Revelation 12: 1-12
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who ‘will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.’ And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient snake called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
‘Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.’
When we look around our world today we see so much pain, suffering, hurt, heartache, war, famine, disease, division, persecution, racism, murder and abuse. It all feels a bit overwhelming. It’s hard to see clearly what is happening and why all of this evil is taking place. It seems like things are getting worse all the time.
Then we come to God’s Word and it’s like putting on a new pair of glasses. Through the lens of God’s perspective on things, we begin to see things much more clearly. We see them as they really are. And we realise that not everything is as it seems. Behind the physical manifestations of evil which are so obvious all around us, the Bible tells us that there are unseen forces at work, spiritual forces which are seeking to cause havoc and heartache.
There is the physical, visible world where we live, but there is also a spiritual, invisible world, where good and evil are locked in a fierce battle and which exerts a powerful influence over our lives and our churches and our world.
If you’ve ever been to the theatre, what the audience sees takes place in front of the curtain, on the stage. But while the drama is being played out in front of the curtain, there’s a whole other drama being played our backstage, behind the curtain, as props and characters and costumes are all being moved around.
This world is like a stage where all of the drama of human history is being played out, and we only see what is happening in front of the curtain. But the Bible teaches that there is a whole other drama happening behind the curtain, backstage. What Revelation does is give us a peek behind this curtain, it reveals to us as God’s people what is really taking place behind the scenes in the unseen spiritual world.
Rev 12 and 13 are two of the most difficult in Revelation to understand when we first read them because they are full of all sorts of strange and wonderful imagery. We read about a dragon and 2 beasts and a woman and a baby. It’s like Lord of the Rings or some fantasy movie. It’s very easy to get so confused that we just skip on to chapters 19-22 to the good stuff about heaven.
But when you actually take the time to understand the imagery, it all starts to fall into place.
In chapter 12 verses 7-17 Jesus pulls back the curtain for us to reveal what is going on backstage, what is taking place in the unseen spiritual realm, and it’s here that tells us about Devil and how he is at work in the world today.
What do we see?
AS GOD’S PEOPLE WE ARE ENGAGED IN A FIERCE BATTLE WITH SATAN OUR ENEMY
Most Christians today I think fall into one of 2 categories when it comes to the devil:
(i) Many Christians don’t really believe in the devil at all. Everything that happens in the world and in our lives is because of natural causes and has a logical explanation and to explain it in spiritual terms is just superstition and silly. It’s like believing in the tooth fairy or Santa Claus, great when you’re a child, but rational, intelligent 21st century western minds can’t possibly believe in the devil and demons and angels and such.
(ii) Another category of Christians seem to obsess about the devil and every single bad thing that happens in their lives they put down to an attack from Satan. They drive stupidly and crash their car, and blame the devil. They are rude to everyone in work and no one likes them, and so they say the enemy is out to get them and they are being persecuted. They meet someone who has the cold or the flu and they start casting out the foul spirits of influenza. They see Satan and his demons behind everything and spend their lives more focused on the Devil and his power, than on Jesus and what he has done. To listen to them it’s almost like God and the Devil are equal in power, or even that the Devil has the upper hand.
As always, with these things, we need a biblical approach.
The Bible clearly teaches us that there is an unseen spiritual battle going on. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 6: 12:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Paul is saying that there are spiritual forces of evil which exert an influence on our world and on our lives. Where do these forces come from?
Well that’s what we discover in Revelation 12 and 13.
Rev 12: 7: “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.”
We read here and elsewhere in the Bible that back before the creation of the physical universe Satan was once an angel called Lucifer, but he became proud and arrogant, and along with a third of the angels, he rebelled against God and the other angels. A huge battle took place in the heavens but Satan was defeated and kicked out of heaven.
Jesus in Luke 10:18 tells the disciples that he witnessed what happened when he says:
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (v. 18)
Where did Satan end up when he was evicted from Heaven?
Rev 12 Verse 9: “The great dragon was hurled down— that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
They were thrown down to earth. This planet where we live is also where Satan now resides along with his demons.
Verse 12: “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!"
They can now rejoice in Heaven because Satan is no longer there to cause division and war.
But look at what it says, verse 12: “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
Satan is now at work down here on earth and is filled with fury because he knows his days are numbered.
That's good news if you are facing attack or persecution or affliction. The enemies days are numbered.
We live from victory, not for victory.
At the end of the second world war, in one of the Nazi camps in a remote part of Germany, the Allied soldiers had made a little makeshift radio. As they listened to it they heard about the Allied victory and the defeat of the Nazis. But there was a communication breakdown and the news didn’t reach the Nazi troops for 3 more days. Then one day they woke up and the Germans had fled and the gates were unlocked.
During those 3 days what do you think it was like for the Allied Troops? They still suffered, they were still mistreated, their living conditions were the same, nothing had changed physically for them.
And yet, everything had changed.
They had changed. Because they knew what had happened. The could suffer and smile, they could be mocked and keep their heads up, they could be abused and ignore it – because they knew they would be saved soon, they knew victory was theirs, they knew they were on the winning side.