Revelation is a notoriously challenging book of the Bible, but like the rest of Scripture, it was written for our edification. Much of it is written in highly symbolic language, but it was written to “reveal” the truth not confuse or obscure it. One of the interpretive keys comes at the very beginning: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God have unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass… Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear… for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:1, 3).
What John saw in the Revelation was an apocalyptic vision of things that had happened or were about to happen in the first century. We noted last week that what Jesus described as the end of the world was the end of the Old Covenant world and the inauguration of a New Heavens and New Earth upon His Ascension. Likewise, here we see another angle on the same events: the defeat of Satan and His kingdom by the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feed, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered…”
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
John sees two signs in Heaven: first a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head (Rev. 12:1). Like Joseph’s dream, this woman represents Israel, from Eve to Mary, travailing in birth (Rev. 12:2), and she is being threatened by the second sign: a dragon standing before the woman waiting to devour her child (Rev. 12:3-4). This reminds us of Herod and the slaughter of the innocents. The child that is born is Jesus: the man who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 12:5, cf. Ps. 2), and He is caught up to Heaven to God (Rev. 12:5). While the woman flees into the desert, a war breaks out in heaven, and Michael and his angels fight and defeat and cast out the great red dragon, who is that old serpent from the Garden of Eden, the Devil and Satan (Rev. 12:6-9). When this happens, John hears a loud voice announcing that salvation and the kingdom of God and of His Christ is come because the Accuser has been cast down to earth where he is overcome by the saints by the blood of the Lamb and their testimony (Rev. 12:10-11).
THE ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN
This text together with others implies that before Christ came Satan (meaning “Accuser”) enjoyed far greater power, and in particular, access to heaven to accuse the brethren before God night and day (Rev. 12:10). We see this in the book of Job, where Satan is in heaven accusing Job of only serving God because God has blessed him (Job 1:9-10).
But at the Ascension of Jesus, the power of the Accuser was destroyed and he was cast down out of Heaven. How did this happen? The power of Satan the Dragon is the power of death: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). Why do sinners fear death and why are they in bondage? Because “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 8:23). Guilty sinners know that they deserve death, but Christ came to deliver sinners by paying for their sin and forgiving them, so that they no longer fear death and Satan has no power over them: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:13-15).
THE JUDGMENT OF THIS WORLD
This cosmic change cannot be underestimated. Jesus described this shift as the “judgment of this world”: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die” (Jn. 12:31-33). Likewise: “And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house” (Mk. 3:26-27). This is exactly what Jesus came to do, and He did, beginning with sending out the 70 evangelists during His earthly ministry: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Lk. 10:17-19).
In Daniel, an angel describes angelic beings over nations (e.g. the “prince of Persia” and the “prince of Greece”), and how Michael “your prince” (“one of the chief princes”) fought with them (Dan. 10:13-21). This suggests that in the Old Covenant world, angels and demons played a far more significant role in international politics, but with the coming of Jesus, the “principalities and powers” have been spoiled. Because Christ is on the throne, those who reign with Him will judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3). Whether the war in heaven that John saw is symbolic of the earthly ministry of Jesus or it is the heavenly parallel of the same events, the point is the same: Satan has been cast down, significantly bound, and His power of accusation is greatly diminished because of the blood of the Lamb. Jesus has taken captivity captive (Eph. 4:8).
So what does this mean for us? Satan has been cast down to earth where he can still make some havoc. He can and does prowl about like a lion (1 Pet. 5:8), but because of Christ, he is a wounded and shackled lion and his lies and accusations can be overcome by the blood of the Lamb.
This is why Paul tells the Romans that they can expect the God of peace to “crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20). Because of Christmas, we live in a new world: “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.”