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Christmas in the Heavenly Realms

Christmas in the Heavenly Realms

December 18, 2011 | Andrew Davis
Revelation 12:1-12
Incarnation

sermon transcript

Introduction

The Incarnation: Heavenly Invasion into a Five-Sense World

This morning, I'm wanting to see the Christmas story from a heavenly perspective, as I just prayed a moment ago. I would like the eyes of all of our hearts to be open to see into an invisible spiritual realm, that which we cannot see unless God grants us faith. I believe that the true story of heaven is that of a heavenly invasion, from Heaven to Earth. That God sent a powerful weapon in the midst of warfare that would win the battle in the end, and so I want us, by faith, to see that heavenly warfare - warfare that proceeds even to this very moment - to understand Satan's activity in that warfare, and to see the final victory, not only of Christ, but of Christ's people, of the saints of God, who overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of his testimony. So those two aspects, that's what I want you to see today, spiritual warfare in the heavenly realms, Christ coming from Heaven to Earth as an invasion, a military strike against Satan's dark kingdom, and the victory in the end that all of us will enjoy by faith in Jesus, that's what I want to see.

And so we go back to that familiar story. Luke chapter 2 I think records it for us so beautifully; the glory of a single angel and his glorious heavenly light ripping aside the darkness of that night, and ushering in a new age and the world has never been the same since that moment, the moment that that light shone in the darkness. Shepherds were there guarding their flocks at night, guarding them from predators, perhaps wild animals that would come and drag away their precious sheep and tear them limb from limb, or perhaps human predators, thieves that would come in and steal their sheep.  And so they were guarding them, but they were actually, themselves, the sheep, and they were actually themselves being harassed by spiritual forces in the heavenly realms that would seek to tear them limb from limb. We have a glimpse of this in another text, in Matthew 9 verse 36, it speaks of our Lord. When He looked on the crowds, it says that He had compassion on them because they were "…harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd." And so it was that all of us were in that condition, the shepherds that night, as human beings were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. The word harassed means literally flayed or skinned, like skinned alive. They were being played, they were being harassed, they were being beaten and bruised day after day by spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, that they could not see, but they were harassed, and they were helpless. They could do nothing to change it, they could not win a victory in the spiritual realm against the predators that sought their very souls. They were helpless. They needed a savior, they needed a savior, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

And so we see, we'll see in this text in Revelation 12, the vicious, the cold-hearted, two-prong satanic attack against our souls, that of temptation, allurements to sin, day after day, minute after minute, the temptations of the evil one. He is the one who leads the whole world astray by his temptations, and then he turns around and accuses us day and night before the throne of God, uses the law of God to accuse us of those very sins that he had just allured us toward and tempted us to do. And in that way, all of us were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd, and suddenly in the middle of that night, as the shepherds were out there watching their sheep, guarding them from physical predators, but themselves harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd, suddenly, a single angel comes.

In Luke 2: 9-12, it says, "An Angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you, you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger.'" I wonder what that glorious heavenly light looked like, how shocking, how stunning it was. It shows us that glory can be visible, heavenly light can be seen with the eye, and so it will be the new Jerusalem, radiant with the glory of God through Jesus Christ. And we ourselves will shine like the sun forever and ever, but that one angel came, and he was shining, and the shepherds were terrified, and he brought them good news of a great joy of the birth of Jesus the savior, born for them. Immediately after that, an entire army of heavenly beings, an army of angels came to join with that single angel. Luke 2:13 and 14, "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men on whom His favor rest." It's an awesome statement. An awesome occurrence. There is a sense of an in-breaking, like I said, an invasion. Suddenly it says, and with that single angel comes this mighty army of angels, and that's literally what it means. An army - a great company of the heavenly host - the word translated host in Luke 2 is really. These were soldiers, these were heavenly soldiers armed for battle. It was a great company, an innumerable invasion, maybe the greatest number of angels that had ever been seen with the human eye on Earth that night. A heavenly invasion, not to fight at that moment, but to worship, to praise God for His good news, the birth of the savior, of Jesus Christ, in the city of David, in fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus born a savior for them and for us.

Now, if we had been there that night before the angel came, it would have been just another night, an ordinary night. We would not have been aware of the spiritual realities around us, we wouldn't have been able to see it because we're so used to operating in the five-sense realm, the physical realm with our eyes, and our ears, and our noses, our mouths. This is what we're used to, this is how we get information. And I say that now, as much as ever, we need to see Christ and his birth with heavenly eyes.

