Pastor Scott Andrews | January 1, 2023
As I introduced the book of Revelation last March, nine months ago, I went through all the very important things like who wrote it, when did he write it, from where did he write it, and to whom did he write it? I talked about what kind of literature it was – prophecy, letter, apocalypse? Actually, it’s all three. I talked about the four typical approaches to interpret the book – preterist, historicist, idealist, and futurist. Even within the futurist view, there is dispensational futurist and non-dispensational futurist. Perhaps your brain, like mine, was swimming through all that necessary groundwork.
But I want to remind you, I finished that introduction with several thoughts. Not the least of which is, there will be a challenge in this book. You see, we can get so sidetracked by different systems of interpretation and timelines and guesses and newspaper theology – trying to figure out dates or periods and creating complex charts – before you know it, we have 88 Reasons for the Rapture in ’88. I don’t know if you realize it, but that was 35 years ago – missed it by that much. We can get so sidetracked that we miss the major themes and purpose of the book. What’s the point? So let me remind you of several of those thoughts:
First purpose: stay faithful. That is a major theme of the book. This world and its systems will call and woo you to join them, to worship false gods that may even sound somewhat Christian. To abandon biblical truth. Aren’t we seeing that more and more – especially recently in unbelievable ways? You’ll be tempted to compromise and capitulate to national and world powers and pagan society. Politically, that may look like this: for some, party affiliation is more important than a relationship with Christ – they will go to the mat over an elephant or a donkey and forget the Lamb. Morally, for some, satisfying cultural demands is more important than biblical truth. But people don’t believe that anymore. We do. Stay faithful to Christ and His Word, even if it costs you.
After all, second theme, suffering is a way of life for Christians. When you refuse to give in to get along, to be accepted, you will be persecuted. That may come in the form of being made fun of, ridiculed, maybe even persecuted, eventually martyrdom for some. I’ve said recently, some of the things I’ve said from this platform will eventually be against the law and could result in persecution, imprisonment or even death. And you say, come on, Scott – read the book. Here’s the message – persevere faithfully to the end. If you’re looking for your best life now – you’re looking for the wrong thing in likely the wrong places.
Third, in the end, God wins. God is sovereign and reigns over all history. Everything that has happened, is happening and will happen is under His good and sovereign control. He will show up at just the right time when all His purposes are accomplished; He will pour out His righteous judgments and vanquish all evil; He will vindicate His children washed by the blood of the Lamb. That is a key point – He wins by the death of His Son and we overcome by the blood of the Lamb; and then the best – the new heavens and the new earth – will come, for those whose names are written in the bloodstained Lamb’s Book of Life.
Finally. fourth – remember, this book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This is all about Jesus. If we take our eyes of Christ and focus on images and systems and current events and prophetic guesses and timelines, we’ll miss it – we’ll miss Him. Don’t do it. This book calls Him:
- The faithful witness (1:5)
- The firstborn of the dead (1:5)
- The ruler over the kings of the earth (1:5)
- The Alpha and Omega (21:6)
- The One who is and who was and who is to come (1:8)
- The Almighty (1:8)
- The first and the last (1:17)
- The living One (1:18)
- The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand (2:1)
- The One who has the sharp two-edged sword (2:12)
- The Son of God (2:18)
- The One who is holy and true (3:7)
- The Holder of the keys of David (3:7)
- The Amen, the faithful and true Witness (3:14)
- The Lion of the tribe of Judah (5:5)
- The Lamb of God (5:6)
- The Lord, holy and true (6:10)
- The Word of God (19:13)
- The King of kings and Lord of lords (19:16)
- The Christ, ruling on earth (20:6)
- The root of David, the bright morning star (22:16)
And that’s not even all of them. Don’t miss Jesus. Many times through the book, when faced with these descriptions, the ones present – the four living creatures, the 24 elders, myriads of angels, and the church – fall at His feet. Regardless of your understanding of the book, there is coming a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This book is about Him.
I say all that to remind us where we are, where we’re going, and whose we are. You see, about now, all this war and death and mayhem and destruction and judgment may be getting old. The first words of our text today is, “and there was war in heaven” – between Michael the archangel and his angels and the dragon, Satan and his fallen angels.
