Rev. 12:11 – 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. (HCSB)
They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
Verse 11 reads: “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.” There are two ways in which the “brothers” (v. 10) have achieved victory over Satan, according to the voice in heaven. Both of them involve death, a seemingly counterproductive way to win a battle – at least by the world’s standards.
First, the brothers conquer Satan by the blood of the Lamb. Satan’s desire to kill Jesus, or even to prevent his birth, is evident throughout scripture, most recently in Rev. 12:4 as the dragon is poised to devour the male child. Ironically, Jesus comes into the world to die, but on His terms, not Satan’s. There is a specific time and place for the Son of Man to give His life as a ransom for us. And when Jesus declares, “It is finished,” just before His death on the cross, He makes it clear that His purpose in coming to earth has been fulfilled. The apostle Paul summarizes this beautifully in 2 Cor. 5:21: “He [the Father] made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
For believers, the victory and the cross are inextricably bound. The apparent end of a radical rabbi on a hillside outside Jerusalem is thought by His enemies to be a magnificent triumph. Yet the bloody and gruesome death of Jesus of Nazareth is in fact the fulfillment of the Father’s eternal plan of redemption. Jesus may exult, “It is finished,” and be completely vindicated. Just as the high priest declares, “It is finished,” on the Day of Atonement when sacrifices will no longer be accepted, and just as the Roman general booms, “It is finished,” from his perch above the battlefield when he sees the enemy has been routed, Jesus shouts for all the world to hear that salvation has come to a lost and dying world because of His death.
As the apostle Peter writes, “For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you” (1 Peter 1:18-20). And John writes in 1 John 1:7 that “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
W.A. Criswell comments: “We have acceptance and standing in heaven because of the blood of the sacrifice of the Son of God. An old Talmudic tradition among the Jewish people says that Satan, the arch enemy of God’s people, accuses the saints day and night except on the day of atonement. Every day and every night for the Christian who looks to the blood of Jesus is a day of atonement” (Expository Sermons on Revelation, Vol. 4, Rev. 11-17, p. 96).
The word of their testimony
So the brothers have overcome the evil one by the blood of the Lamb. But John records a second manner of victory – this, too, requiring death: “They conquered him … by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death.” The Greek reads dia ton logon tes marturias, or “by reason of the word of their martyrdom.” While Christ’s finished work on the cross secures our salvation and defeats Satan, the death of saints for the cause of their Savior is a personal victory that God does not fail to notice – or reward.
Even suffering in the name of the Master is a noble endeavor. Jesus tells His followers in the Sermon on the Mount, “Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you becomes of Me. Be glad and rejoice because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10-12).
Peter encourages Christians to be faithful in the midst of suffering: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes along you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4:12-14).
Jesus declares that there is a special “crown” or reward for martyred saints: “Be faithful unto death,” He tells believers in Smyrna, “and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10). Whatever it is that faithful saints sacrifice in this world – time, wealth, comfort, health, or life itself – they will be greatly compensated in the world to come. This is the promise of the One who stepped out of the glory of heaven, took on flesh, and laid down His life for us.
Matthew Henry writes: “By the word of their testimony, as the great instrument of war, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, by a resolute powerful preaching of the everlasting gospel, which is mighty, through God, to pull down strongholds, and by their courage and patience in sufferings; they loved not their lives unto the death, when the love of life stood in competition with their loyalty to Christ; they loved not their lives so well but they could give them up to death, could lay them down in Christ’s cause; their love to their own lives was overcome by stronger affections of another nature; and this their courage and zeal helped to confound their enemies, to convince many of the spectators, to confirm the souls of the faithful, and so contributed greatly to this victory” (Rev. 12:1-11).
A. Knowles adds in The Bible Guide, “As John writes down the messages of Christ for the seven churches in western Turkey, the thought of persecution and martyrdom is never far away. But Jesus himself triumphed through suffering – and now he promises to share his victory with all who keep faith till the end” (p. 704).
Next: Rejoice, O heavens — Revelation 12:12