How They Conquered the Dragon
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, May 30th, 1875, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."Revelation 12:11.
T IS NOT MY MAIN OBJECT at this time to expound the chapter before us. I scarcely consider myself qualified to explain any part of the Book of Revelation, and none of the expositions I have ever seen entice me to attempt the task, for they are mostly occupied with a refutation of all the interpretations which have gone before, and each one seems to be very successful indeed in proving that all the rest know nothing at all about the matter. The sum total of substantial instruction in nearly all the comments upon the Revelation amounts to this, that our heavenly Father has said in his word some mysterious things which few of his children can yet comprehend. This is just what we might have expected when the infinite God speaks to finite men, and it is no doubt intended to humble us and draw forth our reverent adoration. Happily there is a blessing to those who read and hear and keep the words of his prophecy, for had that blessing been confined to those who understand it, few would have obtained the benediction. The Revelation is a most blessed book, but its unfolding has yet to be accomplished. If you refer to the expositors you will find that they discover in this passage the dragon-ensign of pagan Rome, and its removal from its position by Constantine, who set up the cross in its stead. I do not believe the Lord took any more interest in Constantine than in any other sinner, and it seems to me little short of blasphemous to say that he was the man-child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and was caught up into God and to his throne. His adoption of Christianity as the state religion was not a thing for glorified spirits to rejoice in, but a dreadful calamity, fitted only to make sport for Pandemonium. No one ever did the church a worse turn than he who first joined her to the state. The act was a piece of state policy and kingcraft and no more, a business utterly unworthy of record by an inspired pen.
Hell is vanquish'd, death is dead
And to Christ gone up on high
Captive is captivity."
By reason of our sin and his own power over death, Satan shut heaven against us, but now the battle in the higher regions between the dragon and the woman's seed is over, and we are in the heavenly places, and Satan banished for ever. There is no condemnation unto us any more, nor a foot for the evil one to stand upon, now that we are in Christ. When we read here "heaven," do not understand by it the place of the blessed, where God dwelleth, but the spiritual region, the realm of spiritual things. The first fight between truth and error lies in purely spiritual matters, in those heavenly places into which Christ has lifted up his church, it is a wrestling between good and evil spirits and not a contention with flesh and blood. We find angels first entering into this strife. We know but little about it, but it would seem that the great dragon of evil has made war with angels as well as with men. Milton sang of those angelic conflicts in majestic verse, but Milton was not inspired to speak infallibly, and we must take heed not to confound poets with prophets. It is clear that good and evil spirits are at necessary variance one with another, and it is also clear that in ages gone by Satan tempted the angelic band, and those angels which kept the first estate were victorious over him once for all; they rejected his sinful solicitations, and now he has no more power over them. Ever again can he tempt them, they shall stand fast for ever, confirmed in their blessed estate. Michael and his angels have defeated the devil and his angels in one decisive battle, and by remaining true to their allegiance have chased away from angelic realms the invading power of evil.
Dwelling in the spirit realms there are others besides angels, our brethren who have left the body, the saints of ancient times, and the faithful of the early church; these also dwell in a region out of which Satan is expelled, he cannot molest them any more. The text bids us hear the glorified chanting the song of victory over Satan, for ever cast down from the realms of the blessed never again to enter into the spiritual domain to vex them. "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night." To the singers of this song I want to call your attention, and mainly to one point concerning them. They have conquered Satan; I want you to observe this, and to note the weapons by which they overcame.
Leaving all the rest, we will pay our attention to the victors and the weapons by which they won the day. First, we shall notice that the blessed ones before the throne were all warriors and victors; secondly, they all fought with the same weapons; and thirdly, they all fought the same spirit.
I. First, ALL THE BLESSED ONES WHO ARE REJOICING IN HEAVEN WERE ONCE WARRIORS AND VICTORS HERE BELOW. It is a very simple truth to mention, but we need to be reminded of it.
