Pastor Scott Andrews | December 11, 2022
It hit the national news over the past couple of weeks, so you may have heard about it. The Satanic Temple, a national religious organization, is seeking to establish an ASSC at Williams Primary School in Chesapeake, Virigina. What is an ASSC? An After School Satan Club. It would be the fifth such club across the country. June Everett, an ordained minister in The Satanic Temple, the executive director of ASSC, and mother of a sixth grader says, “Regarding parents who are upset about the club, I would like them to know that we are here because we have worked with educators to develop an after-school program that is engaging and fun and helps young minds grow and thrive.” Further, she maintains that the club “fosters creativity and projects [that] are often designed to benefit the community and promote empathy…as a constructive and positive alternative to other religious after-school clubs that often glorify fear and indoctrination.” No need to be afraid of Satan.
You see, Everett believes “the evangelicals” in particular emphasize fear and indoctrination in their approach. She cites the stated purpose of Good News Clubs as “to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.” Everett says such proselytizing includes instilling fear of eternal hell. But if you don’t believe in hell, or, you’ve partnered with the devil, then Christianity must go.
Now, the After School Satanic Club maintains they are not seeking to indoctrinate children in the worship of Satan. However, The Satanic Temple headquarters in Salem, Massachusetts has a nine-foot bronze statue of Baphomet whose picture is widely utilized. It depicts a boy and a girl gazing up adoringly at a winged, goat-headed hermaphrodite which has historically been presented as a satanic symbol.
By the way, for four years in a row, The Satanic Temple has placed a display at Christmas in the Illinois state capital. Last year it was a baby Baphomet next to the Christian nativity scene. This year, it is a crocheted snake placed on a book with a bed of apples, because there is nothing better than human sovereignty and knowledge.
I guess all that to say that Satan is alive in well on planet earth. And as a reminder to say, we are at war. We are in a battle of light and darkness, life and death, truth and falsehood, good and evil. The forces of evil embodied by Satan himself are arrayed against God and His people. To be clear, it’s not a fair fight, as if God and Satan are equals. They are not. God alone is sovereign. But, as we’ve seen over the past two weeks, Satan is currently the god of this world, albeit with limited powers. But with those powers, he seeks to destroy those created in God’s image. First, he the blinds the minds of the unredeemed to the truth of the gospel. And second, he targets Christ’s followers with his fury. And it will only get worse as we get closer to the consummation of all things.
It is thought this battle started sometime before creation because at creation, Satan was already present to subvert God’s intended plan and purposes. You know the story, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void – but God was just getting started. Over the six days of creation, He filled the earth – indeed, the universe with His creative activity – all to put His glory on display. It all culminated on the sixth day with the creation of man and woman to be His image-bearers. He placed them in the well-watered Garden of Eden. It was filled with every holy joy imaginable. Now, God only gave them one prohibition, you may eat of every tree in the Garden except one – the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Enter Satan.
We don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden enjoying God’s good and perfect creation. But, as I suggested a couple of weeks ago – Adam and Eve are proof you cannot blame sin on your environment. They were placed in a perfect garden, each with a perfect spouse, with one prohibition, and they managed to mess it up, not only for themselves, but for all their progeny, all their descendants – save one.
One day, the serpent appeared to Eve and tempted her to eat the forbidden fruit – you know, pursue human sovereignty and knowledge. “Has God really said…God knows that the day you eat, you will be like Him, knowing good from evil.” Now, the text doesn’t actually say this was Satan, but later we read he earned the title, the great serpent, and Jesus said he was a liar from the beginning, the father of lies.
Well, Eve listened to Satan, ate the fruit, and gave it to her husband – don’t miss this – who was with her. Which means he failed miserably in his responsibility to lead and protect her. Why didn’t he slay the dragon? It’s been man’s propensity ever since – to not lead, to not protect, to in fact, betray his wife. And so, Adam ate and Romans 5 makes it clear that death then passed upon all, because all have sinned.
Later that same day, when Adam and Eve used to walk with God in the cool of the day, they hid, ashamed of their nakedness. They had made designer fig leaf clothing for themselves. God asked, where are you? We hid, for we are ashamed – we’re naked. Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree? You remember their excuses – Adam blaming Eve, Eve blaming the serpent. We’ve been doing that ever since, too, blaming others for our sin. So, God then cursed them – to include the serpent.
