As the future is revealed to John, he sees what evil looks like and communicates that to his readers, both then in the 1st Century as he’s writing and now to the Church today.
As we turn the page and come to Revelation 12-14, we see evil more clearly.
It’s good to get a proper look of evil; it’s good to see our enemy and understand his tactics. John pulls back the veil and we see Satan for who he is—the destroyer, the thief, the deceiver, the corrupter of Christ’s Church.
Our text for the day begins with the mostly untold Christmas story:
1 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. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 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. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 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.
There was a war that first Christmas Day—long before Christmas, in fact, and continuing today.
Satan Wants to Destroy Christ and Christ’s Church
Satan Wants to Destroy Christ and Christ’s Church
That’s the picture here in Revelation 12. Satan, that great dragon, the adversary of God, the Enemy of God’s people—wants to destroy Christ and the Church.
John envisions this as a battle between a dragon and the child and a woman.
Who are these characters? It’s pretty simple, mostly. The child is obviously Jesus (the reference to Psalm 2 makes clear the child is the Messiah).
In verse 9 of Revelation 12, John tells us who the dragon is: the great dragon—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.
I love it when John tells us exactly the meaning of what he sees.
Then, there’s the woman. As our good buddy Matt Proctor puts it: “She’s too big to be little Mary.”
There are six or seven theories, but instead of getting into each of those, let me tell you what the majority of reputable scholars believe: the woman symbolizes “Israel”, both old and new—the people of God.
Jesus came from “Israel”; He descended from the line of Judah. In that way, he is the offspring of the people of God.
Satan did his level-best to destroy Christ, and likely thought he had beaten Jesus when Jesus died on the cross. But then, God raised Jesus from the dead, seated Him on the throne, and gave Him the rule over all nations.
Satan wants to destroy Christ, but can’t. The Church, the “New Israel” is protected by and taken care of by God.
We are in a spiritual war. We have an unseen enemy bent on our destruction; war breaks out.
7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 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.
Our enemy prowls about, looking for someone to destroy. Evil is lurking, but evil is not the most powerful force there is (he [the dragon/Satan] was not strong enough); Satan is hurled down to the earth.
The lesson is this: Satan is not omni-anything. He is not omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. He is not all-anything; not all-powerful, not all-knowing, not all-present.
What we have, then, is a non-omni Satan versus an all-omni God. He has all authority, all power; He holds salvation in His hand.
10 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. 11 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. 12 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.”
He knows his time is short.
Satan’s time is short. He knows he doesn’t have forever to try to destroy Christ and Christ’s Church. There is coming a day when Satan’s evil will be contained and constrained to Hell. He will not torment or tempt Christ’s Church forever.
Just like suffering has a waning lifespan (“a little longer” re: Revelation 6:11), so, too does Satan.
This realization that his time is short angers the dragon (he is filled with fury), so he tries to attack and kill the woman.
13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. 15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.
A metaphor of the exodus becomes an image of God’s care for His Church, exposed in the wilderness yet guarded and nourished along the way.
This will last only for a time, times, and half a time—a short time. The saints will not suffer indefinitely; the power of our enemy will be cut short.
Satan longs to destroy Christ and Christ’s Church. When he can’t accomplish that, he employs another weapon: a beast that emerges from the sea to wage war on the saints in a different and very effective way.
1 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” 5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
The dragon enlists the help of three allies in his attack on Christ’s Church. With the help of this first beast, it’s made clear that
Satan Seeks to Steal our Worship
Satan Seeks to Steal our Worship
Both the dragon and the first beast have seven heads and ten horns. The point being, the beast looks suspiciously like the dragon. I don’t think this points to one person, one Antichrist, but rather to a number of people and systems throughout history.
The dragon, and now the first beast, has power and authority. And people tend to follow power and authority.
The world will follow and worship the beast and the dragon. Verse 4: people worshiped the dragon…they also worshiped the beast.
Satan and his minions want our worship for themselves; they hate that Christians worship the Triune God. They will do all they can to rob our worship away from the only One who deserves it.
In the time John was writing this, the people were worshiping the Roman emperor; giving their worship, pledging their allegiance to godless government. People would profess, “Caesar is Lord!” or “Hail, Domitian!” or “Nero, Nero, he’s our guy!”
We can think it’s crazy, but we’re not too far from it. If the person or party in office now isn’t your thing, just wait until the next cycle and see if you find yourself worshipping them, giving your heart and energy to them, finding your thoughts consumed by them.
Whose name can be found on our bumper stickers, shirts, hats, flags?
It doesn’t really matter who it might be; it’s one of Satan’s schemes to steal away your worship from the Only One who deserves it. If that ancient serpent can get Christ’s Church worshipping Nero or Domitian or Bush or Obama or Trump, he’s done what he has set out to do.
Revelation 13:10 (NIV)
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.
The answer to evil is patient endurance on our part and continued, grace-empowered faithfulness. We will not bow the knee to Caesar, to country, to anyone but the Triune God.
We must endure evil in the now. We must remain faithful to Him in this present evil age.
Satan continues to scheme and employ whatever tactic he can.
11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.
Another beast bursts on the scene, trying to imitate the Lamb. This beast tries to get inhabitants of the world to worship first beast.
Satan Attempts to Deceive the Church
Satan Attempts to Deceive the Church
Verse 14 is clear: [the beast] deceived the inhabitants of the earth. In verse 11, what John says highlights the deception: It had two horns like a lamb.
This beast is trying to imitate the true Lamb. It deceives. In Revelation 19, this beast is called “the false prophet”.
Verse 13, the beast performs great signs, like the Lamb in an effort to get followers of the Lamb to follow it.
