WHEREVER evil appears it is to be fought with by the children of God in the name of Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Ghost. When evil appeared in an angel, straightway there was war in heaven. Evil in mortal men is to be striven against by all regenerate men. If sin comes to us in the form of an angel of light we must still war with it. If it comes with all manner of deceivableness of unrighteousness, we must not parley for a single moment, but begin the battle forthwith, if indeed we belong to the armies of the Lord. Evil is at its very worst in Satan himself: with him we fight. He is no mean adversary. The evil spirits which are under his control are, any one of them, terrible foes; but when Satan himself personally attacks a Christian, any one of us will be hard put to it.
When this dragon blocks our road, we shall need heavenly aid to force our passage. A pitched battle with Apollyon may not often occur, but when it does, you will know it painfully: you will record it in your diary as one of the darkest days you have ever lived; and you eternally praise your God, when you overcome him. But even if Satan were ten times stronger and more crafty than he is, we are bound to wrestle with him: we cannot for a moment hesitate, or offer him terms. Evil in its highest, strongest, and proudest form is to be assailed by the soldier of the cross, and nothing must end the war but complete victory. Satan is the enemy, the enemy of enemies. That prayer of our Lord’s, which we usually render, “Deliver us from evil,” has the special significance of “Deliver us from the evil one”; because he is the chief embodiment of evil, and in him evil is intensified, and has come to its highest strength. That man had need have Omnipotence with him who hopes to overcome the enemy of God and man. He would destroy all godly ones if he could; and though he cannot, such is his inveterate hate, that he worries those whom he cannot devour with a malicious eagerness.
In this chapter the devil is called the “great red dragon.” He is great in capacity, intelligence, energy, and experience. Whether or not he was the chief of all angels before he fell I do not know. Some have thought that he was such, and that when he heard that a man was to sit upon the throne of God, out of very jealousy he rebelled against the Most High. This is also conjecture. But we do know that he was and is an exceedingly great spirit as compared with us. He is a being great in evil: the prince of darkness, having the power of death. He shows his malice against the saints by accusing the brethren day and night before God. In the prophets we have the record of Satan standing to accuse Joshua the servant of God. Satan also accused Job of serving God from mercenary motives: “Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and all that he hath?”
This ever active enemy desires to tempt as well as accuse: he would have us, and sift us as wheat. In calling him the dragon, the Holy Spirit seems to hint at his mysterious power and character. To us a spirit such as he is, must ever be a mystery in his being and working. Satan is a mysterious personage though he is not a mythical one. We can never doubt his existence if we have once come into conflict with him; yet he is to us all the more real because so mysterious. If he were flesh and blood it would be far easier to contend with him; but to fight with this spiritual wickedness in high places is a terrible task. As a dragon he is full of cunning and ferocity. In him force is allied with craft; and if he cannot achieve his purpose at once by power, he waits his time. He deludes, he deceives; in fact, he is said to deceive the whole world. What a power of deception must reside in him, when under his influence the third part of the stars of heaven are made to fall, and myriads of men in all ages have worshipped demons and idols!
He has steeped the minds of men in delusion, so that they cannot see that they should worship none but God, their Maker. He is styled “the old serpent”; and this reminds us how practiced he is in every evil art. He was a liar from the beginning, and the father of lies. After thousands of years of constant practice in deception he is much too cunning for us. If we think that we can match him by craft we are grievous fools, for he knows vastly more than the wisest of mortals; and if it once comes to a game of policies, he will certainly clear the board, and sweep our tricks into the bag. To this cunning he adds great speed, so that he is quick to assail at any moment, darting down upon us like a hawk upon a poor chick. He is not everywhere present; but it is hard to say where he is not. He cannot be omnipresent; but yet, by that majestic craft of his, he so manages his army of fallen ones that, like a great general, he superintends the whole field of battle, and seems present at every point. No door can shut him out, no height of piety can rise beyond his reach. He meets us in all our weaknesses, and assails us from every point of the compass. He comes upon us unaware, and gives us wounds which are not easily healed.
But yet, dear friends, powerful as this infernal spirit certainly must be, his power is defeated when we are resolved never to be at peace with him. We must never dream of terms or truce with evil. To suppose that we can let him alone, and all will be well, is a deadly error. We must fight or perish: evil will slay us if we do not slay it. Our only safety will lie in a determined, vigorous opposition to sin, whatever shape it assumes, whatever it may threaten, whatever it may promise. The Holy Ghost alone can maintain in us this enmity to sin.
According to the text it is said of the saints, “They overcame him.” We are never to rest until it is said of us also, “They overcame him.” He is a foeman worthy of your steel. Do you refuse the conflict? Do you think of turning back? You have no armour for your back. To cease to fight is to be overcome. You have your choice between the two, either to gird up the loins of your minds for a life-long resistance, or else to be Satan’s slaves for ever. I pray God that you may awake, arise, and give battle to the foe. Resolve once for all that by the grace of God you will be numbered with those who overcome the arch-enemy.
