August 16, 2020
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts around 18:10 in the audio file.
Or, Why Is All of This Happening?
We are in a particular generation of a long battle. It is a battle that began within the first few chapters of life on earth, and it is a battle that will continue until the final chapter of history. From the beginning, our enemy has been seeking our harm not mainly by direct assault, but by trying to deceive us into sin and then presenting a case to accuse us with our sin. He doesn’t play fair.
At the beginning of Revelation 12 John sees two signs. The first sign is of a woman, who represents Israel (verse 1), the mother of the male child who will rule the nations (verse 5). The second sign is of a dragon (verse 3), who we learn even more about in this paragraph. There is an angelic clash, and then a great victory and celebration.
This “war…in heaven” has been interpreted as the war at the beginning of history, as a war around the same time as the death and resurrection of the male child, or as a war still to come at the end around the time of the Great Tribulation on earth. The third view is most likely based on the context.
The vision with the signs in chapter 12 does not seem (to me) to be made up of cycles; it is not different perspectives on the same event. There are two events: 1) the dragon’s tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth in verse 4, and now 2) the dragon brings those stars, “his angels,” back to heaven in verse 7. He was angry before the male child was born, and now that the male child has been “caught up to God and to his throne,” the dragon is furious with the woman.
Remember verse 6. The “woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.” This is the same amount of time that the two witnesses gave testimony (chapter 11), the same duration of the Great Tribulation. While this woman is in the wilderness the war in heaven arises. Verse 7 belongs with the 1,260 days, meaning it belongs at the end.
And there became war in heaven, Michael and his angels [began] to wage war with the dragon. And the dragon waged war and also his angels, and they were not strong, neither a place was found for them again in heaven.
We don’t get to see a lot of what happens in heaven, only glimpses in God’s Word. We do know from the book of Job that Satan and the “sons of God” go back and forth between earth and heaven, even presenting themselves before God (Job 1:6; 2:1). It will be significant to recall the sorts of things that Satan brought to God’s attention about Job in a moment.
In Revelation 12 there is a division of spiritual forces that come to heaven with the dragon, presumably to attack the male child who had already ascended there. This is not an ancient battle at the beginning of time since the male child has already come to earth, but this war is related to the 1,260 days when the woman fled into the wilderness (12:6). The dragon and his forces are met, not by the Messiah, but rather by Michael.
Michael is an archangel, named only a couple times in the Old Testament (Daniel 10:13, 21 and 12:1). What is more interesting than the rank he holds, is that he doesn’t attain to the rank of the male child, the Lord’s Anointed Son, and Satan still can’t defeat him. Michael and the devil have already fought before (Jude 9). He is a guardian of Israel.
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.” (Daniel 12:1)
Michael has angels; they are called his. We could say that he outranks them, they are given to him as a unit. Likewise John refers to the dragon and his angels, which I believe are the “stars” he brought with him in the previous paragraph.
The dragon and his angels were not able to win, he was defeated or “were not strong,” and a place was not found for them in heaven, meaning that they were decisively defeated and kicked out. In the rest of the Apocalypse we do not see them making an appearance in heaven again. Satan is no longer permitted before God: Thrown down…thrown down…thrown down.
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
We learn more about Satan in this verse than perhaps any other single verse in Scripture. Paradise Lost is fun, but not inspired. He is the great dragon, which John saw as a sign in verse 3. There he is associated with earthly kingdoms, which we’ll see more about in chapter 17. As a dragon he is connected to all the mythology of chaos and devouring.
He is also known as that ancient serpent, meaning that this dragon is one and the same with the serpent in Eden (Genesis 3:1), the one who accused God of selfishness and deceived Eve into disobeying the only rule God gave the first couple. Serpents, and snakes, have their slithering and crafty characteristics because of this serpent.
He is “the one being called Devil and the Satan. These two names basically mean the same thing: adversary or opponent, especially an enemy who slanders. Diabolos is the primary Greek word, and Satanas is a Greek word that comes from the Hebrew word satan.
The particular kind of adversary is one who is given to accusations. The devil is a liar, a murderer, an accuser. He is the deceiver of the whole world; it’s what he’s good at. We know that he deceived Eve, but this is his nature. He blinds men with lies. He confuses and sows doubt and division; that’s what accusations accomplish. He keeps men from a knowledge of the truth. He’s been given a measure of authority by God so that the whole world lies under his power and influence. It’s only due to Christ that any are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.
