Revelation 12 - The Defeated Dragon

Unveiled Hope: The Reigning Christ of Revelation  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:43
0 ratings

Satan's attacks cannot prevail against God's people



As we move into Chapter 12 of Revelation this week, we have passed the halfway mark of the book. Think for a moment of all the things we’ve seen, and all of the powerful images of seals and trumpets and plagues and angels and elders and living creatures—and of course, through all of it, the depiction of Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb who was slain, holding the universal authority of His kingship over “every tribe, tongue, people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). But there is one character in this great drama that we haven’t seen yet—Satan himself. We have seen Satanically inspired evil so far in our study (in Chapter 9, for instance), but here we are in the second half of the book before Satan himself even makes an appearance!
This is instructive for us, because we tend to have a perception of Revelation as a book that describes the desolation and destruction of the earth during a titanic clash between God and Satan. The popular depiction of Revelation is that it is an account of how Satan will triumph over the world in the end times—he is eventually conquered in Chapter 20, but throughout the other 19 chapters he runs roughshod over the whole world with blood, fire and destruction.
And there are many Christians who read this book—faithful Christians who love Jesus—who believe that this book is a description of the ultimate failure of the Gospel in this world and the eventual victory of Satan in the end times. And that the message of Revelation is that Jesus Christ will someday come and rescue the failed and helpless church that is at the mercy of Satan in his last-days ascendancy.
But as we have been carefully reminding ourselves through this study, the book of Revelation is not a revelation of Satan and his power—it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and His power and authority in judgment! Have these last eleven chapters been a record of the destructive power of Satan’s evil?No, of course not! Just the opposite! Through the entire book to this point we have seen, over and over, the judgment of the reigning Christ on His enemies! It is Christ’s power and authority by which the seals are broken and the trumpets are sounded and (as we will see) the bowls of judgment are poured out on the generation of Jews that rejected Him and murdered Him.
Chapter 12 marks the first mention of Satan in this book—and when he finally makes his appearance, it is as a defeated, powerless foe. What I aim to show you this morning in this chapter is that Satan, for all of his power and rage and wicked destruction, is depicted in Revelation as a loser. He does not win any of the battles that he fights in Revelation 12—he fights and rages and tries to destroy, but none of his schemes prevail.
We really—and I mean really—need to understand this today. Because in the following chapters (such as Chapter 13 next week) talk a great deal about how Satan energizes and “gives authority” to the beast and the false prophet. So John gives us this chapter to put all of that into perspective—the authority and power that the beast and the false prophet receive are given to them by a defeated dragon! They are doomed to fail, because the power they are given is bounded and limited by God! So here in Revelation 12 John goes to great lengths to demonstrate for us that
Satan’s attacks can never prevail against the mission of God’s people
We will see here in this chapter that he fights and rages and tries to destroy—but Satan simply cannot ultimately prevail against the Church and (as we saw last week) its mission to proclaim our testimony of Jesus to this world.
Revelation 12 takes place between the last trumpet judgment (that we saw last week) and the beginning of the final seven judgments (the bowls) in Chapter 16. There is a pattern to the rhythm of the judgments in Revelation—between each set of judgments on the people who reject the reign of Christ there are descriptions of God’s care for and protection of the people who worship Christ.
In Chapter 6 the seals are broken, and then in Chapter 7 the believers are sealed with the mark of the Lamb. In Chapter 8 the prayers of the believers are heard, and then from 8:6 - Chapter 9, six of the trumpets are blown and demonic judgments fall on the wicked. Then in Chapters 10-12 the focus shifts back to God’s faithfulness to His people, keeping His promise to bring reconciliation in Chapter 10, empowering His witnesses in Chapter 11.
And here in Chapter 12 John widens the scope of his account to take in the whole sweep of God’s faithfulness and protection of His people throughout all of redemptive history in order to show that Satan has never succeeded in any of his attacks against God or His people. Verses 1-6 describe God’s faithfulness to keep His promise to bring the Messiah into the world through Israel, verses 7-12 describe Satan’s defeat at the Crucifixion of Christ, and verses 13-17 describe Satan’s fierce but futile attempts to destroy the Church in the world. At every turn, Satan is thwarted, cast down and defeated.
Look with me here at verses 1-6 of Revelation 12—we see here that

