A careful study of Revelation reveals that God’s will will ultimately prevail, that Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, of all things. It clearly shows that through faith in “the Lamb of God” we can conquer the world, the flesh, and the devil, and be victorious over any and every circumstance (see Isa 46:10). And far beyond the black and blood-red clouds that fill the valleys of Revelation soars a white mountain peak where stands Christ the Conqueror. He is portrayed as Conqueror over three dimensions: He is the Conqueror over death, the Conqueror within the church, and the Conqueror over the nations.
I. JESUS: CONQUEROR OVER DEATH
The characteristic name for Jesus in Revelation is “the Lamb.” It is used of Him in this book twenty-eight times. In Revelation 5:6, where the name is used for the first time, Christ is introduced as “a Lamb, . . . as though it had been slain.”1 Six hundred years before the writing of this book, Isaiah forecast that He would be wounded for our transgressions and be led as a lamb to the slaughter (Isa 53:7). But in Revelation, written as it was several decades later than Christ’s death and resurrection, the Lamb, who by then had been slain, is not seen on the cross, but “in the midst of the throne” (Rev 7:17), while the eternal choirs gathered around Him proclaim, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev 5:12).
This triumphant “Lamb” is not alone. Always in Revelation He is seen, not merely in the company of heavenly beings, but also in association with His people, either moving among them in their trials or surrounded by them in His victory, sharing the power and the spoils of His conquest with them.
Right at the beginning of the book, with his usual genius for making first things first, Christ proclaims Himself to John as the Conqueror over death. “Fear not,” He says, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore” (Rev 1:17–18). But not content to enjoy His victory alone, He adds, “And I have the keys of Death . . . ” (Rev 1:18). What good news for John and for every faithful Christian!
II. CHRIST: CONQUEROR WITHIN THE CHURCH
Immediately after naming Himself Conqueror over death, Jesus portrays Himself to John as Conqueror within the church, the One who walks among “the seven golden lampstands” that represent “the seven churches” of God (Rev 1:19– 20)—that is, the church of God in every age.
Jesus knew that His church would fail of the grand ideal He held out for it. In the Apocalypse He referred to Christians who would yield to temptations of the grossest type, the “Nicolaitans” (Rev 2:15), and “Jezebel” (Rev 2:20), love that would fade (Rev 2:4), and lukewarm types whom He would “spew” out of His mouth (Rev 3:16). In Sardis, He foresaw only a few who had not “soiled their garments” (Rev 3:4); yet moving among the people He promised that these “few” would walk with Him “in white, for they are worthy” (Rev 3:4). And to every Christian in every age, He sends out the invitation, “He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev 3:21).
One of the saddest aspects of human experience has been the relative impotence—even the actual evil—of the Christian church. The Fourth Crusade, designed to pit Christians against Turks, ended with Catholics battling against their fellow Eastern Orthodox Christians. Between 1618 and 1649 a third of the population of Central Europe fell dead in a grisly religious war fought between Catholics and Protestants.
Perhaps you are suffering from something wrong within the church. Perhaps you are smarting under some injustice or hypocrisy practiced by members of the congregation of your choice. Or perhaps you have succumbed to a particularly difficult temptation yourself and are amazed at what you consider to be your own hypocrisy. Do not despair or give up! Jesus conquered every temptation that confronted Him, and He says to everyone in the church today, “He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne” (Rev 3:21).
III. CHRIST: THE CONQUEROR OVER THE NATIONS
In the Apocalypse Jesus reveals Himself not only as the Conqueror over death and the Conqueror within the church, but also the Conqueror over the nations. To anyone disturbed by the fear of a third world war, the message of Revelation 11:15–17 rings with hope. It foretells the day when the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, when all heaven shall raise the anthem, “We give thanks to thee, Lord God Almighty, who art and who wast, that thou hast taken thy great power and begun to reign” (Rev 11:17). The implication of the promise is clear: the Christ who one day will take His great power and rule the nations has power to conquer the nations at any moment He pleases. And Revelation 7:1–3 shows that He indeed uses this power to control the nations at the present time to protect and defend His own. Says John, “I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth,” till the servants of God have been sealed in their foreheads.
Here is the great truth that “Behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”2 No wind that blows, no holocaust of war, can touch a single man or woman on who Christ has set His eye.
Who is to say that Christ does not, even today, possess more power than the nations! “No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper,” says Isaiah 54:17. Christ protects His own when He knows it is for the best, and even should a Christian die, the Christ who holds the keys of the grave will resurrect them (1 Thess 4:15–16). And someday soon, when the time comes for every war to cease, Christ will take His great power and reign, setting up a new kingdom, which He will populate with the saints whom He has led through every vicissitude (see Dan 7:27).
In the Apocalypse Christ invites every Christian to share His victory over sin and sinful men and tells how we may do so: “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” (Rev 12:11).
While it is true that Revelation is a book of angels and horsemen and terrible beasts, the most striking picture—the one on which above all we should focus our faith—is that of the conquering Christ surrounded by His conquering Christians.
1 All biblical quotations are from the RSV.
2 James Russell Lowell, “The Present Crisis,” accessed October 13, 2022, https://poets.org/poem/present-crisis.
Rex D. Edwards, DMin, is a former vice president for religious studies at Griggs University