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In this article, I would like to look with you at the following passage from the Book of Revelation:

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:10–11).1

Three questions popped into my head the other day about this passage. “How did these persecuted believers overcome the accuser—the devil—by the blood of the Lamb? How did the word of their testimony overcome him? And how is all of that connected to not loving their lives even unto death?”

Think carefully about how you will answer. The response, “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb because Jesus died on the cross, and they were forgiven,” is true enough, but much like the Sunday School student who knew the right answer to every question the teacher asked was, “Jesus.”

To begin, it is important to say that the Christians mentioned in the Revelation 12 passage did not conquer the devil in the natural sense of winning and conquering—many of them died. We in the evangelical church in the United States have been infected with the notion that we should always succeed in the natural way of things. We must not be perceived as being weakened or diminished in this world. Thus, we are blind to such verses as these:

“For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Corinthians 12:10b.)

The Lord’s power “is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a).

Paul did not boast about how powerful he was here. He was weak, he admitted it, and he rejoiced in it. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b).

“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10–11).

Paul desired to share in Jesus’ sufferings. Does that sound like overcoming the devil to our Western minds?

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). This last verse clearly exposes our non-eternal, this-world-is-all-there-is way of thinking. The eternal kingdom of God will include humble and poor-in-spirit believers reigning on the earth, not here and now in the way we think in this world about reigning.

Our contemporary, earth-centered notions of winning and success over the devil are not present in Revelation 12. These Christians did not conquer him through declaring victory—only a confession of weakness and humility in light of what their Savior had accomplished for them. They took no credit whatsoever. Death and eternity were right there in front of these Christians, and they had to face them. These followers of Jesus overcame the devil because—he was accusing them, remember—by believing that their sins had been forgiven, and they were washed in Jesus’ blood; they were holy ones, saints, spotless ones, without blemish, unquestionably qualified to stand without accusation in God’s presence and the Judgment Seat of Christ through absolutely no merit of their own.

This is how they overcame their accuser.

So, to the second question. How did the word of their testimony overcome the devil?

These believers had no doubt they were Christians by grace alone. They could recount their life-saving testimonies about a forgiving God and how unworthy they were. They knew their eternal destination had been freely given and rejoiced in it.

Finally, this is also how they were able to love “not their lives unto death.” They knew that by the Lord’s grace they had an eternal destination. I should emphasize, albeit belatedly, that they did not love their lives. This is the opposite of what our culture and sometimes our churches, shout daily. They sought a glorious city made without hands, eternal in the heavens, whose builder and maker is God (2 Corinthians 5:1; Hebrews 11:10).

This is overcoming by the blood of the Lamb.

May we learn from them what true overcoming is.


1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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