War in Heaven and on Earth: The Dragon and the Woman (Revelation Sermon 20 of 49)
September 24, 2017 | Andrew Davis
In 1980, Carl Sagan, an atheist, scientist and TV personality, opened a new TV series with these words: “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” By the word “cosmos”, he meant the impersonal physical universe of atoms matter and energy. He said laws of science and all that exists in the universe can be explained by matter and energy. This is a philosophical view known as materialism — that material stuff is all there is. By his strong assertion, he was denying the metaphysical, the spiritual world, which we will study this morning from Revelation 12. This is a world of invisible, personal, spiritual beings — the world of God on his throne but also of Satan as an intelligent, real, spiritual being; the world of angels and demons, the heavenly realms.
The Spiritual Realms Unveiled
Relevance to Our Lives and Review of Revelation 1-11
In Revelation 12, we will walk into that world and look around as well as look back in history to the time when Jesus was born to see behind the veil of the wicked actions of King Herod and the spiritual dimensions of what was going on at that time at Bethlehem. It is revealed as an intelligent but malevolent plot of Satan to kill the Messiah. We will also briefly look even further back to the time when Satan fell from Heaven to earth. This chapter will also take us to the future to the climactic final showdown between the devil and his angels (or demons) and the people of God on earth. We will begin to see the kind of cataclysmic suffering that Satan and his henchmen will put the people of God through.
Preaching through Revelation, I struggle with the question of relevance. 21st century American hearers who are practical, pragmatic people might think, “What does a red dragon have to do with my life?” You may have physical ailments, an overwhelming workload (or even successes), imminent life changes such as expecting a child, or other various scenarios, and you see no way that this chapter can connect. My job is to show how intensely relevant these themes are for you. I will make that case much more clearly at the end of this sermon than right now, but my point is to bring to light the fact that we have an intelligent, personal enemy who seeks to destroy our souls. That could not be more relevant to each of us.
In Revelation 12, we enter a new section in this amazing book. Revelation 6-11 has covered a focus of wrath and judgment that comes from Heaven to earth on human beings who have hated the people of God. In these judgments, they receive the just penalty for their opposition to God and their persecution of the people of God. We will continue to see those themes in future chapters as well. The devil and his demons have not been entirely absent in these chapters. In Revelation 9, we saw the king of the demons, called Abaddon or Apollyon, emerge in billowing smoke out of the Abyss; this king was identified as Satan. Now we will delve into understanding Satan and his demons; we will see their existence and their dark activities unveiled. “Apocalypse” means unveiling, the revealing of things that we cannot see with our physical eyes.
So many incredible invisible things have already been unveiled in this book. Revelation 1-3 shows Christ in his resurrection glory unveiled as the high priest, ministering among the seven golden lamp stands, a symbol of his ongoing conscious energetic ministry to every local church around the world throughout all time. Those seven golden lamp stands represent actual, literal local churches but also extend out to every local church.
Revelation 4 unveiled for us Almighty God seated on his throne in the heavenly realms with concentric circles of worshipers around Him, including twenty-four elders, living creatures, and 100 million angels ready to do his bidding. These constantly worship him for creating the universe.
In Revelation 5, Christ is revealed as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb who was slain for sinners all over the world, the only one who had the right to take the scroll that was sealed with seven seals from the right hand of God.
In Revelation 6, Christ breaks open those seals. The first six seals bring judgments on earth. I believe these have covered the entire realm of 20 centuries of church history but will culminate in the final cataclysmic end of the universe.
Revelation 7 answers the question asked at the end of Revelation 6 of who will be able to stand in the great day of the wrath of God. This is a relevant question. Who will be able to stand on the day of God’s wrath? The final company of the redeemed is unveiled here, a remnant from the Jews first, and then people from every tribe and language and people and nation. They stand with white robes, saying “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” This is the answer to the question. We yearn to be part of that great company of the redeemed, whose sins have been forgiven by the blood of Christ.
