Monday, June 2, 2014

REVELATION 12: 7-12 : SPIRITUAL WARFARE - UNDERSTANDING THE BIGGER PICTURE #2 -

Last week we dealt with  the first  6 verses of  Chapter  12.  There we saw  two signs in heaven. We saw  a 'red dragon'  who is   Satan and we saw  a  pregnant woman about to give birth. She  is the OT church  out of whom  the promised Messiah,  the Lord Jesus Christ was  born.  The OT is metaphorically speaking  the ‘womb‘  of Christ . She is  the bearer of the spiritual seed from which the Messiah emerged.  We saw  that  Satan has  tried to destroy  the OT church, so that the Child  (the promised seed) to be born from  her would not  materialize.  We saw  that this was true in the entire OT dispensation, but in particular we noted  how  this was true in the days  of king Herod ,  when Christ was born.  Satan, through  Herod’s agency  sought to kill Him .   Since he does not know which child   it is  (Satan is not omniscient) , he incites king Herod to  engage  in  an  “infant  boy genocide”   in order to eradicate the seed. But he does not succeed. The baby was snatched away by God and sent into the desert in Egypt (Matt 2:13-23), where Mary and Joseph lived until it was safe to go back to Nazareth. We then saw that when Satan could not destroy Christ, he sought to get Him to compromise (Matt 4:1-10). Again he failed. Finally, he stirred up the Jews against Christ,  who  had him killed on the cross. That appeared to be the end and   Satan thought that  he  had triumphed by destroying the seed. But the ultimate truth is  that death can have no hold over God's Messiah. The Messiah shows his superiority over death by  rising from the dead, breaking the power of death which is Satan's stronghold over humanity.  Well, now that  Satan had no victory over our Messiah at the cross , what now ? The  next few verses will explain  this to us.

Again, there are two important pictures  provided :
(i) War in heaven (12: 7-12)
(ii) War on earth (12:13-13:1)- next week

1. War in Heaven:  (Revelation 12:7-12)

Before I proceed I must draw your attention to the fact that this is all very real. This is not a fairy tale. It is in fact surreal (i.e. it is above our capacity to completely understand), but it is certainly  not unreal! This is  the biblical explanation of  our reality – our life lived in a fallen  creation.  There is  a greater  war behind all the  wars of the world. This war  is   admittedly not like the battles of the earth, with “"tanks” “ drones” and “nukes".  This is a spiritual battle fought by spiritual powers and these  powers have no bodies and can therefore they cannot die a physical death. They do not bleed. This is a spiritual battle, with spiritual means and it has therefore a spiritual outcome .  And yet , in some ways  it is similar to  a war as we know it . There are winners and losers, and the losers  will go into captivity . This is called  ‘hell ‘ in the Bible.

We consider firstly then the battle in heaven:  7] Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, [8] but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. [9] And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. [10] And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. [11] And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. [12] Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

1. The  Warring Factions
On the one hand we have Michael  (whose name means 'who is like God?') and his holy angels, and on the opposing side we have the dragon (Satan)  and his unholy angels.  We find reference to  this great angelic being called Michael in  Daniel 10:13; 11:21; 12:1 and in  Jude v.9.  In these texts we  learn that the archangel Michael is the great defender of God's people. We note in v.8 that Satan is defeated in this celestial battle.

2. When does this War take place?
Consider  the context. The dragon pursues the pregnant woman. We have seen that she is the OT church out of whom the Lord Jesus,  the promise of the seed – the Messiah,  was born. This gives us the clue as to the timing of this great battle. It happens  in OT times. Now, we must remember that this is not the spiritual battle (the rebellion) in heaven before Satan entered the garden of Eden   to deceive man. This war happens when Christ was born. Look at v.  10 .  Aloud voice in heaven speaks :  "And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come …” . Here  is what has brought Satan down! Satan is thrown down as a result of Christ’s appearance  on the earth  at the end of OT times .   Notice the words  “thrown down“  v.9 ( three times ),  and also  in vv. 10, 13. Such things could not have been said after the initial rebellion of Satan. Christ was not yet manifested in the flesh.  But when Jesus came to the earth , He could say : “ I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. “ (Lk  10:18) But before we come to further conclusions on this matter, let us  try to understand what this war between Michael and Satan is all about.

