Reading: Gen. 4:2-14; Rev. 12:11-12; Lev. 10:1-5, 16:1-2,12-19; Heb. 10:19-20; Luke 3:21-22.
The fragment which will stand over our consideration is that from the letter to the Hebrews, Heb. 10:19-20 - a new and living way, through His blood.
In the two passages with which we commenced our Scriptures, we have the first and the last references in the Bible to the blood that is in relation to God's great redemptive activity. Although the word 'blood' occurs several times after chapter 12 of the book of the Revelation, it is not connected with that particular work of God. It is only used in a more general sense; that is, not the blood of Christ. And it is of importance that we should recognise that in the book of consummations when everything is being gathered up and crystallised in its final application, the point where the new heaven and the new earth are brought distinctly into view and the great redemptive activity of God is being concluded in its practical application in this universe, we have this statement - "They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death". For in that final statement concerning the blood, we can see the fuller explanation of the thing which took place from the beginning and has been taking place all the way through; that is, we can see those very elements in the first reference to blood in the case of Abel.
Although there in Genesis in the account of the death of Abel, or of the sacrifice which he brought, there is not an actual using of the word 'blood' - that is, in connection with his sacrifice - his own blood is mentioned as crying out, and there is no doubt whatever but that in his sacrifice and in the offering which he brought, and in his own death, there are all the elements which we subsequently find in connection with the sacrificial blood. It is the blood of a testimony and it is that testimony mentioned definitely here in Revelation 12:11 that is to occupy our attention for a little while now.
Let me point out again, when we come to Revelation 12 we are at the end of things, we are in the end time, at the point of finality; and right at the end, in a most intense way, in a very atmosphere of fiercest conflict and antagonism spiritually, the blood is seen - there is reference definitely to the blood. They overcame because of the blood. And I gather from that that the conflict which sprang up with Abel and has gone on all through the ages, will find a full-orbed expression at the end. The very elements which have been the basis of overcoming from the beginning will have a place of special intensification at the end. Whereas in the first place it was individual, personal - no less vital for that - in the end the purpose of God as consummated in a company of people will be bitterly assailed by all the forces of evil, and the same means of victory will be brought out into its full-orbed meaning and value for the emancipation of that people referred to in this twelfth chapter of the Revelation.
You notice there that Satan is brought out in his fulness; all his titles are here - the Dragon, the Great Red Dragon, Satan, the Deceiver, the Accuser of the brethren, the Adversary. It is a picture of Satan extended, and fully extended; the same Satan as he ever was, but now extended against this company called the 'man-child'. Notice the singular, "the man-child" then the plural "they overcame him" - a company as one entity, as one man child. Against that company all Satan's meaning, significance, force, vehemence, antagonism, wrath, is brought out. And then over against that fully extended opposition of the power of evil, of darkness, the statement is that they overcame because of the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and they loved not their life even unto death. What was true in Abel as an individual has now become true in another man-child, (we did not read the first verse of that chapter in Genesis about the birth of Cain and Abel), another man-child of a corporate kind. What was true about Abel's overcoming is true about this man-child.
Acceptance with God Through the Blood
What is this overcoming? Well, that is what we are going to see. But we may immediately indicate it from the reference to Abel in Hebrews 11:4: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous". I venture to say at once, before we touch that more fully, that if you and I could attain unto that, we should have reason to regard ourselves as having overcome. If you and I could really enter into the full enjoyment of this that God says by His witness, "You are righteous" or if you care to change it, and God said to us, "Thou art My beloved son, in thee I am well pleased," should we not regard that as having overcome? But here is a man-child in corporate oneness with God's Son, "accepted in the Beloved" One. "Thou art My Beloved" (Mark 1:11). "Accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:6), wrapped up in Him so much that as He is unto the Father so are they in Him; inheriting what is true of Him by faith, the witness, they are righteous. Well, that is what it means to be an overcomer, to overcome, to arrive at that and to stay there. Some people arrive there one day, but they are not there the next day. That is, the one day they rejoice in the apprehension of the righteousness of God which is theirs through faith, and the next day the enemy is having it all his own way with them because they have lost that ground. To overcome and to remain an overcomer on the field means to maintain that ground.
