Some would have us believe that behind the curtain of world history there is an ongoing battle between God and the devil, and the devil is giving God a pretty good fight! But one look at Revelation 19 and that misconception is silenced forever.
Bound by an Angel
Ask the average person on the street what they think of angels and they will tell you of wonderful sightings and helpful guides.
According to a survey in Time magazine, 69% of the people interviewed believed in the existence of angels and 46% believed they had personal connections with at least one angel.
I did a survey sometime ago on material in print and audio regarding angels and found incredible interest and unbelievable mysticism - and the embracing of mythology.
One author promised that the techniques in his book would allow the reader to tune into guardian angels, nature spirits and even archangels.
Another stated that everyone has a spirit guide and this CD will help you get in touch with yours.
Another author promised, “This book will teach 9 specific ways how you are protected by angels, and how you can learn the actual language of the angelic kingdom.
There is an angel-watch network in one northern state that exists to monitor angelic comings and goings, with a bi-monthly journal and thousands of subscribers.
Touched by an Angel became a network winner as it ran program after program of angels who solved mankind’s problems in just the nick of time.
But even Time Magazine cut to the heart of the issue when it reported, “For those who choke too easily on God and His rules, angels are the handy compromise. All fluff and meringue, nonjudgmental and kind; angels are like aspirin – they are available to everyone.
Protestant leaders are busy teaching their following how to bind demons and pray around their neighborhoods for the binding of the devil and his influence. That sure is a lot easier than witnessing to my neighbors. Or learning a foreign language and going overseas with the gospel.
Protestants are on the bandwagon.
Catholics have long tied spiritual mysticism to angels. Former monks like Borgia and Bernard of Clairvaux encouraged devotion and prayer to angels.
The new Catechism of the Catholic Church includes this instruction, “From infancy to death, human life is surrounded by angels [intercession]. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life..
If that’s true, then David got it wrong in Psalm 23, and he should have written, “My angel is my shepherd I shall not want; yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for my angel is with me.”
Now my purpose in this introduction is not to offend some Catholics or mainline Protestants; my purpose is to offend everyone.
Listen, there are so many things we don’t understand about the world of angels and demons – but if we let the Bible stand as our guide – this being the disclosure of God’s truth – one of the things you come away with as you notice the appearance of angels is they are very different than what you see in classic paintings.
Very different; for one thing, they are not fat little naked babies with wings and little halos.
C. S. Lewis wrote, “Fra Angelico’s angels (paintings) carried the face and gesture of the peace and authority of Heaven. But later came the chubby infantile angels of Raphael; finally the soft, slim, girlish angels of 19th century art. But in scripture, Lewis goes on to say, the appearance of an angel was always alarming; and the angel had to begin by saying, “Fear not.” The current angel looks as if he’s about to say, “There there.”
As the Lord descends on his white stallion and we, the church with him on our own steeds – a thundering, majestic, descent that turns the armies of the world into one united army against our Lord – you discover the presence and activity of angels.
You could underline the opening lines of John’s vision in verse 17 where we left off in Revelation chapter 19 with those words we already encountered before. “Then I saw an angel”. Chapter 20 begins with the same phrase – “Then I saw an angel.”
And what were they like, John? All fluff and meringue? Fat little babies with halos?
Far from it. They were strong, determined, warriors with the voice of God’s holy authority and the righteous purpose.
Before we dive into verse 17, keep in mind that the Battle of Armageddon is the primary setting.
Har – meaning hill country and Megidon – the name of a Canaanite fortress in the Plain of Jezreel – allows us to understand the location as the hill country of Megiddo.
Robert Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 270
This was the valley where Israel conquered their enemies in Joshua 12 and Judges 5; it was the scene of Josiah’s defeat in 2 Chronicles 35. Zechariah mentioned this region in connection with the final Battle of Armageddon (Zechariah 12). Armies coming from the east would have to cross the Euphrates river – a river we’ve already learned will be miraculously dried up.
This was a renowned Old Testament battleground – a region that spanned a 200 mile long region.
