Satan

| Revelation 12:7-12 | August 27, 2017

Week of September 3, 2017

The Point:  Satan fights against us, but we can stand in Christ.

Warfare in Heaven:  Revelation 12:7-12.

[7] And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, [8] and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. [9] And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. [10] Then 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 brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. [11] “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. [12] “For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.”   [ESV]

Warfare in Heaven [7-9].  Peter writing about the ascension of the Lord, says that Jesus Christ has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him [1 Peter 3:22]. Jesus proclaimed victory over the spiritual forces that opposed Him; these forces are Satan and his evil angels. Paul calls these powers the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places [Eph. 6:12]. Victory came when the archangel Michael and his angelic hosts conquered these evil forces by casting them out of heaven and hurling them to earth. [7]  Now war arose in heaven. All through history until Jesus’ ascension, Satan could appear in God’s presence [Job 1:6; 2:1]. Satan, whose name means “the accuser,” could even accuse the high priest Joshua in the presence of God, but the Lord rebuked him [Zech. 3:1-2]. Also, Jesus told the seventy-two disciples who returned from their mission assignment, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven [Luke 10:18; see John 12:31]. In other words, Satan had not yet been denied access to God’s presence but could accuse God’s people day and night [10]. When Jesus completed His mediatorial work on earth, He ascended to heaven and took His seat at God’s right hand. His entry into heaven made it impossible for Satan to come before God to accuse the saints. Jesus assumed the role of the attorney-at-law, the advocate with the Father [1 John 2:1]. He paid the price to set His people free, and as a result Satan has been unable to bring slanderous accusations against God’s people [see Rom. 8:34; Jude 9]. Thus, Satan and his hosts were denied a place in the presence of the Almighty. Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back.  The name Michael means ‘Who is like God?” As one of the archangels, he wages war against the archangel Satan, who wants to be like God. Michael is mentioned in the Old Testament as a prince and protector of God’s people [Dan. 10:13,21; 12:1]. It is he who with his angels attacked and fought the dragon and his cohorts. The grammatical construction indicates that the dragon is an angel, for he fights at the head of his multitude of angels. Note that not Satan but Michael is the one who leads the attack; he forces the evil one into battle, which is an indication that he has  the upper hand and is sure of the victory. [8]  But he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. Satan and his cohorts had to acknowledge Jesus’ victory and their defeat when the Lord ascended to the throne. Far from accepting the reality of their overthrow, they faced Michael and his formidable hosts of angels, who drove them out of heaven and into a fierce battle. Satan’s war with God began when the human race was plunged into sin. When believers in the Old Testament era were taken to heaven, Satan accused them before God of being unworthy sinners. As accuser of the saints, he had free access to God’s presence. The devil was not alone in his opposition to the saints entering heaven. He employed fallen angels to work for him. For instance, the Old Testament relates the account of a lying spirit standing before God, who gave him permission to put a lie in the mouths of the prophets as they counseled the kings of Judah and Israel [1 Kings 22:17-23]. Since Christ’s victory over sin and death, these evil spirits can no longer appear before God to accuse the saints. Indeed, not a single accusation can be brought against them, for God listens only to their praises, confessions, gratitude, and petitions. Hence, a new era has dawned in which Satan with his angels have lost their place in heaven and are restricted to a place on earth. On that same earth, God gave the woman a place and protected her. Wherever Jesus reigns, wherever the world domination of the lamb is already established, there the adversary of God has neither place nor rights. [9]  A good teacher repeats the points he wishes to make. So John mentions the downfall of Satan a total of five times in three verses [9,10,13]. The great dragon and his followers are cast down to the earth, for heaven is now off limits to them. The series of names (great dragon, ancient serpent, devil, Satan, and deceiver) is given for at least three reasons: to identify the one whom Christ has conquered; to alert the dwellers on earth of the devil’s grim power; and to illustrate this monster’s capability to both destroy and deceive. The great dragon is a picture of the primeval power of chaos. That is, the dragon is called great because of his enormous power. He give his power, throne, and authority to the beast that rises up out of the sea [13:1-2]. The adjective ancient is a reference to Satan, who in the form of a serpent deluded Eve in Paradise [Gen. 3:1-7]. John uses the term serpent as a synonym for dragon. In fact, it appears five times in Revelation [9:15; 12:9,14,15; 20:2]. Paul even warns the church not to listen to the serpent’s whispers and so being led astray to depart from Christ [2 Cor. 11:3]. Devil means “to throw over or across, to divide, set at variance, accuse, bring charges, slander, inform, reject, misrepresent, deceive.” This is an accurate description of the devil’s activities. John warns the believers not to yield to his temptations, for then they will be numbered among the children of the devil [John 8:44; 1 John 3:8,10]. And both James and Peter instruct their readers to resist the devil, for he will flee from them [James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9]. Satan is a synonym of the devil, and the terms are used interchangeably in the New Testament. The name derives from the Hebrew word for adversary. Satan is at enmity with God and all those who serve and worship Him. He is the accuser and slanderer of God’s people. Through him the Antichrist appears as “the lawless one,” whom Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth [2 Thess. 2:3-4,7-9]. As the deceiver Satan deceives the whole world, which does not mean that the elect are also led astray [Matt. 24:24]. He is no longer able to accuse the elect in the presence of God; he is confined to do his evil work on the face of the earth. He seeks to blind the minds of the unbelievers to prevent them from understanding the good news of Jesus Christ [2 Cor. 4:4]. Satan and his evil angels are confined to this earth to carry out their deceptive and destructive work, and even here they cannot do whatever they please but can only go so far and do only as much damage as God allows. Satan not only must abide by God’s decrees but must also realize that his schemes against God end in failure. Not Satan but God is the ruler in this world.