3. The Objects of  Satan’s  Warfare
In v.10 Satan is called 'the accuser of our brothers'  . This  proves  again that the context of the battle is not at the beginning,  when Satan first rebelled. This spiritual battle in the heavens take place in the time of man, and after the fall of man, because Satan has something to accuse man of!  This battle happens in OT times. So then who are these that are accused? They are the OT saints. Throughout the entire OT times there was a battle fought for the souls of those people who entered into glory before Jesus the Messiah and Redeemer was born. There is  good evidence in the Bible that this is so:

(i) In Jude v. 9 we read that the devil disputes with Michael over the body of Moses (an OT believer ), as if to say  : “Moses , that fallen ( unredeemed)  sinner is mine!"

(ii) Daniel, chapters 's 10, 11, 12 reveal  that there is  a spiritual war over Persia (Babylon) when God's people were in exile there. God reveals to Daniel  that there is a gigantic struggle going on in the heavenlies for the souls of men. Michael is there to defend God's people.  Here  is the spiritual logic behind it all: Christ had not yet come to die for ( i.e. ransom , redeem them )  His people. From  that  historical point of view that meant that each  sinner was still  in his sins .His sin debt had not yet  been atoned for. The sins of Abel, Enoch, Noah, the patriarchs and the prophets and all true believers  had not yet been paid for. Therefore,  historically they died as sinners. And because of that Satan  thinks that he has  a claim on them , and so he could ,for instance,  dispute over the body of Moses (Jude v.9).

Now from God's perspective, this is of course vastly different. It is at this point that the doctrine of election and predestination helps us immensely! Remember Eph.1:4,  "He chose us in Christ before the creation of this world!' Where is the security of the OT saints found? It is found in  Christ  who  in the eternal counsels of God   was appointed to be the Lord, Shepherd, Mediator, Redeemer and Saviour of all  His people even before the beginning of time . All His people had been given to Him by the Father before the foundation of the world.

This is affirmed by Jesus in  John 10:24-29. [24] So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” [25] Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, [26] but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

And in John 17:1, 2  : “ When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, [2] since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”

God's people  past, present and future are all justified through Jesus blood. They were in Christ, and in the heart of the Father before the world began. They were justified through God's eternal decree. I don't think that Satan really  wants to understand this. If angels struggle  to understand the mystery of salvation (1  Peter 1:1- 12) how much more Satan, a fallen angel?

So, we understand  then  that the devil before his banishment from heaven thought that every fallen soul was his. He thought that he had a say in their  future . That is why he presented himself so boldly in the book of Job before God, to accuse Job !  Now you know why he is called the ancient serpent...  the deceiver of the whole world '. He slanders the OT saints. He lies to them and he accuses them. He says that they have no right to enter into glory because they are condemned sinners. But he forgets the power of the blood of the Lamb Of God who takes away the sin of the world !  Jesus’ death on the cross is so powerful that it covers the salvation of sinners from the past even into the future.
And Michael that  wonderful  “mega-angel” comes  to  the help of  struggling OT saints like Job  to give them perspective and assurance "that their Redeemer lives and that He shall stand upon the earth" (Job 19:25). That is why we have that wonderful 11th  chapter of Hebrews- the  famous ”  hall of  faith “  with examples  of  OT saints for our encouragement.

4. The Outcome of the Battle
We see that this war in heaven ends when Christ dies on the cross - when He gives His life in exchange for our sin. The atonement (Christ's  righteous life for our unrighteous  life ) robs the devil of his claim on the believer's life. They are now Christ's sheep ( John 10)  and not the devil's goats. When Christ suffers, dies, and rises from the dead and  when He ascends to heaven and when He is triumphantly enthroned there (see Revelation  4 &5) the heavenly war is over . The war  between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his demons is over! That is why this song of victory is proclaimed in vv.  10-12! 
The heavens are cleansed of this menace!

But we are not yet finished with this chapter. The cleansing of the heavens is only the first part.  In the meantime Satan is hurled to the earth. Satan is alive on planet earth, and don't we know it!  So from v.12b  onward  we find the story which affects us so much in our own day : " the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Here is the explanation as to why the church has suffered so much in these last 2000 years. We shall see that the devil's fury is directed towards the woman-who had given birth to Christ under the OT church, and who now continues as the NT church (see continuity between OT and NT).

We haven't ended on a cheerful note : “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!" We will complete the closing verse of this great and awesome chapter next week .  But you get the point. You have followed the trail of history with me. You have seen how God works. You have seen that at every turn Satan is outclassed. You have seen him 'hurled down'. You have read that "the saints have overcome him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony ..."

Dear believer, persevere, don't give up and don't be deceived. You're on the winning side. Amen.

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