A Glimpse Into the Heavenly Realities of Christmas

Christmas just saturates our senses, doesn't it? That's not a bad thing, it's a good thing; it's God that gave us the five senses, but there are so many sights of Christmas, aren't there? I mean, it's just a beautiful time. A season of lights, the decorations in this room are just absolutely beautiful, and they do just do a great job year after year. I love looking at the lights. I like driving around, I drive in a neighborhood sometimes I don't usually drive in to see what the houses look like. I love the lights and the colors, and I know many do as well. It's a season of sights. And for many, of the greatest sights of all. Lots of presents under the Christmas tree. Can't wait to see what it's going to be, what's going to be in those packages. Isn't there... You know they're colorful, they're in gold foil or a different colored wrapping paper. It's just a sensory input, a sensory feast. So also the sounds. We love the music. It's so beautiful, and we, we're so blessed at this church by the music ministry. Eric, we're so blessed by what you do week after week, and all of your co-laborers, we're just blessed. Other churches have simpler musical gifts and they're blessed too, but we are just richly blessed by the spiritual gifts that are operating here, and at this time of year, there are just so many rich traditional Christmas songs, and we love to listen to them. I like the Christmas songs more than the seasonal songs. Amen. I'd rather hear someone singing openly about Christ, than about Chestnut's roasting on an open fire. There's nothing wrong with Chestnut's roasting, but I want Christ. Amen. But it's a seasonal time of rich saturation of the senses, and we can be just swept away by that, and we can forget that the reality, the real issues here are spiritual.

We are surrounded by people who are dead in their transgressions and sins, and if we are believers in Christ at one time, that was us. We have been resurrected from the dead spiritually. We are alive now because Jesus has come. We must see this season spiritually with spiritual eyes, and the only way we can do that, I think, is by a saturation of the mind and the word of God. We would not know of the invisible spiritual realms around us, except that God's Word told us, that God's Word told us that there is this spiritual world around us, and that by faith, we can perceive it. Revelation 12, gives us, I think, a very unusual glimpse into the reality of Christmas, what we call Christmas, the birth of Jesus into the world.

So we'll see an unusual glimpse into the heavenly realms, connected with the warfare birth of Jesus, how he's born into a war, and how the devil was ready, at that moment, to kill him. And we're going to see also back in time - I believe, that Revelation 12:7-9 goes back to the beginning, even before Eden - to show how Satan lost his place in heaven and was hurled to the Earth. We're going to talk about his defeat, and we're going to look finally, thirdly, to the future, how because of the birth of Jesus, how His blood shed on the cross enables sinners like you and me to overcome the devil, to conquer him and to avoid His condemnation, being thrown into the lake of fire with the devil and his angels, how because of the blood of this boy baby that was born, we can be delivered, and we will spend eternity praising God. That's the three-part outline of Revelation 12.

A Heavenly Sign: The Wartime Birth of Our Savior (vs. 1-6)

A Glorious and Pregnant Woman

So let's look at the first part, a heavenly sign, the war time birth of our Savior, verses 1 through 6. Verse 1 and 2 says this, "A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of 12 stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out in pain as she was about to give birth." Now we have just been helicoptered and dropped by your pastor right into the middle of the Book of Revelation. There's no context for this at all. We're just dropped right into the apocalypse, and so with that, you're dropped into apocalyptic language, symbolic language, which is sometimes very, very difficult to interpret. The apocalypse, literally, that is just the transliteration of the Greek word, which means the unveiling, it's the unveiling of things hidden, the things that needed to be revealed. Ultimately, Revelation is an unveiling of Jesus Christ. So through the Book of Revelation, we can see Jesus Christ. The veil is pulled back, and we can see Christ in a way we couldn't see any other way, but there are other hidden things that the Book of Revelation unveils, the spiritual realms, the circles of thrones around the central throne of God.  We can see all kinds of things through this marvelous book, but in order to do it, we have to read through symbolic, what we call apocalyptic language, symbolic language, and so things aren't always exactly what they appear to be.

So we see immediately a great and wondrous sign, and that's what it is. It's a marvelous and miraculous sign appearing in heaven, and it is a woman - a pregnant woman - and she is pregnant, she's crying out, about to give birth, and she's glorious. She's an amazing woman, she's "clothed with the sun," it says, "with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head." Since we know, and we'll get to this in a moment, that the baby that she gives birth to must be Jesus, it's very easy immediately to see this woman as Mary. And I think clearly Mary is in view here, but I don't think it's enough to just see Mary in this woman. I actually think the woman represents the people of God in all eras of redemptive history. Israel in the Old Testament, the church in the new, all of the people of God are represented here. It's because later in Revelation 12, this woman is persecuted, and she's fleeing, and she's still on the Earth, and she's harassed by the devil, and she needs protection from God, and she's there for 1260 days. We'll talk about all that briefly, but this is, I think, representing the people of God, and Mary then is one of the people of God, and she is the one that literally, physically gives birth to Jesus. That's the way that I interpret it. It's the glorified vision of the church or the people of God, all of God's elect, radiant with glory.