Our text brings before us a very important subject for consideration – What is the conquering weapon? With what sword did they fight who have overcome the great red dragon? Listen! “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” Secondly, how do we use that weapon? We do as they did who overcame “by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
I. First, WHAT IS THIS CONQUERING WEAPON? They overcame him by “the blood of the Lamb.”
The blood of the Lamb signifies, first, the death of the Son of God. The sufferings of Jesus Christ might be set forth by some other figure, but his death on the cross requires the mention of blood. Our Lord was not only bruised and smitten, but he was put to death. His heart’s blood was made to flow. He of whom we speak was God over all, blessed for ever; but he condescended to take our manhood into union with his Godhead in a mysterious manner. He was born at Bethlehem a babe, he grew as a child, he ripened into manhood, and lived here among us, eating and drinking, suffering and rejoicing, sleeping and labouring as men do. He died in very deed and of a truth, and was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. That death was the grand fact which is set forth by the words “the blood of the Lamb.” We are to view Jesus as the Lamb of God’s passover: not merely separated from others, dedicated to be Israel ‘s memorial, and consecrated to divine service, but as the Lamb slain. Remember, that Christ viewed as living, and not as having died, is not a saving Christ. He himself saith, “I am he that liveth and was dead.” The moderns cry, “Why not preach more about his life, and less about his death?” I reply, Preach his life as much as you will, but never apart from his death; for it is by his blood that we are redeemed. “We preach Christ.” Complete the sentence. “We preach Christ crucified,” says the apostle. Ah, yes! there is the point. It is the death of the Son of God which is the conquering weapon. Had he not poured forth his soul unto death, even to the death of the cross-had he not been numbered with the transgressors, and put to a death of shame-we should have had no weapon with which to overcome the dragon prince. By “the blood of the Lamb” we understand the death of the Son of God. Hear it, O men! Because you have sinned, Jesus dies that you may be cleared from your sin. “He his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” and died that he might redeem us from all unrighteousness. The point is his death, and paradoxically, this death is the vital point of the gospel. The death of Christ is the death of sin and the defeat of Satan, and hence it is the life of our hope, and the assurance of his victory. Because he poured out his soul unto the death, he divides the spoil with the strong.
Next, by “the blood of the Lamb” we understand our Lord’s death as a substitutionary sacrifice. Let us be very clear here. It is not said that they overcame the arch-enemy by the blood of Jesus, or the blood of Christ, but by the blood of the Lamb; and the words are expressly chosen because, under the figure of a lamb, we have set before us a sacrifice. The blood of Jesus Christ, shed because of his courage for the truth, or out of pure philanthropy, or out of self-denial, conveys no special gospel to men, and has no peculiar power about it. Truly it is an example worthy to beget martyrs; but it is not the way of salvation for guilty men. If you proclaim the death of the Son of God, but do not show that he died the just for the unjust to bring us to God, you have not preached the blood of the Lamb. You must make it known that “the chastisement of our peace was upon him,” and that “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” or you have not declared the meaning of the blood of the Lamb. There is no overcoming sin without a substitutionary sacrifice. The lamb under the old law was brought by the offender to make atonement for his offence, and in his place it was slain: this was the type of Christ taking the sinner’s place, bearing the sinner’s sin, and suffering in the sinner’s stead, and thus vindicating the justice of God, and making it possible for him to be just and the justifier of him that believeth. I understand this to be the conquering weapon-the death of the Son of God set forth as the propitiation for sin. Sin must be punished: it is punished in Christ’s death. Here is the hope of men.
Furthermore, I understand by the expression, “The blood of the Lamb,” that our Lord’s death was effective for the taking away of sin. When John the Baptist first pointed to Jesus, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Our Lord Jesus has actually taken away sin by his death. Beloved, we are sure that he had offered an acceptable and effectual propitiation when he said, “It is finished.” Either he did put away sin, or he did not. If he did not, how will it ever be put away? If he did, then are believers clear. Altogether apart from anything that we do or are, our glorious Substitute took away our sin, as in the type the scapegoat carried the sin of Israel into the wilderness. In the case of all those for whom our Lord offered himself as a substitutionary sacrifice, the justice of God finds no hindrance to its fullest flow: it is consistent with justice that God should bless the redeemed. Near nineteen hundred years ago Jesus paid the dreadful debt of all his elect, and made a full atonement for the whole mass of the iniquities of them that shall believe in him, thereby removing the whole tremendous load, and casting it by one lift of his pierced hand into the depths of the sea. When Jesus died, an atonement was offered by him and accepted by the Lord God, so that before the high court of heaven there was a distinct removal of sin from the whole body of which Christ is the head. In the fulness of time each redeemed one individually accepts for himself the great atonement by an act of personal faith, but the atonement itself was made long before.
I believe this to be one of the edges of the conquering weapon. We are to preach that the Son of God has come in the flesh and died for human sin, and that in dying he did not only make it possible for God to forgive, but he secured forgiveness for all who are in him. He did not die to make men savable, but to save them. He came not that sin might be put aside at some future time, but to put it away there and then by the sacrifice of himself; for by his death he “finished transgressions, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness.” Believers may know that when Jesus died they were delivered from the claims of law, and when he rose again their justification was secured. The blood of the Lamb is a real price, which did effectually ransom. The blood of the Lamb is a real cleansing, which did really purge away sin. This we believe and declare; and by this sign we conquer. Christ crucified, Christ the sacrifice for sin, Christ the effectual Redeemer of men, we will proclaim everywhere, and thus put to rout the powers of darkness.
by Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).