The hissing serpent who has accused us – and rightly so – of being undeserving of God’s grace and forgiveness; brings before the throne of God daily news of our failure and sin. He glories in our stumblings and our disobediences and says to God, “Have you not yet seen again . . . have you not exhausted your store of grace?” But our Lord stands, with nail prints in his hands, to remind the old serpent without a word, by his wounds alone He testifies – we have already been judged and forgiven in Him.
Another Fall from Heaven
Ask the average person what they think about the devil and you’ll get a range of opinions from a seedy little creature with horns and a tail who goes around jabbing people with a pitchfork to an omnipresent creature who is everywhere at all times, causing even heaven to worry about the future of the world.
C. S. Lewis, the author of The Tales of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and other excellent works, wrote an insightful little book entitled, The Screwtape Letters. Lewis imagined a series of letters that were written from an older demon named Screwtape to his nephew - a younger demon who was recently put in charge of a “patient” – which was the term used for the unbeliever he was to keep from the truth of the gospel. / C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (The Macmillan Company, 1961), p. 7
In this fascinating little book, C. S. Lewis made clear his underlying belief that the average person does not take the demonic world seriously enough.
In fact, in one particular letter, Uncle Screwtape wrote to his nephew that it would be best to keep the patient ignorant of their existence. Screwtape wrote, “Keep alive the modern imagination that demons are comic figures in red tights.” / Ibid, p. 32
And so the liberals scholars and academic circles view the Biblical exposure of the fallen demonic world as so much make believe.
Vance Havner, a famous evangelist from the 20th century said, “If the Devil came to town in a body, you wouldn’t find him in a nightclub or casino; you’d most likely find him in some pulpit, drawing a salary while denying his existence.” / David Jeremiah, What the Bible Says About Angels (Walk Through the Bible Publishers, 1995), p. 58
I read about one such minister who was preaching that the word “in” (i, n) didn’t necessarily mean “inside” – it means, “close to, round about or nearby”. He went on to say that the Bible said Jonah was in the stomach of the great fish, “in” simply meant, “close to, roundabout, or nearby.” After the service, a man came up to him and said, that was the most comforting message he’d ever heard. It cleared up so many difficult things to believe in the Bible; like when the three Hebrew young men were thrown in the fiery furnace and weren’t burned, well that was because they were really never in there, but close to or nearby. And Daniel wasn’t really in the lion’s den, he was just nearby. “But” the man went on to say, “the most encouraging thing about your explanation of “in” is that even though I don’t believe the gospel, if I’m wrong, I won’t actually be in Hell, I’ll just be close to or nearby.”
Uncle Screwtape would say, “Now you’ve got it; it’s all make-believe.”
The Bible presents a very different picture – a politically and religiously incorrect, offensive, clear picture.
As John the Apostle reveals to us the faces of evil in Revelation chapters 12-14, Satan is the predominant, literal, personal, living, breathing, evil, murderous creature.
When you compare scripture with scripture you discover that Satan, the highest created angel who fell sometime prior to the creation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1) has spent thousands of years now dividing his time between 2 primary activities:
- First, he is unceasing in his attempts to hinder God’s sovereign purposes on earth;
- Secondly, he is untiring in his attempts to harm the believer’s secure position in heaven.
In other words:
- He seeks to hinder God’s sovereignty on earth.
- He seeks to harm the believer’s security in heaven.
Theologically, Satan is already defeated. In fact, the believer is already seated with Christ in the heavenlies. (Ephesians 2:6)
Practically, Satan is roaming the earth seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Even thought Satan has been defeated, Jesus Christ calls him the ruler of this world (John 12:31) and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2).
Theologically, the believer is sinless before God, having had the blood of Christ wipe the record of sin clean away. Paul wrote to the Colossian believers that their certificate of debt – all the debt of their sin was nailed to the cross. (Colossians 2:14)
That’s theological, finished truth.