And wet their couch with tears;
They wrestled hard, as we do now,
With sins and doubts and fears."
We too often think of the saints that have gone before as if they were men of another race from ourselves, capable of nobler things, endowed with graces which we cannot reach, and adorned with holiness impossible to us. The medieval artists were wont to paint the saints with rings of glory about their heads, but indeed they had no such halos; their brows were furrowed with care even as ours, and their hair grew grey with grief. Their light was within, and we may have it; their glory was by grace, and the same grace is available for us. They were men of like passions with ourselves, "our brethren," though a little elder born. It is clear from our text that every one of the saints in heaven was assailed by Satan. How could there be a victory without a battle? They were all attacked by one or other of the dragon's heads and horns. When you suffer from a fearful temptation which almost stirs you, count it no strange thing; be not dismayed as though a new temptation had befallen you. That fiery dart had been aimed at other men's hearts before it was caught upon your shield. If the insinuation should happen to be profane and blasphemous to a very high degree, so that you condemn yourself and say, "No other human mind could ever have been defiled with so foul a suggestion as this," do not despond, for such suggestions have been injected into the minds of the purest, even as the worst of thieves may seek to enter the house of the most honest man in the city. Even to those who at this moment are without fault before the throne of God it happened while here below that horrible temptations assailed them. Satan always has been since his fall a tempter of the worst order, and ever since he first beguiled our mother Eve he has gone on to ensnare men's souls with the same craft, the same cruelty, the same falsehood, the same impiety against the Lord. It will help you if you reflect that you are not alone, and the pathway which you follow was trodden by the most honored of the elect of God. Paul, who won provinces for Christ, nevertheless had his messengers of Satan to buffet him, and had to stand against doubts and scars insinuated by the old serpent, even as you must stand. If you could have examined the celestial victors one by one as they entered within the pearly you would have found them all covered with scars: though now they bear neither spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing, they had all of them in the day of their flesh to feel the cruel tooth and fang of that infernal serpent; not one of them traversed a clear course and took his throne unchallenged; neither will you conquer without conflict. For you also if there be no cross there will be no crown; therefore, be not astonished if you are attacked in all ways.
The glorified, in addition to having been attacked, were led to resist the evil one, for nobody overcomes an antagonist without fighting with him. There must be, in order to a real battle, two sides of the question, but I fear sue there are some professors who know much about being tempted, but they do not know much about resisting. Now, brethren, however great our temptation, our resistance must be greater. To be tempted is common, even to the worst and most reprobate of men, but to resist temptation is the mark of the child of God. The verse I quoted just now says,
With sins and doubts and fears."
It is not merely that they had "sins and doubts and fears," these all may have, but they "wrestled hard" with them, they would not be put down by them, they would not yield an inch, they stood upon their guard until they drove the sword of the Spirit through the very heart of the foe. "They resisted unto blood, striving against sin." Rest assured, dear friends, that sin will never be conquered without resistance, and if we fold our arms and suppose that we shall get the victory by believing that we have got it, we shall be mightily mistaken. We must watch, and pray, and strive and agonise, and press forward; "this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." Salvation is not by works, but conquest over sin involves fighting from day to day; victory will not come to us while we lie passive, but we must be stirred up with all the energy of the eternal Spirit to vanquish evil. These Canaanites must be driven out of the land by force of arms ere we can take full possession of our inheritance. Let this, then, be our pi dyer to our great Joshua as we gird on our harness and unsheathe our swords.
These tyrant lusts subdue;
Drive the old dragon from his throne,
And all his hellish crew."
