This is week #3 of our series called Revelation. We’re spending five weeks exploring the last book in the New Testament. A lot of people believe that this is the most bizarre book in the Bible, and it probably is…although there are parts of the Old Testament book of Ezekiel that could give it a run for its money. That’s a flat out weird book.
But the book of Revelation is pretty crazy in its own right. And we’re going to dive into one of the craziest parts of the book today.
But remember what we’ve been saying all along. This book is all about Jesus. We can’t get so swept up in the complicated prophecies and the weird imagery that we miss the point of the book. This book is about Jesus. It’s about how Jesus is victorious. It shows us that Jesus will have the last word.
And that is so important for us to remember today, because today we’re going to be talking about the enemy.
When I was in high school, I ran around with a group of guys that were about as country as it gets. We didn’t live in the south, but I think we still qualified as rednecks. And like all good rednecks, one of our favorite things to do was fish. And it’s still one of my favorite things to do today. I never left my redneck roots.
Anyway, one of my buddies and I decided to go night fishing. It was a beautiful summer evening, and we just felt like there was a big catfish out there waiting on us. So we went and bought some chicken liver, because in case you didn’t know, that is the best catfish bait EVER. And then we headed to a spot on the backwaters of the Ohio River.
We were there for a few hours, and the only thing biting was mosquitoes. But we didn’t lose faith. The fish would start biting any minute, and we were going to stay right there until it happened.
That’s what we thought…until we heard it. It was an incredibly quiet, peaceful evening on the river. There wasn’t another person around. We were completely alone on this quiet, dark night. And that’s when all of a sudden, we heard an absolutely bloodcurdling scream.
If you think I’m making this up, I promise you I’m not. This scream was loud…and it was close. And my buddy and I did the only thing we could. We ran! We ran as fast as we could through the darkness back to my buddy’s truck. We didn’t even bother to grab our flashlights or our lantern. We just ran.
We jumped in his truck, slammed the doors, and sat there trying to catch our breath. We had no idea what we heard, but it scared the fire out of us. After the way we ran, I’m pretty sure Phil Robertson would have stripped us of the title “redneck.” Instead of standing our ground like rednecks, we ran like a couple of yuppies.
After we caught our breath sitting in the truck, something suddenly dawned on us. We left all our gear down at the riverbank. And some of this gear wasn’t even mine. It was my dad’s. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to go home without that. There was a few hundred dollars worth of fishing gear sitting there.
So we did what any friends would do. We started arguing about who was going to go back and get it. But finally, we realized that we both had to go back. We tiptoed back down to the river, packed up our gear as quietly as we could, and then took off in a dead sprint for the truck again. I knew whatever was out there was very close, and it was probably faster than me. But I didn’t have to outrun it. I just had to outrun my friend.
Now, when I look back on this, I realize there is only one thing it could have been. It had to be a bobcat. It’s really the only possible explanation. If you have never heard a bobcat scream, let me tell you…it will send chills from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. And looking back on that night, that is the only thing it could have been.
But, as teenagers that night, we had no idea what it was. And not knowing what it was made it even scarier.
And I think that rings true for all of us. The most frightening times of our lives are when we’re dealing with unknowns. When we don’t know what we’re up against. When we know we have an enemy, but we’re not sure what the enemy is. Not knowing is usually the scariest part.
A lot of people get freaked out by the book of Revelation. But if you really understand the book, you see that this book is designed to remove fear, not increase fear. And one of the ways it removes fear is by identifying our enemy.
Today we’re going to explore one of the most powerful parts of Revelation. We’re going to be in Revelation 12.
In Revelation 12, our enemy is revealed. He is identified. We are not fighting against some unknown force. We know him. We know his name. We know his tactics. We know our enemy. And knowing your enemy is key to victory.
Our enemy is known as the devil, or Satan. Many people believe that Satan is a mythological creature. He doesn’t actually exist. He is a caricature that represents evil, but he’s not an actual, real being.
We reject that belief for one simple reason. Jesus rejected that belief. And His Word rejects that belief. When you examine the life of Jesus, it’s obvious that He believed Satan to be an actual, real being. Scripture clearly and consistently agrees.
In the book of 1 Peter, we are reminded, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV)
We have an enemy. The enemy is real. The enemy is dangerous. But the enemy is not a mystery. We know who he is.
That’s what we see when we open up Revelation 12. This chapter paints an incredible scene. Remember that the book of Revelation is a vision that God gave to the Apostle John. And chapter 12 is one of the most bizarre parts of this vision. But there is so much here that we need to understand. This is actually one of the most awesome, most hopeful chapters in the Bible.
So let’s pause and let’s pray for God to open our eyes to the truth from this absolutely amazing chapter of the Bible.
