They overcame Satan by the word of their testimony. Revelation 12:11

SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

Revelation 12:7-10 describes the victory which Michael and his angels gained over Satan and his angels in the war in heaven. But then Revelation 12:11 continues:

“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony … even when faced with death.

Since this also refers to a victory over Satan, it may seem as if “they” refer to angels. However, for the following reasons, “they” refer to God’s people on earth:

      • Death – Angels are not “faced with death” (12:11). In Revelation, it is always people that are killed for their testimony.
      • Brethren – The immediate antecedent of “they” is “our brethren” who were accused by Satan (12:10). In Revelation, “brethren” always refer to God’s people.
      • Overcome – “They overcame” and in Revelation, it is God’s people who “overcome” (e.g. 3:12).

This creates an apparent contradiction, for it might imply that the victory in the war in heaven (12:7-10) was actually won on earth by God’s people (12:11). To solve this, it is proposed that these are two different victories:

      • Revelation 12:11 refers to the everyday experience of God’s people as they overcome Satan’s accusations.
      • The victory in the war in heaven, as described in verses 7-10, was a specific event after Christ’s ascension in which Satan was defeated.

OVERCOME THE ACCUSER BY THEIR TESTIMONY

According to Revelation 12:11, two things are required for “our brethren” to overcome:

      • The blood of the Lamb and
      • The word of their testimony.

Why is the “testimony” of God’s people, “even when faced with death” required to overcome Satan’s accusations? Why is the blood of the Lamb not sufficient? This is addressed by the series on the seven seals. In Revelation 5, Christ died to gain the right to open the book of God’s judgments (5:5 – see, Book of Life), but the book remains sealed. A process is required to open the book. This process involves “the word of their testimony … even when faced with death.”

– END OF SUMMARY – 

WHO ARE THEY?

Revelation 12:7-10 describes the victory which Michael and his angels gained over Satan and his angels in the war in heaven. As argued in a previous article, Christ’s victory on earth enabled Michael to gain victory in heaven. Verse 10 describes the outcome of that victory:

The accuser of our brethren has been thrown down,
he who accuses them before our God day and night.

Revelation 12:11 continues:

“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

The first question in this article is: Who are “they?” Are “they” people or angels?

They are angels

The following may indicate that “they” could refer to angels:

      • Immediate context – Revelation 12:11 refers to some victory when it says, “they overcame him.”  “Him,” in the context, refers to Satan. Since “they” overcame Satan, and since Michael’s angels defeated Satan in the immediate context (12:7-10), this may imply that “our brethren” refer to Michael and his angels.
      • Blood of the Lamb – As previously argued, the angels gained the victory “because of the blood of the Lamb.” Now verse 11 says the same of “our brethren.

They are people

The following indicates that “they” are God’s people on earth:

      • Death – As far as we know, angels are not “faced with death” (12:11). In Revelation, it is always people that are killed for their testimony; never angels, for example:

          • Those who had been slain … because of the testimony which they had maintained” (6:9; cf. 12:17).
          • Those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus” (20:4).
      • Brethren – The immediate antecedent of “they” is “our brethren” who were accused by Satan (12:10). It is in Satan’s nature to deceive and accuse (12:9-10). He certainly must have attempted at least to deceive and accuse Michael and his angels “before our God.”  For that reason, “our brethren” arguably include angels. However, elsewhere in Revelation, “brethren” always refer to God’s people (6:11; 19:10; 22:9).
      • Overcome – “They overcame” and in Revelation, it is God’s people who “overcome” (e.g. 3:12).

APPARENT CONTRADICTION

The evidence seems stronger that verse 11 describes God’s people on earth, but this creates an apparent contradiction, for it might imply that the victory in the war in heaven (12:7-10), in which Michael’s angels won the victory, was actually won on earth and by God’s people (12:11). 

To solve this apparent contradiction, it is proposed that these are two different but related victories:

      • Revelation 12:11 refers to the everyday experience of God’s people as they overcome Satan’s accusations.
      • The victory in the war in heaven, as described in verses 7-10, was a specific event after Christ’s ascension in which Satan was defeated.

Christ’s victory on the earth (that He remained faithful to God to the end, even under the most excruciating torment – “even when faced with death“) forms the foundation of both these victories.