But then there’s the practical application of theological truth which happens to be our daily challenge:
The believer can walk in the lusts of his flesh – that’s one of the reasons Paul wrote to the Ephesians to stop living in the sensuality and deception and corruption of their former lusts but be renewed in the spirit of your mind. (Ephesian 4:17-24)
The believer can move to the sidelines and get out of the battle – that’s why Paul wrote to the Corinthians to be steadfast and unmovable . . . and then reminded them that their toil was not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58)
The believer can fall prey to temptation and sin which is one of the reasons Jesus Christ taught His disciples to pray, “deliver us from evil (you can translate that: deliver us from the evil one). (Matthew 6:13)
Wait – we’ve already been delivered – that’s theological truth.
But we still need daily deliverance and forgiveness – that’s the practical application of truth.
If we were beyond the potential of distraction and division and devious behavior, we wouldn’t have been taught to pray for deliverance from evil and the evil one.
Yes, Satan was defeated at the Cross, but his sentence hasn’t yet been carried out. / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 2000), p. 15
He’s like a guilty criminal who has to appear in court for sentencing, but in the meantime he’s out on bail – free to roam around.
That’s the biblical picture of Satan – guilty – facing his sentence, but in the meantime, free to roam about which he does, relentlessly continuing to fight his losing battle against God and God’s people until he is temporarily incarcerated in the abyss – Revelation 20:1-3 – and then permanently incarcerated in hell – Revelation 20:10.
Satan is not in hell . . . in fact, he’s never been in hell. He will one day be sentenced before the Great Judge of the Universe who will render him guilty and deserving of hell forever. / Ibid, p. 14
And by the way, when Satan is cast into hell after the final battle following the Millennial Kingdom in Revelation 20), he will not become the keeper of hell; he won’t be the manager of hell running around making everybody even more miserable. No, he will be hells chief prisoner, receiving the maximum punishment of God forever.
This one who deceived the world and tried to hinder the purpose of God and incited blasphemy against Christ will pay forever.
Just this past week I was behind a car with several bumper stickers on it . . . it was an older car and the bumper stickers were equally old and tattered. One of them caught my attention. The top part of it was scratched out, as if someone tried to remove its message, and as it was turning away from the direction I was headed – I was leaning forward trying to catch the words and just as it drove off it registered to me what it was saying – He died in AD 33, now get over it.
Oh the horror of such blasphemy and the tragedy of such unbelief.
The face behind such evil is pictured in Revelation chapter 12 as a red dragon.
In John’s Revelation, he provides in a few verses a condensed view of redemptive history. He pictures the woman, who represents Israel as a persecuted, suffering woman giving birth to a male son. The redundancy – male son – is a term indicating the legal right of the first born to occupy the throne.
He pictures the birth of this child – obviously Christ – the heir to David’s throne, born of Jewish kin.
John also pictured for us with figurative language a dragon – we know John is speaking figuratively by the use of the word, “sign” – a sign in heaven – a symbolic personification of someone or something.
So you have the sign of the woman – verse 1 – a symbol of Israel; and you have the sign of the dragon – representing the worldwide empire of Satan in these final days.
And the dragon, you notice in verse 4 is standing before the woman to devour the child – to destroy this male heir of the throne.
In verse 5 we’re told that the child was safely delivered and taken up to God the Father – which is the most condensed summary of the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ that you will find in scripture.
Again, John’s intention here is not to fill in details of Christ’s ministry, but to give us an overview of Satan’s efforts throughout world history.
- So we’re told that Satan has hounded, hunted and hurt the Jewish people since the nation was promised that one of their own descendants would be the Messiah – vv. 1 &2
- We’re told that Satan has manipulated the 7 major world empires to try and thwart the efforts of God on earth – v. 3
- We’re informed that he will yet create a 10 nation confederacy which he uses to fight against God and ultimately Israel – v. 3
- We’re reminded that Satan fell from heaven with many angels – v. 4
- We’re given the inside view that he attempted to kill the Messiah – v. 4
- And that he failed to destroy the Messiah who ultimately rose back to heaven – v. 5
- Finally, we’re told in v. 6 that he will unleash great persecution upon the Jewish people and those who follow the Messiah for a period of 3 ½ years.