So, what we see is Satan, after creation, fired the first shot in the war. He successfully plunged humanity into the pain and sorrow of sin. But very interestingly, as God pronounced His curses on the man, on the woman, on the serpent, He said in Genesis 3:14-15:
14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
That is called the protoevangelium – the first announcement of the gospel. That there would come from the woman a seed – a descendant, whom Satan would bruise on the heel, but the seed would crush the serpent’s head. This was the first promise of the coming Messiah – the Christ – who through His work on the cross, would conquer Satan and his pitiful, short-lived kingdom.
And so, Satan hearing this – these words were spoken to the serpent – hearing and understanding this, made it his mission to destroy first the nation that would produce the Messiah – Israel – later, to destroy the Messiah and His mission, and later, to pursue for destruction the Messiah’s followers. This is a major storyline of the Bible – a major subplot.
God made the promise – that humankind would be redeemed through the seed of the woman. But Satan was there all along to try thwart the promise. As early as Genesis 4, Cain murdered Abel. But Adam and Eve had another son – one though whom the seed would come. By Genesis 6, the whole world had become so evil God destroyed it through a flood. But He did save one man and his family – Noah, his wife, his three sons, their wives – He did that, you see, to preserve the promise. Satan’s attempts and man’s rebellion would not subvert the plan.
Humankind continued their evil pursuits, led by the god of this world until one day, God chose one man and one woman through whom would come the One promised. God said to Abram, who was in Ur of the Chaldees, leave your country and your idolatrous family, go to a land I will show you. I will give you the land, and I will bless you and make you a great nation. All those who bless you will be blessed, and all who curse you, will be cursed. Oh, and from you will come the promised One – through whom all the nations of the world will be blessed.
The rest of the OT is a fulfilment of that promise. To make them into a great nation – despite their many failures and frailties – which simply magnified the need of Christ. And all along, Satan is trying to destroy the nation – through Egypt, through the Canaanites and the Philistines, through Assyria and Babylon, through themselves and their idolatry, through captivity and return. All along, the promise was reiterated, the promise was kept.
We turn from the pages of the OT to the NT, to Mattew 1 – and it was time. We start with the genealogy of Jesus – that He came from Abraham through Judah and David as required – and finish the chapter with His miraculous birth. Joseph and Mary were betrothed – engaged to be married. But before they came together, she was found to be pregnant. Joseph was considering how he might divorce her privately when an angel appeared to him and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” He is the promised seed.
It’s what we celebrate this month. The birth of the promised One – the Christ – who would die to save His people from their sins. To crush the head of the serpent. And so all along, Satan tried to destroy Him. Because we are in a war of light vs. darkness, good vs. evil.
You see, in the very next chapter, magi or wise men, who had seen His star in the East as they were looking for the One promised to come – they saw His star and followed it to Jerusalem, and began asking, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
Well, Herod heard about their arrival and inquiry, went to the religious leaders to ask where the Messiah, the Christ, was to be born. They responded from Micah 5, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what has been written, ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
Upon hearing this, Herod told the magi go find Him, and come back and tell me, so I can come and worship Him, too. Herod was following his father, the father of lies. Well, they found Jesus, presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And being warned by God in a dream, they bypassed Jerusalem. So Herod, knowing he had been tricked, sent soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all the baby boys two years old and younger. Of course, Jesus was not there, as Joseph had been warned by an angel of the coming destruction. The point is, Herod incited by Satan, sought to destroy the child as soon as He was born.
And so it continued through His life – Satan in this war seeking to destroy or at least deter Jesus. We saw it continue, for example, right when Jesus entered His public ministry – Satan tried to tempt Him, to deter Him from the mission. To get Him to take the kingdom before it was time. Many times, through His ministry, people inspired by Satan sought to kill Him – to throw Him from a cliff, to stone Him. But it was not His time – and so all attempts were unsuccessful. “But when the fullness of time came,” Paul writes in Galatians, “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters.”
Don’t miss Satan was finally and ultimately defeated, at the cross, resurrection and ascension of Christ. The cross was not God’s defeat, it was Satan’s defeat. His time is now short, so he has turned his attention on those who follow Jesus. Don’t think for a moment the war is over. He is a fatally wounded foe, to be sure, victory is assured. But Satan, in his death throes, seeks to destroy as many as he can – with his arrows aimed directly at followers of Christ. And it will get worse as the end nears. We’re reading about it in the book of Revelation. The seventh trumpet has just sounded, there are flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, Revelation 12:1-6 says,
We have finished the seven seals. The seventh seal contains, I think, the seven trumpets. The seventh trumpet has sounded, which contains, I think, the seven bowls, which will finish the wrath of God. It will finish the war – and Satan will be defeated. His end is most sure. You see, when the seventh trumpet sounded, there were loud voices in heaven proclaiming, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.” Satan is already a vanquished foe, and he will be cast forever in the lake of fire. But now, he is prowling around, seeking someone to devour, because we are at war.
