..A Magazine for all Christians · Nº 19 · January - February 2003
The work of the overcomers at the end of times. Their meaning, their weapons and their victory in the consummation of this age.
The name witness is given to the one, or those who give a testimony. It is the vessel through which Godís testimony is brought and maintained in the earth. In the twelfth chapter of Revelation we find this witness in the figure of a male child, who is born of a woman. Who is this male child? The figure in Revelation immediately brings us to the scene in the garden, when God told the serpent: ďI will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.Ē The woman is, throughout the whole Bible, a figure of the church, depicted in her different aspects. And here, in chapter 12, she represents the church, first in its nature and celestial position, later in its incarnation, and finally in its pilgrimage through out the totality of this dispensation up until its final victory over Satan. The male is the offspring or the woman's descendant and is to be understood in two senses: first Christ, and then the witnesses that have Christís life and testimony. The latter of these are also those that have conquered through and with Christ (i.e. Those that have overcome)
The celestial and eternal position of the church is described in verse one: ďA great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.Ē Here the church is described according to the eternal mystery of Godís will, as the perfect expression of Christ (clothed with the sun), His revealed word (the moon under her feet) and the fullness of the divine designs for His people (the crown of twelve stars).
Next we are shown the terrible and mortal conflict that represent the incarnation of Godís mystery on the earth, as it is confronted with the dragon, that ancient serpent of old, that arises as a merciless opponent, determined to impede His manifestation in the world. Can we not see portrayed here, first of all in the distressing pain of the woman's childbirth, the whole tragic, bitter and unhappy history of the earthly Israel and their failure; but, also their persistent hope, maintained on high by a faithful remnant throughout the entire dark night of their apostasy and disobedience? How great the accumulated pain and how great the gathered hope that exists in this history!
That hope finally came to those that had waited: The Christ was born at the end of their history, when only a few faithful ones remained waiting. Long were the childbirth pains that forebode the coming of Christ.† But, when he finally arrived, Israelís purpose was completed, and a new dispensation had begun. All the symbols, types, figures, prophecies and promises of the Old Covenant were gathered, accomplished and transcended in Christ's person. The shadow opened way to reality; the invisible to the visible; and the material to the spiritual. And it is not an exaggeration to say that Christ's coming was paved and propitiated by that great cloud of witness, which the eleventh chapter of Hebrews speaks of. The pains of delivery of the expectant woman's childbirth, show us that the fulfillment of Godís will in this world is found in the faith and the testimony of His people, and the tremendous opposition, adversity and suffering that this implies for them.
Once Christ was born, temporal Israel gives way to the celestial and spiritual reality that is truly typified here; that is, the church.
Christ and the Overcomers
The male child, confronted with the impotent gaze of the dragon, was snatched up to God and to his throne. The antecedent of this is that Christ, the first of the overcomers, ascended to the skies to receive the total and absolute authority over all creation from the Father and to take in his hands the execution of the complete design of his will. He also took the church with him in his ascension and exaltation. Therefore, in the physical and temporal order, Christ came from the woman (Israel), but in the spiritual and eternal order, the woman (the Church) was born of Christ.
What we find here is the descent of the celestial and eternal into the earthly sphere by means of the male son. With Christ's arrival, through the long and suffering hope of Israel, all the types and figures of the old dispensation opened the way to the Church, and the celestial woman appeared on the earth. The picture therefore changed. Satan was fatally injured in his pretenses of dominion and authority through the power of the cross, but not without first having struck Christ on his heel (the physical death of the Lord). For that reason, the dragon and his angels appear being hurled down to the earth.
But, in this point, we need to return once again to the intimate and indissoluble bond that unites Christ with His Church in the mystery of Godís will.
In chapter 2 of Hebrews, following the line of Psalm 8, it affirms that the divine purpose involves the obtaining of a man under whose feet God could place all things. It is also added, ďYet at present we do not see everything that is subject to him.Ē However, ďWe see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor.Ē Due to all that man could not carry out because of his fall, Christ has consummated it in his place. However, the visible and temporary manifestation of His eternal victory over Satan, sin and death are the task of His Church during the present age.
For that reason, the voice that comes from heaven emphasizes the fact that the male son doesn't only represent Christ, but rather a corporate company that is vitally bound to him in his testimony and victory over Satan: ďThey overcame him.Ē The emphasis is on the plural subject by whose intermediary the Kingdom and Christ's authority are definitively established on the earth.
This subject (or corporate company) is equivalent in function and purpose to that great cloud of witnesses of the past, before Christ. Who were they? If we read Hebrews 11 carefully, we find that it is about those men and women that faithfully persevered in maintaining a testimony for God on the earth throughout the centuries. They separated themselves, amid the darkness, the apostasy, the incredulity and the indifference that surrounded them, in order to defend Godís rights on this earth and amongst their people, with their eyes fixed on the coming hope. There we find Noah, the proclaimer of justice; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, foreigners and pilgrims on the earth, awaiting the city that has true foundations; Moses, facing Pharaoh (Satan) sustaining himself by looking to the Invisible One; and so many others. (See Hebrews 11:33-38) These witnesses opened a way for Christ through their faith and their patient testimony (a witness is he that gives a testimony) in favor of God and His word.
In the same way, the witnesses of the present dispensation are those that remain, in the day of ruin, failure and apostasy of Godís people (Christianity), firmly in Godís favor and His eternal purpose on the earth. Those who, having seen the celestial pattern (the Ark amid the Temple), will not do anything that is less than this (the Ark or Word) and will try to conform to the celestial vision in everything. Their testimony is vitally bound to Jesus Christís testimony who became the faithful and true witness of God among men in the days of His incarnation and against all the spiritual hosts of evil, because they participate in His sufferings as well as in His authority to deal with Satan.
