Good morning everybody. Let’s take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 12 taking a look this morning at verses 1-5. The title of our message this morning is The Long Invisible War Against Christ. We have been working our way through the Book of Revelation verse by verse. We have studied very carefully the different judgments that will come upon the earth, most recently the trumpet judgments and we’ve studied those in detail, last week having taken a look at the seventh trumpet. The seventh trumpet judgment is very interesting because it’s really not a judgment, it’s more of an announcement as to what is happening. The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. What is happening as we have studied in the Book of Revelation is the authority of this world under Satan’s domain, a legal transfer is taking place. And so that transfer is described, we saw it last week, heaven praises the Lord and then there’s an anticipation of things to come.
One of the things that we have taught as we have worked our way through the Book of Revelation is that generally speaking the Book of Revelation is chronological. That’s why it says first trumpet, second trumpet, third trumped, etc. In other words, these events are meant to be understood in chronological order, much like you would understand the plagues in the Book of Exodus, plague one, plague two, plague three, etc. However, what makes it sort of confusing is when you hit a six in a series there’s a gap, or a break, or a pause in the action. And it typically stops the chronology to describe something more in depth that’s happening. So there’s a gap in between seal six and seal seventh, trumpet six and trumpet seven, bowl six and bowl seven. And what I’ve told you is the truth but it’s just not the complete truth.
And the reason I haven’t told you everything is I didn’t want to discourage you out of the gate thinking that you can’t understand this book because of so many details. But there are two more breaks in the action. One occurs, and we are starting to look at it now, chapters 12-14, after trumpet seven. And there’s going to be another one after golden bowl of wrath judgment number seven, Revelation 17 and 18, the fall of Babylon. So if you can just remember when you hit a six in a series there’s a break, that helps you understand non-chronological parenthetical insertion number one, number two and number four. So far so good, right? And then just remember there’s one more at the end of the trumpets, that’s number three there, and one more at the end of the bowls, what’s number five there.
That’s probably more information than what you were looking for on a Sunday morning but I’ll try to make reference to this as we progress because I really want to walk away with a sense that the Book of Revelation is something that God wants us to understand. A lot of believers just kind of throw up their hands, it’s too complicated, and yet if you know a few rules it’s not as complicated as everybody makes it out to be.
So the trumpet judgments are over and we are now into another break in the action, chapters 12-14, and it consists of three things: Israel’s flight into the wilderness, chapter 12, the two beasts, chapter 13, and six scenes of hope, chapter 14. And why are all of these things happening? Satan is not just going to sit back and allow this legal transfer to happen. Satan, ever since Genesis 3 has enjoyed ruling this world as he will continue to do so until these events happen. And when this announcement is given that “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ…” Satan is going to say, much like Saul said when it was apparent that Saul had lost the anointing to rule the nation and David had been anointed as the next king, Saul went out to destroy David to prevent him from coming to the throne.
That’s what Satan’s doing in chapter 12, 13 and 14. He is, number one, attacking the nation of Israel, Revelation 12, the nation through which the kingdom will come. He is, Revelation 13, using two human beings, the two beasts, to do his bidding, Revelation 13. And just so you don’t think that all hope is lost and God has somehow lost control of things we have chapter 14 which is a counterbalancing chapter which shows us through six scenes of hope that God is still very much in control. And so that’s sort of how all of this fits together as we move this morning into Revelation chapter 12, taking a look at Israel’s flight and Satan’s hatred for the Jewish people.
And one of the things I love about chapter 12 is it reveals the reality of the fallen angelic world. This chapter as a whole is going to reveal Satan’s great hatred for the Jewish people but more generally it reveals to us the reality of the fallen angelic world. The fact of the matter is the moment you place your personal faith in Christ as your Savior is the moment you inherit three enemies you didn’t have before, and you say to yourself well, I don’t want any enemies when the reality is you’ve got three as a Christian. And sometimes they play tandem on you and team up on you. Those enemies are number one, the flesh or the fallen nature. Have you noticed that just because you’re a Christian your fallen nature and it’s appetites didn’t just disappear? Can I get an “amen” on that? I was wondering if I was preaching to the right crowd here this morning. [Laughter]
And we are to apply the resources of God, reckon the old man dead and live according to the new nature but the desires of the old nature will always be there until your dying day or until the rapture, whichever comes first. The second enemy you face as a Christian is the world system in which you live, its systems of philosophies which are anti-God. 1 John 2:15 and following describe it as lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. [1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [16,] “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”] Simply living in the world reminds us of our need to have our minds renewed constantly in the Word because the world system will exert pressure on you constantly as a Christian to get you to adopt its way of thinking. And then of course the third enemy you face is Satan himself and his demons.
It was Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse who years ago wrote a book and I believe the title of this book is called The Invisible War. And I love the title of the book because it describes the fallen angelic kingdom that we are constantly in conflict with and yet many times don’t even realize it. The things that are happening in the physical world oftentimes are dictated by an invisible angelic conflict between the good angels and the fallen angels. Just ask Job about that some time when you get to heaven; Job lost everything except for his wife who said “curse God and die.” And he probably thought I wish I’d lost her as well. And it was all predicated based on a conversation between God and Satan that God knew nothing about.
Or you take 2 Kings 6:15-17 where Elisha is with the servant and the servant is complaining and saying the enemy has surrounded us. And Elisha says to the servant, don’t worry, “those that are with us are more than those that are with them.” And the servant was puzzled by that statement and Elisha prayed for his eyes to be opened and for an instant he could see into the invisible angelic world and he could see the mountains and the mountainside filled with armies and chariots.