I. Satan could never stop the Messiah (Rev. 12:1-6)

Look with me at verses 1-3:
Revelation 12:1–3 ESV
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.
The chapter opens with two great “signs” in the heavens—the first is of a woman clothed with the sun and the moon at her feet wearing a crown of 12 stars, which reminds us of the Old Testament story of Joseph’s vision in Genesis 37:
Genesis 37:9 ESV
Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
Joseph’s dream was meant to show that all of the house of Israel—his father, mother and brothers—would bow down to him when he rose to power in Pharaoh’s court in Egypt. That same image appears (here with 12 stars, since Joseph is among them) as a symbol of the faithful members of the house of Israel, represented by people like Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, Nicodemus and others—those members of Israel who were faithfully waiting for the Messiah, and who recognized Him when he arrived. In verse 2 the faithful remnant of Israel gives birth to a male child who, as we learn in verse 5, “is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”—a clear reference to Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
This first great sign here shows us God’s covenant faithfulness, throughout the entire sweep of Old Testament history, to preserve a godly line within Israel—as the Apostle Paul puts it in Galatians 4,
Galatians 4:4–5 ESV
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Throughout the Old Testament we see God’s faithfulness to protect His covenant people from the nations that sought to destroy her. And the image of the “great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems” (v. 3) is meant to reassure the churches that were suffering under persecution from Rome that Satan could not stop the coming of the Messiah--
Wicked governments could not stop His arrival (Daniel 7, Psalm 2)
We learn down in verse 9 that this great dragon “is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world”. The horns and crowns of the dragon are symbols of reign and authority and power. In Daniel 7 we see visions of the kingdoms that were coming portrayed as “beasts”—the lion with eagles wings (Babylon), the bear (Persia), the leopard (Greece) and the fearsome iron-toothed beast of Rome. John is showing us that throughout history, Satan used enemy kingdoms to try to destroy Israel to prevent the Messiah from being born. But none of those wicked governments could stop God from fulfilling His promise to send the Messiah through Israel to the world.
In fact, God even used one of those wicked governments’ actions to specifically fulfill Messianic prophecy, didn’t He? The Roman Empire decreed a census in Luke 2 that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem in time to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem! Satan wanted to use that fearsome, iron-toothed beast of the Roman Empire to destroy the Messiah, but that beast wound up being used by God to fulfill His plan!
Revelation 12 introduces Satan as a defeated dragon that could not stop the Messiah—he couldn’t use wicked governments to stop His arrival, and in verse 4 we see that
Demonic evil could not stop His arrival (Rev. 12:4; Matt. 2:13-18)
Look at verses 4-5:
Revelation 12:4–5 ESV
His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,
As the dragon is “standing before the woman about to give birth”, he lashes with his tail and “swept down a third of the stars from heaven”—this is commonly understood to represent Satan taking one-third of the heavenly host of angels with him in his rebellion against God. The demonic hordes that we saw tormenting Jerusalem in Revelation 9—all of the demons that Jesus cast out, the principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this world, as Paul describes them in Ephesians 6—were all formerly angels in heaven with God, and who rebelled along with Satan.
But even all of the demonic influence of those fallen angels, inciting the hatred and violence and bloody rage of those kingdoms could not stop the Messiah from being born! I believe that’s what’s going on in the story of King Herod in Matthew 2:13-18 - we are told that Herod “became furious” when he realized the wise men left without telling him where Jesus was, and he sent and killed every male baby in Bethlehem two years old and under. This was no ordinary anger—this was a demon-possessed rage from the pit of the Abyss itself. (That is what the symbol of a “beast” represents in Revelation—a demonically-motivated ruler’s violence and rage lashing out to destroy God’s people.)
The ancient Dragon, Satan, tried to use King Herod to destroy the Messiah as soon as He was born, but that demonic evil could not stop His arrival. Satan appears here on the scene in Revelation 12, and his first attack on Christ and His kingdom fails—he was in position, he was ready to destroy the Messiah as soon as He was born—but he utterly failed to stop God’s plan. The child was “caught up to God and to His throne”—in other words, despite Satan’s best attempt, Christ was born, lived, suffered and died and rose again to the Throne Room of Heaven where he appeared to take up the scroll of His universal dominion and authority. Understand this, because it is vital—no sooner does Satan appear in the Book of Revelation, but he immediately fails.
Satan appears in Revelation as a defeated Dragon—his attacks can never prevail against the mission of God’s people. He could never stop the Messiah, and in verses 7-12 we read that

