and sin and its destruction. Through faith in Him, we are also victorious over all these enemies. Because He wins, we also win. His victory secures ours. This truth provides fuel for an ever-increasing joy on the part of every believer.
But there is no victory without a contest, and Revelation makes it very clear that the battle between those who belong to Christ and those who oppose Him is real, intense, and deadly. The Devil never simply forfeits. Just as our Lord did not secure our salvation without severe trials and suffering, so His disciples should not be surprised when their devotion to Him invites brutal conflict.
At the very beginning of the book, God promises a blessing to everyone who “reads aloud the words of this prophecy” and to those “who hear, and who keep what is written in it” (1:3). That blessing includes at least two elements: a stubborn hope that breeds bold courage and an abiding joy that prompts unreserved worship.
Too often, circumstances tempt us to despair by eclipsing those unseen realities that can be accessed only by faith. John surely faced this as he contemplated his exile on Patmos. But when “the revelation of Jesus Christ” came to him, visions of the risen, exalted, and enthroned Lord brought an eternal perspective to his present challenges. What he saw transformed his prison into a sanctuary. His circumstances did not change, but his perspective did.
God revealed to John that history is moving toward a climatic conclusion that will be ushered in by the final conquest of our warrior God. This is signaled by the blast of the seventh trumpet that is followed by “loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever’” (11:15). Neither Rome nor her emperors will have the last say; nor will the United States, China, or any future political empire that this world might spawn. The Lord Jesus will reign and even now is ruling and overruling world events to orchestrate His eternal enthronement as the one, sovereign King over all.
The most effective soldier is the one who fights with a clear objective and an unshakeable confidence that victory is assured. Revelation gives us both for the spiritual warfare we must endure. The mission of the church was mapped out by Jesus’ first coming. As the sacrificial Lamb, He was slain on the cross, and by His blood He “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” and “made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (5:9–10).
The Lord Jesus will reign and even now is ruling and overruling world events to orchestrate His eternal enthronement as the one, sovereign King over all.
Through His sufferings, our Savior secured the complete redemption of a vast multitude of people that “no man could number” (7:9). Our responsibility is to get the good news of His saving work to these people so that they can be reconciled to God through faith. Sometimes, discharging this duty can be costly.
If Jesus shed His blood for individuals from every people group in the world, how can we who have been rescued by Him remain indifferent in the face of more than six thousand ethnolinguistic groups that have yet to be reached with the gospel? News of our great Savior and His redeeming exploits must be spread to the ends of the earth. Yes, the mission is dangerous. There will be casualties — martyrs who will be killed “for the word of God, and for the testimony” they bear (6:9–11). But the suffering of Christ’s followers will not be in vain because His kingdom will prevail. Victory is assured.
The end of Revelation reminds us that the church relates to her King not only as an army engaged in spiritual warfare, but also as a bride preparing for her wedding day. The Lord has chosen us for Himself. At the conclusion of the age, when all of His enemies are defeated, the church of Jesus Christ will be fully cleansed, no longer having the spots, wrinkles, and blemishes that currently mar her beauty (Eph. 5:25–27). On that occasion, all who are in Christ will be presented to the One who died for them and will appear before Him as a bride clothed “with fine linen, bright and pure” at the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7–9).
The suffering of Christ’s followers will not be in vain because His kingdom will prevail.
Then our warfare will fully resolve into worship. There will be no complaints, no regrets, and no disappointments. Rather, there will be joyful, unending worship of the God who loved us and gave Himself for us.
That eternal prospect transforms all who embrace it.
This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of TableTalk Magazine.