Nebuchadnezzar fought in this region and so did Ramses. Titus the Roman General fought here as did Pompey, Richard the Lionhearted and Napoleon who personally called this valley region the world’s greatest natural battlefield. / Adrian Rogers, Unveiling the End Times in Our Time (Broadman & Holman, 2004), p. 222
None of these former warriors ever saw a battle unfold quite like the Battle of Armageddon.
You see, God is literally drawing the world into battle. They have been itching for a fight since the days of Babel and now the time has come.
Christ and His bride are descending to win this triumphant victory over the Antichrist, the world’s armed forces energized and directed ultimately by Satan himself.
An Angel’s Invitation
Before the first shots are fired from earth’s arsenal toward the brilliant company of Christ and His redeemed, an angel appears.
Notice verse 17. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun – that is, in the proximity of the sun – high in the heavens – and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in mid-heaven, “Come assemble for the great supper of God, 18. So that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”
John Philips describes this final showdown; imagine as the armies march across the plains of Galilee, file through the passes and deploy on the fertile fields of Megiddo; what masses of military equipment are stockpiled in the hills. What fleets ride at anchor in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and along the shorelines of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. What stirring strains of marital music are heard. The ground shakes to the beat of marching feet; amazing new weapons, given to men by the Antichrist and brought into place. Miracles are wrought by the false prophet to encourage the troops. / John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), p. 236
Then an angel appears high up in the sky with an invitation from God . . . of all things, to millions of birds.
“Come to the supper provided by your Creator God.”
Where’s the food? It’s arriving from all around the world. This redefines international cuisine.
And what irony! We have two contrasting suppers – or banquets; the marriage supper of the Lamb and the great supper of God.
Those who attend the wedding feast of the Lamb – the believers – will be at the supper; those who march against Christ at Armageddon will be the supper. / Daymond R. Duck & Larry Richards, The Smart Guide to the Bible: Revelation (Thomas Nelson, 2006), p. 292
This is not material for another episode of Touched by an Angel.
There’s no fluff and meringue here.
Ezekiel informs us that even after the birds gorge themselves on the flesh of the fallen millions of soldiers it will take nearly a year to bury the remains. (Ezekiel 39:12)
And I want you to notice the timing of this angel’s invitation.
He announces this invitation for the birds to gather before the battle begins. In other words, the angel declares Jesus Christ’s victory before the battle is ever fought. / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 2000), p. 221
Before one missile is launched at the descending Cavalry of Heaven, the angel announces earth’s defeat.
Have you ever been to a ball game – high school, college and even professional game where the fans begin to sing na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.
Used to love to sing that . . . Hey hey, goodbye.
When do you sing that? You’re thinking, “Not in church, Stephen!”
You’re singing that while the game’s still being played – but you’re team has enough points on the board that you’re confident the game is over.
And you and thousands of other fans taunt the opposing team and the opposing fans . . . “Hey hey, goodbye.”
Of course you’re singing it in Christian love.
There’s still time on the clock, but you’re assured a victory.
It’s not really over, but it’s over!
This battle hasn’t even begun and the angel is effectively saying, “It’s over!”
Go ahead and march. Verse 19. And I saw the beast – that is the Antichrist – and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
And listen, while they assembled, would they notice that the skies are growing dark as the sun is shaded by the gathering, swarming, flapping, flying cacophony of millions of birds who have come at the invitation of an angel.
Somewhere between verse 19 and verse 20 is the beginning and ending of the battle . . . just that quickly.
We’re told in verse 15 that the word of Christ came from His mouth like a sharp sword – the same analogy that has crisscrossed the scriptures.
The Bible is likened to a sharp sword in Hebrews 4:12
The believer is challenged to take up the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17)
Jesus Christ rides from the skies and defeats this massive army with His word. Look over at verse 21. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
One word from Christ and earth is defeated.
Oh, the power in the spoken word by the Living word.
In Mark 4:39, he stood in that ship being tossed around by the waves and wind and said, ‘Quiet’ . . . and immediately everything calmed. Don’t you wish you had that ability in the van on the way to church – “Quiet!”