I’m pretty sure there is nothing cooler than having Darth Vader read Scripture to you. I was geeking out about that this week. That was awesome! Even if you’re not used to the King James Version, that was still awesome.
Obviously this scene from Scripture that we just read feels kind of “out there.” It is a wild, crazy scene. But like I said, even though this chapter seems bizarre, it is actually one of the most awesome and most hopeful chapters in the Bible.
In this scene, John sees a male child who is born. The child represents Jesus. And there is a dragon who tries to kill the child. John tells us that the dragon represents Satan. And as we explore Revelation 12, we learn a lot about exactly who Satan is and what he does. Because remember, if you want to live in victory, you have to know your enemy.
Let’s take a look at how John describes him in this vision. In verse 9, John wrote, “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.” (Revelation 12:9, NIV)
There are several different descriptions of our enemy in this one verse.
John refers to him as the devil and Satan. Those words mean the same thing. “Satan” is the Hebrew translation, “devil” is the Greek translation. But they both mean the same thing.
They both mean accuser. That’s who Satan is. He is the accuser. It’s one of the most common ways that the Bible describes him.
The Old Testament prophet, Zechariah, was given a vision of heaven. Here’s what he saw.
Zechariah wrote, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.” (Zechariah 3:1, NIV)
This is what Satan does. He accuses the people of God. In fact, he never stops accusing them.
Go back to Revelation 12. John called him, “…the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night…” (Revelation 12:10b, NIV)
Satan is always ready to accuse you. He is always ready to point out your sin. He is always ready to remind you of your failure. He is always quick to point out that you’ll never measure up, you’ll never be good enough.
Have you ever been going through your day, minding your own business, when all of a sudden, from out of nowhere, you are reminded of a sin from your past? You don’t even know what triggered it, but there it is. And all the feelings of guilt and shame come flooding back.
Has that ever happened to you, because it’s happened to me? In fact, it happens to me a lot. I’ve done some things in my life that I’m not proud of. I’ve made sinful choices that hurt myself and hurt other people. These choices are completely humiliating and shameful. And the memories of these choices can hit me from out of nowhere.
That’s what Satan and his demons do. They accuse. They constantly remind us of our failures. They want to keep us living in guilt instead of grace. They want us to live in humiliation instead of freedom.
But let’s go back and read all of verse 10. John wrote, “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.” (Revelation 12:10, NIV)
When the power of God and the authority of Jesus are present, only one thing can happen: the accuser gets hurled down. The accuser is defeated.
If you are in Christ, you need to know this. Jesus is not the one reminding you of your past failures. Jesus is not the one who is throwing your sin in your face. Jesus is not the one who wants to keep you trapped in guilt and humiliation and shame. Jesus doesn’t operate that way.
Psalm 103 shows us how Jesus works. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:11-12, NIV)
Jesus removes your sin from you as far as the east is from the west. He is not the one who reminds you of it. He’s the one who removes it.
He is not the one who wants you to keep living in it. He’s the one who wants to set you free from it.
He doesn’t want you to live in guilt. He wants you to live in grace.
Satan is your accuser. But when Jesus is present, your accuser gets hurled down to the ground.
Now, go back to verse 9. John wrote, “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.” (Revelation 12:9, NIV)
John also refers to our enemy as a “dragon” and a “serpent.”
The serpent reference goes all the way back to the beginning of the Bible. In Genesis 3, Satan is depicted a serpent that tempted Adam and Eve to eat from the tree that God had commanded them not to eat from. Here at the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation, John reminds us of the serpent image. And what did the serpent do to Adam and Eve? The same thing he does to us. He tempts us.
When John talks about the serpent, he is reminding us that Satan is the tempter.
Now, when a lot of us think of the word “temptation,” I don’t think we fully grasp what’s going on.
For some of us, the “Temptations” was a singing group in the ‘60s. They had sunshine on a cloudy day. And when it’s cold outside, they had the month of May.
For others of us, “temptation” is that piece of cake in the refrigerator. Or that pint of ice cream in the freezer. “Oh, I know I shouldn’t, but…” And that’s what we think of as temptation.
This isn’t something that we can diminish. When we’re talking about temptation in the Biblical sense, we’re talking life or death. Those are the stakes. This isn’t something to brush off. This is something that is deadly serious.
Satan is the tempter. And he’s very good at what he does, because he is also the deceiver. The reason his temptations are so effective is because he is so deceitful.
When John refers to him as a dragon, the Greek word he uses can literally be translated “shimmery thing.” The idea is that he saw Satan gleaming and shining, like when the sun hits the scales of a reptile. We think of a dragon as something that would be repulsive and disgusting, but actually, the sight was probably quite beautiful. He gleamed. He shimmered.
