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Can Christians be conquered?

As is so often true, the answer is—

Yes.

And no.

According to Scripture, a day will come when no will be able to do business unless he or she has something called “the mark.” “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name (Revelation 13:16–17). 1

The “it” in the above verses is the “second beast,” because the first one will have already arrived: “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads” (Revelation 13:1).

Apart from the fantastical description we find in Revelation, we have no other way to know what this beast is or what it looks like. The Greek word, “therion,” is also used for the beast of the field. We should think of these beasts as partly symbolic and partly as described, it seems, unless one can imagine not being repulsed by the hideous description offered. Really? Seven heads and ten horns?

This first beast will be particularly anti-Christian. “It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven” (Revelation 13:6). And, whether Christians may like to hear it or not, it will conquer the saints: “Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:7–8). John ends the section about this first beast with these sobering words: “If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints (Revelation 13:10).

In other words, if it is God’s will that you, as a Christian, will be thrown into prison, well then, to prison you will go. If it is God’s will that you will be killed, then you will be killed.

God’s comfort for this distress? Christians must endure and trust in God.

It seems that the second beast will be a combination of one able to perform supernatural acts and exercise civil and economic authority as well:

  • “It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people…” (Revelation 13:13).
  • “And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain” (Revelation 13:15).
  • “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Revelation 13:16–17).

The second beast will be some kind of savior. A strong savior. It will be a combination Jesus/monstrous-dictator thing. The world will be in desperate need of such a savior. It will be in such a dreadful state that it will not protest when the second beast seizes such potent authority. The second beast will not need to ask permission for this power from the earth’s inhabitants. It will just take it.

This authority, these events, will be allowed by the Lord God Almighty.

The imprisonment and murder of Christians.

Amazing supernatural acts.

Dictatorial civil and economic authority.

Will Christians be conquered? Well, that is precisely the word Scripture uses. However, Christians can never be spiritually conquered. In his beautiful explanation of this truth In Romans 8:35-39 the apostle Paul offers the reason that Christians cannot be defeated. It is not because believers have authority over demons (Mark 16:17). It is not because of the misunderstood verses that we have the power to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). No. It is the steadfast, undefeatable power of the love of Jesus. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).

Trust in the promise of that love, the love that brought the God of all creation to die on a cross, is what will require “the endurance and faith of the saints.”

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.

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