A New and Living Way into the Holy Place
But we must come back and look at this thing in fragments. Our basic fragment of Scripture is "Having therefore boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which He dedicated for us, a new and living way". A new and living way into the Holy Place. Genesis 3 ends with the door closed. They were driven out from the Garden, from Paradise, if you like - from heaven as it was then. "He drove out the man", and He set the cherubim at the gate, at the entrance, to guard the entrance. They were driven out; the door was closed, barred; they were excluded. In the next chapter (there are no chapters, of course, in the original form), immediately there proceeds this: a man finding his way back, a man getting in through the closed door, a man for whom the cherubim held no terrors, a man who comes into the presence of God and does not die, a man for whom we can say there is an open heaven. "The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect." Note: "And Cain said, 'Thou hast driven me out this day.'" "I am out," but Abel his brother was in, had got through, had found an open way, was accepted. He came into acceptance with God, we may say into the very presence of God, and did not die.
And you will have noticed from other Scriptures which we read that this is a key to the whole significance of the blood. Whenever there is the question of getting right in where God is in view, it is a matter of life or death. On the one hand, it is constantly repeated - "that he die not". Nadab and Abihu pressed in and died before the Lord (Lev. 10:1-2). Aaron went in, but, having provided himself with the Divine prescription for the presence of God, he did not die. It does not matter, even if it were Aaron the High Priest, he would have met the same fate as his sons apart from that provision, and that provision is precious blood. It is the blood which opens the way into the presence of God, and that is a living way, not a way of death.
This passage in Hebrews says "a new way", a fresh opening into the presence of God, a fresh way, a fresh door, by the blood of Jesus. What does that involve and carry with it, for it is evidently a thing which Satan hates and Satan fears. What Satan is really set against is that there should be any people who escape from the bondage, the captivity into which he has brought them in his kingdom, who get through to that kingdom of the heavens. He is all against a people being freed from his lordship, his domination. He is all against a people being constituted under another Lordship and that Lordship especially the Lordship of God's Son Jesus Christ, his great rival to universal dominion. He is all against that. He is all against the formation of this heavenly commonwealth, a people freed from his thraldom and a menace to his kingdom, with whom is bound up the overthrow and utter destruction of his regime and order. Every man and woman who gets through, who comes into the blessing of this open heaven, who knows this access, becomes a part of the object therefore, of Satan's most vehement hatred and persistent antagonism right up to the last.
The issue in Revelation 12 is just that. It is the final emergence and emancipation of that people. What happens? The Great Red Dragon is waiting to swallow that man-child. What that carries with it is a description of everything that is vicious, everything that is fierce, destructive, evil, cruel - the Great Red Dragon! - watching, waiting, to devour that man-child; and it is caught up to heaven. It is through, it is out, and the Dragon, despoiled of its object, of its prey, is said at once to come down to the people of the earth with great wrath. "Woe for the earth and for the sea; because the devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath". Why? Because the man-child is out, is through, is free.
And what is put before us in a kind of literal way must be interpreted spiritually; although doubtless there will be a rapture and a literal gathering out and carrying up, yet we have to recognise that this thing basically is a spiritual thing; that is, that the formation of this people is going on now in a spiritual way - the formation of a people after Christ - being conformed, as Paul says, to the image of His Son, "Till Christ be fully formed in you" (Gal. 4:19). It is the formation of this man-child. It is a spiritual thing that is going on. You cannot see it, but it is happening. And while the spiritual formation is going on, while God is doing a real spiritual work in lives, and adding to that company and increasing the measure of Christ in it, is that company not already conscious of there being in the near vicinity an antagonism, a spirit of hatred, that is wanting to devour, and swallow up, to tear, to destroy, to frustrate? Is it not that of which we are conscious in this awful spiritual pressure? Is it getting easier in this world for people to live a holy life unto God? Is it getting easier to be utter for God? Is it getting easier to maintain your testimony in this world? Are we not all increasingly conscious of this evil thing about, that would destroy us and our testimony? It is intensifying; there is no doubt it is intensifying. Our destruction is the object of this power of evil, and that points to an issue, a crisis, a culmination, a consummation.