And that is the hallmark of his deceitfulness. In the book of 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14b, NIV)
This is what makes our enemy so dangerous. Because he is so good at deceit. He is a master of disguise. He can make darkness look like light. He is able to wrap up evil in such a way that we see it as good.
He deceives us by playing to our minds and emotions. That’s what we see when we go all the way back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Satan is twisting God’s Word. God never told Adam and Even not to eat from any tree in the garden. He warned them about one specific tree. But Satan is a master at twisting and manipulating the Word of God.)
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5, NIV)
Here’s the key to Satan’s temptation and deceit. This is the core of every single temptation he ever throws at us.
“You will be like God.” Ultimately, that’s what every temptation is about. That’s what Satan dangles in front of us. No matter what the outside packaging is, when you get to the core of the temptation, this is it.
You can be like God. You can be the god of your own life. It’s all about you. Who is God to deny you this pleasure? Who is God to tell you that you can’t do this?
Satan will always try to get you to question God’s authority. He will always try to convince you that you are your own authority. You can be like God. In fact, you can be your own god.
And the other part of temptation is this. Satan always hides the consequences behind the temptation. He told Eve, “You will not certainly die…”
There won’t be any consequences. It won’t hurt anybody. It’s nobody else’s business anyway, because you are the god in your life. Who is that pastor to tell you what to do? Who is that Christian friend to warn you about these so-called “consequences?” You can be god, without any consequences whatsoever.
And when we fall into this deceitful trap, our lives blow up like an atomic bomb. Hurt and pain and devastation rip through our lives.
One of the saddest parts of my job that happens way too often is counseling someone who has completely wrecked their life, simply because they chose to ignore the consequences of their sin. Some of you know what I’m talking about, because you’re living in those consequences today.
And it all comes back to when you chose to listen to Satan instead of God. Satan convinced you to question God’s authority. He caused you question God’s authority about your sin, and he caused you to question God’s authority about the consequences of your sin.
We have to get back to the place where we remember that God is THE authority. What He says matters. What we see in the Scripture matters.
But here’s how Satan gets us. He deceives us into believing there are valid sources of authority apart from the Word of God.
The first one is, “This is what I think.” This is what I think. I know what the Bible says about marriage, but this is what I think about marriage. I know what the Bible says about sex, but this is what I think about sex. I know what the Bible says about money, but this is what I think about money. I know what the Bible says about forgiving people, but this is what I think about forgiving people.
Quick survey. How many of you have ever thought something and you’ve been wrong? Raise your hand. Okay, that’s about 100%. All of us can look at times where we thought something, and we were wrong.
That means that you’re not reliable, and neither am I.
Or how about this one? “This is how I feel.” I feel this way. I feel this way. I feel this way.
Do you realize that your emotions are stupid? They are. Our emotions are not smart. They’re stupid.
You ever wake up in a bad mood, and you have no idea why? You wake up. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Your husband or your wife gives you a great big good morning kiss. Your kids are actually behaving beautifully. Everything just seems great, and you’re ticked off. You have no reason to be ticked off. You don’t even know why you’re ticked off, but you’re ticked off anyway.
It’s because emotions are stupid. They are fickle. They come and go with no rhyme or reason. Can you think of anything worse to determine right and wrong? Your feelings about something are not the authority, because your feelings are stupid.
And then there’s this one. “This is what culture says.” Culture says the Bible is outdated. Culture says the church is wrong. The Bible says that this is sin, but culture says it’s great.
Let me ask you this: has culture ever made a bad decision?
Think about this. Some of you will really appreciate this. When I was growing up back in the 80’s, Panama Jack t-shirts were awesome. Anybody here have a Panama Jack t-shirt? I never did. My parents never bought me one. But it’s okay. I’ve seen a counselor and they’ve helped me to forgive them.
Seriously, if you had a Panama Jack t-shirt, you were automatically cool. But if you had a Panama Jack t-shirt and a Members Only jacket, you were awesome.
And then, guys you remember this…along with your Panama Jack t-shirt and your Members Only jacket, you were a pair of seriously short shorts. You were shorts that came down to here, on purpose.
And then with your short shorts, you wore tube socks. You remember the tube socks with the colored rings around them, pulled up to your knees.
And then you put on your Reebok pumps. Oh man, those were the bomb.
And then to top it all off, you strapped on your fanny pack.
A Panama Jack t-shirt. A Members Only jacket. Short shorts. Tube socks. Reebok pumps. And a fanny pack. Culture said that was cool. And culture was WRONG!
If I go over to Eastgate Mall after church and I see a guy wearing that stuff, I don’t think he’s cool. I think that guy has no friends except the 25 cats he has at his house.
Culture has been wrong. Culture has been wrong so many times that it’s impossible to count. What culture says in one generation will inevitably change in the next generation. Culture is not a reliable source of authority.