As we get to Revelation 12-14, we arrive at the next major section of the book – some suggest, the central section of the book. Here, we meet some principal players in this unfolding drama. It serves as an interlude between the seventh trumpet and the seven bowls which will lead to Armageddon and the fall of Babylon, the return of Christ, the Great White Throne judgment, and finally, the new heaven and the new earth, which is beautifully described. There we see we go back to the garden, to a perfect city where all sin is banished – as is the evil one and his evil forces. Once the judgment is complete, we enter the eschaton, the very presence of God. All will be good – perfect – without sin – just as God intended.
Now, to be sure, He intended the in-between as well. The Fall in Genesis 3 did not take Him by surprise. It was not even outside of His plan, you see, for it unfolded this age-long progress of redemption – leading to the glorious cross, resurrection, ascension and return of Christ. In those actions, the glory of God is put most magnificently and visibly on display. And His people will subsequently praise Him with deepest gratitude forever.
But we are not quite there. And all that happens in this life, and in the last of the last days, are for God’s glory and our good. So this has all part of God’s plan – to include this final defeat of Satan – the dragon. Earlier, in one of Paul’s first letters, he writes in II Thessalonians:
6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you,
7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,
8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.
And so, in these chapters, Revelation12-14, the final pieces are put in place. We meet the dragon, the beast, the false prophet. We see the mark of the beast, and we see the earth dwellers continue in their rebellion. We see the stage set for the final battle called Armageddon. It’s all unfolding according to plan.
In the text we just read, John takes us back to Satan’s initial fall from heaven – his taking a third of the stars, I think angels, with him. We skip over the Fall and the promises throughout the OT, but they are to be seen fulfilled in the events that happen in these verses. And we see the dragon – verse 9 will tell us he is Satan, the serpent of old who deceives the whole world – turn his full fury on God’s people. So for the next few chapters, the stage is set. Here’s the outline of our text today, which we will cover quite quickly:
- The Great Sign in Heaven (1-2)
- Another Sign in Heaven (3-4)
- The War Rages On (5-6)
Verse 1 tells us a great sign appeared in heaven. Which is why the outline of the entire book I provided earlier has chapters 12-14 titled, the Seven Signs. This is the first. The word sign is one of John’s favorites – he used it to speak of Jesus’ miracles as signs pointing to something significant – that He was the Son of God. A great sign appeared in heaven, pointing beyond herself – a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Now, we’re going to find this woman is pregnant, about to give birth to a male child who will rule the nations – so the almost immediate guess is this must be Mary. In fact, some use this passage to refer to Mary as the queen of heaven. But as we read more closely, we find this is not referring to one woman but to the nation of Israel who brought forth the Messiah – in much pain and travail – just as the OT demonstrates.
This child to be born, the seed of the woman, was promised way back in Genesis 3, in Genesis 12 to Abraham – through the OT in places like II Samuel 7 when David was promised a descendant to sit on his throne forever – in Isaiah 7, born of a virgin, in Micah 5, born in Bethlehem, in Isaiah 9, a light for people walking in darkness. In Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 as we saw last week, the Lord’s Son, His anointed who will one day rule the nations with a rod of iron, a footstool for His feet. Do you see – this amazing book of 66 books all telling the same story of redemption – fulfilled in the promised One, Jesus Christ.
Well, the OT often speaks of Israel as a woman, facing difficult challenges as a woman in childbirth. The nation was in travail, seeking to deliver itself – unsuccessfully. It would take the promised to seed to deliver her. But, it was Israel, through great travail, who gave birth to the world’s Messiah. Here, she is clothed with the sun, speaking of her majesty, the moon under her feet speaking of her beauty and dominion, and on her head, a crown of 12 stars. This is a direct allusion to Genesis 37, where Joseph had his dream – when the sun and the moon, his father and mother, bowed down to him as did his brothers. So Israel, produced by Jacob and Rachel, the twelve sons, gave birth to the promised One.
