Rev.12 — JOINING THE ANCIENT BATTLE
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on August 9th, 2009. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Rev 12.
We Are Part of The Great Battle Between the Woman and the Serpent.
The Battle Begins: As we have done with all of Revelation, we want to look at where the images of this vision come from. You have to go back to Gen.3:15, and see the beginning of the two lines, or genealogies, that begin after the Fall in Ch.3. Gen.3:15 is about the ongoing battle that is going to take place between the woman and the serpent – between her seed and its seed (or descendants).
How did this battle begin? The serpent puts his accusation in the woman’s mind – the suggestion that God, whom she was created to love and worship, cannot be trusted.
What does the battle look like? People created to bear God’s image – created to live with God in paradise – become God-Doubters, God-Accusers. We become eternal skeptics who call everything about God into question. This skepticism begins in Genesis 3, and by the very next chapter yo have Cain, whose problem is that he doubts and questions God’s love for him. Cain becomes angry when his sacrifice is not looked on with favor. He becomes bitter and begins to hate his brother because he thinks that God loves Abel more than him. He acts on his bitterness and hatred and murders his brother.
This is the subtle nature of the battle between the woman and the serpent. Satan doesn’t land paratroopers or send big gross looking demons to kill people. Instead, he infects men and women with this skepticism, doubt and fear. He suggests to us that God is evil and with that poison in our veins and in our minds, we work against the God we were created to love. We draw away from God and his commands. We think that God wants to be worshipped because he is evil and has a big ego. We think God won’t provide for us and live like orphans who have no one to care for us. We think that God is out to ruin our lives and to control us – to keep us from good things that we would really enjoy. And isn’t this exactly what Satan implies to Eve in Genesis 3 – “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? …”You will not surely die… For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
We are Facing an Adversary Who Wants to Devour Us: This is the point of the battle between the Dragon and the woman clothed with the sun – that the Dragon wants to devour and destroy the line of God’s people – the followers of Jesus. Let’s take just a minute to spell that out…
The Woman Clothed with the Sun: Who is this woman? She gives birth to a Son whom God takes up to his throne – so it sounds like it would be Mary, the mother of Jesus. But, at least in this context – the woman is not Mary – it’s Eve… sort of.
After Adam and Eve fall, two genealogical lines emerge… The line of Cain, which is the line of the people under the influence of the serpent – and the line of the woman, Eve, which starts with Seth and which characterized by people who walk with God (Enoch, Noah). The woman clothed with the sun represents not only Eve, but all of those in her line – Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the nation of Israel – the faithful line of those who belong to God.
So what does it mean to say that the enemy wants to devour us? The way in which the Dragon fights against us is that he speaks words of doubt and accusation and fear – both to those who believe – and to those outside of the church about the church….
The Dragon Accuses The dragon accuses believers – Satan’s name means “the accuser” He tells us that our sins are too great to be forgiven. He accuses God, telling us that God has not loved us and will not be faithful to the Gospel. He accuses the church to those outside the church by claiming that because some in the church have been false and hypocritical – this means that all in the church must be false and hypocritical.
The Dragon Lies Using Words of Doubt and Fear and Unbelief Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of all liars – that when he lies he speaks his native language. In part this means that he spreads false ideas about God and about faith and about what is loving and about what we deserve.
The dragon also tells lies that play on the fears of believers – hoping to keep us in a sad, fearful, doubting condition in regard to our faith. He plants false questions in our minds – evil ideas that disturb us. And the dragon creates a caricature of the church in the minds of those who do not believe so that their ideas about what the church is and does are generally gross distortions, (e.g. 1st century believers were accused of cannibalism because they took communion).
These lies and fears and doubts are meant to trouble the faith of the church – to cause believers to despair – and to bring a reaction of fear and hatred against the church. The dragon wants to devour the church – to destroy the people of God.
How Do We Fight this Battle?
We Recognize our Enemy: Verse 7 tells us that “… there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fought against the Dragon; and the Dragon and his angels fought back“ In this battle, the Dragon, who is covered with crowns (which are symbolic of glory and authority), and horns (which are symbolic of power) , is thrown down because he is not strong enough. The dragon loses his place in heaven. Satan, who lays claim to power and authority, who boasts like some playground bully, who makes himself to appear as an enormous red dragon, is exposed and unmasked as “that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray”. In other words, he is just the same snake from the garden whose head God has promised to crush. And like the snake he is, his power is all in lying and accusation and in making false implications (the torrent of water that comes from his mouth – vs.15). What should we see in this revelation?
His Tactic is to Set Us Against one Another and Others: The Dragon is our enemy who wants to harm us and to do evil to us – not the person we work with who gives us a hard time – not our husband when he is insensitive or our wife when she is angry – not the salesman who takes advantage – not the college professor who rejects the Bible – not the person who is slandering you. All of these are under the influence of the liar – the serpent. He leads the whole world astray. And it is to his benefit if, instead of praying for the person who has sinned against you and showing them the love of God, you react against them – because then you fit right into the scheme that Satan is working.
Recognize His Tactics and His Work and Throw off His Scheme: Anger, hatred, suspicion, fear of others is what Satan, through his lying and accusation, is trying to produce in us. Therefore, my hatred, my fear, my suspicion – these things should alert me to the fact that my enemy is trying to influence me in some way – through these reactions I should recognize the work of my true enemy.
I need to reject hatred and, instead see how Satan has distorted both my life and my enemies life. I should recognize fear as the suggestion and influence of my enemy. I should recognize suspicion and the accusations that come to my mind as the voice of my enemy.
We Turn to Jesus: Notice finally that while Michael and his angels are initially given credit for throwing down the Dragon, theirs is only one part in the greater battle. Two other decisive victories are mentioned:
(1) The blood of the Lamb – Jesus victory on the cross that actually destroyed Satan’s hold over human beings – that removes the list of accusations Satan holds against you and me (Col2:14-15), and then
(2) Our taking up, believing and applying that central work of the Lamb to our lives. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but only those who trust in that sacrifice and apply it to their lives will overcome the Destroyer – the Dragon.
How do we do that? Vs. 11 tells us that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of our Testimony, and by not loving our lives – even to the point of death.
First, We Apply the Blood of the Lamb: One of the difficulties with the accusations our enemy throws at us is that many of them are true. We are sinners who have compromised ourselves, done wrong, failed. But Jesus has silenced Satan and taken his accusations against us on himself. We are no longer condemned and guilty. So when Satan accuses us, we fight back by agreeing, that we are guilty sinful people – but then we affirm that our sins are forgiven.
Second, We Talk About and Remember What God has Done – is Doing – for Us: God has delivered us from sin and is delivering us from sin. Our testimony is our understanding and conversation about that fact. We overcome the lies of Satan about our fellow believers – and the suggestions that we have never really changed or grown – by our testimony – the increasing understanding and conversation about how God has redeemed our lives and is still doing so.
Thirdly, We Do Not Love Our Lives, Even Unto Death: While this can mean Martyrdom, the more everyday meaning is that we must overcome the Dragon by not loving to have our own way – to listen only to our own counsel. We need to see ourselves in this battle, prone to be deceived by the liar, our enemy, prone to be willful. We need to die to our own way.