Blessed be God, we have the issue told us, exactly what it will be, that he will not devour, swallow up; he will not get the man-child company. It will be caught up unto God and to His throne. But that does not mean that it will not be through an atmosphere of spiritual wrath and hatred all around us.
But I was saying that the first feature of the testimony of the blood is this, that people have got through spiritually. That is, for them the heaven is opened and they know it. They are no longer with Cain saying, "I am thrust out".
The other side which we cherish here today as the Lord's children, is this - we know that we are in. Do you not know that you are in? Yes, not perfect in ourselves and far from it, but we are in, we have an open heaven, we have got through, we are accepted. We know that we need no longer stand outside wondering if peradventure we dare draw near. We know that we can come, not with fear and trembling, but with boldness. We can draw nigh, we can dwell in the very presence of God infinitely holy, because of what we have apprehended of the virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ.
But oh, what I want you to see, or what I feel the Lord needs His
people to see and grasp more firmly is this: the tremendous power
of an adequate apprehension of the blood in that connection, the
blood that for us dismisses all the weaknesses consequent upon
uncertainty, a question, a lurking doubt as to where we are with
the Lord, as to the Lord's attitude to us, a lurking doubt that
destroys our strength and increases the strength of our adversary.
We are set in this scene of tremendous conflict which has gone on
from the days of Adam and goes right on to the end of this age, a
conflict with a great enemy, a terrible foe. Seeing that it is
spiritual, it works out like this: that he has to in some
way weaken us and undo us spiritually in order to maintain
his own stronghold. And spiritual strength on our part means
spiritual weakness of his part, and spiritual strength on our part
is the result of a faith apprehension of the value of the blood of
the Lord Jesus. You are strong or weak according to how you have
apprehended that blood, not as in a doctrine and a teaching, but
in your own innermost being. The Lord will take pains in the case
of all who really are true and utter with Him, He will take pains
to make the blood of Jesus Christ to them all that it is in His
own sight, which means that He will have to again and again, bring
them back by practical means, through experiences, to discover
anew in their own hearts the infinite value of that blood, and
their testimony will have to be a growing one, in ever greater
strength, meaning, value and fullness.
I see in the blood of Jesus Christ far more today than I saw years ago. I even see more in that blood today; and that blood is more precious in my life today than it was a year ago! It has to be like that. This is not a static testimony or truth or teaching, something that is gathered up in a creed and we accept it. No, this thing is a mighty power which has to grow in us and we have to be brought to it, and the bringing to it will not be by our being led into sin to value the precious blood, but it will be by the opening to us of our own hearts and the depths of iniquity in our own natures. That means, on the one hand, that we will be increasingly made conscious of our own utter helplessness, but alongside of that, not to be left in our helplessness, but to be made to understand the mighty potency of that blood. The Lord is going to do that with us if we are going through to His full end.
This is what it means to overcome, and, as I was saying, the very first thing about the value of the blood is that there is no uncertainty as to where we stand with the Lord and as to what the Lord's attitude is towards us. Have you any doubt about that basically? Has this assurance been wrought in you in a spiritual way, as not just a mental thing, but something which God has done in you through the depths? You have learned the power of the blood as to this matter of an open heaven - a way through with God. Yes, through the veil, right into the most holy place, the most awful and terrible place that this universe possesses - to die the death and be carried out, but for the blood.
