Before Jesus returns, Satan will launch his final and greatest assault against the saints, those who have the testimony of Jesus.
Several times Revelation refers to “the war,” the final attack by Satan and his vassals against the followers of the “Lamb.” In each case, the term “war” is singular, and its noun form is accompanied by the definite article or “the.” It is not just another of many battles but “THE war.” And both the Greek noun and its verb form are applied to the same final event.
The language is derived from the book of Daniel and its description of the war against the “saints” by the malevolent figure known as the “little horn”:
- “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most-High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” – (Daniel 7:21-22).
In Revelation, this “war” is described in the vision of the “two witnesses” using language from Daniel. After the “witnesses” complete their “testimony,” the “beast” ascends from the “Abyss to wage war with them and overcome them and kill them.” And the “witnesses” are identified as “two lampstands,” which means they represent churches – (Revelation 1:20, 11:7).
The same war is described in the twelfth chapter when John saw “war in heaven” between Satan and “Michael and his angels.” The Devil was represented as the “great red dragon” who was defeated and expelled from heaven. But he was not yet out of the picture.
Consigned to the earth, the “Dragon” set out to destroy the “woman clothed with the sun” but was thwarted from doing so. Next, he waged “war” against the woman’s “seed,” and once more, the conflict was described with the same clause from Daniel – “And the Dragon waxed wroth with the woman and departed to make war with the rest of her seed, they who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus.” And as before, the targets of his assault were the followers of the “Lamb” – (Revelation 12:17).
This last vision ended with Satan standing on the seashore to summon his “seed” from the sea and the earth to execute his “war” against the woman’s “seed”; that is, the “beast from the sea” and the “beast from the earth.”
John saw the first “beast ascending from the sea,” an image that parallels its previous “ascent from the Abyss.” It possessed ten horns and seven heads, with a “crown” on each of its ten heads. This “beast” had all the political authority of the “Dragon,” which it used to “wage war against the saints and overcome them.” And once again, the passage echoes the language from Daniel.
For his part, the “beast from the earth,” the “false prophet,” used religious deceit by mimicking the “Lamb” and economic sanctions to compel men to render homage to the first “beast” – (Revelation 13:1-16).
The “war” is described again when the angel emptied the sixth bowl of wrath “on the great river, Euphrates.” The water was dried up so the “kings of the east” and their armies could attack. The intended target of their assault is not identified in the passage.
Demons released from the mouths of the “Dragon,” the “beast,” and the “false prophet” orchestrated the “gathering together” of these “kings” to “the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” at Armageddon. There, this force was destroyed. And the sixth bowl was part of the series of judgments that “completed the wrath of God” and concluded with the final destruction of the world city, “Babylon the Great.” Her downfall resulted in terrestrial and celestial upheaval – the end of the present age – (Revelation 16:12-21).
In chapter 17, the “ten horns” of the “beast” represent “ten kings” who gave their political authority to the “beast” so it could “wage war against the Lamb.” However, Jesus as the “Lamb” defeated them “for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings.” The victorious “Lamb” was accompanied by the “called and chosen and faithful.” This picture anticipates the victory of the one who was “riding the white horse” and his “army” in the vision recorded in the nineteenth chapter – (Revelation 17:14).
And as the “rider on the white horse,” Jesus was followed by his “armies in heaven.” On his thigh the designation was written, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” The resulting battle is described with language from Ezekiel that originally applied to the army of “Gog and Magog” and its attack on Israel. Just as the “kings of the earth” were “gathered together” to Armageddon for destruction, so the “beast and the kings of the earth and their armies” were “gathered together to make war” against the one who was sitting on the “white horse” – (Revelation 19:10-21).
The passage provides no descriptions of the actual battle, only its aftermath when the “beast” and “false prophet” were thrown alive into the “lake of fire,” and the rest of their unholy force was destroyed by the “sword of him that sat upon the horse.”
Finally, in chapter 20, Satan is released from the “Abyss.” His release is conceptually parallel to the “ascent” of the “beast from the Abyss,” and its “ascent from the sea.” The Devil “gathered together” the nations “from the four corners of the earth to the war, Gog and Magog.” Here, the link to Ezekiel’s vision is explicit.
And once again, using language from that same vision, Revelation describes this force as “ascending over the breadth of the earth to surround the camp of the saints.” The extent of this final assault is global, not regional. And as in chapter 19, no description of the actual battle is provided. The passage simply states that “fire came down out of heaven and devoured them.” This was followed immediately by the final judgment at the “Great White Throne.”
The verbal parallels in chapter 20 with the preceding passages are clear. This is the same “war” portrayed in chapters 16 and 19, only here, the targeted victims of this final assault are identified as the “saints,” the same group persecuted previously by the “beast from the sea” – (Revelation 13:7).
The use of language from Daniel and Ezekiel to describe this “war” in these several passages, the verbal links (e.g., “gathered together”), the conceptual parallels (e.g., ascent/release from the “Abyss”), and the identity of Satan’s victims (the “saints,” those who have the “testimony of Jesus”), all demonstrate that the same final “war” is in view.
Prior to the end of the age, Satan will launch his final assault against the “saints,” the church. This “war” will include deception and deceivers active within the church, economic pressure from without, and outright persecution, including martyrdom. It will be the Devil’s last-ditch effort to destroy the people redeemed by the “blood of the Lamb,” which is the only way he can wage an effective war against Jesus.