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.
Rev 12:11 (ESV)
BLOOD AND STORIES - PART ONE
This verse is in the middle of a story/vision/dream that John had about dragons, angels, and Jesus.
First; Revelation is a difficult book to read. It's full of ancient Jewish imagery, hyperbole, poetry, metaphor… it’s a wild and crazy read. Many scholars believe that revelation is John's way of talking about the corruption of the Roman political system and the prevailing nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. On a blog post last year, Peter Enns said:
"Despite what it might look like to the naked eye, Rome, with its powerful armies and emperors, is not in charge. Rather, paradoxically and counterintuitively, the slain Lamb of God—the crucified and risen Jesus—is in charge.
Therefore—and I can’t stress this enough, people—Revelation is a call to God’s people at any time to be faithful to Christ over and against the “world system.”
As biblical scholar Michael Gorman puts it in his book Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation, Revelation is a critique of “civil religion”—of tying the Gospel to any political system.”
It’s a subversive book written in a politically volatile time by a Jewish man who’s life and livelihood was under threat by the Roman government. If we fail to consider this while reading Revelation, we will miss its message to us.
Second; the ‘Him’ that John mentions in the verse above we can safely assume is the ancient serpent/dragon/satan/devil, the one whom he called “the deceiver of the whole world” the verse before.
Straight away, I think:
“No. He hasn’t been conquered yet. Obviously!”
Everywhere I look, there is pain and heartache, war and torment, lack and injustice. The world is a boiling pot of pressure and pain right now. Try telling the woman whose husband just left her; the child whose parent abuses him; worker who is underpaid and taken advantage of; the refugee separated from her children, and/or the ones fleeing their war-torn country on a boat with nothing but their family clutched tightly to them and the clothes on their back, or the ones left behind with no where to go; or the teenager failing high school; the dad struggling with addiction; the parents of a murdered child; the mom who has to put her child into hospice care…
Try telling them that evil has been conquered.
Try telling yourself that.
John's friends and family would have thought the same thing:
“Evil has been conquered? Can you not see what is happening around us?”
John didn’t write those words so that we would read and think, “how lovely…” But so that we would wrestle it out, talk about it, figure out how to live with it and put it into action, and then do it all over again for the rest of our lives. Faith is not a destination. The Bible is not a flat text. It's complicated, often unclear, counterintuitive, and full of parables that could be interpreted a thousand different ways. It's best read by faith. Not a blind kind of faith that says, “It's written, so I believe it!” But faith that asks questions, knowing that it is being lead somewhere good:
“What the heck? What do you mean God? Why is this in here? Show me…”
Faith that explores and learns and grows. Teachable faith.
So when John tells me - a couple of thousand years of culture and belief between us - that he had a crazy vision (possibly induced by eating too many prawn cocktails on Patmos) explaining that I can overcome evil/darkness/satan/deception by the blood of the lamb (reference to Jesus) and the word of my testimony, I may not be certain that evil has been conquered, but I have hope that I can be part of the process.