The story of Christianity is the story of victory at great cost.
Hunted, beaten, starved, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered, this was the life for many Christians in the first century. Just as their Savior, they chose temporal suffering for eternal satisfaction.
This contrast between victory and loss is seen in vivid colors in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Following the great worship scene in chapter four, we find an equally awesome display of worship to the Son viewed as a Lion. But that glorious praiseworthy setting is enhanced by the suffering of that Son who became a Lamb slain (Revelation 5:6-8).
He is worthy because he was slain. His blood “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). He took people from every kingdom on earth, small and great, and made them a “kingdom” and “priests to our God” and he allows them to “reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10).
But, the celebration of these chapters is short-lived. For there must first be suffering. A red horse, which represented slaughter is unleashed, followed by a black horse, which represented economic deprivation, and then a pale horse, whose rider’s name was “death” (Revelation 6:3-8). This is what awaited God’s people, the sword, starvation, and death.
Those who had been slain “for the word of God and for the witness they had borne” are seen under the altar (Revelation 6:9). They cry out, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10). They are told to rest a little longer. Still more saints must suffer and die (Revelation 6:11).
The great accuser is revealed in chapter 12. He is pictured as a dragon. He tries to stop the plan of God but fails (Revelation 12:1-8). This ancient serpent, Satan, is cast down to earth where he accuses Christians “day and night” (Revelation 12:10). In furious anger he makes war on “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17).
Where is the victory against such a formidable and motivated foe?
“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” (Revelation 12:11).
Suffering leads to salvation. The great serpent is powerless against those who are clothed in the blood of Christ, who faithfully live for him, and who do not fear death (see Matthew 10:28).
We are brought near to God by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13). We can have peace by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:20). We can enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19). And we conquer by the blood of the Lamb.
We are in the greatest battle the world has known. Do you want victory? Don’t trust in princes. Follow the path of the victorious Christians of the first century. Trust in the blood, speak for the Lamb, and love him more than your life.