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Satan Makes War against
God's Righteous (e)

Revelation 12-14

James R. Davis

In any movie it always important to identify all the characters and where they fit into the overall theme of the movie. As you watch a movie, the characters are usually defined as the plot of the movie progresses. So it is in John's vision. The main characters for chapter 12 are described and presented in such a way that it leaves no doubt as to whom they are and the roles each play.

John sees a dragon, which is identified as that ancient serpent called the devil, which leads the world astray. He makes war against the woman and the angels in heaven.

Then there is 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 about to give birth. She gave birth to a male child who ruled the nations with an iron scepter. The child can be none other than Jesus Christ whom the devil desired to devour. John describes other offspring of the woman as "those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus." (12:17) Therefore the woman initially represents the fleshly seed of Abraham which gave birth to the Christ child. After Christ is caught up into heaven, the woman continues to represent the spiritual descendants of Abraham that are given birth through Christ church. They are the spiritual descendants of Abraham and Christ because they have obeyed God and hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Satan Makes War against Christ and Heaven

Earlier in chapters 8-11 John has revealed his vision concerning God's judgment against the world for its sins. That punishment largely comes as a result of God withholding his protective powers and allowing the forces of evil to run rampant throughout the earth. In chapter 12 John begins portraying the battle between Satan, heaven and earth .

Satan unleashes his forces against Abraham's fleshly seed as they undergo the travailing experience of giving birth to the Christ child. As the Christ child is born, Satan endeavors to consume him, but Christ is caught up in heaven to forever be with God. As Christ is caught up into heaven, the scene shifts to heavenly realms as Satan follows making war with the angels, but Michael leads an angelic host to defeat Satan and he is hurled back down to his earthly domain. From there Satan wages war against the rest of Abraham's spiritual descendants which are now given birth through the spiritual seed of Christ.

As the devil is cast to the earth, John hears a heavenly hallelujah chorus burst out in praise saying: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame 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." (Revelation 12:10-12)

Satan Makes War against the Saints

There is a bittersweet experience as Satan loses his battle in heaven and is cast to the earth. Satan is defeated, but Christians on earth are now forewarned that now that Satan has lost the battle in heaven, his rage will be directed toward those who now live on the earth.

What encourages one to faithfulness more than the assurance of victory? As John continues to describe Satan's persecution of the saints in chapter 13, his readers are reminded of the need for patient endurance and faithfulness. (13:10c) They would need a special assurance of victory as they faced the trials that were coming upon them. The assurance would enable them to patiently endure in faithfulness.

Satan unleashes the forces of all hell upon the church. Then the church is given the wings of a great eagle to enable her to flee to a place of safety in the wilderness that had been prepared for her by God. This is reminiscent of Israel's fleeing to the wilderness under the protective hand of God as she fled from Egypt. This reminds us of Isaiah's promise to the weak and faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

John portrays the protection for the church and those who remain faithful. As the church is given wings of an eagle the devil spews a torrent of raging water out in pursuit of the church, but the earth helps the church as it opens its mouth to swallow the torrent. The devil turns and makes war on those who obey God's commands and hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ. The persecution is severe but there is ample protection for those remaining faithful and obedient to the commands of God. Hell itself did not prevail against the establishment of Christ church and hell would not succeed in destroying God's righteous seed.

Matthew 16:18
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

The Beast out of The Sea

As chapter thirteen opens, the dragon is standing upon the seashore and a beast comes up out of the sea that has seven heads. The beast was wild and savage as portrayed by in the resemblance of a leopard, had feet like a bear and a mouth of a lion. One head had suffered a fatal blow. Satan gave the beast its power. This savage beast was given power to make war against the saints and he was given power and authority over the whole earth. He spoke proud words and blasphemies.

Then another beast comes up out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. This beast was given power on behalf of the first beast to deceive the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image to honor the first beast who was wounded by the sword but yet lived. A mark was placed upon those who worshiped the first beast. If one did not have the mark of the beast he could not buy or sell, as a result those who refused to worship the first beast were left destitute. The second beast was given power to kill all those who refused to worship the first beast.

Daniel used this same kind apocalyptic language to describe worldly rulers. (Daniel 7:2-8) The historical background of Revelation points to Domitian, the Roman ruler in John's day being the one of whom John is speaking.

Emperor worship had been set up throughout the Roman Empire. Images were set up throughout the cities to make emperor worship easier. Domitian blasphemed the name of God by claiming to be God himself. When he was addressed personally he was addressed as "Supreme Lord and God." He had power to force all the people of the earth to worship him except those whose names were in the book of life. Those who to worship him were persecuted and some were killed.

Great emphasis has been placed on the number of the beast "666." In apocalyptic literature the number "7" represents perfection. The number six falls short of "7" but the triple "6" represents falling far short of perfection. It represented the very essence of evil itself, which originated at the very throne of Satan, and engulfs the throne in Rome.

It is no wonder that John writes, "He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints."

The Victorious Judgment of God against Evil (14:1-20)

If I had to pick out the two verses in chapter 14 that sum up the chapter, it would be verse 13 and verse 19. "Then I heard a voice from heaven say, 'Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.'" (4:13) Verse 19 says, "The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath." The saints will be blessed and Satan's followers will be judged.

John sees the Lamb standing on Mount Zion with 144,000 who had the seal of God on their foreheads. They represent God's righteous army ready to fight his cause. The sound track includes loud peals of thunder, sounds of rushing water . . .  harpists were playing and everyone sang a new song that only the redeemed could learn.

As an angel flies through the heavens with the eternal gospel, he proclaims to the whole earth that they should "Fear God and give him glory because the hour of judgment has come." Then a second angel follows on the heels of the first proclaiming the result of that judgment: "Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries." A third angel comes and issues a foreboding warning to those who worship the image of the second beast.

Revelation 14:9-11
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name."

There is no doubt that the temptation to give in to the beast would be strong. Many faithful Christians will die for their refusal to worship the beast, but John reminds them who has the keys of Hades and death as he writes "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord . . . they will rest from their labors . . . their works do follow them." Therefore the scene issues hope as well as warning to the saints who are seeking to obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. They have the hope and assurance of victory but they would have to remain faithful even through death if necessary.

John portrays to them the judgment of God against the evil forces of the devil. They understand that if they give in to the evil forces that there will be a far greater loss. As Rome is judged for her sins, it is inevitable that all who worship the emperor will also suffer for her sins.

The Winepress of God's Judgment (14:14-20)

As we enter into the latter part of chapter 14 there was a man seated on a white cloud that is "like the son of man." He has a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. An angel came out of the temple and told the one "like the son of man" to take his sickle and harvest the earth.

Another angel came out of the temple with a sharp sickle in his hand. A third angel who had charge of the fire on the altar came out of the temple. He commanded the angel with a sickle in his hand to gather the clusters of grapes from earth's vine because its grapes are ripe. The earth is ripe for judgment. The warnings have been issued, the gospel has been preached and now it is time for everyone to reap what they have sown.

The grapes were gathered and thrown into the "winepress of God's wrath." The blood of the winepress rose to the horses bridles for a distance of 180 miles. This indicates a terrible judgment for their sins.

Conclusion:

Judgment has come. God's wrath has vindicated the saints. Rome has been judged. Babylon has fallen. The dragon is defeated. Now they must drink the cup of God's wrath, they must drink the maddening wine of their iniquities. But this is not the final judgment for it is yet to come in the following chapters. But the son of man has come in judgment on the evil work of the dragon.

God's saints are protected as they follow the Lamb and worship the creator of the heavens and the earth.
 
 
 
 

 

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