We find that these warriors all overcame, for heaven is not for those who fight merely, but for those who overcome. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things." "I do fight against my sin," says one. Brother, do you overcome it? Did it seem a hard question just now when I said, do you resist? It is a harder question which I now put, "Do you overcome?" For if sin overcomes you; if as an habitual matter of fact sin is your master, then you have yet to know what true religion is, for of the saints it is said, "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace." There is a groaning and a crying which is common to the saints. "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" is not an experience of an hour, never to be repeated; it runs more or less throughout the whole of life; but then remember that it is also attended with hopeful confidence in the power of divine grace, for the apostle goes on to say, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." The believer feels the battle, but he also rejoices in the victory. He wrestles and conquers at the same time. I wish that some of lay brethren could see how possible this is. We are victorious, though not without a conflict. Our victory is gained, and we are noose shall conquerors, but still we march on to new conflicts, and never lay aside our swords. The Christian's position is very like that of Napoleon, who used to say, "Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me;" and so with you, Christian; you have conquered through Jesus Christ, but you have to conquer still, and go on as he did, "conquering and to conquer." All this by the power of the Holy Ghost. What if to-day I have been enabled by grace to overcome some one besetting sin, before an hour is over I may find another sin stirring within my bosom, and I must not yield to it; I am bound to conquer each temptation as it assails me. If I overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb I am a Christian, but not else, for if any sin permanently overcomes me I camp enter heaven. If I overcome one sin by the power or the Holy Ghost I must still be looking out to wrestle with others, for between here and heaven I may never accept a truce, or hope for a cessation of hostilities. Never may the Christian take off his harness, never say to himself, "The battle is fought, and the victory is won, and I have nothing more to do." You are enlisted, brother, in a lifelong fight: when you shall lie down in your grave then may it be said, "The battle is over," but as long as you are here you will be within gunshot of the enemy, and it is just possible your sharpest conflict will be upon your dying bed, even as John Knox, after conquering the devil in all ways and shapes, waged as he lay a-dying the sternest struggle of his entire life. Even thus it may be with you, but you are bound to overcome. Attack, resistance, and victory must be yours.
So, then, in heaven they all rejoice because they have overcome, for the next verse to our text puts it, "Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them." It is a theme for gladness in heaven that they did fight and resist and overcome. Those white robes mean victories, so do those palms; but there could not have been victories if there had never been conflicts. There is joy among the angels, for they had their conflict when they stood firm against temptation, and did not swerve when the dragon's tail swept away a third part of the stars of heaven: but ours will be a victory peculiarly sweet, a song especially melodious, because our battle has been peculiarly severe. We fell, we rose again, we were kept, upheld, sustained, and enabled to overcome at last, and therefore will we rejoice for ever before the throne of God.
I leave this point, but I would like you to make the personal applicationAre you resisting? are you conquering? Does the life of God in you get the upper hand of sin? Do not let us deceive ourselves. If sin is our master we shall perish; grace must reign in us, or we are in a wretched condition. Do not let us look upon victory over sin as a luxury to be enjoyed by the higher-lifeit is a condition into which we must all enter, or we are not saved. Holiness is not a luxury for the few, it is a necessity for all saints; and what is preached as an accomplishment which may be obtained by a second conversion is in truth a necessary part of the first conversion, if it be of the Lord. The slaves of sin are not the children of God. If sin reigns in your mortal bodies, you are dead in it. If Satan has dominion over won, you are not in Christ Jesus, for "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Wherever grace lives it either reigns or fights for the throne; it enters the soul on purpose to war with evil and overthrow it. Where the ark of the Lord is Dagon must fall upon his face and be broken. "He that sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him," says the apostle John, and he saith truly. "That which is born of God overcometh the world," and if you let the world get the mastery you cannot be born of God. Thus I leave the point, hoeing that we may endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and receive a crown of life at the last.
