Last week, a friend asked an interesting question: What did I think about ISIS and the situation in Iraq? What did I think God was doing or allowing in Iraq? Had I blogged on this topic?
I confessed: Other than being grieved by ISIS’s crimes, I hadn’t given the topic a lot of thought or blogged about it. But as soon as that was out of my mouth, mental wheels started turning. (And maybe the Holy Spirit started whispering).
I told my friend I’d been reading Revelation the last 8 or 9 months, so that’s where my head was. Revelation was written to seven churches in Asia-minor. In most of the churches, Christians were being persecuted, imprisoned, or killed for their devotion to Jesus (Rev. 2 & 3). In chapter 5, John sees the Lamb of God on a throne in heaven. John is told the Lamb conquered because He was slaughtered.
Satan dramatically appears as a dragon in chapter 12. John sees the dragon thrown down and defeated by God’s people. How? “They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death” (Rev. 12:9-10).
Chapter 13 opens with a beast rising out of the sea. The beast is given authority over all people. He fights against God’s people and conquers them. After this scene, the Lamb appears on Mt. Zion with those redeemed from humanity. This triumphant group follows the Lamb wherever He goes (Rev. 14:4).
In chapter 20, those who were killed because they refused to worship the beast are raised from the dead and reign with Christ 1000 years.
Revelation ends with a vision of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21 & 22). John is told the New Jerusalem is “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9). In other words, the New Jerusalem is all those in union with the Lamb; they are married to His self-sacrificing nature, the love He demonstrated at the cross.
This is the message to the churches in Revelation: Through the persecution and death you are suffering, you are conquering, just as the Lamb conquered when He was slaughtered at the cross. The dragon and the beast are powerless against someone who lays down their life in love. You follow the Lamb wherever He goes, even to death. You are married to His sacrificial nature. Because of this, you share His indestructible life, His absolute authority, His victory over the dragon and the beast (Heb. 2:14-15, 7:15-16).
I told my friend the message of Revelation probably applies to the situation in Iraq. I can imagine Jesus saying to Christians in Iraq, “Your tears and deaths are precious to me (Psalm 116:15). Know that fanatical Islam is defeated when you suffer with me. Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can do no more (Matt. 10:28). Join my victory at the cross.”