The Greek text places 'he has triumphed' at the beginning of the elder's statement: ‘See, he has conquered, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, to open the book and its seven seals’. This draws our attention to the key thing: the fact that he 'has conquered’. The verb, ‘has conquered’, is in the Aorist Tense, indicating a decisive, once-for-all conquering. He has done what he set out to do.

This triumph, this victory, this conquest, was embedded in the eternal purpose of God and the very nature of God himself [read Psalm 2]. The Lion has overcome [the same verb used in chapters 2 and 3 when Jesus said ‘he who overcomes’.] The victory is already won. The enemy is already defeated. That was always the plan. The Lion of Judah has conquered. He could not do otherwise.

Any conquest, any triumph, any victory infers that there has been a battle and that there was an enemy. We are not told here who or what the enemy was, or what the battle was. In Revelation 3:21, where Jesus encouraged the Laodiceans to overcome, he added ‘just as I overcame’. This infers that there are at least some common factors between the overcoming that is required of believers and the overcoming accomplished by Jesus Christ. When we look at the battle in which the seven churches of Revelation 1 to 3 were involved we can identify a number of struggles, where pressure is exerted upon believers to give in and give up:

The pressure of persecution that leads to financial hardship for believers.
The pressure of persecution that threatens believers with death.
The pressure to believe false teaching and distort God’s truth.
The pressure to conform to the norm by relaxing moral standards.

Hebrews 2:9-18 and 4:14-16 teach us that Jesus experienced the same temptations that we do. Yet he did not sin. He won every battle. The pressure, the temptation, lost. He conquered. In every one of the seven letters to the seven churches, which are also letters to us, he is commanding us to follow him, to imitate him, in his victory, in his triumph, over these perennial pressures that engage believers in battle. He is not asking us to do something he knows nothing about: he has already ‘been there’. He has experienced poverty and rejection; he has experienced persecution that led to death; he has experienced constant confrontation with corruptions of the truth and the deceptive lies of the enemy; he has experienced pressure to relax his commitment to the revealed will of God. And he has conquered.

But there is also a much deeper level to his battle, and a more significant aspect to his victory. He does not ask us to follow him here, for it was a battle that only he was qualified to fight, and in which only he was able to conquer. This is the battle that he fought for us: the battle against sin, death and Satan.

We have already seen that Jesus conquered sin [1:5]. By this victory he rescued us from its guilt and its penalty.

We have already seen that Jesus conquered death; he rose from the dead and he holds the keys of death and Hades [1:5,18; 2:8]. By this victory he rescued us from death.

We will see in later chapters, that Jesus has already conquered Satan, as affirmed in other parts of the New Testament [John 12:31; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14; 1John 3:8]. By this victory he rescued us from Satan’s dominion, freeing us forever from his authority [Colossians 1:12].

The Lion of Judah has triumphed, has conquered. He has broken the chains that bound us, that held us captive – the chains of sin, the chains of death, the chains of Satan. He has set us free to live with God.

The Christ whom we saw walking in the midst of the church is also, at the same time, the Lion of Judah who has conquered, and who has conquered for us. From the perspective of earth, the battle still rages against the Church; from the perspective of heaven, the battle has already been won.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015