In Revelation 8-9, the seventh seal unleashes the seven trumpets. The trumpets begin specific cataclysmic judgments on the ecology of the earth — on every living, growing green thing, the grass, the trees, the freshwater, the saltwater. Then specific judgments in Revelation 9 are sent on the people of the earth — sores on their bodies, physical affliction by demonic oppression, and finally, death. A third of the human race — perhaps two to three billion people — is slaughtered in a war that seems demonically incited by an army of 200 million strange, supernatural warriors.
Revelation 10 brings a break in the action to show a mighty angel who stands on the earth with one foot on the land and one foot in the sea, with his head up in the clouds. The seven thunders cry out; as John starts to write what he hears, he is instructed not to, symbolizing things that we are not yet allowed to know about the future. The angel gives John a scroll, which John is told to eat. It is sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach. It represents his commission to write many things for every tribe, language, people and nation. I think this represents this concluding book of the Bible, Revelation, which makes clear details about the future so we can know as much as we need to know.
At the end of Revelation 11, the seventh trumpet sounds, unleashing the seven bowl judgments.
Satan and His Kingdom Unveiled
Here is another break, a seam in the action, to allow us to look behind the scenes to see Satan and demons and their activity. His number one henchman is the Beast from the Sea, whom we know as the Antichrist. We also meet the false prophet, who comes to tout worldwide worship for the Antichrist and the effects of that following in Revelation 13. We are led to an understanding of the three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. We will zero in on the devil and the world for the rest of this section until the Second Coming of Christ. The world will increasingly be the enemy of the people of God and Satan is behind that. He will use government and the Antichrist to bear down and press on the people of God in the most intense wave of persecution ever seen, which will produce in the end the Second Coming of Christ and his rescue of his Bride.
See Satan As He Is
As we focus on the red dragon and his activities, the text makes it clear we are talking about Satan. We do not have to wonder. So often, the details are hard to interpret but this could not be any clearer. Revelation 12:9 says, “The great dragon was hurled down-- that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.” That covers just about every base. C. S. Lewis, in his classic on temptation, The Screwtape Letters, said this at the beginning, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
I have known people who have an unhealthy excessive interest in the occult. I used to live near Salem, Massachusetts. There are people there that take the occult very seriously. Whether they call themselves witches or earth worshippers or some other term, they take this very seriously. This is openly their lifestyle. I saw the same thing in Haiti with voodoo practitioners. We see in the movie industry an increasing interest in the dark supernatural. That is one side of the equation but more commonly, I have been surrounded by materialists, people who do not think much about devils. They make fun of the idea, dismissing it as mythology or a fictional devil on one shoulder, angel on the other. They effectively live as materialists, people who seek to explain everything by science.
The world has a misunderstanding of Satan. Satan desires that we underestimate him and his impact on our lives, on our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, on our marriages, our parenting, our jobs, our studies. A typical image of Satan is in a red suit with horns and a tail with a pitchfork. This is a mockery and invites underestimating him. He is fine with that. Misunderstanding his native habitat is also common; he is portrayed as though he lives in and rules over Hell and he loves the heat, not bothered by it. In truth, the Lake of Fire is eternal punishment for the devil and his angels; we know because Jesus taught this in the parable about the sheep and goats. He is not there now and he dreads going there. Hell is not his native habitat.
This chapter speaks of Satan’s great power. He is a powerful being, though nowhere near as powerful as Jesus. We need to be aware of how powerful he is but we need to understand how much more powerful Almighty God is. Satan is the central figure in the general rebellion that is happening right now both in the heavens and on earth. Satan’s tail sweeps a third of the stars, which we know from verse 9 and other Scriptures, represent his angels, and flings them to the ground. He was instrumental in corrupting holy angels and turning them into demons to join in his rebellion against Almighty God.
He is leading the whole world astray; it is under his sway. God wants us to know his power. As Martin Luther wrote in “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”: “For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe. His craft and power are great and armed with cruel hate; on earth is not his equal. Did we in our own strength confide [put our trust], our striving would be losing… [We need to know that the devil is very powerful but also to understand the next part of the hymn] were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus — it is he! Lord Sabaoth [Hebrew for Lord Almighty] is his name, from age to age the same, and he must [will] win the battle."