We’ve been in the slog of the judgments of God for weeks now. We’ve seen the seven seals and the seven trumpets. But we still have the seven bowls to go. And now, instead of racing to the finish, we are just beginning yet another interlude. An interlude where we meet the principal figures in this war. Which, by the way, is another key theme in this book. There has been a cosmic battle between God and Satan – between sovereign goodness and worldwide evil – since the beginning of time. You see, while we are shocked by the things going on in our own country – we can’t believe what we are seeing before our very eyes – these atrocities and immoralities have been happening since creation.
I briefly surveyed that a few weeks ago, with the creation of Adam and Eve and the Fall – when tempted by the great serpent, they did the one thing they were prohibited from doing. They ate the forbidden fruit and plunged humankind into sin and death.
But remember the promise – the seed of the woman – Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrated last week – will crush the head of the serpent. All the Bible points to that fulfillment, when the kingdom of this world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. So, while in the season of Advent, we don’t only look back to celebrate the first coming of Jesus, we look forward to His second advent, when all evil will be vanquished. That’s what this book is about. It’s a book of hope. Be encouraged.
But, the plan must first be finished. In our study, all the pieces are now being moved into place. The glorious end and the eschaton will come. But, we still have the rest of chapter 12, and chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 until we finally get to chapter 19 and the glorious return of our Christ. I guess I remind us of all that to say, hang in there. This is God’s Word. I’m trying to take large chunks at a time, but I refuse to skip anything. God has graciously revealed to us that He will accomplish His purposes – in this world and in your life.
With all that in mind, let’s get to the text. The seventh trumpet has sounded. The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. John is speaking proleptically – that is, the fullness of the kingdom will come All of heaven will fall to their faces before God, worshiping Him, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.” We long for that day.
The nations raged – we are certainly seeing that more and more as even now Christianity is being attacked. It’s being declared racist and bigoted and oppressive. It is called yet another form of white supremacy, even though those who make the claim have not done their homework to know that Christianity began in the Jewish world, and that today its greatest advance is found south of the equator in Latin South America and black Africa. That it is estimated there are over 100 million Christians in China. It’s not just a white man’s religion of oppression – it is a worldwide faith of brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, socio-economic status. But these attacks against the faith are all part of the enemy’s tactics to destroy the faith.
Listen, don’t fall for that nonsense. I’ve read so many books on these topics recently – The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Another Gospel, We Must Not Be Silent, Live Not By Lies, No Need to Hide, The Secular Creed, The Men We Need – on and on the list goes as faithful Christian leaders are exposing the work of the enemy, as he tries to woo and destroy the Christian faith. Do not give in. Don’t be distracted by or believe in the lies.
The nations are raging, but God’s wrath is coming, the time is coming for the dead to be judged, the time for His faithful to be rewarded – His prophets and the saints who fear His name. Do you see that? They don’t fear the repercussions of this world’s godless system. They don’t fear those who rise up against us and the faith. They don’t care what the world thinks as they dismiss God and His truth. No, saints fear God. And so, chapter 11 ended, and there will be peals of thunder and flashes of lightning. God’s wrath is eminent.
At this point, John then takes us back in the panorama of time. A great sign was seen in heaven: a woman clothed in glory – sun, moon and stars – was revealed – a woman pregnant with the seed of the promise, the Christ to be born. But another sign was also seen – a great red dragon who sought to devour the child as soon as He appeared. This is simply the ongoing cosmic conflict between God and the forces of evil led by the evil one. The woman, perhaps as a type in Mary, was actually the nation of Israel who brought forth or produced the Messiah, as promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, to Judah and David. All the way through the OT and the prophets.
The dragon was ready to devour the male child – the Son of God. He tried over and over at His birth and through His life – but he failed miserably. Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, proved His divine person through His teaching and miracles, died for sinners, was buried and raised again the third day. He ascended to the Father, and so the dragon turned his attention to the woman – that is, the nation that produced the child. Some want to suggest this is the church – but the church did not produce the Messiah – the Messiah produced the church. So, the dragon turned his vehemence on the woman who was protected by God for 1260 days – that’s exactly three and one-half years, I think the last half of the Tribulation. Bringing us to our text today, Revelation 12:7-17.
