“YET THROUGH IT ALL, this joyful assurance of the realm of heaven’s kingdom will be proclaimed all over the world, providing every nation with a demonstration of the reality of God. And after this the end of this age will arrive.” Matthew 24:14
Brothers and sisters, God wants us to endure to the end. However, if we are going to make it “through it all” we must live our lives on purpose.
“Since we are approaching the end of all things, BE INTENTIONAL, purposeful, and self-controlled so that you can be given to prayer.” 1 Peter 4:7 TPT
As part four in this “Through It All” discussion, we will look at a portion of Revelation 12:11 that is usually omitted. It seems to me that we can quote the first half of the verse. In fact, it is even a part of Christian lingo that we often hear in times of despair— “we are going to overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.” However, I really can’t recall a time or place when I have heard teaching on the rest of the verse. I’m not sure we even know there is more to the verse. The part we are missing is just as important as the parts we shout from the rooftops.
“And they OVERCAME him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and THEY DID NOT LOVE THEIR LIVES TO THE DEATH.” Revelation 12:11
There is so much packed in to the last portion of this verse that I don’t feel like I can adequately cover it in such a short article. However, there a few basic concepts that we can begin with to create a foundation for growing in this area.
Think about how much of our lives are held up in that one statement. In other words, think about the things we do or don’t do because we are holding on to our lives. What about the simple fact that we worry about what people think about us? This is the place in our lives we tend to shrink back (in fear) and we do not step out in faith to do what God is asking of us. If we live for the praise of men, we will die by their criticism as well. What we think we are holding on to (our lives/reputation) actually becomes our demise. I know this to be true for I have lived that way much of my life. I also know that this is a simple example of dying to ourselves, but if we can’t get this truth, even on the surface level, we will never get it through the hard stuff (real persecution—not western civilization type) that is coming.
The life of Jesus—the work of Christ—should be enough for us to know this to be true.
Paul put it this way…
“LET THIS MIND BE IN YOU which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the POINT OF DEATH, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
This same mind-set that was IN Christ is to be IN us. That mind set was to humble Himself, even to the point of death.
Peter writes the same…
“Since Christ, though innocent, suffered in his flesh for you, now you also must be a prepared soldier, having THE SAME MIND-SET, for whoever HAS DIED in his body is done with sin. 2 So live the rest of your earthly life no longer concerned with human desires but consumed with what brings pleasure to God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2
Should this really be a surprise to us? Should these verses seem too hard for us to swallow? Is this not how Jesus talked to us from the beginning?
“And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who ENDURES TO THE END will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! 26 Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28 And DO NOT FEAR those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 DO NOT FEAR therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 “Therefore whoever confesses ME BEFORE MEN, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven 34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not TAKE HIS CROSS and FOLLOW AFTER ME is not worthy of Me. 39 He who FINDS HIS LIFE will LOSE IT, and he who LOSES HIS LIFE for My sake will FIND IT.” Matthew 10:22-39
WOW! Now that’s different than the common western world version of salvation, which says, “Just say this simple prayer and you are saved. Get baptized. Join our church. Let us work you to death, and you will be accepted by us.”
Ok. Maybe it’s not exactly like that everywhere, but you get the point.
Jesus says that before we can follow Him, we first have to lose our life (lay it down), pick up our cross, and yes– die. Why? SO WE CAN LIVE!
In these verses, Jesus teaches His disciples that they are not greater than their master. In other words, do as he does and live as he lives. Now, we like this concept when we think about signs and wonders but not when it comes to dying to self. But indeed, the life part, the miracle of salvation, and true signs and wonders do not begin, as He points out, until you die to yourself.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him DENY HIMSELF, and TAKE UP HIS CROSS, and follow Me.’” Matthew 16:24
“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him DENY HIMSELF, and TAKE UP HIS CROSS, and follow Me.’” Mark 8:34
“Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him DENY HIMSELF, and TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY and follow Me.’” Luke 9:23
And whoever does not BEAR HIS CROSS and come after Me cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:27
Now, these are verses I have always wrestled with. Even when David Platt wrote his famous books Follow Me and Radical, I found the words to be provocative and thought provoking. It left me with questioning how I could live like this. I have strived toward this to the best of my ability—sometimes better than others, but it was this past year that God gave me more grace to grow in this area. Although it is always good to read and learn, when you hear from God and He pierces your heart, you don’t have to remember what Platt or others wrote—you have then experienced Him and nothing can change that.
During this time, I had just made some gut-wrenching changes in my life that I believed God was leading me to make. Through this process it seemed as if He was ripping everything that I held on to out of my hands in order to get me into deeper intimacy with Him. He began to open my heart to deeper intimacy with Him by showing me, through the word, the definition of eternal life that He gave. Growing up I learned John 3:16 and heard numerous sermons from that passage, and it seemed like eternal life was some far away, distant, future existence that would begin when I die. However, in John 17:3 Jesus gives us a clear definition of eternal life. Jesus said it is to KNOW Him (Abba/Father). The word know, as used here, is a very intimate term. It is to actually be able to experience and be intimate with Him. It is to know Him as Adam did when he walked and talked with Him in the cool of the day. It is to know Him face to face and talk to Him as Moses did.