But this is what Satan does. He causes us to question God’s authority. We take God’s place. We determine what is right or wrong based on what we think, or what we feel, or what culture says. But ultimately, it’s all about kicking God off his throne.
And that’s Satan’s end game goal. Go back and look at how John described Satan. In Revelation 12:3, he wrote, “Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads.” (Revelation 12:3, NIV)
Satan was wearing crowns because he always presents himself as king. And his ultimate goal is to convince people to ignore Jesus, the King of kings.
And when we forsake the King of kings, when we set ourselves up as the authority, when we become the god of our own lives, everything comes apart at the seams. Things fly apart. Our lives crumble, because we’re following a false king. Satan may wear a crown, but he’s a false king because he’s a defeated king.
Starting in verse 7, John wrote, “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 serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Revelation 12:7-9, NIV)
John had a vision of this war in heaven when Satan and his demons were defeated. And a lot of people this happened thousands or even millions of years ago. This was some land-before-time epic battle. But that’s actually not true. We know exactly when this battle took place.
Keep reading in the next verses. “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.” (Revelation 12:10-11, NIV)
How was Satan defeated? John tells us. He was defeated by the blood of the Lamb. The Lamb is Jesus. And His blood was shed on the cross.
This wasn’t some cosmic battle that happened before the creation of the world. This battle that brought the defeat of Satan happened in 33 A.D. when Jesus died on the cross.
When Jesus was crucified, there was so much more going on than just a man hanging on the cross. When the Son of God was dying, there was an unbelievable battle raging in heaven. This was the apex of the war between God and Satan.
The devil viewed it as his chance for victory. He thought the death of Jesus meant that God’s mission on earth had failed, so he decided to take the battle all the way to the top. This was his chance.
The battle raged. The fight was intense. But ultimately, Satan and his demons were defeated by the very thing that they thought would give them victory…the blood of Jesus Christ.
We have an enemy, but he is a defeated enemy. We have an enemy that is far more powerful than us, but his power does not compare the power of Jesus.
The Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation, but he also wrote some letters that are included in the New Testament. In one of those letters, John wrote, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8b, NIV)
It doesn’t say that Jesus came to hinder the devil’s work. He didn’t die on the cross to toss Satan a curveball. He didn’t give His life to throw a wrench into in the devil’s plans. Jesus came and Jesus died to DESTROY the devil’s work. To demolish and to completely devastate the devil’s work.
Satan is a defeated enemy. Jesus came to destroy his work. But he didn’t just come to destroy the devil’s work in our world. He came to destroy the devil’s work in your life.
Somebody here today has really been tracking with what I’ve been talking about because you’re living it out in your life. You are living in the middle of the devil’s work. You believed his lies. You made yourself the authority, the god in your life. You rejected the authority of Jesus. And now, things are a mess. And you might be thinking it’s too late for you.
The reason it’s not is because Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work. He did it by dying on the cross and then rising to life again. His death and resurrection broke the power of Satan. And it has the power to do that in your life.
All you have to do is submit to Jesus. To repent of your sin. To take the crown off your head and submit to Jesus as the King of kings. And if you do, you know what will happen? You will see the grip of Satan start to break. You’ll see his power destroyed. And you’ll see the beauty of a life that lives in complete surrender to Jesus.
Jesus is not mad at you. He loves you. He wants to destroy the devil’s work in your life, but he leaves the final decision up to you. Every one of us will bow before a king. It can either be a false king or it can be the King of kings.
And if we choose to bow before Satan, the false king, we need to remember his ultimate fate. John wrote about it in Revelation 20. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10, NIV)
This is Satan’s ultimate fate. A lot of people believe that Satan will be the ruler in hell. We’ve seen too many Looney Toons cartoons.
Satan will not rule in hell. You know who rules over hell? God does. Satan will not be the ruler of hell. He will be a prisoner in hell.
When we reject the authority of Jesus, this is the king that we’re following. We’re following a king whose fate, in the end, is pathetic and completely defeated.
But we have another option. His Name is Jesus. He is the true, risen, conquering King. He came to destroy the devil’s work in our lives. He is just waiting for us to surrender to Him.
We have an enemy. He will attack us. He will attack you. He will attack your family. He will attack our church. We saw in Revelation 12 how the dragon pursued and tried to destroy those who love Jesus.
But we don’t have to be afraid. We need to remember what Moses said in the book of Deuteronomy. “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” (Deuteronomy 3:22, NIV)
We are not alone in our fight against our enemy. Our God is fighting for us. Our God has already defeated Satan, and our God will be the one who will eventually sentence Satan to hell for all eternity. Isn’t it amazing to know that this same God is fighting for us?
He loves you. He fights for you. And if you don’t know Him yet, we’d love to introduce you to Him today.