Notice we’re told in verse 6, that the dragon redirects his anger and terror toward on the woman who flees into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God where she would be nourished for one thousand, two hundred and sixty days – literally 3 and ½ years. We can be certain that this woman isn’t the church, or Mary the mother of Christ, because of this clear language – she runs to a place where she is hidden away from the serpent for 3 and ½ years.
Certainly Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to avoid the decree of Herod to kill the male children from the age of 2 and under, but their flight to Egypt lasted only until Herod’s death several months later. (Matthew 2:16-19)
The church has certainly been hounded and hunted by the Dragon, but the church isn’t running away and it certainly hasn’t been in hiding for 2,000 years.
Look down at verse 13 for even more clarity; And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child, but the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time (that’s Daniel’s phrase representing 3 and ½ years), she will be nourished and protected from the Dragon for 3 and ½ years.
We’ll look at this flight to safety in our next session.
As chapter 12 opens, the Apostle John describes for us the faces and forces of evil behind this global rebellion against God during the Tribulation.
- First and foremost is this serpent of old – John refers to, in verse 3, as the Red Dragon. This title is a reference to his bloodlust and murderous intentions.
- In verse 9 he’s called the serpent of old – a reference to his crafty, deceitful ways.
This is one of my favorite titles for him – the serpent of old – or the old serpent. The word for old is archaos (arcaioV) from which we get our word archaic. / Fritz Rienecker/Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Regency, 1976), p. 839
Nobody likes to be told they’re getting old – certainly not archaic!
I find it fascinating that in Genesis 3 we’re introduced to him as “the serpent” . . . but now, thousands of years later, John can’t resist and he calls him literally, the old snake!
Martin Luther is perhaps right when the reformer once said that Satan, who loves to be worshipped, is infuriated by being jeered at and cannot bear scorn. / Quoted by C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (The Macmillan Company, 1960), p. 5
And here in this text, John seems to do just when he calls him nothing more than an old snake.
- Later in verse 9 John refers to him as the devil. That word is translated from the Greek word, diaballo (diaballw).
It means to defame and to slander. It also carries the idea of one who seeks to slander in order to separate. / Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 131
In other words, one of the devil’s primary objectives is to so slander God before the believer so as to separate them from the confidence of God’s love and redemption. He constantly defames the character and integrity and trustworthiness of God before the believer to ultimately rob God of the faithful worship of His children.
He certainly is busy about defaming and dividing the church as well. I’m convinced the devil most often doesn’t try to destroy a church outright – he most often joins it. And then he encourages division and happily provides ammunition to both sides.
That’s why the most devastating challenges a church faces is never from the outside, but from the inside.
That was Paul’s warning to the Ephesian church – warning them of those who would rise up from within who would harm and hurt the Flock. (Acts 20:29)
One of the chief aims of the enemy is to distract and deceive and divide the church – thus destroying not only her unity but her effectiveness for the gospel.
- Another name is attributed by John to this slanderer and it appears later in verse 9 – Satan.
That term refers to his role as adversary and opposer.
- Finally, in verse 10 he’s called the accuser.
We’ll come back to this in a moment, but for now, this title implies the rather chilling intention of our chief enemy.
This word means to bring a legal charge or accusation against another. / Rienecker, p. 839
We’re told in verse 10 that Satan accuses the brethren before God day and night.
His agenda is to cause the God of heaven to turn His back on his erring children.
And listen, he does so because he has legitimate grounds of accusation. Daily we offer to Satan more ammunition to use against us . . . surely God will reject us after all – sinful, disobedient, wayward, self-centered sons and daughters.
But the accuser will not succeed.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians of their security and ours; “In Christ, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Charles Wesley wrote it well and we sing it often,
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Charles Wesley, And Can It Be That I Should Gain, 1738
Now, much to our surprise, John reveals to us that a future battle will take place in heaven. And it takes place within the context of the Great Tribulation.
It’s probably one of the most overlooked battles in the Book of Revelation – and yet its implications are so exciting.
The Serpent’s Fall from Heaven
Look at verse 7. And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.
Before we move on to the end result of this battle, we’ve just been introduced to another angel; he’s evidently the Captain of the Lord’s host who wages war against Satan.
His name is Michael.