At the cross, Jesus Christ, by his death, set us free. Hebrews 2:14 says, “... by Christ’s death he destroyed him who holds the power of death-- that is, the devil, and freed those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” What a mighty victory Jesus won by his own death. We need to understand Satan’s great power, but we also need to see his great defeats. In this chapter, he is a five-time loser. He loses, then he loses some more, and then he loses even more, and then he loses again, and then finally he loses.
First, he tries to devour the male child as soon as he is born, but God snatches the child up to his throne. Then he fights against the archangel Michael and his angels but he loses and is thrown down to the earth. He pursues the woman but God prepares a place for her in the desert where she is kept safe for 1260 days. Then he wants to drown the woman with a torrent that comes out of his mouth but the earth swallows up the river. So filled with rage because he knows his time is short, he directs his attention to the children of the woman, those who obey God’s commands and hold to the testimony of Jesus. He tries to destroy them so they no longer obey God’s commands and give up the testimony of Jesus, but he fails. Praise God. He is a five-time loser in this chapter; but he is vastly more powerful than you and I.
Satan’s Attempts to Kill Jesus Before His Time
We will focus today on verses 1-6. I preached this for Christmas one time. I do not know why I thought it was an appropriate Christmas message — maybe because of the birth of the male child — but people want shepherds and angels and songs and happiness, not dragons seeking to devouring babies. I will not preach this for Christmas again, but it is not Christmas now and we need to understand exactly what this text is talking about.
This is a failed assassination. The dragon tries to kill the woman’s son before his time. There are three symbolic figures in this drama. We have the glorious woman in the heavens, the red dragon who is openly interpreted for us in verse 9, and the male child who will rule all the world with the rod of iron, who is snatched up to God’s throne.
The dragon is the easiest of the three to identify. He is Satan, the devil, the ancient serpent. The male child, who is good and righteous, whom Satan hates and fights against, rules the world and is caught up to the throne of God. This must be Christ. But who is the woman who gives birth to the male child, and what is the significance of the 1260 days in which she's protected?
The First Sign
Verse 1 says, “A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” Signs are symbols. A symbolic language uses representations to teach literal truth. With the book of Revelation, we try to get beyond this symbolic language to physical or spiritual reality to understand the signs. This great and wondrous sign, we are told, appeared in Heaven. Though most of the events in this drama occur on earth, the sign of the woman is in Heaven.
The woman is portrayed as glorious. She is clothed with the sun. She is radiantly bright, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. All these symbolize, to some degree, her glory. She is in an exalted, powerful position. The number twelve is significant because it points either to the twelve tribes of Israel or the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. Both are pictured in the new Jerusalem. All we know is this woman is radiantly, brightly glorious in the heavens, and she gives birth to a male child.
Verses 2 and 5 say, “She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth… She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” As we said, this must be Christ; therefore the woman gives birth to Christ in some symbolic spiritual way. Obviously, Jesus’ physical, earthly mother was Mary. We believe in a literal woman — a Jewish woman betrothed to a man named Joseph, lived in Nazareth, and gave birth to Jesus — she was Jesus’ had physical, human mother. He was truly, fully human through his mother Mary. He had no earthly father.
Roman Catholic mystics tend to see the radiant glorified mother of God in Mary and say she is worthy of worship and reverence as a co-redemptrix with Jesus. Protestants have rejected this kind of glorification of Mary. I think she vigorously would do the same. She was a sinner saved by her son. In her song, the Magnificat, she talked about a Savior. She needed a Savior. Jesus was not taking advice from his mother at the wedding at Cana in Galilee on how to run his ministry but from his Father, daily doing what his Father told him. Jesus honored Mary, though she didn't fully understand always who he was. At one point, she came with her other sons to take charge of him because it was said he was out of his mind. However, on the day of Pentecost, she was there in the upper room with the other believers waiting to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. She was a godly woman, a paradigm example for young women on how to carry themselves under a very difficult mission from God. but she was a sinner saved by grace, not a goddess or worthy of being worshiped or in an equal role with Jesus in Heaven.