II. Now, secondly, THE VICTORS ALL FOUGHT WITH THE SAME WEAPONS. They had two weapons, and these two were one, the blood and the word. "They overcame him through the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony." First, the blood of the Lamb: it was theirs. The blood of the Lamb will not help us until it becomes our own. They went to Jesus by faith and received the atonement, the cleansing blood was sprinkled on them, it spoke peace in their consciences, it took away their sin, they were washed in it, they were made white as the driven snow. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." They were afar off, and "They were made nigh by the blood of Christ"; this blood continued to give them access to God, for it gave them boldness to draw near unto the throne of grace. In fact, this blood was so theirs, that it was the life of their spirit; it was a generous wine to them, and became the highest joy of their souls. Brethren, if you and I are ever to be amongst these victors, the blood must be our own, appropriated by faith. How is it with you this morning? Has the blood cleansed thee, my brother? Does the blood dwell in thee as thy life? Has the blood of the Lamb given thee fellowship with God and brought thee near? If so, thou art on the way to overcoming by the blood.
The blood of the Lamb, according to the verse which precedes the text, had given them all they needed, for it gave them salvation. They were saved, completely saved. Jesus Christ, when they laid hold upon him and felt the power of his blood, redeemed them from all iniquity, and translated them from the kingdom of Satan. Then they received strength: note that word. They had been dead, but they obtained life; they had been weak, and they were made strong in the Lord, for he who knows the power of the blood of Jesus is made strong to do great exploits. Then they obtained the kingdom, for the kingdom comes to us by the way of the conquering blood of Jesus, and he hath made us kings and priests unto God because he was slain. We are told, also, that they had power, or authority. Our Lord, who has risen from the dead, clothed all his disciples with authority when he said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them." Beloved, if we have participated in the blood of Jesus Christ, I hope we feel it to be all these four things to ussalvation from sin, strength out of weakness, a kingdom in fellowship with Christ, and authority to speak in his name. It is the blood of the covenant, and it secures all the covenant gifts of God to us. It is the life of our life, the all in all of all that we possess. So, then, they had the blood of the Lamb, and they possessed the privileges which the blood brings with it.
But the gist of the text lies in the fact that they fought with the dragon by means of the blood of the Lamb, and overcame with it. How did they do that? It is easy to discover. They overcame Satan's terrors with the blood of atonement. Satan is the great red dragon, a hideous seven-headed python, horrible to look upon, horned, like the serpent called the Egyptian Cerastes. Man dreads the serpent race, and would dread most a monster so dire as this, so full of poison, so red with fury. The conflict appears to be unequal enough between this horrid monstrosity and the seed of a timid woman. Yet when we are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus we are invulnerable, and fear not the dragon, for we remember the promise which saith, "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder." When the atonement brings peace to our hearts, the great dragon dwindles down to a mere snake with a broken head, of which it is written, "Upon thy belly thou shalt go and dust shalt thou eat." We can see the heel mark of Christ upon his broken head, and what is more we expect to set our own heel there, for we are told that the Lord will bruise Satan under our foot shortly. I reckon upon the tune when the Lord will bruise him under my foot, it shall be as heavy a bruise as I can give him, I warrant you. He has tempted and tried us all so much, that the victory we shall gain will be one which will bring to Jesus much renown, and we will not fail to sing his praises as long as we have any being. Thus our fear of Satan ceases when we see that Christ has redeemed us from the curse, and put Satan as an enemy under our feet. Our hearts exult in thy presence, O destroyer of the devil and his works, and we triumph in thee.
Vanquish'd by that dear blood of thine,
And see the man that groaned and died
Sit glorious by his Father's side."
By the blood of the Lamb we overcome Satan as the accuser of the brethren. The chapter expressly tells us that he accuses the brethren day and night; and there is an instructive tradition among the Jews that Satan accuses the elect of God all day and all night long, except on the day of atonement, and then he is quiet. Glory be to the dying Lamb, the atonement shuts the mouth of the lion continually, for the atonement lasts all the year round. Neither in the court of Heaven, nor in the court of conscience, can the enemy's accusations harm us, for the blood of our Substitute is a bar to all suits against us. If we by faith are assured that Jesus has put away our sin, what cause have we for alarm? If the punishment due to our sin, and the sin itself have both been carried away by our great Surety, so that sin is plunged into the depths of the sea, and cast behind God's back, then who is he that shall harm us? Brethren, do but grasp the doctrine of the atonement, and know your own interest in it, and the accuser of the brethren will be silenced by the voice of the blood.