Not so much Mary. I think sometimes Catholic artists might take images here from Revelation 12 and picture Mary as the queen of Heaven, and that's a mistake. Mary was an ordinary woman in this regard, she was a sinner saved by grace, just like you and me. Godly woman, chosen for a special role as many other men and women are in the Bible, but she's no Queen of Heaven, and so it'd be wrong to take the images of Revelation 12 and describe them just a Mary. I want to expand them to, ascribe them to all of the people of God. And that's amazing too when you think about it, how do the people of God in that sense give birth to Jesus? Well, we know that from, according to Romans 9, "From the Jews, is traced the human ancestry of Jesus, who is God over all, forever praised." And so from the Jewish nation, with Mary as the culmination, a Jewish girl, Jewish young woman, Jesus got His body, He was incarnate, He took on a human body. And so in that sense, the people of God ultimately give birth to Jesus, but isn't it amazing and deep and rich to contemplate that the one to whom she gives birth physically is the same one who gives her birth spiritually?

For it is Jesus who said to Nicodemus, "You must be born again," and if we are not born again, we cannot see heaven, but we will be condemned with the devil and his angels. And so this physical birth comes, and we give birth to Jesus physically because we needed a savior, it's because of our sins. To some degree, it's our own shame that we had to have this kind of savior, this kind of salvation. We needed Jesus to come and take on a mortal body, and so we gave him a mortal body so that he could die. He then gives us a resurrection body so that we can live. And how sweet and marvelous is that, and so this woman is crying out in pain, she's laboring, she's in agony, she's glorified ultimately, waiting for the birth of Jesus.

A Terrifying, Vicious Enemy

The second sign comes in verses three and four, a terrifying vicious enemy, "Then another sign appeared in heaven, an enormous red dragon with seven heads and 10 horns, and seven crowns on his heads, his tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth so that he might devour her child the moment it was born." So here's this terrifying spiritual enemy, another sign, which appears in heaven, this is in the heavenly realms. This is not something you can see except by faith, and this terrifying enemy is described as enormous; he's immense, he is a red dragon. Dragon, a figure that's come down to us in mythology, come down to us in the history of many nations, probably a literal creature at one point was named this name dragon, but this is clearly a spiritualized vision of a terrifying beast, a horrifying beast, ready to assault the woman and her male child. It speaks also of his great power, seven heads, 10 horns and seven crowns on those seven heads, this all accumulates to the great power of Satan. And since the image is very similar to Daniel's images in Daniel 7 and 8, which inevitably there in that book refer to political kingdoms, empires, I think behind this, to some degree, and you see this more in Revelation 13, is Satan's use of human kingdoms and kings, tyrants, wicked governments to assault the people of God. So he's got seven heads and a crown on each head, and there's just all of this power, this might and this vicious-ness.

Now, John leaves us no doubt as to who this is. Later in Verse 9, it says, "The great dragon was hurled down, that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray." That is a comprehensive identification, isn't it, in verse 9? We'll talk more about it. We know who this dragon is, This is the devil, and notice that it says that "His tail swept," in Verse 4, "a third of the stars from the heavens and flung them to the Earth." I believe that this is referring to fallen angels, what we commonly know in the New Testament as demons. And so a third of the angels joined Satan in his rebellion against Almighty God, and they were flung to the earth, as we'll see later in this text, they lost their place in heaven, and they are on the Earth, tormenting those on the earth. The devil is not alone, and he has a very organized malicious empire, a kingdom, designed to destroy our souls. And so a third of the star is thrown down to the Earth, and he is standing there in a posture that's very threatening and very intimidating, terrifying even. He is waiting over this pregnant woman as she's in labor, waiting to grab her child the moment he's born and kill him, there's no doubt about it, to devour that child the moment that he is born.

Now, I think this implies very plainly that Satan knew who Jesus was, he knew that Mary had never been with a man - he knows all of our histories - that she had never been sexually with a man, she was a virgin, and yet here she was pregnant. She also knows what the angel Gabriel had said to her, and what the angel had revealed to Joseph, what the two of them had discussed together, how the whole thing was unfolding, and we know that the demons said to Jesus when he began his ministry, "We know who you are, the holy one of God." So the devil is very well aware of the significance of this birth and who this baby is. We also know, as Jesus said from John 8:44, "The devil was a murderer from the beginning," he intended murder toward this little baby that was being born.