Let me hit the pause button long enough to make some comments about his name. I find it absolutely fascinating that God named all of his angels . . . and we know there are at least 300 million of them.
You had trouble naming 3 kids, right? Some of you are in the thick of it right now; you’re having conversations about what goes well with your last name . . . what family member might you honor . . . what’s the meaning of the name . . . what rhymes with what.
My mother just so happened to name 3 of us with middle names that all began with the same letter – Duane, Dale and Dean . . . 3 D’s . . . which looked a lot like my report card as a kid growing up. She should have given us names that started with an A – would’ve helped me avoid tremendous suffering and anguish.
Imagine the obvious care and personal connection that the Triune God would name their personal creations – the angels.
Now we’re told in verse 7 that Michael was at war with the dragon, with angels and demons involved in this skirmish as well. In verse 8 we read that the demons, “were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (12:8-9)
Let’s ask and answer two key questions. First, who is Michael and secondly, when did this battle take place?
At first glance you might think this is a reference to verse 4 where Satan and his angelic followers are cast out of heaven before the creation of mankind. I’ll tell you why that can’t be the case here with this battle.
Who is Michael?
The name Michael is from the Hebrew, Mik-ay-el which means, “Who is like God?” What a great name!
We first read about Michael in the Old Testament Book of Daniel. He is called the great prince who protects the people of God – specifically, the Jewish people. (Daniel 12:1) / Ray Stedman, Revelation: God’s Final Word (Discovery House, 1991), p. 236
We’re told in Daniel chapter 10 that Daniel has been praying for insight into the revelation of God regarding these final days of Tribulation.
After 3 weeks of praying, Daniel is visited by the arch-angel Gabriel who informs him that he would have arrived earlier with the answer from God, but that a demonic prince hindered him for 21 days.
Let me just read what Gabriel says, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for 21 days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to you to give you an understanding of what will happen t your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future.” (Daniel 10:12-14)
Wow . . . what a text!
For 21 days, the demon simply known as the one working in the kingdom of Persia intercepted Gabriel and started a tug of war. God eventually sends another angel, Michael, to help release him, which he does, and Gabriel now stands before Daniel with the answer.
We are not told any more than that.
While this is a study all on its own, and that’s not our present purpose, it’s almost unfair to read something like this without providing some explanation.
Let me make several observations about this text:
- First, conflict between angels and demons is a reality.
- Second, demons make a habit of losing.
- Third, this battle involved 2 angels and 1 demon, but it did not include Daniel.
This is a critical point to consider as you maintain a balanced view of the demonic world and the believers role in spiritual warfare. So many have missed this point and taken their imaginations off the cliff.
Don’t miss the point that God never asked Daniel to pray for more angels. In fact, he didn’t even give Daniel a sense that an angel needed assistance – or that one was on the way. Furthermore, God didn’t have Daniel identify the demon by name so he could bind him, and only then would God send help.
Ladies and Gentlemen, God did not require Daniel to be involved in any part of this battle scene. And even though Daniel was a godly, faithful prayer warrior, Daniel didn’t even know about the conflict until it was over.
Daniel 10 is in no way a suggestion that Christians need to start binding territorial demons, praying down more angels or casting demons out of ever potted plant.
Nowhere in God’s word are we told to command demons to give up territory before we can influence neighborhoods, cities or even foreign countries. Our power is not in ourselves – our words – it is the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. (Romans 1:16)
Nowhere in the Bible is the believer told to name demons and bind them in order to win the battle.
Frankly, many people today would rather pray for 30 minutes against some demonic stronghold than spend 3 hours studying to teach a class. How boring is that? It’s a lot more exciting to walk around the neighborhood casting down the demon of your subdivision than it is to prepare and pull off a vacation Bible school for your neighborhood kids.
Our clear commission from Jesus Christ is not to go out and bind demons, but to go out and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).
We’re not told to pray for more angels, we’re commanded to pray for more laborers (Matthew 9:38).
However, at the same time, we ought to be aware that there is an, invisible, powerful dimension of warfare behind the warfare that we can see . . . a warfare that influences and incites and manipulates those things that we do battle.