A representative company
Their victory in the world against Satan has a triple foundation: The blood of the Lamb that speaks to us of a total undoing of any type of self-righteousness or our own work before God and a complete trust in the righteousness and work of Christ. The word of their testimony speaks to us of their complete faithfulness to Jesus Christís revelation and Godís eternal purpose in him, as much in the present as in the final goal, and also in the means that are divinely established to reach it. Here there is no place for anything that comes from man. This, bound with the fact that they do not love their ďsoulsĒ even to the point of death, speaks to us of a complete brokenness and displacement of life, strength and activity of the self or natural man by means of the discipline of the Spirit and the sufferings that Godís opponent causes in his intent to destroy them.
They are not, in consequence, the entirety of those saved throughout the present dispensation, just as all Israel was not included in the great cloud of witnesses of Hebrews 11. Rather, they constitute a representative company of the Church, an advanced contingent, and a tip of Godís lance for the full execution of His will during the present dispensation. They have gone deeply into the experimental knowledge (not mental or conceptual) of all the values of the cross applied to sin, the flesh and the natural man; as well as in the resurrected life and walking in the Spirit. They experience everything in the centre of a corporate life of relations, mutuality, interdependence and love. Certainly, Godís purpose surpasses their operations throughout the present age, because His Church is something that is being formed and prepared for eternity.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to emphasize that, during the present dispensation, and due to the failure of Christianity in general, God makes use of a corporate contingent of faithful witnesses to fully reach His objectives. They, throughout the centuries have continued expanding and completing Christ's measure in the church, to bring it to the center of Godís will, that is Christ. It is not a special or different Christian, but normal believers in days where everything has become abnormal and decadent. All that they obtain of God and remove from Satan is credited to the entirety of the church. Because Christ's body is one. And when a member receives honor, all the members rejoice with him, because all participate in the continuing increase of divine life. Therefore, the male son is part of the church and is not, in any sense, an entity different from it.
The battle during the end times
How are the overcomers able to defeat Satan? We have seen the threefold work that God carries out in them. Now, we should consider its wider meaning.
Satanís specific work in the church is carried out by means of the human (element) or soul. Paul tells us that, in the height of the mystery of iniquity, the lawless one or sinful man sits down in Godís temple and set himself up against God. Here the temple of God is the church (from the Greek ďnaosĒ; like in Eph.2:21) That means the usurpation of Christ's place by man. It means the human soul or natural self-governing and directing the church instead of Christ. This is the essence of the ďmystery of iniquity.Ē
The work of the overcomers consists in removing the natural man, the human soul from the center and bringing Christ into the centrality and supremacy in the Church or Godís House, according to the celestial pattern. This occurs by means of the voluntary acceptance of the work of the cross over the entirety of their life and natural activity. When the soul, conquered and overcome, is completely subordinated to the interior life of the Spirit, then Christ's authority can flow within to deal first with His own House and then, by means of the church, with Satan to remove him from his dominion and influence in the celestial places. For this to happen, Peter tells us that it is necessary that judgement first begins with Godís House.
For this reason, the overcomers are the precursors that, in the same way as John the Baptist, prepared the coming of the Lord to His house (Mal.3:1-3). In the same way the Ark will return to Godís Israel and His enemies will be defeated. Because the Ark is in itself enough to put an end to all of them. The subsequent victory of the defeated people of Israel didn't come from themselves, its capacities or resources, but only through the Ark of the Testimony.
In this way, the work of the overcomers unchains the decisive battle against Satan. ďWhen the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.Ē Satan, robbed of his position in the celestial places, is completely dedicated to the task of putting an end to the church on the earth, because he knows that his final ruin is next. The scene in Revelation doesn't show us so much a chronological order of preset events, as the principles that govern Godís work in the earth. God intends to put an end to Satanís authority by means of the Church, since the victory of the Church is nothing but the full manifestation of the victory that Christ already obtained on the cross. In the face of the failure of Christianity in general, especially toward the end of time, God calls to a representative company of witnesses to reestablish and to take His testimony onward; and that, finally, this company returns to the church to the center of Godís will, so that, in the end time, it rises to complete its task in the present dispensation.
Throughout the last two thousand years, God has maintained a testimony and a torch that has never gone out completely. Often pursued and rejected, Godís witnesses have persevered in maintaining the divine rights on the earth. By it, the fury of the prince of this age has made them his main target: ďThen the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring Ė those who obey Godís commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.Ē Yet through them, the Holy Spirit has been returning the saints to the entirety of the experience that was lost in the beginning. Because the life that they have obtained in their walk with Christ and the victories achieved by means of His sufferings have been accumulating in the church like an indelible and indestructible legacy: ďThen I heard a voice from heaven say: Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on... Yes says the Spirit... for their deeds will follow them.Ē In this consists the patience and the faith of the holy witnesses (martyrs) of Jesus Christ.
This is the good battle of the faith. As we finally approach this dispensation, which is, as we have seen, intimately connected with the work of the overcomers, we will see an increasingly vast and glorious company of believers that will return to the testimony of the beginning. This will happen in many ways, amid an adversity and growing opposition, while, on the other hand, the world is darkened, convulsed by intense and harrowing conflicts and sufferings.
But, that which will be a cause of pain for the world, will be, at the same time, a cause of purification and liberation for the church that will wake up, through the overcomers, to liberate the last battle that will put an end to the Kingdom of this world and its defeated prince.
 T. Autin-Sparks develops this well in his article ďThe Work of God in the End TimeĒ
 For a more complete consideration of this historical act, I recommend a reading of the first three chapters of the book, ďOur MissionĒ by Gene Edwards.