We overcome Satan by the same means as to his craft. He has seven heads, but we tell him Jesus died, and that breaks all the seven heads, and destroys the sevenfold ingenuity of his snares. He would, if it were possible, deceive even the very elect, but the secret of the sprinkled blood is that which prevents the elect from ever being deluded by him. Who shall separate them from the love of Christ? Does not redemption by blood hold them fast to their Redeemer? You cannot be right anywhere if you are wrong upon the atonement, but if you are sound upon the substitutionary sacrifice there is little fear of your falling into any serious error. As the needle once magnetized continues to seek the pole, so they who are once touched with the love of their dying Surety are sure to remember it and cannot long be turned in any other direction. As for the dragon's horns of power; the power of the blood is far greater. Since we have been redeemed by Christ from under the power of Satan he cannot regain his hold of us. His power is broken. As to the crowns which he wears, what care we for them? We are delivered from under his power by being redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and Satan can never again have the rule over us. As for the energetic influence which is figured by his tail, he may quench the very stars of heaven, and pull down the most brilliant professors and make them fall to the earth as apostates, but he cannot harm us, for because of the blood of Jesus we are latest by the power of God through faith unto salvation. Cling to the cross, dear brethren, for there you are out of the reach of the old serpent's venom; he may hiss, but he can do no more. No wave can ever wash a poor sinner off from the rock of ages, no storm can drive a penitent out of the clefts of the rock. Within the wounds of Jesus we are secure from all the rage of Satan. In our battles with Satan we need no other artillery but the atoning blood, it meets and conquers him at all points.
The other weapon is for use in spreading the gospel and defeating the devil in his power over our fellow-men. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testitmony. Now, brethren, what is the testimony of the saints? It is a testimony concerning the blood of the Lamb. If ever we are to conquer Satan in the world, we must preach the atoning blood. Whenever the doctrine of the atonement has been obscured in the church in any measure, to that extent the power of the church has declined, but you shall find that whether there is a clear declaration of justification by faith in Jesus Christ, then the church comes forth in her glory, and bruises the dragon's head. Dear brethren, if you want to deliver souls from the power of Satan, you must preach the sacrifice of Jesus and its power to remove sin. Does Satan cast about men the chains of drunkenness, or uncleanness, or self-righteousness, preach the blood of Jesus is the only way of salvation, let them see how sin was punished in him, and how ready the Lord is to forgive them, and they will arise and go unto their Father. Tell the sinner that God is able to put away his sin, because Jesus died, and, touched with repentance, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, you will find the sinner break loose front dominion of the devil. If you find that same sinner trembling with despair, accused in his conscience, alarmed as at a great red dragon, you may cheer him by the old, old story of redeeming grace and dying love. The blood of Jesus is the dentin of despair. There is no weapon like a testimony to the cleansing blood with which to kill despondency. Tell the sinner that there is no sin that man has done but what the blood can put it away; go to the very gates of hell with your testimony for remission by blood, and you will find some to welcome you upon the borders of destruction. Tell the thieves in prison and the criminals condemned to die, and the reprobates upon their death-beds, that there is still life in a look at the Crucified One, and if you do this you will deliver them from the hardness of heart which saith, "there is no hope." If Satan deceives sinners with false hopes, and causes them to trust in priestcraft and sacramentarianism, there is no way to overcome Satan in them but by the porch of the blood of Jesus. I do believe, brethren, that if the atonement of Christ had been properly preached in the churches of England some years ago, we should not now be pestered with this revived popery; but there has been a great deal of mystification upon the doctrine of satisfaction for sin, a great deal of keeping back of the grand doctrine of vicarious sacrifice, and therefore as men want a Savior and a sacrifice, if you do not present them the true one they will go off to find a false one, and they do