Our real battle is spiritual – the ultimate battle, behind the battle, is unseen. That’s why Paul would remind us that the ultimate conflict is not against flesh and blood but against rulers, powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
- So, one final observation can be made – fourth – Satan has organized his demonic forces to hinder the purposes and plans of God.
These observations might make you feel a little smaller in the cosmic scheme of battle . . . that’s probably a good thing.
God didn’t need Daniel to overcome the prince of Persia. And here in Revelation 12, he doesn’t need the believers who are already in heaven to help out in casting Satan out of heaven. Michael the angel and some of his comrades were sufficient.
But I do hope these observations will help you rest a little more in the sovereign control of God over this unseen, invisible world.
Consider the fact that when Satan is cast into the Abyss for 1,000 years while the millennial kingdom is enjoyed on earth, it only takes one unnamed angel to cast Satan down and lock him up.
Even Satan, the great dragon, will be overpowered and temporarily confined by only one anonymous angel, who happens too be empowered by the will and command of our sovereign God! And that will be all that’s necessary to take the dragon down.
Likewise, here in chapter 12, it’s Michael and a handful of angels who defeat Satan and his demons and kick them out of heaven.
But that begs another question. When does this battle take place?
When did this battle take place?
Some would say it took place when Satan was expelled from his high position within the ranks of heaven after he coveted the throne of God.
But that wouldn’t fit the context here, for Satan is clearly kicked out of heaven and then he battles against Israel for 3 ½ years.
Notice verse 13 again – And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child – for 3 ½ years (v. 6).
Some would say that this was a reference to Satan’s defeat as Christ died on the cross and then rose again. Certainly that is the foundation of our victory, but Satan since the cross has had access before God’s heavenly throne where he accuses the brethren day and night.
Remember in the Book of Job how Satan came before the presence of God and accused Job’s character?
Job wasn’t the first to be accused and he wasn’t the last.
It’s clear that this war takes place at the mid-point of the Tribulation. Following this battle, Satan is literally refused any further entrance before the throne of God and he is barred further opportunity to accuse the believer and rail against the throne of God.
Verse 10 in Revelation 12 informs us that you are being accused before God. Satan and his invisible forces shout their accusations about you in the presence of God and whisper accusations about God that they bring before you.
They have been unceasing and untiring in their tirade against God and against you, His redeemed.
Are your ears burning? They oughta be! You are being spoken of in the heavenly court right now . . . for it will not be until mid-way through the Tribulation that God will say, “Michael, Satan’s time of accusation is up . . . that’s enough . . . no more!”
No wonder a loud voice shouts as Satan and his demons are permanently barred from any more legal accusations against the beloved. Notice as this voice bursts out with joy in this announcement, verse 10. “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 brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.
The prosecutor of all the redeemed is exiled to earth . . . forever banished from the court of heaven . . . he cannot make one more accusation against you or against me.
He is disbarred from the court.
The last lingering sound from his accusations would be the intercession and defense on the part of our Savior who, even now, is defending us and interceding on our behalf.
So Paul would write, ‘Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God interceding for us (Romans 8:34)
And one day, yet future, revealed here for us in Revelation chapter 12, there will be this brief battle where Satan will be sent packing.
The hissing serpent who has accused us – and rightly so – of being undeserving of God’s grace and forgiveness; who even now brings before the throne of God daily news of our failure and sin; who glories in our stumblings and our disobediences and says to God, “Have you not yet seen again . . . have you not exhausted your store of grace?”
Is justice dead?
But our Lord stands, with nail prints in his hands, to remind the old serpent without a word, by his wounds alone He testifies – we have already been judged and forgiven in Him.
The lyrics to that hymn we sang earlier ring true:
Lisa – I scratched this onto a piece of paper while we were singing it and don’t have it – you will need the audio to give them to you…..
Charles Wesley also added a stanza in his hymn I quoted earlier:
He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace,
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
Tis mercy all immense and free!
For, O my God it found out me!
Amazing love, how can it be,
That Thou my God should’st die for me.
That says it all
Amazing love, how can it be,
That Thou my God should’st die for me.
Charles Wesley, And Can It Be That I Should Gain, 1738