Third, we triumph by the word of our testimony without shrinking from death.
Rev 12:11 – They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
What does it mean to triumph by the word of our testimony to the point of not shrinking from death? I think this is talking about verbally professing our faith to others. By the spoken words of our testimony we can triumph over Satan.
Revelation was written some time between 68 AD to 95 AD during the reign of Emperor Nero or Emperor Domitian of the Roman Empire. The writer, the apostle John, was an old grandfather and he received this vision or revelation from God while he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos.
And this was an era of intense persecution. To confess one’s allegiance to Christ was considered a direct offense against the Emperor. So when John writes in Rev 12:11, “they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death,” he was speaking about the literal martyrdom of Christians as they professed their faith by the WORD of their testimony. The spoken word of their testimony.
How do we apply this? We can triumph over Satan’s attacks, not only by holding fast to our testimony about Jesus and what he did for us. But we triumph when we take the additional step of putting our testimony into words as we share our faith with others.
If you think about it, martyrdom during the first century was one very visible way to weed out the genuine believers from those who didn’t really believe that Christianity was something worth dying for. The genuine Christians did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death so when the Romans soldiers asked them to bow down to the Emperor and they refused, they died for their belief in Jesus. The false Christians were asked the same question, but they loved their lives too much and by their actions, and their silence about Jesus, they were essentially saying that their faith was not something worth dying for.
How do we distinguish the real Christians from the false ones today? Last time I checked, no one is holding a gun to our heads and asking us to renounce our faith in Christ. Yet, I think these verses give us a sobering challenge. Satan attacks us and he makes us feel ashamed to be a Christian. After all, it’s not PC to talk about religion. You can talk about all kinds of crass topics, but when it comes to God, people all of sudden get all offended, how dare you talk about God. That stuff should be kept private. Stay out of my business. Keep your thoughts about God to yourself.
And whenever we do muster up the courage to share our faith with someone, we are persecuted for it. We can’t call it persecution the same way the first century Christians were persecuted. But we do have our fair share of persecution: the weird faces, the awkwardness, the rolling of the eyes, the snide comments — you’re educated yet you believe in Jesus, and the outright rejections as you share your faith. And Satan reminds us of these instances and he convinces us that it’s not worth speaking out about Jesus and we believe the lie and we become silent Christians.
When we become silent, more and more, our faith becomes private and abstract, and eventually, irrelevant. And over time, we may have gained our lives, our reputation, our dignity, but we will have lost our faith.
To battle Satan, the application is obvious. We need to speak the word of our testimony to others.
I attend a church planter’s meeting every month and there is one pastor there named Pastor William and he started a church in Texas many years ago and now that church is a very large because he is very evangelistic. But he felt called to start a new church plant in Pasadena, CA and he shared before all of us that he was going to share the gospel with 1 person per day in the coming year. And he said, unless I make this kind of public commitment, I won’t do it. And I was so challenged. That much Satan must hate it whenever God’s children open their mouths to share the word of our testimony. Let’s be much more vocal in our faith in 2011.
Now we can circle back to and answer the question I raised earlier — why are there so many Scrooges during Christmas? It’s because many of us, Christians included, are losing to Satan and we don’t even realize it.
We are in the midst of intense spiritual battle. Remember the picture of the dragon enraged at the woman and now he’s off to wage war against the rest of her offspring — those who keep God’s commands — that’s us.
There is an intense clash of 2 kingdoms — the kingdom of Jesus on one side and the kingdom of Satan on the other. And here we are caught in the middle. I want to show you a short clip from “The Lord of the Rings, Part 3: The Return of the King” that I think captures this epic clash between good and evil.
J.R. Tolkien, in this dialogue between Gandalf and Pippin, masterfully captures the intensity of this clash of 2 opposing kingdoms. This scene depicts how Gandalf and Pippin must have felt going into the final battle.
[Scene 14 ~ “The Deep Breath Before the Plunge”] 2 min, 30 sec
Gandalf, Pippin and Frodo and the motley crew of do-gooders have seemingly no chance against Sauron and his forces of evil. It’s just a small handful of them. What can they do against thousands and thousands of Orcs and you can’t even tell if the rumbling that we hear in the background is the sound of thunder or the footsteps of the approaching army of Mordor.
Frodo and his crew should just give up. And Pippin asks Gandalf, “Is there any hope for Frodo and Sam?” Gandalf answers, “There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope.”
If we think about Christmas, according to Revelation, there is so much darkness. Herod is trying to kill Jesus and there is mass murdering of young boys. The dragon is out to devour Jesus. And the hope of the entire humanity rests on a helpless baby. Sounds like a fool’s hope.
In the backdrop of such deep, seemingly endless darkness, the hope of Jesus shines all the more brightly, doesn’t it? In a pitch black room, even one candle shines brightly. The darker it is, the more radiant the light appears to be. And the principle follows — the darker we realize the battle actually is, the brighter and more radiant is our hope in Christ and our experience of Christmas.
No wonder Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah in this way —
Isaiah 9:2 — The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
We already have fast forwarded to the end of the movie when Satan is defeated. We know that Jesus conquered Satan at the cross and he will return as the reigning King and complete his defeat of evil once and for all. Until then, we are in a fight for our lives as these 2 opposing kingdoms clash.
Know your enemy the Deceiver who accuses day and night, cling on to the blood of the Lamb, the cross event which is the foundation of our faith, and triumph by the word of your testimony by sharing your faith with others.