But thanks be to God, the angelic army was there to stop him. Amen. I think they weren't just there to praise God, but they were there ready for a fight, and the sovereign power of God was there to protect this little baby Jesus as well, but to what a terrifying vision. And it's an amazing thing when we think about it. The scenes that we have, and I've gotten some beautiful - we've gotten - some beautiful Christmas cards, and you get this idyllic scene of the little town of Bethlehem, don't you. And it's a beautiful night, and all the hymns talk about:

“O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.”

No mention there of the stars that were flung to the earth by the dragon's tail. No, these are the physical stars, and it's a peaceful night, or this one:

“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Saviors birth.”

Or, this one most of all:

“Silent night, holy night,

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin mother and child.

Holy Infant, so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.”

Well, that's fine, but there was more there than met the eye that night, that's all I'm saying. There is a terrifying dragon wanting to kill that baby, and there's an army from heaven wanting to protect that baby, and none of it perceptible by the naked eye. And therefore, dear friend, you must see with spiritual eyes this Christmas season. You can't see it only with the physical eye. You have to see what's really going on. And what's really going on is that Jesus's birth is a warfare birth, it's a weapon that came from Heaven to Earth, the ultimate weapon.

The Genesis 3 Prediction

Now, behind all of this, of course, is the Genesis 3 prediction. You remember how Satan hijacks a snake in some mysterious way and spoke to Eve through the serpent and communicated with her. We're never told in Genesis 3 that the serpent is the devil, we just always kind of knew it, didn't we? Thanks be to God for Revelation 12 verse 9, that tells us that the ancient serpent is the devil. So we know who that ancient serpent was, but he spoke as he does, masquerading, always masquerading, standing behind, not quite sure who you're dealing with. But God saw through all of that and through the guise, the disguise, through the serpent, he spoke to Satan, didn't he? In Genesis 3:15, he said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and hers, he will crush your head and you will strike his heel." Well, from the moment that prophecy came, there has been a history of satanic assaults on the woman. And by that, again, I mean within Revelation 12, the people of God, as in every generation, there was a threat that the serpent slayer would be born.

A History of Satanic Assault on the “Seed of the Woman”

And so at key moments in redemptive history, you can see the demonic or the satanic attack on the seed of the woman. You definitely see it, I think in Exodus chapter 1, when Pharaoh gave the order that all the boy babies of the Jews be slaughtered, thrown into the river. I think that is a satanic assault on the seed of woman. His desire was to stop the serpent slayer before the serpent slayer could come and crush him. Or, again in 2 Kings 11 in the flow of the history of Judah and Israel, the people of God, they had one king after another. David, the House of David, had already been set aside, and from his lineage, would be born the Messiah. The serpent slayer would be a son of David. And at one point, a wicked woman, Athaliah, sought to sever that line, to kill all of the sons of David, to destroy the lineage of David. And it came down to one godly woman, Jehosheba, who put little baby Joash, the only remaining descendant of David alive at that time, to hide him, so that he would not be murdered with all of his brothers. And it's just an amazing thing for me to meditate, thinking about it this morning, how slender the Davidic line hung by a thread, but that thread was unbreakable, it could not be broken. And so the devil would have sought to snuff out the line of David, but God said, no, and by the sovereign power of God, that baby was indestructible until, at last, he gave birth to the next in the lineage.

And then how much more in the account, and Eric already referred to it, after Jesus was born, how Herod the Great, that jealous and petty and wicked ruler who sought to maintain his own pathetic clinging to power. He yearned for it so much, he killed his own two sons, prompting Caesar Augustus say, “I would rather be Herod's pig than his son.” He won't kill his pigs, but he'll kill his sons. What an evil and wicked, grasping man. When he gave one of the most vicious edicts in the Bible, when the Magi came to Jerusalem and told him of the birth of the boy baby, birth of Jesus, "he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity, who were two years old and under, in accordance with the word he had gotten from the Magi." Do you see that the viciousness, the vicinity, and anybody two and under, he doesn't care who gets killed, just as long as Jesus is among them. But you have to see behind what Herod was doing to the devil's attack on the seed of woman. It was the devil, the dragon, standing there with claws and fiery breath, ready at that moment to kill that baby. And again, God said, "No." By the sovereign hand of God.