A Song of Victory [10-12].  [10]  And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying. John reports that he heard a loud voice in heaven, but he fails to identify the speaker or singer, indicating that it is not a matter of importance. Even though angels often sing hymns of praise, the use of the possessive pronoun our together with the noun brothers rules out the angels. Angels can never regard human beings as brothers and sisters. They differ from the saints in many respects: they lack physical bodies, have not been redeemed, are not heirs of salvation, have not been created in the image of God, and do not have a covenant relationship with God. The voice represents a group of singers, possibly the saints in heaven who sing this song of victory [compare 11:15]. What does John wish to convey with the time reference now? Revelation stresses not chronological time, which is of fleeting consequence, but the governing principle of time. Here the adverb points to the dividing line in human history. Christ’s death and resurrection, which resulted in His victory over Satan. The words of the song anticipate the final overthrow of Satan [20:10]. Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come. The words of the song honor God by ascribing to Him the salvation of His people accomplished in Christ, the power Jesus received to overcome Satan, and the kingdom which the Lord handed over to Him [1 Cor. 15:24-28]. God is supreme in His kingdom. Although Jesus has been given full authority, it is God who rules His kingdom through His Son [11:15]. Jesus told the disciples: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Matt. 28:18]. For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. It is not Michael and his angels who receive praise for the overthrow of Satan, but Christ, who exercises supremacy in His kingdom. When Jesus ascended to the throne with full authority to rule, Satan was cast out of heaven. The phrase the accuser of our brothers characterizes the devil’s activity in the presence of God [see Job 1:6-12; 2:1-5]. This activity has now come to an end, because Jesus is the intercessor for the saints, and that precludes anyone from bringing a charge against them [Rom. 8:33-34]. What is the significance of the present tense of the participle in who accuses them? Cast down to earth, Satan can no longer accuse the believers before God’s throne. But he does not accept defeat so as to desist from his evil works. On the contrary, Satan continues his attacks day and night by constantly accusing the followers of Christ and torturing their consciences. He does so by first enticing a person to sin; next, if he is successful, he taunts the sinner with accusations. However, he fails miserably in his endeavors in view of God’s forgiving grace through the shed blood of Christ Jesus [Heb. 9:22]. [11]  John presents a picture that portrays the redeemed people of God – a picture that is not limited by chronological time. He is concerned with the past but at the same time with the present and future. So he writes in the past tense as if all God’s children have already entered into glory: they have conquered him. John writes confidently about the victory of the saints even though the time of Christ’s return has not yet come. On the other hand, countless multitudes have already been victorious and are now with the Lord. They claim victory with Christ on the basis of His shed blood that has redeemed them from sin and set them free from Satan’s accusations. They are more than conquerors through him who loved [Rom. 8:37; 1 Cor. 15:57]. John’s perspective is not from earth – still without victory – to heaven, but rather from heaven – triumphant in victory – to earth. He sees the triumph of Christ with all the heavenly saints who overcame Satan and share in that victory. Whereas Satan seeks to accuse the saints on earth day and night, the saints in heaven sing God’s praises day and night in thankfulness for their redemption. The phrase by the blood of the Lamb is a repetition of an earlier description of the saints in heaven who have experienced the great tribulation. These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb [7:14]. In other words, the power in Christ’s blood has made them victorious; they conquered because they proclaimed