But his power to deceive is delegated and temporary. He has already been defeated by the male child, and here he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. He can’t win.
There are various Greek plays in which action is interpreted by the chorus (Osborne). Here the celebration explains some of what just happened.
The loud voice tells us the implications of the war in verses 7-9. Though “voice” is singular, the our that occurs three times, and especially the “our brothers” is a singular voice of many, in particular, the many saints who are already in heaven.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
These are standard issue song lyrics about the sovereign God. His salvation is His work of deliverance. His power is the strength that brings about His will. When the voice says that the kingdom of our God and authority of his Christ have come it means that there will be no more enemies in his way. Namely, the accuser is beat.
The accuser has a rough job, but one that he relishes, not just that he was assigned. He is like a prosecuting attorney, but he doesn’t have to look far for evidence.
Note a few things. He’s called the accuser because he is characterized by it. He accuses our brothers, meaning that he doesn’t accuse unbelievers, but those who make some sort of claim to salvation in Christ. He accuses before God, to the one who knows righteousness, and who knows the thoughts and intentions of men, not just all their behavior, and every word. So the accuser works day and night, any time he wants, including the night shift. This is his spirit. He is the ultimate church lady, the ultimate Pharisee, the ultimate in what nowadays people call being “woke.”
As often as the living creatures praise (Revelation 4:8), the dragon slanders.
But he is defeated, and his being thrown down is due to Michael’s win, which was guaranteed by the Child’s resurrection.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Perhaps this is the central verse in the Apocalypse, at least in terms of the faithfulness of the righteous. Here are more than conquerers.
They do not conquer by their strength. Everything we have, every argument we make is by the blood of the Lamb. When we stand before God we will not make a claim to our righteousness apart from Christ. If we were allowed to speak in the courtroom, we could listen to the accuser present the case against us, and then look at the Judge, and say, “He is totally correct.” And after the accuser laughed that he got us to admit our guilt, we would say, “But we stand with the Lamb who ransomed us from our sin. He take His atonement. He declares us righteous. He is the one ‘who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood’ (Revelation 1:5).”
We would say it then, and it is our message even now. The conquering happens by the word of their testimony. The love and sacrifice and blood of the Lamb is our life. And because of that, we love nothing about our lives that are not from Him and through Him and for Him. We can receive whatever blessings He sends, and we can bless Him whatever He takes away (Job 1:21). They loved not their lives even unto death. “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still.”
What can you do to a person like this? Their life is a weapon, a seed sown for a great harvest.
I believe that, while we get great application, this paragraph is written about a future generation of Israelites that will be saved, the “woman” in the wilderness. Think of the extra material that the accuser has about the Jews. They killed their own Messiah. Even now, except for a remnant, they continue to reject the Messiah. But as Paul wrote, there is coming a time when they will be grafted back into Christ as the root (Romans 11), and not only will they receive Christ, they will imitate Him by following Him even to death.
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
As there are two sides in the battle, there will be rejoicing among the conquerers and pain among the defeated. Here the heavens are called to rejoice. The accuser has been sent packing with all of his bad news and bitterness. As for the earth and sea, it’s not good: the devil has come down to you in great wrath. The great dragon is greatly peeved, not because he’s been insulted, but because he’s been shown the door. He’s passionately mad. Depending on how far you look ahead, this is pessimistic.
The primary target of his wrath is Israel according to the next paragraph.
He knows that his time is short! If this is the end time battle, the same as the three and a half years (11:2-3; 12:6, 14), the dragon has an extra level of wrath to pour out in the tribulation. He’s still deceiving and accusing today; it’s his standard operating procedure, though the clock is ticking.
This is a perfect “just conquer” reminder.
The devil knows his time is short, so he’s stirred up to hate and evil works. That you know that the devil’s time is short ought to make you more bold. Do good like there’s no tomorrow, because there will be a tomorrow when Satan’s smack talk is silenced. Jesus said to count the cost of following Him, but He said it as an incentive for believers, and promised His grace for every step.
[Y]our obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:19–20, ESV)