But as the Child was to be born, we see another sign in heaven – our second point in verses 3 and 4. And they point to the ongoing conflict between Satan and God, as we will see in the chapters to come. That’s why many say this is central to the book – it points to the ages long conflict between God and Satan. By the way, there’s a Christmas story for you. Now remember, we’re setting the stage – putting the major players in place. But also remember, Satan’s doom is sure. Look at verse 3, Then another sign appeared in heaven and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.
Let’s be honest – that’s weird, but it is apocalyptic imagery, and these descriptions mean something. Now, some of you have perhaps heard this passage resembles myths that can be found in almost every religion of the ancient world, which is true. Here are some examples:
In Egypt the mother goddess Isis is pursued by the red dragon Typhon and flees to an island where she gives birth to the Sun god, Horus.
In Mesopotamia, Marduk, the god of light, kills the seven-headed dragon Tiamat, who had thrown down a third of the stars.
In Greco-Roman myth, the goddess Leto, pregnant with Apollo, is pursued by the dragon Python. She is rescued by Poseidon, who hides her on an island. When Apollo is born, he slays Python.
So, some of you have perhaps heard, John just copied the myths of his day. However, as Grant Osborne suggests:
“The purpose of this is evangelistic, to say that what the Greeks have known only as myth has now been actualized in history. One could say that the NT ‘demythologizes’ Greco-Roman myth by historicizing it. What the pagans longed for in their myths has now become true in Jesus.”
Don’t be bothered by that. God takes a myths and says, here’s the true story of My Son and the dragon. Well, as I said earlier, this red dragon is identified in verse 9 as Satan himself. In the OT, the dragon or Leviathan of the deep symbolizes chaos and death. He will play a central role in the chapters to come – but he has played a central role since the beginning – as the major antagonist, the avowed enemy of God and His people.
That he is a red dragon likely points to the death he brings. That he has seven heads with seven crowns speaks of his arrogated sovereignty. Seven heads speak to his full headship and seven crowns to his supposed sovereignty. And, of course, ten horns – ten another number for perfection – speaks of his great strength.
Verse 4 says his tail – again, apocalyptic language – his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. This could be speaking of literal stars in the sky and casting them to the earth – speaking of his power. But many suggest this refers to his fall from heaven, taking a third of the angels with him in his rebellion – who then become fallen angels or demons. Possible, even likely.
But it is the end of the verse which is important – the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth, he might devour her child. Again, we see this cosmic battle between God and Satan, good and evil – as Satan from the birth of Jesus, sought to destroy Him. As we saw earlier, his first unsuccessful attempt was having Herod kill all the male babies of Bethlehem.
Unsuccessful, because in verses 5 and 6, we see while the war is raging on, God protects the promise. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Of course, we know this is the Messiah, Jesus. And while His enemy, the dragon, sought to devour Him, Jesus was caught up to God and to His throne – that is, to heaven. Notice, in the vision, John goes straight from Jesus’ birth to His ascension. Everything in-between is skipped. That’s not a big deal – it’s simply shorthand for all Jesus accomplished in His incarnation. It included a perfect, sinless life, His public ministry and teaching, His signs or miracles, His death on the cross, His burial and His resurrection. John goes straight from His coming to earth to returning to heaven. It doesn’t skip His life – it simply points to the plan and its divine protection.
And the divine protection extends to the woman. This is one way we know this is not Mary per se, but rather, the nation of Israel. Now, there is lots of discussion about this – is this the nation of Israel, or is it all the people of God in the future – both Jewish and Gentile believers – that is, the church? I’ll let you decide – plug in your system. The point is, she flees to the wilderness, to a place prepared by God. The wilderness in Scripture is often a desolate place – but also a place of God’s protection – for example, for the Israelites led by Moses, and Jesus led by the Spirit.
There, God will protect her and nourish her for what? 1260 days – 42 months, or three and one-half years. I personally think this is the latter part of the tribulation period in the future – the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week, or what Jesus called the Great Tribulation. Yes, just as the vision jumped from Jesus’ birth to His ascension, so also we jump from the ascension of Christ which begins the last days, to the end of the last days when we are about to see the culmination of all things.
We are at war. Grant Osborne closes his comments on this passage with these words:
“Spiritual warfare is all too often neglected in the life of the average Christian. It seems as if we are all trying to be Switzerlands and remain neutral in the war. To be neutral is to lose, however, for Satan is real, and his hatred toward all who are made in the image of God dare not be ignored.”
The point of the text and sermon today is, while the war rages, God is in control, His plan is unfolding perfectly, and He will protect His own. We long for the day when Romans 16:20 becomes not just a sure promise, but an actual reality:
20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.