Many things happen to the woman that did not happen in any way to Mary. I also do not think it can be the church, for how could the church give birth to Jesus? Most likely, this is an idealized form of the Jewish nation of Israel. Romans 9:5 says that the human lineage of Jesus came from Israel. Thus, salvation came from the Jews. In the book of Isaiah, we have that heavenly Zion image. In Isaiah 54, she, who had been barren, gives birth to children all over the world. That is a picture of the heavenly Zion, the Jewish nation, that gives birth to believers.
Paul picks up on this image in Galatians 4 with the allegory of Hagar and Sarah. He says, “Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem because she is in slavery with her children. [The physical Jerusalem, unbelieving, rejecting Christ, is not what he is talking about.] But the Jerusalem that is above is free and she is our mother. [That clicks into the end of the chapter where the devil tries to chase the children of the woman, believers.] For it is written: ‘Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.’” The woman, then, represents Israel in an idealized, heavenly perfected form, giving birth to children for God, but first and foremost, giving birth to Jesus, the Savior of the world.
This would fit into the prophecy of Daniel regarding 1260 days and the statement about the abomination of desolation of Matthew 24. It fits into that final phase of human history in which the focus of persecution will be on converted Jews. All of Israel will be saved and the Antichrist and Satan will focus on the woman and her children as they run for their lives, which he says they need to do in Matthew 24:16, “… let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” The labor pains that she endured up to the birth of Jesus refers to all the devilish persecution of the Jews up until that time, of which there was much.
The Second Sign
The second sign, also in Heaven, is the dragon. Verses 3-4 say, “Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten 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.” The heavenly realms are producing earthly results. It is a dynamic throughout the book of Revelation. With these heavenly signs, we look behind the physical scenes of what is happening on earth to view the spiritual drama.
How is he described? First he is called the dragon. Obviously, Satan is not a dragon. He is the first, most powerful fallen angel. The Old Testament implies that Satan was a spectacularly glorious, beautiful, powerful angel. Ezekiel 28:12 and 17 say, “You were the model of perfection full of wisdom and perfect in beauty… Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.” He was a beautiful guardian cherub in the garden who was thrown to the earth because of wickedness and corruption. Satan also presents himself with a radiant beauty in 2 Corinthians 11:14. “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”
Satan was and can still appear to be beautiful, but his true nature is horrible and wicked and twisted, thus the dragon imagery. Dragons are a fascinating study. I have spent great deal of time studying dragons the last three or four weeks because of the text. I do not know whether dragons existed but I find it interesting that very old artistic representations of dragons are the same in China and Scotland. That is provocative. Whether they existed or not, it provides an image of great power and danger. We have China and England and Scotland, with legends like St. George fighting the dragon and the cross of Saint George on the flag of the United Kingdom. We have fictitious representation of dragons, the most famous of which is the dragon Smaug in Tolkein’s The Hobbit — a fire-breathing flying beast, seemingly impossible to kill.
Consider the leviathan creature in Job, which he describes as a fire-breathing powerful creature. Job 41:13-33, in part: “Who can strip off its outer coat?… Who dares open the doors of its mouth, ringed about with fearsome teeth? Its back has rows of shields tightly sealed together; each is so close to the next that no air can pass between... Its snorting throws out flashes of light; its eyes are like the rays of dawn. Flames stream from its mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke pours from its nostrils as from a boiling pot over burning reeds. Its breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from its mouth… [That is four straight verses on fire-breathing. This cannot be a crocodile or alligator or rhinoceros or hippopotamus.] When it rises up, the mighty are terrified; they retreat before its thrashing. The sword that reaches it has no effect, nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin. [Humans cannot kill it.] Nothing on earth is its equal — a creature without fear.”