and taught the gospel, that is, the word of their testimony. They received the gospel and passed it on, so that it was their testimony on behalf of Jesus. The blood of Christ is the key to this passage, for the believers redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice fearlessly and without any hesitation have been His witnesses [6:9]. These redeemed believers did not value their lives more than the message of the gospel; they were willing to offer their lives for the sake of Christ. The Lord repeatedly teaches the principle of losing one’s life for His sake [Matt. 10:39; 16:25; John 12:25]. Paul demonstrates it when he addresses the Ephesian elders. He said, But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God [Acts 20:24]. Believers express gratitude to Him in their willingness to suffer for Him even to the point of death. The preservation of one’s life is a natural proclivity in human beings, but the love for the Lord Jesus overrules it. [12]  Rejoice. The voice calls the heavens in general and the dwellers in particular to express their joy in the victory Jesus has achieved. The adverb therefore links the preceding verses [10-11] to the injunction to be glad in the triumph of the Lord. Delivered from the accuser’s constant intrusion into God’s presence, the heavens now rejoice. Numerous times the heavens are exhorted to express their joy. The twenty-four elders, the four living beings, and all the angels experienced Satan’s intrusions that have now come to an end. Thus, neither the heavens nor the saints dwelling there will hear Satan’s slanderous accusations any longer. Through Christ’s victory heaven itself has been cleansed. But woe to you. Here is the dividing line between the triumphant church in heaven and the militant church on earth that resists sin and evil. Now that Satan and his cohorts have been denied entrance into heaven and have been cast down to the earth, the devil is filled with wrath against God’s people. He realizes that he has been defeated, that he has been given a limited time here on earth, and that in the short period allotted to him he must unleash his fury. On both land and sea he seeks to deceive and destroy the saints. The woe addressed to the dwellers on earth should not be considered the third woe that is mentioned in 11:14. This woe stands by itself and lacks the differentiation of the definite article. It is used in a general sense, much the same as the double woes uttered by kings, merchants, and seafarers [18:10,16,19]. The heavenly voice warns the earth and the sea that anguish and distress are coming upon them because of the devil’s defeat in heaven. Defeated by the victorious Christ, he now vents his rage against the Christians [compare 12:17]. Satan knows that the opportunity God has given him is of short duration. Not Satan but God controls time and place. Therefore the saints on earth know the limitations of the devil as they rely on God’s protective care.”  [Kistemaker, pp. 360-366].

Questions for Discussion:

  1. In verses 7-12, John presents an astounding insight into the unseen world. What light does this shed on Paul’s comment: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood … but against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” [Eph. 6:12]? Christians can commit two errors, either being oblivious to the spiritual battle or being fixated on or fearful of demonic powers. How do these verses give us a balanced perspective?
  2. How is it true that Satan’s rampaging on earth is actually a reflection of his defeat in heaven and a portent of his ultimate doom? How can it be true that at the same time as the authority of Christ has been established in heaven, the devil is free to attack God’s people on earth with great wrath? These verses present a view of the utter sovereignty of God in all things. Even the work of the devil occurs only on terms determined by God. How critical is it that we hold to a biblical view of the sovereignty of God, given that God’s people will surely suffer during their earthly lifetimes? How do we find comfort in the fact of the establishment of God’s rule in heaven even as we face trials on earth?

References:

Revelation, G. K. Beale, Eerdmans.

Revelation, Simon Kistemaker, Baker.

Revelation, Grant Osborne, BENT, Baker.