As usual, there are lots of guesses and interpretations of this text. I’ll do my best, believing this to be primarily future. The question is, how much future? You see, some want to suggest this was Satan’s initial expulsion/eviction from heaven before creation. Others want to suggest it happened at the crucifixion and resurrection when Jesus conquered the devil by His completed work on the cross. Still others want to suggest this happens at the end of time in this continuing conflict – but at its climax.
As I take a futurist view of the book, I hold loosely to that third option. You see, the dragon tried to devour Jesus at His birth and frankly throughout His life. But Jesus accomplished His purpose for coming and so ascended to the Father. The dragon then turned his attention to the woman – the nation of Israel – and her children. I believe that – her children – does point to the church. Does this mean throughout the church age from the ascension to the second coming? At the end of time right before the second coming? Again, both ideas carry weight, but I hold to a future culmination of the dragon’s opposition to God’s people, to include the church. Here’s the outline of the text:
- The War in Heaven (7-9)
- The Praise of Heaven (10-12)
- The War on Earth (13-17)
Starting with the war in heaven. Again, the most obvious question is, when did or when will this take place? Those three primary options. The problem with this being his initial eviction from heaven before or at creation is we see Satan in heaven, as the accuser of the righteous, in Job accusing Job, and in Zechariah accusing Joshua the high priest. If this was before creation, there was no one to accuse. So, he at least had some access or place in heaven through the OT.
Now, it is certainly possible this happened at the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The cross was clearly Christ’s victory over sin. As I said a couple weeks ago, the death of Christ was not Satan’s victory, it was his defeat. You see, verse 11 says those the dragon attacked overcame him by the blood of the Lamb – so it was least at the crucifixion or later. But, the next verse, verse 12, says that Satan’s time is very short, and verse 14 talks about the woman being nourished for a time, times and a half a time – that is, another way to say three and a half years. All this leads me to a future war and eviction, resulting in severe opposition to the people of God in the latter part of the tribulation period.
So, what we have, I think, is sometime in the future, perhaps at the middle of the 7-year tribulation, Satan is ultimately and finally cast from heaven. It starts with Michael the archangel and his angels waging war with the dragon. The wording is such that Michael initiates this conflict/war. The dragon and his angels fight back, but they are not strong enough, and there is no longer a place for them in heaven. Jesus perhaps speaks of this in Luke 10 when He says, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.”
Now, we read first about Michael in Daniel 10 when Daniel was praying for an understanding of a vision he had received. An angel was sent to tell him but was delayed for 21 days by the prince of Persia – seemingly, a demonic power over that area. But then we read that Michael, one of the chief princes or archangels, came to his rescue. Further, we read in Daniel 12:1 – an interesting verse talking about the future – “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.”
I won’t talk about that verse, but very briefly, it seems to point to this time when the woman is pursued by the dragon to the desert, a time of distress as never before seen, but she will be rescued, preserved, by whom? God, perhaps through Michael who stands guard over the nation.
I don’t want to get sidetracked by all that. The point is, I believe Satan was cast out, either at the cross or sometime in the future, right at the end of time, cast out of heaven by Michael and his angels. We find in verse 9 the great dragon is the devil and Satan, that is, the accuser of the brothers, the great serpent who first tempted Adam and Eve and cast the world into sin and rebellion, the one who to this day deceives the whole world. Look around. He will be thrown down – expelled, evicted from heaven. By the way, these verses seem to be expanding on verse 6 which says the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that she would be nourished or cared for, for 1260 days. Don’t miss that – we’ll come back to it.
When Satan and his angels are thrown down to the earth, there will be a loud voice in heaven – a loud voice like in chapter 11 which declared the fullness of the kingdom come – now saying what is found in verses 10-12, which bring us to our second point, the Praise of Heaven.
Verse 10 says, “Now the salvation (in this sense, deliverance or rescue), and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.” That’s what Satan means – he is the accuser. (Deceit and Accusation) And he has accused God’s people before God since the beginning of time. With Job, Satan accused God of buying Job off – the only reason Job praises You is because of all your good gifts to him – you’re just buying his praise. Take away the gifts and he will curse you.
