Though NT Wright doesn’t translate it this way, nearly every other biblical scholar renders verses 10-12 as a song. The words are italicized and meant to be heard “from heaven” in encouragement to those on earth. Normally I wouldn’t make too big of an issue about whether or not something was spoken or sung. But while I was preparing to preach through the Revelation, I stumbled upon South African scholar Allan Boesak’s commentary on the book. It’s a fascinating read, given that he wrote it from prison having been incarcerated for protesting the apartheid government of South Africa in the late 1980’s.
Boesak’s most memorable line in the entire book comes in this chapter: “It drives the dragon crazy when you sing about his defeat while bleeding.”
Boesak rightly paints the picture of the dragon appearing outwardly victorious. He is killing Christians. He is persecuting the church. But martyrdom is not victory for the dragon, but for the lamb. God’s people conquer “through the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.” Singing rubs the dragon’s failures in his nose.
Much of life involves us bleeding. In Boesak’s case, he’s “bleeding” in prison while a bestial regime systematically brutalized thousands of people. But Boesak never stopped speaking the truth, never stopped protesting, and never stopped singing. In the first century, Christians bled because of their unwillingness to worship Caesar or participate in the Imperial Cult. But they never stopped singing either. They understood that the last weapon of the enemy was death, and that the sting and threat of death had been removed forever for they had been guaranteed life eternal.
In your case, maybe you’re “bleeding” from a divorce, or unemployment, or loneliness, or a sense of failure. But don’t let the dragon win. He may hurt you. He may even kill you. But if you’re going to go down, at least go down swinging.
Go down singing!