Satan is likened to a mighty dragon overpowering in his strength, terrifying and thoroughly evil. He is enormous. The size of the dragon heightens the terror one feels when seeing it. It is no ordinary adversary. He is red, the color of fire and of war. He has seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his head. This represents total domination of every nation on earth. He rules the world. Satan tells Jesus, showing him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, that it all had been given to him and he could give it to whomever he pleased. The Antichrist has been playing the game of divide and conquer because he hates every human being but he will consolidate in the final analysis behind the Antichrist. But he rules all of the wicked kings of the earth. He is the wicked king behind all wicked kings and he is the wicked lord behind all wicked lords.
Ephesians 2:2 says, “…the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Or 1 John 5:19, “…the whole world is under the sway of the evil one.” The dragon is in charge of the whole world with its rulers under his dark secret sway. He is the puppet master. It is interesting that in the two accounts of of Satan, the text does not directly address Satan. God talks to a king of Tyre or a king of Babylon, but He is talking beyond the human figurehead to the real power behind Tyre and the power behind Babylon — Satan.
“And with his tail, he swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.” As we see in verse 9, these stars represent his angels. We do not tend to call them angels, although the New Testament does frequently — “the devil and his angels.” They are angels but they are fallen and we call them demons. They are personal, intelligent, spiritual beings who wreak havoc on the earth under Satan’s dominion. The one-third number shows that a vast number of angels fell into rebellion, but not all of them. Most of them — two-thirds — remained holy and true to God.
Satan is ready to murder the woman’s child the moment he is born. Verse 4 says, “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.” Jesus said in John 8:44, “He was a murderer from the beginning … a liar and the father of lies.” Think of Pharaoh’s evil attack on all the Jewish boy babies during the time of bondage in Egypt; Haman’s attack on the Jews in the Book of Esther on the whole Jewish nation; the 20th century anti-Semitic attack by Hitler and the Nazis. Satan hates the woman and anything that comes from the her; he hates the people of God.
The Male Child
Verse 5 says, “She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” There is little doubt this must be Jesus Christ. He is a good human baby, born to rule. His rule cannot be broken. The word “iron” refers to something that cannot be broken. It points to the eternality of Christ’s scepter or rule. His dominion lasts forever and ever.
The language comes directly from Psalm 2, a Messianic Psalm written by David, which talked about the world-wide rebellion against the son of David, ultimately, against Christ. Psalm 2:7-9 says, “I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He [God the Father] said to me [the Messiah, Christ] ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.’” We will see this image again at the Second Coming of Christ. When the devil and his lead henchman, the Beast from the Sea (the Antichrist), gather an army to exterminate the people of God (the Bride of Christ, believers), Jesus is motivated to come from Heaven to rescue her.
He will come back in Revelation 19 in all of his glory, bringing military power from heaven. Revelation 19:15-16 says, “Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ [That is a quote from Psalm 2.] “He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” He is the righteous king of all righteous kings, the righteous lord of all righteous lords, and under him we will reign forever. He will topple the wicked king of all wicked kings and the wicked lord of all wicked lords and he will rule in their place forever.
The Failed Assassination Attempt
Verses 4-5 say, “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. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.” He could not kill Jesus. Satan is pictured at the moment of birth to pounce on this baby and kill it. Knowing the history of Jesus’ birth, this must relate to what wicked King Herod did to try to kill Jesus right after he was born.
The story is told in Matthew 2:1-18. The Magi, or wise men, came from the East following a star. They went to Jerusalem where King Herod was “and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ When Herod heard this, he was disturbed [to put it mildly], and all Jerusalem with him.” But Herod was “king of the Jews” and would brook no rival.” He asked the Magi to tell him where Jesus was but they were warned in a dream not to go back to him. They returned home by another route. Then God warned Joseph of Herod’s plot to search for the child to try to kill him, so Joseph immediately took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt. “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious. And he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.’” It is one of the most disgusting, dastardly acts in redemptive history.