The Birth of a Son that Will Rule the Nations

And so in verse 4, "The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth so that he might devour her child the moment it was born," but in verse 5, "she gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter." And so Satan completely failed in his attempt; he could not crush him. Satan was thwarted, the baby was born, and he will reign forever and ever. This is the one who it says, will rule all the nations. All authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to him. He rules over everything, and he'll rule them, it says, "with an iron scepter." This is a direct fulfillment of Psalm 2, 8 and 9, in which God the Father speaks to God the Son, and he says, "Ask of me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance. I will give you the ends of the Earth as your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter. You will dash them to pieces like pottery." And so this is the little baby, the little boy baby that's born. He is the one who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.

Now, this iron scepter, in my opinion, represents Christ's unbreakable rule. His reign cannot be thwarted, he cannot be stopped. And it specifically, I think, talks about his power to crush all opposition. He will destroy all of his enemies with a fiery wrath. And so this iron scepter comes back in in Revelation 19 at the second coming of Christ, when Jesus returns, when the heavens are open and the invasion happens for the final time, and Jesus comes back, leading an army from heaven. This is what Revelation 19, 15 and 16 says of Jesus, "Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. 'He will rule them with an iron scepter.' He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. And on his robe and on his thigh, he has this name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords." That's the second coming of Christ, that's when the rod of iron smashes the enemies of Christ on the Earth.

 Now, we might think that this image of a rod of iron is a picture of absolute tyranny, an iron boot or an iron yoke or an iron rod, something like that. And we get the picture of wickedness, really, of tyranny. But nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is actually another Psalm quoted in Hebrews 1 also speaks of Christ scepter. In Hebrews 1, God the Father, again, speaking to the Son, says this, "Your throne, oh God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness." That rod of iron is a rod of righteousness. He will smash no one unjustly. He will smash no one unrighteously, but it is a rod of justice and righteousness. I think the real question for us is, how can wicked sinners like us be seen to be righteous by the one who wields that iron rod – amen - that we might actually be accounted righteous by Jesus. And there is a way, that's the whole point of all of this, because Jesus came into the world because He took our place on the cross because He shed his blood. We may see, be seen to be righteous on that great final day, and He will not smash us. He will welcome us, He will embrace us as righteous sons and daughters, righteous not in and of ourselves, but righteous as a gift, a free gift of grace by faith. But this is the rod of iron, it's a rod of righteousness and of power and unbreakable reign. What child is this who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping? This is the King of Kings. This is the Lord of Lords, this is the one who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And so Satan sought to devour this little boy baby, but he couldn't do it.

The Ascent of the Son

And we're told that "…her child was snatched up to God and to His throne." Satan wanted to snatch him, but Jesus caught him up to heaven, and we know that this is referring to after Jesus's sinless life, and after his atoning death, and after his mighty resurrection, bodily resurrection on the third day. He ascended to Heaven and now sits at the right hand of God the Father, Almighty, and from that place, He will come to judge the living and the dead. As Psalm 1:10 says, God the Father speaking to God the son, "Sit at my right hand until I make all your enemies a footstool for your feet. The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you'll rule in the midst of your enemies." So there's the scepter again. God's going to extend Christ's scepter, and he is to sit at God's right hand, and God the Father is making Christ enemies a footstool for his feet. Just as it said in Hebrews 10:12-14, "But when this priest had offered for all time, one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time, he waits for his enemies to be made His footstool, because by one sacrifice, he has made perfect forever, those who are being made holy." That's the Gospel. Jesus now is at the right hand of God. And if you're a child of God, and if you've been made holy by simple faith in the blood of Jesus, he is at the right hand of God and is interceding for you right now. You know why? Because you're in trouble, and so am I. We'll get to that in a moment, but we are down here on the Earth and there's been a woe pronounced over us. "Woe to the Earth…" and the people who are still on it.

The Protection of the Woman

We are in trouble here, but Satan won't win. Amen, he will not win. We are going to have the final victory in the end, that's the joy of this. The woman is protected, she's still on the Earth, and she needs to be protected. Look at verse 6, "The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God where she might be taken care of for 1260 days." And so again, this is why I do not think this is only talking about Mary, but this is the people of God, even after the birth of Christ, she needs to be protected. She is Christ bride; now we've changed the image of it, and she must be protected from the assaults of the evil one. And she flees to the desert. So she is fleeing because the one pursuing her is more powerful than she is, but she goes to the desert, which is that ancient place of protection by God and provisioned by God, where the Jews wandered through the desert, and only God can feed His people in the desert by manna and by hidden springs of water. And so we are in a desert land, and we are being provided for by God, and we're being chased by the devil and assaulted by the devil, but we will be cared for 1260 days.