Jesus Christ bent over a paralyzed man who’d lived immobile and at the mercy of available friends and he said to him, “Get up!” And the man got up and ran home. (Luke 5:24)
Christ would stand at the grave of Lazarus and shout, “Lazarus, come out.” And a resurrection would occur.
To that little girl surrounded by friends and family who’d come to pay their last respects, weeping and crying over the death of one so young – Jesus came and said, “Rise” – and she caught her breath and opened her eyes and looked into the face of the One who is the resurrection and the life. (Mark 5:41)
Jesus Christ interrupted every funeral he attended. He disturbed every grave site He visited.
He was life – in a word.
But for these armies, He is death in a word. Isaiah 11:4 says this of the Coming Messiah, “By the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.”
All the might of man and demons combined are not strong enough to withstand one word from Christ!
One word, and the armies of the world become bird food and the great Supper of God begins.
According to this passage, all the invading armies are killed except 2 men.
The Antichrist and False Prophet’s Condemnation
Notice verse 20. And the beast (the Antichrist) and with him the false prophet, who performed the signs in his presence – that is the miracles he performed – John writes, that deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
Only two prisoners are taken alive, so to speak.
All the others are dead – which means their spirits are at that moment now in Hades – that temporary place of torment where they await the final judgment. (Luke 16:23)
But for these two, satanically empowered men, God does something drastic. They are publicly condemned.
John says in verse 20, “these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire.” The phrase, “lake of fire” is a reference to the final place of everlasting torment.
Jesus Christ and other Biblical writers described this place, but this is the first time you actually read this title – the Lake of Fire.
We’ll study this place later when we arrive at the end of Revelation chapter 20. The Lake of Fire will be mentioned 4 more times as Revelation comes to a conclusion. / Kendell H. Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation (Holman, 1998), p. 357
But for now, we’re told that the very first inhabitants of Hell are the Antichrist and The False Prophet – the wonder working, miracle performing deceiving duo who once deceived the majority of humankind.
They become a horrifying prelude to the eternal wrath of God by being thrown alive into the lake of fire.
Here’s the point . . . or one of them; unbelievers who influence others in their unbelief will receive a greater penalty.
Those who lead others into sin will bear a greater responsibility before God for their evil ways and be subjected to more severe punishment. Yes, there are levels of suffering in Hell, as we’ll study more later on.
The Antichrist and his deceiving false prophet will be the first human beings to be delivered into Hell.
And this passage delivers a warning.
That university professor who delights in condemning the scriptures and causes unbelievers to be further confirmed in their unbelief will one day receive a greater punishment.
That greedy man or woman who flaunts their wealth and causes all around them to live even more covetous lives will stand a greater judgment.
That immoral man who flaunts his immorality and maybe even publishes a magazine and his philosophy that seems to the unbeliever to make immorality a good thing will one day serve a more terrifying sentence because of it.
It’s one thing to be an unrepentant sinner – it’s another thing to applaud and endorse and support and defend and introduce and encourage others to sin.
You see, we’re moving toward those end time events where the scales of God’s justice are now beginning to be seen. God’s taking the wrapping paper off His scales and He is weighing out His judgment on the unbelieving world.
And to the horror of the world, He isn’t treating everyone alike. The greater the sinner and the greater the influence of sinfulness, the greater the penalty.
You don’t want to be there. And if you’ve received Christ as your Lord and Savior – you are, only you’re in the victorious wedding party that has accompanied the Savior from heaven to earth.
And there’s one more event that we’ll watch with our own eyes.
We’ve heard the angel’s invitation.
We’ve seen the Antichrist and False Prophet’s Condemnation
And now notice:
The Adversary’s Incarceration
Chapter 20 and verse 1. Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
What a thrill this is to read. And we will one day watch it happen.
An angel still hovering in the sky has an assignment.
We’re told he has two things in his hand.
- First, the key to the abyss.
The abyss has already surfaced in the Book of Revelation. It is the temporary holding place of certain fallen angels or demons. / Thomas, p. 398
The word “abyss” is from the Greek word abussos (abussoV), which refers to the inability of man to fathom its depth. / Fritz Rienecker/Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Regency, 1976), p. 832
The Apostle John uses words to describe it as a deep cavern and the owner of the key is ultimately sovereign God. / Adapted from Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 28
2 Peter 2:4 and Jude verse 6 inform us that some demons have already been sent to the abyss to await their final judgment.