II. Satan can never accuse the brethren (Rev. 12:7-12)

Look at verses 7-9:
Revelation 12:7–9 ESV
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
We read from Old Testament passages like Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 that when Satan sinned and attempted to raise himself above God that he was cast out of Heaven. At first glance, it may seem that this is what is in view here, but I take this being “thrown down to earth” to mean something other than that initial expulsion from Heaven.
And the reason that I want to say that is because in the Old Testament we still see Satan appearing in Heaven after his fall from grace. In the Book of Job we see the angels coming and appearing before God in the Throne Room of Heaven, and Satan appearing with them to accuse Job before the LORD. He has been “cast out” of Heaven, but he is still permitted to appear before God to accuse God’s people.
But that all changes after Jesus returns to Heaven here in Revelation 12, doesn’t it? After Jesus completes His work of death, burial and resurrection, what happens? Rev. 12:8 says that Satan “was defeated, and there was no longer ANY place for them in Heaven”.
Jesus says this very thing on the night before He was crucified, in John 12:31-32:
John 12:31–32 ESV
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
When Jesus was lifted up on that Cross and shed His blood for the forgiveness of the sins of His people, it took away our condemnation with it! Satan can never accuse believers of sin, because
He has been conquered by the blood of the Lamb (Col. 2:14-15)
As the Apostle Paul puts it in Colossians 2, Jesus saved us
Colossians 2:14–15 ESV
by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Satan no longer has “any place”—no standing to accuse believers of sin, because Jesus has removed all condemnation! That is what verses 10-11 of our text tell us:
Revelation 12:10–11 ESV
And 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 brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Satan can no longer “accuse believers day and night before God!” He has been thrown down, and there is no longer any place for him to stand in the presence of God to accuse you! These verses tell us that Satan can never accuse the brethren now because
He has been disbarred from the courtroom of Heaven (Job 1:6-12; John 12:31-32)
He can stand around on the sidewalk outside the courthouse all day long yelling accusations at you, Christian—but he can never appear before the Throne to formally charge you ever again! Because when you have been sealed by the mark of the Lamb and have been washed with His atoning blood—when you have trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and your eternal life in Heaven, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for you who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1)! He has cancelled your debt forever, and Satan can yell and scream and accuse you all he wants, but he is no longer permitted to approach the Throne with his accusations! And so this is part of why we pray, “thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”—Satan’s accusations are inadmissible in the Throne Room of Heaven, and so we affirm that his accusations carry no weight with us either!
Satan appears here in Revelation 12 as a defeated dragon—his attacks can never prevail against the mission of God’s people. He could never stop the Messiah, he can never accuse the brethren, and in verses 13-17 we read that