find such a false one in the priestcraft of the Roman and Anglican churches. Keep up the preaching of the one finished sacrifice and the dragon must fly. As St. Patrick is said to have driven out all the venomous creatures from Ireland, so let Jesus Christ come, and all the serpent's seed fly before himthey cannot bear the great truth of the atoning death of the Son of God. Lift up the cross, young man, when you stand in the corners of the streets; whatever you do not know, know the doctrine of the atonement; whatever you cannot tell the people, tell them about Jesus Christ, who hung upon the tree for sinners, and make him the main theme of all your conversation. If you write tracts, if you cannot explain the apocalypse, and few of us can, do explain Calvary, dwell much upon Golgotha and Gethsemane, "for I, if I be lifted up," saith Christ, "will draw all men unto me." Keep to the cross, this is the main attraction; this is the tree whose leaves are for the healing of the nations: this is the central sun of the gospel, and its light will scatter the darkness, but nothing else will do it. Israel never came out of Egypt until the blood of the Lamb was sprinkled on the lintel and the two side posts of the houses: they overcame by the blood of the Lamb. The world of sinners redeemed will never be converted till we bring forth that grandest of all miracles, the Paschal Lamb and the blood by faith sprinkled on the door. Let us evermore proclaim salvation by the dying Lamb, and shake the power of Satan to its foundations.
III. I must close with this last remark, that while they all fought with the same weapons THEY ALL FOUGHT WITH THE SAME SPIRIT; for the text says, "they loved not their lives unto the death." My brethren, what does this mean? I wish we could reach to it and interpret it by our lives.
The expression indicates dauntless courage. They were never afraid of the doctrine of a bleeding Savior, nor ashamed to cry, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." Let us never be ashamed of our hope. There is such a straining in these days after learned preaching, such love of word-spinning and theory-inventing; but let us be fools for Christ's sake, and stick to the old gospel, having no banner for our war but the brazen serpent, lifted high, even Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Let us never yield to sneers or ridicule. Some of us have been styled the echo of the Puritans: yes, the honorable title of "Ultimus Puritanorum," the last of the Puritans, has been assigned to us. It is well, we want no higher degree, for the old theology is very dear to us. We nail our colors to the mast. The atoning blood is the very life, soul, and core of our ministry, and shall be so long as we live.
These men in addition to dauntless courage had unswerving fidelity. They "loved not their lives unto the death." They thought it better to die than to deny the faith. They could not be tempted, or led aside, by bribes and offers of emoluments, and when life itself was put into the scale they did not hesitate, they stuck by the cross. Brethren, I want you all to do this, to have the courage to avow your convictions about Christ, and then the fidelity to stand forth in evil times.
More than that, they were perfect in their consecration. "They loved not their lives unto the death." They gave themselves up, body, soul, and spirit, to the cause of which the precious blood is the symbol, and that consecration led them to perfect self-sacrifice. No Christian of the true type counts anything to be his own. He who really knows the power of the blood of Jesus says, "I am not my own I am bought with a price"; and to him to live or die, to be poor or rich, to be sick or in health, to be in honor or in shame, is not a matter of choicehe is his master's own, and has given himself up unreservedly, loving not his life even to the death. I trow that this is the spirit in which to preach Christ's gospel. Brethren, we shall never see the gospel come to the front so as to conquer the dragon till we bring it there in this spirit. When God shall raise up among us men and women who live only to prove the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, and live for nothing else; who tell out the Saviours name, and show in their lives what that blood has done for then, and are ready to die to glorify their Lord, then will come the times in which the song of victory shall be heard, then shall the travailing woman have her reward, and then shall the dragon be covered with everlasting shame! May God bless you this morning by giving you to know the power of the blood for Jesus' sake. Amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMONIsaiah 51:9-16; Revelation 12.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"852, 630, 578; and "Hold the Fort."