Lots to say about that. What can we say about the 1260 days? A time times and half a time. 42 months, 1260 days, three different ways that that time is identified, and we'll say nothing more about it, what do you say? I believe it may be the very last stretch of time of human history, the final phase of the persecution of the devil against God's people. But also here, at least, it represents a finite amount of time where the devil gets to beat us up, and then it will be done, because this text tells us the devil knows his time is short. And our time of suffering and our time of persecution is finite. It's fixed, the days have been weighed out and will not go a single day beyond what the elect can bear. And so she is protected, that's the first phase.

A Heavenly Warfare: The First Defeat of Satan (vs. 7-9)

Back in Time: How Satan Fell Before History Began

Second phase, heavenly warfare, the first defeat of Satan, in verses 7-9, "There was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down, that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray, he was hurled down to the Earth and his angels with him."

Not every interpreter agrees with me on this, but I think that this is referring to even further back in time, back before the Garden of Eden, back before Adam and Eve fell.  This is referring to the fall, the original fall of Satan, other texts in the Old Testament, Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 refer to the fall of Satan, I believe, in prophetic guise. God created everything good. All of the angels, including Satan, were created good and beautiful and upright and righteous. But at some point, the devil got into his mind to try to take over Heaven, and so he led a rebellion against Almighty God, he tried to ascend to the throne of God and topple God from His throne, but he could not do it. And so we're going back in time, and the archangel Michael initiates the attack here. Satan has been limited in what he could do, he could only recruit one-third of the angels to join with him in rebellion. And Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back, but the dragon was not strong enough and they lost their place. Not just the dragon, but everyone that followed him, they were hurled down to the earth, they lost their place in heaven.

So there's no doubt about who this is. Verse 9, five identifiers: he is a dragon, he is the ancient serpent, he is the devil, he is Satan, he is the one who leads the whole world astray. 2 Corinthians 4:4, calls him "The god of this age who has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." He is the one running the show in the world so that people can't see Jesus, they can't understand His glory.  He's blinding their eyes, he is the god of this age. And he's leading the whole world astray. Simply put, he's leading the whole world through sin, through temptation and sin, leading them away from God and away from Christ. That's what he's doing. Leading the whole world astray. He is the reason why we needed a savior, he's the reason why we needed a redeemer. He's a liar and a killer.

The Lessons of the Defeat

And what lessons can we take from verse 7-9, first, Satan is awesomely powerful, but he still couldn't win. He may be the most - I can't make this assertion definite from the Scripture - but he may be the most powerful single created being, but he still wasn't strong enough. He is vastly more powerful than you and I, vastly more powerful. I think it's also fascinating how the Almighty God, the one who rules all things, who controls all things, all power is His, let Michael and Satan and the angels more or less fight it out on more or less equal terms. Isn't that interesting? God is the billion-pound weight that when he weighs on one scale or the other, it's over that side wins. It's that simple. If he had stepped in and snuffed Satan out, it would have been over. But it was not God's will to do that, and so he let them fight it out and Michael won, and his angels won. And you may puzzle over that, say, "God, show up with your omnipotence," God is showing up every moment with His omnipotence. He actually allows David's line to go down to a slender thread and then just says, "You can't break it." He allows Michael and his angels to fight it out, and Michael wins by the sovereign hand of God. Satan was cast down to the Earth to begin his earthly reign. He became the strong man with armor and weapons, who then someone more powerful came and overtook him and stripped him of his weapons and plundered his house.

And friends, the plundering of Satan's house has been going on for 2000 years. Amen. And you're part of the booty, you're part of the plunder. You've been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought over into the kingdom of the beloved Son. Satan took over the world and he boasted to Jesus, the world has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. Well, who is it that gave him the world? I don't think it was God the Father, I think it was Adam. He just handed it to him, and Jesus came to get it back, because the Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. And Satan is a liar, and everything he tries to give is a temporary gift, because that's all he can offer, his time is short. How can he give Christ the kingdoms of the world and their splendor forever and ever; he doesn't control them. His time is short, and so Jesus rightly said, "Away from me, Satan. For it is written, 'Worship the Lord, your God and serve Him only.'" So I want you to estimate Satan and his demons rightly. They are powerful. They are here now, right now. They are assaulting you with temptations right now. And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us. The Prince of Darkness, grim, we tremble not for him. His rage, we can endure for lo his doom is sure, one little word shall fell him. That word is Jesus.