III. Satan will never defeat the church (Rev. 12:13-17)

Look at verses 13-14:
Revelation 12:13–14 ESV
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.
Verses 13-17 describe Satan’s attempts after the resurrection of Christ to “destroy the woman who had given birth to the male child”—and I think what is in view here is Satan’s attacks on the faithful remnant of Israel embodied in the church. In Acts 2 we see the birth of the Church through Peter’s preaching to the “men of Israel”, over three thousand of whom placed their faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ and were saved. And elsewhere in the New Testament the Apostle Paul goes to great lengths—in Romans 10 and Galatians 4 and Ephesians 2 to demonstrate that every believer, Jew or Gentile, is now included in the New Covenant people of God—the New Israel.
And so the Dragon, since he could no longer accuse the brethren in Heaven, began to persecute the Church on earth. In verses 6 and 14 we read that the woman “flees into the wilderness” to escape the destruction coming from the dragon for “1,260 days” (v. 6) or “a time, times and half a time” (v.14). The Roman persecution of Christians under Nero lasted three and a half years, and that might be what’s in view here, but I think (and there is no shortage of commentators and preachers saying “I think...” here in these verses!)—but I think that this is a reference to the Christians who escaped Jerusalem before the destruction of the city in A.D. 70.
Historians tell us that in A.D. 66 rioting broke out in Galilee that soon engulfed the whole country, as the Jews protested the monstrously high taxation rates that Rome was levying on the land. At one point the Roman prefect ordered Roman Legionnaires to breach the Temple complex and confiscate 17 talents of silver from the Temple treasury to send to the Emperor. The situation deteriorated so severely that eventually the 12th Legion (the Syrian Legion) was deployed to temporarily encamp around Jerusalem.
Church historians tell us that around this time the Jerusalem Christians all left Jerusalem and crossed the Jordan into the “wilderness” outside the land, coming to a city in the Decapolis called Pella, where they stayed until the destruction of Jerusalem three and a half years later in A.D. 70. And I believe that the Christians left Jerusalem because of what Jesus prophesied in Luke 21:20-22:
Luke 21:20–22 ESV
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.
I think that the Jerusalem Christians saw the 12th Syrian Legion encamped around Jerusalem in the fall of A.D. 66, and after the troops withdrew they got out of Jerusalem and escaped “into the mountains” across the Jordan River (the boundary of “The Land”) into the wilderness of the Decapolis, where they were protected for three and a half years until the fall of the city in A.D. 70. The Dragon Satan tried to use the iron-toothed Beast of Rome to destroy the faithful remnant of Israel, the Church—but she escaped from his wrath after she saw Jesus’ words fulfilled and obeyed His command to flee.
Satan will never defeat the church because
She holds to the testimony of Jesus (Luke 21:20-22)
When the Church hears and obeys the voice of Christ in His Word, when she believes and obeys His Word, she can never be defeated! Church, do you want to escape the rage and hatred of the Satanic opposition to Christ that you see in the authorities arrayed against you today? Then hold to the testimony of Christ in His Word! This is not a time to set aside His Word in order to appease the Dragon! If the Jerusalem Church had seen the armies encamped around Jerusalem and said, “Well, I know Jesus said that when we saw that sign we should leave, but that’s just too radical—surely things will get better if we just keep our heads down and ride it out!”, then they would have been destroyed in the siege and destruction of the city. But they held to the testimony of Christ, and He delivered them!
Satan will never defeat the church as she holds to the testimony of Jesus, and Satan will never defeat the church when
She battles with her testimony about Jesus (Matt. 16:18; 2 Cor. 10:3-5)
When He was preparing to enter Jerusalem to die, Jesus took His disciples to the base of Mount Hermon, the mountain that ancient tradition said was the place where the demons who were swept out of Heaven first landed on earth. He took them to a cave at the base of the mountain that was said to be a gateway to Sheol, the underworld. And while they were standing there, Jesus asks who the disciples think He is—Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 18:16). Jesus answers,
Matthew 16:18 ESV
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Standing there before the cave called “the Gates of Sheol”, Jesus said that Peter’s testimony of who He is is the foundation of the Church, and “the gates of Hell will not stand against it”!
Beloved, this is the weapon by which the Church will conquer—the testimony that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God in the flesh! Satan may be making war on the offspring of the woman—to this day he is fighting and raging against “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17). He rages in his great wrath because “he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12)—he knows that he is defeated!
