In this time of siege and struggle, surrounded by a powerful and deadly enemy, Satan calls us to surrender: “Stand down. Give in. Stop fighting and your life will be so much easier.” But Christ is coming soon. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Bright Morning Star. We have washed our robes in his blood. We have drunk from the river of life.
The Siege of Bastogne, December 20–27, 1944, was one of the great battles of World War II.
German armor and infantry, in their last offensive gasp, attempted to divide and cripple the Allied forces on the Western Front by driving across the Ardennes forest to the main Allied supply port at Antwerp. This was the Battle of the Bulge, and German success depended on taking the vital crossroads at Bastogne.
The Germans surrounded the American soldiers there, outnumbering them more than two to one. They bombarded them night and day with tanks, mortars, and artillery. The deep snow and bare birch trees of deep-midwinter Ardennes formed the dramatic backdrop to the violence.
The job of the American troops was to hold fast, to hang on until the irresistible might of the Third Army arrived.
On the third day, General von Lüttwitz called on the American commander, one-star General Anthony McAuliffe, to surrender:
To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armoured units….
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honourable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.
The German Commander.
McAuliffe’s reply is legendary:
To the German Commander.
The American Commander.
Imagine the head-scratching among the German commanders as they tried to make sense of this obscure American idiom. The cheeky “you-know-what-you-can-do-with-your-surrender” arrogance of McAuliffe’s response was grounded in his contempt for the Nazis and the certainty that General Patton and his mighty Third Army were well on the way to help. American troops held on for five days until the promised relief arrived.
It’s an inspiring story. I picture those American troops, low on ammunition and food, hungry, in hell-freezing cold, outgunned, under constant bombardment, facing at every minute a powerful enemy bent on annihilating them. Their job was to hold fast, to hang on until the irresistible might of the Third Army arrived.
This is the church of every age.
This was also true for the first readers of Revelation. They too faced a violent enemy and held out day after day under siege and attack, struggling and suffering, longing for relief.
This is the church of every age. And to the church then and now Jesus has made a great promise.
Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done (Rev. 22:12).
Suffering Christians, holding on under violent attack, are to look up, expectant, eager, and ready for the return of Christ. Let’s look more closely at the One who is coming soon.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Rev. 22:13).
This is a threefold emphatic way of saying exactly the same thing. Jesus is the uncreated and eternal one. Jesus was there at the beginning of creation, and he will return to wrap up this age.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Col 1:16)
By taking on human flesh, Jesus Christ became the central figure of history. It is a monumental mistake and tragedy, an awful perversion, to try to live life without knowing him, and without wanting to know him.
To be severed from him is to be separated from your Creator, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the great I AM.
He will judge us on the Last Day. He will determine our final and eternal destiny in heaven or in hell. So it is vital that we receive him and wash away our sins in his blood.
Our “robes” represent our moral condition, our standing with God.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (Rev. 22:14-15).
Washing refers back to Revelation 7:14, to Christians who are “coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Our “robes” represent our moral condition, our standing with God. By nature our robes are stained and filthy with sin and vileness. Even our best deeds are tainted with pride and greed: “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isa. 64:6).