The Terrible Consequences for the Earth

And so we have terrible consequences for the Earth. Satan both leads people astray and then he accuses them before the Father night and day. He has crafted a wise, darkly wise, wicked world system that comes at us in clever devious, tricky ways. We have our own flesh, which he is well acquainted with, he knows our weaknesses and our tendencies, and he then marries together the allurements of the world specifically to your weaknesses in a scheme system, which is very effective. I've often wondered what it would be like to fight the world and the flesh without the devil there. We would be vastly more successful. And so Revelation 12:12 says, "Woe to the Earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you. He is filled with rage because he knows that his time is short." Isn't that a marvelous thing? The devil knows his time is short. How does he know that? Because he believes God's word. Isn't that something? James 4 talks about demonic faith, and so Satan actually believes that his time is short, he's seen evidence of it, he could not stop Jesus, and he has been defeated now for 2000 years. And you know the whole thing just makes him angry, he's just enraged. And God sits on His throne serenely smiling, perfectly at peace. Our God is in heaven, He does whatever makes him happy, and he is a happy being, so I would suggest you go with the happy God rather than the enraged god. Amen. The happy God will live forever and ever and ever, and nothing can get him off his throne. The god of this world has a temporary reign, and he's filled with rage, he's not happy with anything that he has. And so don't you see how the world-lings go after the things of this world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the boastful pride of life, but they don't make them happy, they're angry too, they're imitating their father, the devil. Let's not be like them. The devil is filled with rage because he knows his time is short.

A Heavenly Victory: The Conquering Joy of the Saints (vs. 10-12)

The Victor’s Cry!

Thirdly, a heavenly victory, the conquering joy of the saints. "Then I heard a loud voice in Heaven say, now have come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ, for the accuser of our Brothers, who accuses them before our God, day and night has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. And therefore, rejoice you heavens, and you who dwell in them, but woe to the Earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you. He is filled with fury because he knows his time is short." Friends, this is the victor's cry, rejoice. Now, at last, the Kingdom of God has come. A loud voice in heaven proclaims this victory of Christ over Satan, because Jesus has been born, because he lived a sinless life, because He taught all those perfect doctrines, because He did those mighty miracles, because He went to the cross for you and me as our substitute, because He died and shed his blood, because He was raised from the dead on the third day, because He ascends to Heaven and now sits at the right hand of God the Father, Almighty. Because of all of that, the salvation of our God has come.

The Spoils of the Victory: Salvation, Power, Kingdom, Authority

Look at the spoils of victory: the salvation of our God, the power of our God, the kingdom of His Christ, the authority of Christ. All of these things rushing in one after the other, because of the victory of Jesus. If you know Handel's Messiah, you know this is the hallelujah chorus. The second part, where would the hallelujah chorus be without the Book of Revelation? Amen. Got to have the words that we're singing and celebrating about. The kingdom of this world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever. That is the celebration, the spoils.

All of these Flow from One Source: The Death of Jesus Christ on the Cross

And all of this comes from one source, the death of Jesus on the cross. So we have kind of a two-part existence right now. We've got an existence here on Earth, our feet firmly rooted to the ground and a woe has been pronounced over us in one sense. We are still in trouble, we are in danger, the devil is working on us every moment, crafting temptations, assaulting us, accusing us, telling us how wicked and how sinful we are, underestimating the blood of Jesus, and so we are in trouble and we're having difficulty.

The Victory of the Saints in Heaven: Overcoming the Accusations by Faith in the Blood of Jesus

But then we've got this heavenly vision of the saints who have made it through, they're done, they have fought the good fight, they have finished the race, they've kept the faith, they are up in Heaven, and they're finished with all the strife and conflict, and they're just - therefore, rejoice you heavens. A time of strife is over.  And how did they get there? Look at Verse 11, "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Revelation 5 and Verse 6, "Then I saw a lamb looking as if it had been slain standing in the center of the throne." Revelation 5:9-10, "And they sang a new song to Jesus, You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood, you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priest to serve our God, and they will reign on the Earth." So we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony.

Courageous Living Makes Up their Testimony

We overcome. Do you have a testimony? Are you able to say, by your word, Jesus is Lord, and I know in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, and I have called in the name of the Lord for my salvation, and I have trusted in Him. And I know that all of my sins are forgiven, and I know that all of his assaults on me are temporary. And though some of his accusations are true, yet they are every one of them covered by the blood of Jesus, and I am able to have a clean conscience and a pure standing with God because of the blood of the lamb. Do you have such a testimony?

 I don't assume that you do, just because you're here in church on Sunday. It could be that God brought you here because you don't have a testimony yet, and you need one. You need to trust in Jesus. You need to say, I believe that what the pastor was talking about today is true for me, Jesus is my Savior, and He alone can deliver me from the devil and the world and the flesh, and note what it says of them, "They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." That must characterize you if you're going to go to heaven. I do not say to you that you will most certainly be persecuted by the government of this country, or be arrested, or beaten for your faith, and press through to martyrdom. I don't necessarily think that may happen, but you must not love your life in this world so much that you don't obey Jesus. You have to be willing to turn your back on your Earthly life, to deny yourself every day and take up your cross and follow Jesus. That is the life that leads to heaven.