Satan’s attacks can never prevail against the mission of God’s people, the Church—he was powerless to stop the Messiah from coming. He possessed kingdom after kingdom, sending beast after beast against God’s chosen people Israel to disrupt and destroy the line of the Messiah, and he failed. He possessed King Herod with demonically-driven rage to murder hundreds of innocent children to try to stop the Messiah, but he failed. And whatever government or authority or parliament or Congress or court he tries to use to destroy the Church today is doomed to fail as well.
Satan may cause untold pain and suffering and hardship and even bloodshed through the “beastly” rulers of this world, but he will never stop the Church from completing her mission, because the Church “conquers him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony when they love not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11)! A Church that is not afraid to die for the sake of the Gospel is a church that will conquer Satan!
Satan’s attacks can never prevail against the mission of God’s people, the Church—he is powerless to accuse the brethren before God. He rages against you, Christian—he accuses you of your past guilt, he attacks you over your present battles with sin, he tells you you are a failure and that God is rejecting you and that you are a failure as a Christian, he throws temptation after temptation at you, telling you “it won’t matter just this once” and then piles on you with guilt and accusation when you succumb.
But never forget, beloved—Satan is a disbarred, disgraced and fired prosecutor! He can never again bring formal charges against you, because Jesus Christ now stands in the Throne Room of Heaven defending you! Satan has been reduced to standing on the sidewalk across the street from the courthouse, yelling insults and threats that he has no ability to make stick! So go ahead and remind him of that next time he tries to accuse you! A Church that claims the blood of Christ and rejects the accusations and slanders of Satan is a church that will conquer Satan!
Satan’s attacks can never prevail against the mission of God’s people, the Church—he is powerless to stand against the testimony of the Church that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God! The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5,
2 Corinthians 10:3–5 ESV
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
A church that declares the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its worship, its teaching, its witness—a church that does not cower before the world’s arguments but destroys them, a church that does not abandon the clear teaching of the Word of God but celebrates it, a church that does not apologize for its beliefs but insists on them, is a church that Satan can never defeat! A church that takes up the weapons of Gospel worship every week—magnifying the Gospel and proclaiming our testimony of Christ in the songs that we sing and the prayers that we offer and the preaching that we proclaim and the bread and the cup that we share and the baptisms we celebrate—that is a church that terrifies Satan, because it is a church that is taking up a battering-ram of worship that will destroy the gates of Satan’s stronghold!
Christian, the Dragon is bringing all sorts of “woe” on the earth right now as he pursues the faithful children of God, the Church. But make no mistake—he cannot succeed! He appears here in Revelation as an outmaneuvered, outgunned, outwitted loser—as bad as he can make it here in this world, his time is short, and he has already been conquered by the blood that flowed from the Cross to wash away the sins of God’s people! So go out there to a world that needs to hear the Good News of how that Blood can wash away every sin and stain and shut the accusing mouth of that ancient Serpent once and for all! You bear a message that cannot fail, you serve a God who has utterly conquered! So go and invite this poor, sin-enslaved world to come—and welcome!—to Jesus Christ!
Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.


What is the significance of Satan appearing with “horns” and “crowns” in this vision? How has the devil used kingdoms and governments to try to thwart God’s purposes throughout history? What are some ways that you see Satan’s influence on governments in the world today?
Read John 12:31-32. What does it mean that Satan was “cast out” when Jesus was “lifted up” on the Cross? How has Satan’s position before God changed since Jesus’ crucifixion? What encouragement does that give you as you battle with temptation, guilt and sin?
Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 again. This week, take inventory of the way you think about yourself, about God, about others—ask God to show you where you need to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” so that you are faithful to keep His commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more