Who can define or describe what that means? Death is a very terrible thing. God's Son, the Lord Jesus, tasted death in the behalf of every man. Do you think that refers to His crucifixion? Do you think that that applies to His physically being on the cross when they killed Him? Not at all. You must ever discriminate between the crucifixion and the death. Do not think that the death of Christ is the same thing as the crucifixion of Christ. There is a vast difference. The Roman Catholic 'church' dwells on the crucifixion always, the outward objective side, but the Roman Catholic 'church' is what it is in moral corruption because it has not laid hold of the meaning of the death of Christ. No, He tasted death in the behalf of every man when He cried, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46). If ever a soul has entered truly, utterly, fully, into the full consciousness of what it means to be utterly God-forsaken and abandoned, that soul has tasted death. That is death and hell, not only to be abandoned by God, but to know it, to realise it, to be in the full realisation of it; that is death. For anybody who has known fellowship with God, a living relationship with God, to have had the shortest experience of losing that consciousness, that is hell, that is death. Not that they have actually lost the relationship, but sometimes the clouds of hell rise up and spread over the soul and you lose that blessed sense of the Lord being with you and you seem to be alone. It is the most awful experience that the soul can know, to enter into the awful reality of being abandoned by God. It only requires a moment of that to make an eternity, a moment of that is an eternity, and Jesus, God's Son, tasted that in the behalf of every man, "That he die not", that such a thing may not happen. What was literal in the Old Testament was only a type of this spiritual reality - "that he die not". And the blood has made provision against that awful necessity or possibility; the precious blood of the Lord Jesus.
Overcoming by the Blood
Now, when you consider that death is Satan's rightful weapon and instrument in the realm where sin is, because sin is his ground, then you can see that the blood of Jesus Christ must take Satan's rights, power and ground from him. It deals with sin; that is his ground. It deals with his right, it deals with his power; death is his power. The blood deals with all those things, as you know from the whole revelation of blood in the Scriptures; it is just that. The blood takes up the sin question as Satan's rightful ground of accusation and the ground upon which he wields his rightful weapon of death. The blood cancels it all and robs him of his standing and his power. To recognise that, to have hold of that with strong faith is such a thing in the realm of evil as to provoke that realm to its uttermost depths of antagonism. But it is the hatred provoked by fear of the consequences of that blood; what that blood means, on the one hand for Satan's undoing, and what it means on the other hand, for that people who stand in the presence of God in virtue of that blood. All that is bound up with this testimony of the blood. It is a way through, a new way.
I must close there and do so by asking you again: What does the blood mean to you? Is it just a part of your Christian creed, your simple faith in the Lord Jesus? Well, it may be good as such, but oh, are you growingly seeing the immense power of that blood? Are you growingly apprehending it? If so, then yours is a life of victory. You may be in a terrific battle, but there is victory right at the heart of the battle. If you have this faith, hold on to the blood of the Lord Jesus.
I do feel that the Lord would seek to bring us back to a full position as to the basic testimony of the Lord Jesus to meet the increasingly difficult spiritual conditions at the end. I do not think I am speaking to people who have no understanding of spiritual pressure and conflict. If there are some of you who do not know what spiritual conflict is, what fighting with the very devil is in a spiritual way, being withstood by the forces of evil, if you are just going on in a glorious, triumphant, procession where there is no fight, then what I am saying has no meaning for you. But if you are finding the spiritual life is not getting easier, but much more difficult, and that the forces set against you spiritually are showing their strength increasingly, then you know what I am talking about and the question is: how is it going to be met? It is what we are led to expect from the Word of God. We are led to expect it is going to be like that, and at the end Satan is going to come out in this full-orbed way as in all his titles wrapped up in this great red dragon set to devour. How are we going to overcome, get through, be caught up to God, to His throne? That is something consequent upon an inward something.
The outward is the result of something inward, and the inward is: "They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death." That does not mean necessarily that we are going to be literal martyrs, but it does mean that our own lives, all that that means - our interests, that which makes up our own lives - all that has got to come into balance with our testimony, all that has to be made subservient to this one great issue: that God gets what He is after in us. If there is any dividedness between the Lord's interests and ours, His life and ours, that is where the enemy gets in and destroys it all. That is the weakness. It is an undividedness of heart that is necessary to a complete victory over the enemy.
The Lord Himself just speak and make clear to us what it is that He sees we need to know at this time.