Perhaps you remember God allowing Satan to open the lid of the abyss in Revelation 9 and millions of demons being released to play havoc on earth for a period of time during the Tribulation.
Well we’re told now that the key to this deep cavern is in the hand of an angel.
- Secondly, we’re told that this angel also holds a great chain in his hand.
Obviously you can’t chain a spirit being with galvanized steel from Lowe’s that you purchase by the foot.
That doesn’t mean that God can’t create some kind of chain to bind Satan, which we’re told He does.
Verse 3 tells us that this angel came and bound Satan and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed.
I have a book on my desk with the title, “I Wish I’d Been There”, in which the author brings up significant moments in world history and describes them, wishing he’d been able to be there to see it first-hand.
None of them could hold a candle to this scene.
The glory of Christ descending; the armies of the world defeated; the church resplendent in white garments, mounted with Christ on white horses; the Antichrist and False Prophet judged and then, this climactic moment.
Satan, the old serpent is seized. The roaring lion is muzzled. The accuser is silenced; the enemy of the church is in chains.
By whom? An ordinary angel.
Not an archangel. Not Gabriel or Michal . . . not one of the four angels that stand near the throne of God.
Just an angel. An anonymous, ordinary, run of the mill angel who happens to be more powerful than Satan as he carries out the will of God.
And so are you!
Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. (I John 4:4)
Even though the battle in your life and mine still rages on as we resist the enemy, listen to a song that says it really well . . .
Na na na na, na na na na hey, hey goodbye. Hey Satan, goodbye; hey, temptation, goodbye; hey, world and fleshly pull – goodbye!
Yes, there’s still time left on the clock in your life and mine – but the game’s already decided.
The score is already fixed – Satan loses. In fact, he doesn’t just lost, he is crushed.
Jesus Christ and His beloved win. And we don’t just win, we conquer.
We already have. In Christ, we are already sealed; we are already forgiven; we are already seated; we are already, unchangeably, eternally accepted in Christ.
This past week my wife came into my study and said, Honey you’ve gotta read this . . . she loves to read Charles Spurgeon’s devotional works; he was the insightful, oratorical preacher from London, England in the late 1800’s.
I close with this paragraph from his comments; Paul writes in Ephesians 1:6, you are accepted in the beloved. What a state of privilege. It includes our justification before God, but the term “acceptance” in the Greek language means more than that. It signifies that we are the objects of divine delight.
How marvelous that we, mortals, sinners, worms, should be the objects of divine love. But it is only “in the beloved”.
Some Christians feel accepted by their own experience – that is when their spirit is lively, and their hopes bright, they think God accepts them, for they feel so happy, so heavenly minded, so drawn above the earth. But when their souls collapse in the dust, they are the victims of the fear that they are no longer accepted.
If they could but see that all their high joys do not exalt them and all their despondencies do not diminish them in their Father’s sight. They stand accepted in One who never alters, in One who is always perfect, always without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.
How much happier they would be, and how much more they would honor the Savior! Rejoice then, believer in this; you are accepted in the beloved.
You look within and you say, “There is nothing acceptable here!” But look at Christ and see if there is not everything acceptable there.
Your sins trouble you; but God has cast your sins behind His back and you are accepted in the Righteous One. You have to fight with corruption, and to wrestle with temptation, but you are already accepted in Him who has overcome the powers of evil. The devil tempts you; be of good cheer, he cannot destroy you, for you are already accepted in Him. / Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening(Hendrickson Publishers, 1991), p. 534
Wow . . . listen, my friend, allow this scene in Revelation 19 and 20 and the truth of your position in Christ by faith in Him alone to motivate you to live and think and feel in light of your position in Him; in light of your forgiveness and your acceptance and your victory in Christ.
The game isn’t over, but it really is over – it’s settled. It’s settled . . . you’ve won.
You can go ahead and start singing, Hey, hey, goodbye.