OVERCOME THE ACCUSER BY THEIR TESTIMONY

However, according to 12:11, two things are required for “our brethren” to overcome:

They overcame him
because of the blood of the Lamb and
because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

The Lamb is Jesus (e.g. 5:6). Both “the blood of the Lamb” and “the word of their testimony” are required for God’s people to overcome Satan. Their willingness to die for what they believe is not a third requirement but indicates the strength of their testimony. The testimony that overcomes Satan is a testimony that is proven real when one’s life is in danger. Satan said to the LORD, “all that a man has he will give for his life” (Job 2:4), but these people prove him wrong, for they are willing to die for their faith.

Blood of the Lamb

The first requirement is “the blood of the Lamb.” How the blood of Christ purchased men for God has been discussed in the series on the seven seals. (See, The book which not even God can open.)

Their Testimony

But the question is: Why is the “testimony” of God’s people, “even when faced with death” required to overcome Satan’s accusations (12:10-11)? Why is the blood of the Lamb not sufficient? This is also addressed by the series on the seven seals. Revelation 5 and 12 are parallel in the sense that both describe the consequence of Christ’s victory on earth:

      • Revelation 5 shown that Christ was accepted as the true witness and, therefore, received the right to open the book of God’s judgments (the book of life).
      • Revelation 12 shows that Satan was proven to be a liar and he was thrown out of heaven in his capacity as “the accuser of our brethren” (12:10).

To come back to the question: Why is the “testimony” of God’s people, required to overcome Satan’s accusation; Christ died to gain the right to open the book of God’s judgments (5:5), but the book remains sealed. A process is required to open the book. This process involves “the word of their testimony … even when faced with death.” Please see the article series on the seals for a further discussion.

ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES 

The following are the articles in this series on the war in heaven as described in Revelation 12:

    1. Michael and his angels waged war against the dragon and his angels. Who are the Male Child, His mother, the Dragon and Michael? Current article
    2. The wilderness period is mentioned both before and after the war in heaven. What is the chronological sequence? When was Satan defeated and driven out of heaven?
    3. Satan deceives & accuses God of arbitrary judgment when He forgives some people their sins but condemns others.  How did Christ’s death refute Satan’s accusations?
    4. While Revelation 12:7-10 describes Michael’s victory over Satan in the war in heaven, verse 11 describes the victory of “our brethren” over Satan because of “their testimony?” Who are they?
    5. God made peace in heaven by the Lamb, but Revelation 12 indicates that the war continued on earth. Why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross?

For further reading on Revelation, I recommend Jon Paulien’s commentary. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the excellent Pineknoll website.

4 Replies to “They overcame Satan by the word of their testimony. Revelation 12:11”

  1. Being blessed by such a detailed and well put sharing. Thanks much for this word.
    ONE QUESTION
    Is it right to say therefore that the THEIR TESTIMONY here denotes obedience and total faith in the truth proclaimed about the eligibility of the blood and the sacrifice on the cross to save mankind and set them free and that that freedom gives access to the power that helps believers overcome?

    1. Hi Nelson
      Knowledge will not help us: “If I … know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13). I myself study the Bible much, but uneducated people that love will be far ahead of me on judgment day. Would it not be wonderful when the most loving people are our leaders?

  2. Greetings,

    Does it not seem that those who “have the testimony” is referring to the 144000 of Rev. 7? For they are shown to make it to “Zion” in the promised land, and will be those to whom the Son of Man (the Lamb) will come when he finally sets his feet down on the earth. And it shows that it is these whom will be protected when the rest of the Israelites will have to flee or will be persecuted.

    Also, as to the one giving birth in Ch. 12. All seem to think this refers to Jesus Christ himself, while it can as easily be referring to his “CHURCH”. Which again can refer to the 144000. Through whom the Son of Man will work, when he begins to put his message out.

    Ray

    1. Hi Ray

      I do not find in the text links between the 144000 and “our brethren” of 12:10-11. But I do agree that “our brethren” include the 144000. The 144000, as I see it, represents the end-time people, while “our brethren,” refer to all God’s people in all ages.

      But the 144000 will be prime examples of those people that “did not love their life even when faced with death” (12:11), for the 144000 will be killed by the image of the beast (13:15).

      You wrote: As to the one giving birth in Ch. 12. All seem to think this is referring to Jesus Christ himself.
      Do you mean the one born in Ch. 12? In my view His mother is the CHURCH, if by church we mean God’s people of all ages. The 144000 is an end-time subset of the church, when “His bride has made herself ready” (19:7).

      Andries

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