Revelation states plainly that Satan wages war against the “Lamb” by persecuting his followers on the earth.
At times, there may be so many “trees” that we find it difficult to see the “forest.” Put another way, details distract us from seeing the obvious. This is often so when dealing with the visions of Revelation. But according to its very first word, the book is intended to “reveal what things must come to pass,” not to conceal them or to mystify us.
Such is the case with the “war” of the “beast from the sea.” Very often in popular preaching, this creature is portrayed as a global political leader who wages war against any nation that does not submit to his will. Or alternatively, he uses his military might to attack the modern nation of Israel.
But such readings ignore the plain words of the verse that describes his war – The “beast wages war with the saints.” And the passage makes no bones about his intention – “to overcome them.” In the grand scheme of things, whether that means he kills them or causes them to apostatize makes little difference. His goal is to destroy them one way or another.
Lest we have any doubts, the very next chapter identifies who these “saints” are – “Those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” They are identified by their association with Jesus, not by their nationality – (Revelation 13:7, 14:12).
And this “beast” has “seven heads and ten horns,” just like the “great red dragon,” and he operates with all its authority. When the “inhabitants of the earth” give their allegiance to the “beast,” effectively, they “render homage to the Dragon” for the “beast” is his earthly agent. And in the previous vision, the enraged “Dragon” set out to wage war against the “rest of the woman’s seed; those who were keeping the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus,” the same group called “brethren” just a few verses earlier, those who were redeemed by the “blood of the Lamb” – (Revelation 12:2-5, 12:17, 12:11, 13:1-5).
To state the obvious, the victims of this “war” are the men and women who follow Jesus, those who remain faithful in their “testimony,” and overcome the “Dragon.” Whether the “beast” also wages war against other nations or Israel is never stated in the book, though all the “inhabitants of the earth” willingly give their allegiance to the “beast.” Of course, if “all” the nations submit to him, and willingly, what would be the point of conducting war against them? They are NOT the enemies of the “beast.”
Likewise, the very same language is used to describe the “war” by the “Beast from the Abyss” that attacked and killed the “two witnesses” who were identified as the “two lampstands,” and in Revelation, “lampstands” represent churches. And in each of the preceding passages, the clause about making “war on the saints” is derived from Daniel’s vision of the “little horn” that “made war on the saints, and prevailed against them” – (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 1:20, 11:4-7).
The book is making a very clear point, and more than once, but are we listening? The Devil is launching his final great assault to destroy the “saints,” the “brethren,” those who have the “testimony of Jesus” and follow him wherever he goes, the church, in a word, Christians.
And this makes perfect sense from the book’s perspective. Satan failed to destroy the messianic “son” who was taken to his “Father’s throne.” Following his exaltation, the Devil was “expelled from heaven” and lost his prosecutorial power. The “son” against whom he wages war is beyond his reach, so he does the next best thing – he prosecutes his “war” against the followers of the “Lamb.”
And the letters from Jesus to the “seven churches of Asia” provide us with excellent examples of precisely how the “Ancient Serpent” conducts his war against the “saints” – Through deception and deceivers (e.g., “false apostles”), economic deprivation, and persecution.
Whatever the “beast from the sea” may do with or to the nations of the earth, his purpose remains fixed – To destroy the “saints” – and his control over the political and economic spheres of the earth will be employed to accomplish that purpose.