The End Result: Temporary Pain on Earth, Eternal Joy in Heaven

Verse 11 says, "They didn't love their lives in this world so much as to shrink from death." So you may be called on to be a martyr. I don't know what the future of America holds. I don't know if the American government will persecute Christians to death in my lifetime. I don't know, maybe, maybe not. Stranger things have happened in redemptive history than that - a government assaulting Christians and killing them. It goes on all the time, even now. It may not happen in our country or it may. But this verse goes beyond mere blood martyrdom. I think we are called on every single day to die to ourselves and serve Jesus. When the moment of temptation comes, when that flaming arrow comes from the evil one, you must die to yourself by putting it to death. That's just what it is, feels like dying, feels like dying. "But unless a kernel of wheat falls in the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit." You're called on to die, to die to sin, to die to the world, to die to ambitions and live only for Jesus.

Applications

Come to Christ

So what applications? Well, come to Christ. Come to Christ now, come to Christ every moment. See through Christmas to Jesus. Amen. See through it all. Enjoy Christmas, have a good time, eat the eats and smell the smells, and open the gifts. Do all of that. That's wonderful. They're all gifts from God. But can I just ask, see through all of it, to Jesus on the other side, come to Christ.

Celebrate God’s Total Victory Over Satan

Secondly, celebrate God's total victory over Satan. Do you know that Revelation 12 portrays Satan as a five-time loser? It's fun. I stopped at Verse 12, but if you keep going, he loses five times. He just keep losing, and losing, and losing, losing. God delights to make Satan loose for a long time, thousands of years of losing. And so five times in this text, we'll start historically with verse 7, Satan fought against the Archangel Michael in heaven, but he lost and He's cast down to earth. Start there. He loses. And then he's the dragon who attempts to devour the male child and put him to death, but he loses. And then he pursues the woman, but God protects her in the desert for 1260 days, then he tries to swallow the woman up in a river, but the earth swallows the river instead. And then he tries to wage war on the woman's children, those who keep on obeying God's commands and holding on to Jesus testimony, but he's thwarted there too. Five time loser, amen. Five times, Christ is the victor. Christ is the triumphant King.

Understand Christ’s Rod of Iron

Thirdly, understand Christ rod of iron. Christ rod of iron, understand it. It crushes his enemies. It trains his children. So when you have an adverse providence, as Sarah Edwards said, when she found out that Jonathan, her husband, had died, she said to her daughter, let us kiss the rod, kiss the rod. And what it means is trust in the strokes of your father. When he is training you, when he is disciplining you, submit to it gladly. You know what it means? It means you're a child of God. We'll read about it when we get to it in Hebrews 12, that God disciplines His children. And then concerning the enemies of the church, just know this, if they are truly genuine enemies and are assaulting, assaulting, assaulting, they cannot win. They will be crushed, Christ will crush them.

Rejoice that, If you are a Christian, Your Time is Not Short

And then fourth, rejoice that if you're a Christian, your time is not short, amen. You have forever ahead of you, your best days are yet to come. All of them. The devil's time is short, he's heading for the lake of fire. But if you're a child of God, you have eternal life ahead of you.

Do Not Love Your Lives So Much as to Shrink from Death

And then finally embrace every moment, the principle that you should not love your life so much as it's shrink from death. It's hard, isn't it? How do you really enjoy Christmas but don't love it too much? How do you enjoy the blessings of this world, but still not love your life so much as to shrink from death? It's hard. And it is the challenge of the American Evangelical church. How do we get surrounded by all of this prosperity and ease and comfort and still not love our lives so much as to shrink from death? But I urge that you take that text and bring it back to God and say, God teach me to die, teach me to die as you want me to die, teach me to die to myself today, to worldly ease and comfort. Close with me in prayer.

Father, we thank you for this text, for all that it teaches us of Jesus. Thank you for everything that he has done for us, and coming to Earth from Heaven, dying on the cross. Father, I pray that you would reach out now to any who is lost and save them from their sins. And Father, reach out now also to the rest of us who are already your children. Reassure us, comfort us and strengthen us for the fight, because we're still in a battle now, but help us to look forward to the day when we can rejoice with the Saints who went ahead of us, who overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. In Jesus name. Amen.

Other Sermons in This Series

God With Us

December 17, 2006

God With Us

Matthew 1:18-25

Andrew Davis

Incarnation

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