As we near the time of our Lord’s return, Genesis 3 and Revelation 12 define the issues. Our theology of missions is a theology of warfare. But we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses (2 Cor 10:3-4). Our strategy is primeval and paradoxical: the strategy of slaughtered lambs (Rom 8:36-37). That strategy was articulated by the God of grace on the occasion of mankind’s fall into death through sin when Adam believed the lie of Satan to whom God said, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel (Gen 3:15). As Jesus died on the cross, He experienced the bruising fangs of the Serpent who had entered Judas, permeated the Roman and Jewish powers, and perverted the values of the populace. But Jesus was obedient unto death, even death on the cross (Phil 2:8). No one took His life from Him. He willingly went to the cross (Jn 10:17-18) as the Lamb of God by whose sacrifice He propitiated the wrath of God for His people (1 Jn 4:10). Therefore also God highly exalted Him (Phil 2:9). As He obeyed His Father, His heel pressed upon the head of the Serpent and in spite of the fangs that pierced Him, He obediently pressed down the more until the skull of His enemy cracked with a mortal wound as Christ rose from the dead. The Serpent is now defeated. His crushed cranium drives him insane with rage against us who are, in Christ, the seed of the woman, knowing he has only a short time (Rev 12:12).
What is our tactic in this war? Gen 3:15. The cross. The strategy of slaughtered lambs. Heels stepping out in obedient faith and landing down upon the head of the Serpent. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet (Rom 16:20). Our God will triumph through us as we fight like slaughtered lambs, knowing that in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us (Rom 8:37). Christ will not stop loving us. He will come for us from heaven and transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself (Phil 3:20-21).
Our conformity to Christ begins now as we take up our cross daily and follow Him (Lk 9:23). In learning to be like Jesus, we will overcome – we must overcome!15 As we learn to fight like slaughtered lambs, to triumph in the way of the cross, we demonstrate our royal sonship and defeat the fallen powers and principalities.
“As in John’s gospel, so in John’s Apocalypse, the death and defeat of Christ are, in reality, his victory over Satan. The Lamb’s followers are to recapitulate the model of his ironic victory in their own lives; by enduring through tribulation they reign in the invisible kingdom of the Messiah. They exercise kingship in the midst of their suffering just as Christ did from the cross: Christians are called to be conquerors by emulating in their own lives the archetypal triumph of Jesus. Though the Christian’s outer body is vulnerable to persecution and suffering, God has promised to protect the regenerated inner spirits of true saints. And, at the end of the sojourn of Christ’s body (the church) on earth, its presence, like his, will be completely removed, and then it will be resurrected.”16
The church, like her Husband/Lord, will complete the work given to her and finish her testimony (Rev 11:7). And then like her Lord, she will be publically crucified and the powers and principalities will rejoice. But the demonic celebration will be short-lived, for like her Lord, the church will triumph in the resurrection effected by Jesus at His return. We will be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren (Rom 8:29). The Son bore witness in word and deed, through death and resurrection, and so must His church. It is the only way to overcome.
We must overcome by self-denying, sacrificial obedience to our Father as we walk the narrow way of the cross and press our heels down through the fang-piercing pain on the head of demonic lies which are generated in our culture by social institutions, infused into the zeitgeist and often embodied in actual people who will hate us, oppose us, and even kill us. Nevertheless we are to be witnesses in every culture. We do not pursue conflict or martyrdom.17 We are peacemakers who are called to love our enemies, to do good to those who persecute us, to turn the other cheek and do what is right in the sight of all men (Lk 6:27ff; Rom 12:17). There will be varying levels of social opposition, depending on the presence of God’s common grace in any given culture at any given time in history.18 There will be times of gospel gain and times of apparent loss. Whether we are called to live in times of gain or loss, we must endure by faith,19 knowing that we are victorious in Christ as the seed of the woman, in spite of our bruised and bloody heels.
What might be in store for us American Christians who manage to escape Vanity Fair? The prospect of the two witnesses of Rev 11 looms before us. We, and especially the upcoming generation, may face preliminary eschatological contractions limited to our specific culture. Or we may face that universal climatic contraction, that final short time immediately preceding the coming of Christ. Regardless of what path we are called to trod, we must be faithful witnesses, martyrs, willing if need be to suffer in the way of obedience to Jesus. It will hurt. At some level we will feel the pangs of Satan’s fangs formed by some measure of opposition that will pierce our heels. But we must press on (Phil 3:14) and press down (Rom 16:20). This, then, is a theology of missions: The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. We will overcome. And he who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son (Rev 21:7).