Revelation 12 gives a spiritual background. Herod did not act alone. He is fully accountable for what he did, for the decision he made, but the devil was behind it. They are actually in some ways alike. They are threatened by Jesus. The Magi had said to Herod that Jesus was born King of the Jews but Herod thought of that as his title He was willing to kill many babies to jealously protect his evil rule. Satan knows that Jesus is born King of the world. But that is his title and he is willing to kill many to protect his position and title. Satan is a ravenous beast, thirsty for human blood, slaughtering babies in Egypt in the time of Pharaoh, slaughtering babies in Bethlehem at the time of Herod, trying to kill the serpent slayer that was predicted to be born to the woman.
The serpent is the devil. The snake in the garden of Eden was that ancient serpent, the devil, who came to talk to the woman, Eve. To some degree, they made a covenant together to rebel against God and then draw Adam into it, but God severed that covenant. In Genesis 3:15, God, spoke to the serpent but through him, behind the puppet, to the puppet master, Satan. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” By his death, the serpent slayer crushed Satan.
Continued Assassination Attempts
What the devil was trying to do was to kill Jesus before his time. The dragon was not done at that point. He continues to try to kill Jesus again and again. As Jesus began his public ministry in his hometown of Nazareth, he said something that offended the people, who pushed him to the edge of a cliff to push him off to kill him. He would have had many broken bones and would not have been lifted up and shedding his blood as an atoning sacrifice. He did not die then; he moved through the crowd and went on his way. In John 7, the Pharisees sought to kill him but they could not arrest him because his hour had not yet come. It happens again in John 8. Jesus claims at the end of the chapter, “‘Before Abraham was born, I am.’ And they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself…” That would have broken all his bones. Satan is behind all of these attempts.
Revelation 12 does not mention all of these attempts nor Jesus’ death on the cross which conquered Satan. But Jesus made it plain that neither Satan nor any human being could take his life from him in John 10:18: “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” In John 14:30, he said, “... the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me [no accusation, no power], but he comes so that the world may learn that I… obey do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” When Judas took the bread, identifying him as the betrayer, Satan entered into him. He brings a squad of soldiers back to arrest Jesus. Jesus askes Satan-infested Judas, “Who are you looking for?” The soldiers reply, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said, “I am.” They drew back — including Satan in Judas — and fell to the ground. Isn't that encouraging? Jesus laid down his life. Satan did not take it.
God’s Protection of Christ
Revelation 12:5 says “And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.” God protected Jesus until the time came for him to die as a substitutionary atonement, a bloody sacrifice without any of his bones broken. Satan failed to kill him — God took him from planet earth. When he ascended through the heavenly realms to God’s throne, he was seated at God’s right hand and intercedes for us. Satan can do nothing to reach him. Ephesians 1:20-21 says, “God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” He is infinitely above Satan’s dominions and powers.
God’s Protection of the Woman
God protects the woman in verse 6, “The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.” That refers to the last three-and-a-half years of human history of overt persecution from the devil and his henchmen. At the end of this chapter, he is standing on the shore of the sea waiting to call out the Beast of the Sea.
Verses 7-9 cover the failed revolution. “And 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 to the earth, and his angels with him.” Does this refer to the when Satan was cast down before the garden of Eden, the primordial battle referenced in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14? Or does it refer to a future battle in which Satan will be cast down and lose heavenly access by which he is able to accuse believers before the throne, coming down for one final kick against the people of God, thus ending world history?
Whenever I get to a challenging passage like this, I preach them both. This could refer to both the past and the future events. Previously, Satan tried to take over heaven and was cast down to the earth. Isaiah 14:12 says, “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star [the KJV says Lucifer], son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” Ezekiel 28, explains why it happened: “You said in your heart ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.” [Isaiah 14:13-14] That pride began the wickedness in the universe.
Where did evil come from in a perfectly good universe? I do not know where it originated from but I believe it started when the devil tried to take over heaven. It is also valuable to see the possibility of a future battle in which Satan has no access to the throne of God as he had in the Book of Job and has currently, accusing us day and night before the throne of God. Next time we will discuss verses 13-17, in which the devil bears down on the woman and her children, who hold to the testimony of Jesus and who resist worshiping the Antichrist as he becomes their persecutor.