Could this be for real? I can really know Him that way? I remember asking God if this was for real, and if it was, for Him to show me. I needed Him to clarify and deepen my understanding.
Not too long after this prayer, I was in my house and I had that lingering question in my mind—could this be true? Is this really available?
Then I remembered the story of Moses.
Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; FOR NO MAN SHALL SEE ME, AND LIVE.” 21 And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” Exodus 33:19-23
As this story was going through my mind, it was as if at the same moment, doubt crept in and the thought was forming in my mind to say out loud, “See it’s not possible to know Him that way. It’s not possible because you would have to di…”
I couldn’t finish the thought. I couldn’t finish it because when the word “die” was about to come out of my mouth, He interrupted with—”EXACTLY!”
All of the passages about dying to myself began to flood my heart and mind.
So, we can live! Have eternal life now! Know Him now! Talk with Him now! Intimacy now!
Paul was trying to get the Corinthians to see the same thing! If Moses had what he had in an inferior covenant, what more do you have now?!
“Even the ministry that was characterized by chiseled letters on stone tablets came with a dazzling measure of glory, though it produced death. The Israelites couldn’t bear to gaze on the glowing face of Moses because of the radiant splendor shining from his countenance—a glory destined to fade away. 8 Yet how much more radiant is this new and glorious ministry of the Spirit that shines from us! 9 For if the former ministry of condemnation was ushered in with a measure of glory, how much more does the ministry that imparts righteousness far excel in glory. 10 What once was glorious no longer holds any glory because of the INCREASINGLY GREATER GLORY THAT HAS REPLACED IT. 11 The fading ministry came with a portion of glory, but NOW WE EMBRACE the unfading ministry of a permanent impartation of glory. 12 So then, with this amazing hope LIVING IN US, we step out in freedom and boldness to speak the truth. 13 WE ARE NOT LIKE MOSES, who used a veil to hide the glory to keep the Israelites from staring at him as it faded away. 14 Their minds were closed and hardened, for even to this day that same veil comes over their minds when they hear the words of the former covenant. The veil has not yet been lifted from them, for it is only eliminated when one is joined to the Messiah. 15 So until now, whenever the Old Testament is being read, the same blinding comes over their hearts. 16 But the moment one turns to the Lord with an open heart, the veil is lifted and they see. 17 Now, the “Lord” I’m referring to is the Holy Spirit, and wherever he is Lord, there is freedom. 18 WE CAN ALL DRAW CLOSE TO HIM WITH THE VEIL REMOVED FROM OUR FACES. And with no veil we all become like mirrors who brightly reflect the glory of the Lord Jesus. We are being transfigured INTO HIS VERY IMAGE as we move from one brighter level of glory to another. And this glorious transfiguration comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 TPT (All of the other passages are NKJV. This one is in the Passion to reveal to you a deeper intimacy)
Paul reminds us the importance of this over and over…
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:50-57
But I thought this was about our physical death?
It is, but I would like to point out that if you never die to yourself and then follow Him, then there is an eternal death that awaits. However, for those who have died spiritually in this life already, we face death with no fear—for death is swallowed up in victory!
Look at this…
Now IF WE DIED WITH CHRIST, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, DIES NO MORE. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 LIKEWISE YOU ALSO, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:8-11
It is very important to point out this is not only how we begin our relationship, but it is an ongoing life choice.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a LIVING SACRIFICE, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2
“But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you PUT OFF, concerning your FORMER conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be RENEWED in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you PUT ON THE NEW MAN which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4-20-24
You see this is not just a one-time event. Yes, coming into relationship is a one-time event. Just like my marriage day was a one-time event. However, I have an everyday choice to show my beautiful wife real love—and it’s sacrificial (Ephesians 5). When self-sacrifice becomes our lifestyle, phrases like, “they did not love their lives to the death,” lose the fear factor. Why? Because then we would have discovered perfect love. Perfect love (Jesus) sheds the fear away from us. But to really get IN that place, we have to lay down our lives first.
“There is no fear in love; but PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT FEAR, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been MADE PERFECT IN LOVE.” 1 John 4:18
“Greater love has no one than this, than to LAY DOWN ONE’S LIFE for his friends.” John 15:13
I believe that studying these verses together will help shed light on what I mean. A good litmus test would be to identify your motivations. Do you still have any fears of rejection or afraid of what people think? What drives you—fear or love? Love will cause you to lay your life down. God is love (1 John 4:9) and when you gain eternal life you KNOW LOVE—You know Abba Father (John 17:3).
Maybe Paul was using a double meaning when he wrote some of his most famous words to the Philippian church. Maybe he really KNEW that when he physically died it would be nothing but gain, because he had perfected laying down his life daily and found nothing but LIFE here on earth!
“or I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, TO LIVE IS CHRIST, and TO DIE IS GAIN.” Philippians 1:19-21
May we lose our lives so that we can really find them. Then we will truly be able to walk in victory and overcome through it all. Because then, our minds will be renewed to walk in the light as He is in the light. No longer will our circumstances determine our attitudes. Fear will not be a factor, because there will be nothing to fear!