He accused the high priest Joshua before God in Zechariah 3. And the Lord rebuked Satan and took off Joshua’s filthy clothes and clothed him in clean clothes, which is exactly what God does for us. He takes of our filthy, sinful clothing and clothes us with the righteousness of Christ. That’s how we overcome him – by the blood of the Lamb so that our robes are washed white as snow.
But now, Satan has been cast out of heaven and no longer has access to accuse God’s people before God. He was constantly and consistently doing so – to no avail, because God knows those who are His. But Satan now has been cast down.
And verse 11 tells us how they overcame Satan’s accusations against them. Don’t miss this – it wasn’t by their own goodness, their own works, their own power. They overcame Satan and his attacks and accusations by the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony – that is, their testimony about Jesus – and they did so in the face of much opposition, such that they did not love their lives even when faced with death. Remember the thoughts with which I began this book and this sermon today. Stay faithful to the end, even though the way of life for Christians is suffering, because in the end, God wins – to the praise of the glory of our Christ. What is the worst they can do to us – oppose us, persecute us, kill us? We overcome such opposition as we stay faithful to Christ. We overcome by His blood which saves us.
Verse 12, for this reason, rejoice O heavens and those who dwell in them, because Satan has finally been cast out. There is praise in heaven when he no longer has access to accuse God’s people. And woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he only has a short time.
Heaven will rejoice when Satan is finally expelled, and the earth will know the woe of his great wrath. Some suggest this is the third great woe – remember those? The first was the fifth trumpet when the locusts were released, the second was the sixth trumpet when the four fallen angels and their armies were released, and the third is after the sounding of the seventh trumpet when Satan is cast down to earth. Could be – but it all results in the seven bowls of wrath to come. Again, don’t miss, he only has a short time – because we will now speed to the end of all things through the next few chapters.
Bringing us to our final point – war on earth in verses 13-17. Again, I think these verses expand on verse 6. When the dragon is cast down, in his fury he turns his attention to the woman who gave birth to the male child – the Son of God. He will seek to persecute her – that is, the nation of Israel and beyond, the people of God, as we will see in a moment.
But the woman was given the two wings of an eagle to escape to the wilderness where she will be nourished for a time, times and half a time – that says the same thing as verse 6 – she will be cared for, for three and a half years, 1260 days, 42 months. I think the second half of the tribulation.
These wings of an eagle is a common OT expression speaking of God’s protective care. When the Israelites were delivered from Pharaoh and Egypt, God said to them in Exodus 19:4, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.” In the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, we read basically the same thing. And of course, we are all familiar with Isaiah 40:31, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
The point is, God will take care of His people in the midst of the war. To be sure, we will be persecuted, we will be oppressed, we may even be killed. But this is not all there is, and God will take care of His own. Here, I think it is referring to the nation if Israel at the end of time as the nation was the one who bore the child.
Verses 15 and 16 are simply metaphors, apocalyptic images, to speak of the serpent’s attempts to go after the woman. Water poured from his mouth to pursue the woman to sweep her away. Literal water? Probably not – likely speaking of the flood of opposition and persecution he sought to unleash on her. But the earth itself opened its mouth and drank the river to protect the woman. Don’t be bothered by the imagery – in some way, the earth and the wilderness protected the nation from Satan’s onslaught.
Which finally, further enraged the dragon who will then go off to make war with the rest of her children – and who are they? Those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. This is one of the strongest verses to speak of the presence of believers in the last of the last days. It’s possible, I suppose, this is only talking about Jewish believers, but most think, as do I, that Satan will turn his attention on all those who have believed in Jesus – Jew and Gentile alike – who by nature of their faith in Jesus seek to keep God’s commandments.
And so, having declared our allegiance in this age-old cosmic battle, the commander of the enemy forces of evil will turn his attention to believers in Jesus, to the church. But don’t miss the point – God will take care of His own – ultimately and finally. None of this takes God by surprise – it’s all unfolding according to plan. The question is, where does your allegiance lie? Are you being sucked in by the culture and its lies, or are you staying faithful to Jesus, come what may? Because in the end, our Sovereign God wins.
Communion – We overcome the forces of evil, led by the accuser, by the blood of the Lamb. I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year than with communion by which we remember the work of Christ that brings us salvation and victory. We overcome the forces of evil – not by our own strength or wisdom or prowess or good works – but by the blood of the Lamb.