As our church has been studying Hebrews 2 we have been growing in our appreciation of the reality that our Lord Jesus Christ, our “Elder Brother,” has once and for all defeated the devil, the one who for so long held us enslaved to the fear of death.
Jesus secured this victory when He died on the cross in our place. When He cried out, “It is finished!” the devil was finished—“finished en klaar,” as we like to say in South Africa. Christ’s death in our place was the sufficient “propitiation” by which God’s justice was satisfied. His holy wrath was poured out on His Son and thereby deflected from us. A wonderful Big Brother and a gloriously gracious Father indeed!
The Father being satisfied means that we are to be satisfied as well. We who have been justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone are to rest content that we are forever forgiven and eternally secure. In the words of Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
But in spite of this reality, we are still at times confronted with the accusatory onslaught of a world system which is under the sway of the evil one. Though the Devil is defeated he is, to quote Proverbs 12:1, stupid. He continues his assaults though the end game is determined. Disturbingly, sometimes the victors—the siblings of the Elder Brother—are slow to respond biblically to such assaults. We behave, well, less than biblically, with the result that we entertain stupid thoughts. Such stupid thoughts as, “I have sinned too many times for God to forgive me”; “I have sinned in a really terrible way (is not all sin terrible??) and so certainly I stand condemned before God”; “I have been saved and instructed too long for God to be patient with me now; surely His mercies have run out and He is going to put me on the proverbial shelf.” Or something like this: “I have not been good enough today to warrant God’s love; maybe tomorrow I can earn His favour by doing better.” Did I say stupid? Well, if we believe the lie that God does not eternally justify believing sinners then we are at the least not being wise (that sounds more politically correct).
We need to realize that when we entertain such thoughts we can be sure that we are listening to the accuser of the brethren rather than to our Big Brother.
Revelation 12 reveals that our adversary (the meaning of “Satan”) is literally diabolical. You see the devil slanders God to us and us to God. Through his evil world system our outlook is influenced by his lies that God is not good and that His mercies are not new every morning. The devil is the liar behind the falsehood that we can actually do something to merit God’s favour and forgiveness. It is this devilish worldview of self-righteousness that leads us to despair as we assume that God will write us off because we have failed.
Saints through the ages have wrestled with such diabolical accusations but they have also prevailed. And Revelation 12 reveals how, “And they overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (v. 11).
Many well-meaning believers will speak of “pleading the blood” or “claiming the blood of Jesus” in the midst of spiritual warfare. But I often wonder what they mean. No doubt the root of such phrases comes from this verse in Revelation 12 and so the question is what did they mean by it?
They did not mean some mystical idea that the physical blood of Christ drives away spiritual darkness. They certainly did not use this phrase as some spiritual mantra that would drive away demons, much like the mythical silver bullet that drives away the werewolf or like the sign of a “Hex” that superstitious farmers in America used to paint on the side of their barns to keep away evil spirits. No, there was nothing superstitious about this at all. In fact, this phrase was a doctrinal statement; one that they took seriously; one that enabled them to stand strong in the Lord and in the power of His might against the accusatory attempts of the devil to produce despair, and subsequent drifting.
The “blood of the Lamb” is a metaphor for the redemptive and thus justifying work of Christ for those He came to save. The “blood of the Lamb” is another way of stating Hebrews 2:14-15: that Jesus suffered death in order to “destroy the devil and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” It is a metaphor for the doctrine of justification by faith alone. It is a metaphor for the gospel.
These saints in Revelation 12 overcame the devil by resting in the fact that they were children of God by faith in Jesus Christ, and so even death was no threat to them. The practical application of this doctrine enabled them to die for the Lord. It enabled them to die confident in the Lord. The devil could take his best shot at trying to get them to doubt their secure standing before God, but “the blood of the Lamb” would quench all such fiery darts of the devil. If death was the worst that the devil could orchestrate (through persecution) then let him do so. They could not be threatened with heaven! You see, because they knew that Jesus Christ had paid the price for their salvation that they were safe and secure as they followed their Big Brother. And so, when threatened by the “accuser” they prayed the price. They reminded themselves of the truth of the gospel and they subsequently prevailed. They prayed the price and therefore they “loved not their lives to the death.” They were willing to die because they knew Jesus really had died for them. They were free. We too are to remember that Jesus paid the price and therefore we can pray the price.
When you are tempted to feel condemned and hopeless in your relationship with God; when you wonder whether God really loves you then you need to pray the price. Jesus paid the price to release us from guilt and from a damning death. We need to lay hold of this price and let it drive us to pray this truth back to God and to hear this truth and to believe this truth as we pray it. As we do so we will remember afresh that the price has been paid and that we have nothing to fear. So the next time you are tempted by the devilishly stupid idea that God’s forgiveness is fickle, simply remember that Jesus paid the price so that you can joyfully pray the price. The result will be for your good and for God’s glory.