Flee to Christ and Find Refuge in Him
First, I yearn to preach the Gospel simply. This is not an easy chapter even for advanced Christians who have been studying the Bible a long time to understand. Details are hard. It could be that you are not a Christian — you are lost — and you are searched for a church and found us, or somebody invited you. All this complex detail about the future and about Satan may be confusing. Let me make it simple and clear. The devil hates every human being. Christian or non-Christian, he hates them all. He has crafted a world system that lures humans into sin and death and eternal death in hell. God, because he loves us, sent his Son to take the penalty, the hell we deserve, on himself. All you need to do is acknowledge that you have sinned (violated the commands of God) and to repent (turn from your sins), knowing you are guilty and have no hope of forgiveness apart from Christ. Trust in Christ; find in him a Savior.
Then and only then, only in Christ, can you resist the attacks and accusations of the devil. Flee to him. Find refuge in him. Do not be a materialist, thinking that the universe created and evolved itself. Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” That is what faith is — trust in a personal Creator Savior. By Christ alone you will be able to stand the accusations of the devil. Romans 8:33-35 says, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns?”
Be Aware of Both the Power and the Defeat of the Devil
Second, for Christians wondering about the relevance of the red dragon, the woman, and the male child, here is an analogy. Imagine you are in Congress and plan to put forward legislation that will put a real dent in organized crime. One morning, two men with the FBI come to your office with good information that there is an assassination plot against you and your family. Would you find that relevant? You would be wise to take the threat seriously rather than ignore it because you had purchased tickets to go to a game that night, determined to show no fear. What you know about your plans to go to the game are also known by your enemy. How do you know they do not plan to blow up your car or kidnap your kids? You would be a fool not to take such a warning seriously.
1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kinds of sufferings.” That is how this is relevant to you; though in our text in Revelation it is not a lion but a dragon, he coming after you.
Think supernaturally. Imagine there are demons spurring you and your spouse to despise each other and be divided in the face of significant conflict. Imagine the things that pop into your head to say are being fed to you by a demon in Satan’s name who hates you and would love your marriage to end. Imagine the pull you may feel to look at lustful images while surfing the Internet is not just your flesh. There is an intelligent evil being, a presence in the room, luring you, to destroy your soul.
When you struggle with covetousness and greed and are tempted to become a workaholic or earn advanced degrees or esteem for the purpose of a prosperous life rather than for serving God and Christ, imagine the devil is involved in that, feeding you a worldly image of a safe, comfortable self-seeking life. 2 Corinthians 2:11 “…we are not unaware of his schemes.” We need to be mindful. 1 Peter 5:9 says, “Resist him standing firm in the faith…” Faith come from the word of God.
The red dragon is apocalyptic imagery but real. You have a personal enemy who wants to destroy your soul. So fight. Ephesians 6:11 instructs, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.” Lift up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit. Put on the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of righteousness and fight! Do not give in to temptation and sin and wickedness.
See the Evil Power Behind Current Events
Third, see the evil power behind current events. I am not talking about natural events such as hurricanes and earthquakes. There is no human agency in that. But there are evil things happening all over the world: terrorist cell groups, rogue states that threaten thermonuclear holocausts, states like Myanmar that are purging out Muslims by genocide, Boko Haram, ISIS, Somalian warlords who make life utterly miserable for people in those regions of the world. Do not imagine it is only humans doing bad things. There are demonic forces — the devil himself and his followers — behind these regimes and these wicked people.
Let Us Therefore PRAY!!!
Therefore, finally, pray. Matthew 6:13 says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us [literally] from the evil one.” This is not just general evil; the Greek is personal — the evil one. Pray that God would deliver you from the works and the assaults of the devil
Father, we thank you for the things that we have learned today. We thank you for the way that you have taught us the Word of God. And we pray, oh Lord, that you would please strengthen each one of us to fight, to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. Father, I pray that you would please be working even now in hearts of people that have come here that are not sure they are believers or know that they are not believers, that while there is time, they would cross over from death to life and find life in Christ. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.