In Rome, there was an imperial cult and an entire pantheon of gods. They would strictly deny that there was One God, One Savior.
Satan will use every trick up his sleeve to deceive the Church. Satan uses false religions to enslave billions of people through deceptive systems like Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, animism, the occult, secular humanism. Any false philosophy will work.
His deception may take the shape of many commonly held beliefs today:
“You can earn your way to heaven.”
“All religions lead to the same place.”
“There is no God.”
“God doesn’t love you and could never forgive you.”
“God just wants you to be happy.”
It’s deception at its finest. One of Satan’s clever tricks is to use this revelation of John to deceive. Let me explain what I mean.
Verses 16-18 are one of the main reasons we wanted to go over the book of Revelation.
“The Mark of the Beast” has been co-opted and applied to whatever political or cultural moment people feel is necessary.
Everyone jumps to label something “the mark of the beast” just as soon as they can, especially if they don’t understand it, and especially if it happens to be one of their boogeymen.
When Apple computers came out, there was speculation that its logo was the mark of the best. It is a partially-eaten apple. Adam and Eve, anyone?
Most recently, the belief is that the Covid-19 vaccinations are the mark of the beast. Have you heard this?
No serious student of the Bible believes anything of the sort. In fact, most people positing silly theories like that, I’m convinced, have never really read Revelation.
The mark of the beast isn’t a microchip or a tattoo or a vaccine or anything else particular to our current cultural moment.
I hate to break it to you: the mark of the beast is not that provocative or controversial.
Revelation 13:17 gives us a clue as to what it is. Look:
17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
The mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
What’s the mark of the beast? It’s his name. What’s his name? BEAST. That’s the only name used for the beast in the text.
Take the word beast (therion) and transliterate it into Hebrew, and take each Hebrew letter with its associated number, then add up all the numbers to therion, guess what it equals? 666.
There it is.
Now look at Revelation 14.
1 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
Some people have the mark of the beast; others have the mark of the Lamb and God.
Now, take the Greek word for Lamb (arnion) and the word for God (theos), put those into Hebrew, add up the number associated with each letter, guess what it equals? 777.
There are two marks mentioned in Revelation: the mark of the beast and the mark of the Lamb.
The opposite of the mark of the beast is the name of Jesus and the name of God written on the foreheads of their people.
What does all this mean? Is the mark an actual mark? I don’t know. I don’t it’s necessarily so. I believe it’s is a matter of belonging.
To whom do you belong? To the beast, to Satan? Or to the Lamb and to His Father?
It’s a matter of belonging; I really think that’s all we need to know.
The question is: who do you worship?
Who you worship should be as clear as if it were branded right on your forehead.
The options are clear: the Lamb or the Dragon; God or the serpent.
Don’t be deceived by the world’s false way of behaving or thinking. People will label whatever they want as the mark of the beast. Don’t go along with any of that foolishness.
It’s a matter of belonging. To whom do you belong?
Satan and his minions love to deceive. They want to deceive you. They want to deceive us. Don’t let them.
6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Fear God and worship Him. That’s the call. That’s what we are meant for. Fear God and worship Him—not anyone or anything else.
In Revelation 14:8 we find a third pawn of Satan—Babylon the Great.
8 A second angel followed and said, “ ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”
Satan Tries to Corrupt the Church
Satan Tries to Corrupt the Church
She’s given deeper explanation in Revelation 17-18 where she’s referred to as “the great prostitute.”
She represents a hedonistic lifestyle—a pleasure-seeking, selfish, self-indulgent lifestyle; a life characterized by moral corruption.
All of this could be found within Roman culture of the 1st Century. Every bit of it can be found today, right here at home.
In Revelation 17-18, the prostitute succeeds in business, acquires luxuries, gets drunk, goes after sexual pleasure, finds power and fame. She is all about herself.
The culture around us—society’s collective education, art, music, entertainment, social activity—every bit of it shapes us.
The television you watch, the computer you stare at, the phone that notifies you and grabs your attention 300 times a day—that’s a pretty clever satanic scheme.
It’s his work, gradually seducing us into selfish, pleasure-seeking, goodness-corrupting bad habits.
Greed. Sexual promiscuity. Crude humor. Vanity. Self. When these become the cultural norms, he wins.
Right now, in our culture, the score is in his favor.
Our culture is corrupt, and culture has infiltrated the church. Maybe culture even controls the church. It’s a “Me! Me! Mine!” world; the church isn’t much different...
Satan will do whatever he can, everything within his limited power to corrupt the church.
C.S. Lewis writes: “The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turns, without signposts.”
The culture which looks so attractive is actually a cheap, diseased streetwalker, and the devil is her pimp.
It’s good to see evil more clearly, to see Satan and his schemes so that we are not unaware. John pulls back the curtain for us and grants us a viewing behind the stage.
Satan wants to destroy us, steal our worship, deceive us, and corrupt us.
And, in many ways, he succeeds. But not ultimately.
We must endure, faithfully, and trust that neither Satan and his schemes, nor the gates of hell, will ever defeat or destroy the Church that belongs to Jesus Christ.
Those who are in Christ are pure, blameless, and faithful to the end, just as John sees:
1 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5 No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.
It’s a beautiful picture of belonging. Those who belong to Jesus are marked by Him. They are redeemed. They are, because of the blood the Lamb, pure and undefiled and blameless.
This is what Jesus does for His own. Satan’s schemes are no match for the Lord. From Him comes the endurance and the grace to overcome whatever befalls or confronts us.
A really important question to ask yourself this week: to whom do I belong?
There are only two possible answers: to Satan or to Jesus.