Or take for example 1 Chronicles 21:1 where David apparently had an idea to number the troops of Israel, [1 Chronicles 21:1, “Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.”] That’s not something God wanted because God wanted David to trust God and not his physical armaments. And we learn in that passage that it was Satan that implanted that idea into David’s mind and moved David to number the troops of Israel. David probably thought it was his idea but we learn there it wasn’t, it was the devil’s idea.
Take for example Daniel 10:12-13 and verse 20 where Daniel is praying and he doesn’t get an answer to his prayer for 21 days or three weeks. [Daniel 10:12-13, “Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words.  But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.  Then he said, “Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come.”]
And finally an angel is dispatched from heaven to explain to Daniel why there was this delay and the answer to the prayer request and it had to do with the angel dispatched from heaven, who I think would probably be Gabriel, was fought by a demon over the Prince of Persia and over the Prince of Greece and they duked it out for 21 days. Another angel had to be dispatched to help Gabriel and finally the initial angel got through and answered Daniel’s prayer request after a three week conflict that Daniel didn’t understand the delay. If you wonder why your prayer requests aren’t answered immediately look at Daniel 10, it’s very interesting. Then the angel says I’ve got to fight my way back out, just like I fought my way in.
Or you have this statement by Peter in Matthew 16:21 and 23 where Jesus at Caesarea Philippi says He’s got to go to the cross and die and Peter basically says that’s not going to happen to You. And he took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. Can you imagine rebuking God? And Jesus looked at Peter and saw the angelic force motivating Peter’s thoughts and statement and said “Get behind Me,” you know the rest, Get behind Me Satan.” [Matthew 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.  Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”  But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
Or what about Luke 22:31-32 where Jesus made a statement to Peter one day. He said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has requested permission to sift each of you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you….” How would you like the Lord to tell you that one day, that there’s conversations in heaven right now happening about you. You say well I’m glad, that’s all gospel stuff and Old Testament stuff, I’m glad that doesn’t apply to us. Well, are you so sure about that? Why would Paul say in Ephesians 6:12, “we wrestle not against” what? “flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and rulers of this dark world.” [Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”]
If you want to see evidence of it in your life try to do something for God. Step out in obedience and do something for God and you’ll find conflict coming at you from the most unlikeliest of sources.
So there are certain chapters in the Bible, like Revelation chapter 12, that pull back the curtain and allow us to see as mere mortals this invisible spiritual conflict. That’s why I love Revelation chapter 12. I also love Revelation chapter 12 because it reveals the two strategies of Satan. Are you familiar with the strategies of Satan? You know, in my basketball days we would, when we were getting ready to watch the NCAA championship tomorrow, March madness and all of that kind of thing, I never really understood why they call it March madness when the championship game is in April but I’m not going to complain about it. But anyway, you watch the game shows, the game time shows and the commentators and the teams and how they’re always talking about strategies between the two teams. And when I played basketball we used to watch countless tapes, these were back in the days of VHS recordings, now young people don’t know what that is anymore, but there were these black things with reels on it that you would stick into a TV and watch and we would watch all of these recordings of the other team playing to understand their strategy.
Have you become familiar with the strategies of Satan? Paul, the apostle, says, “so that no advantage will be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” [2 Corinthians 2:11, “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.] Apparently he has schemes. Paul says I am “not ignorant of his schemes.” Are you ignorant of his schemes? Do you know how he operates against you. The Bible has a lot to say about that. And Revelation 12 reveals the two strategies of Satan. These are two things that he does to prevent God’s work from happening. He believes, Satan does, in what we call preemptive strikes meaning I will take you out before you take me out. That’s how Satan thinks.
You remember when we were afraid of WMD’s, Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, not too long ago. So a conglomeration of nations went in and did what they thought was a preemptive strike on Iraq, we’re going to take you out before you build these WMD’s and take us out. That’s what you call a preemptive attack. And you say to yourself, well Satan is not very bright is he, because how can you stop God? The misconception is people think that Satan is rational, that he thinks logically. He does not think logically. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of” what? “wisdom.” [Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”]
Intellect works correctly when it’s in submission to God. Humans have an intellect, the angelic world, Satan himself has an intellect and look what happened to Satan’s intellect in Ezekiel 28:16, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.” You’re dealing with a being that is not logical, he is not rational, but he thinks in his darkened mind and understanding, which is not in submission to God, that he can stop God.
Revelation 12 reveals the two preemptive strategies that he’s used. The first is a past strategy that in the past has failed revolving around the first coming or the first advent of Jesus Christ. That’s the strategy we’re going to look at this morning as we take a look at verses 1-5. Now that that strategy has failed he’s got a second strategy. That second strategy is described in verses 6-17, it’s a present and a future strategy revolving around the nation of Israel yet to fail in the events surrounding not the first coming of Christ but the second coming of Christ. And we’ll get into that when we study those verses next week.
And I think the reason John brings up verses 1-5 is this vision given to him from God is simply to demonstrate Satan here is working to stop God’s kingdom program from materializing. He’s reacting against the transfer legally that’s happened with the seventh trumpet judgment. And the point of verses 1-5 is that should not surprise us because this is what Satan has always done. He’s always worked in history to stop God’s plan and program from happening.
So let’s take a look, with that background in mind, at Revelation chapter 12, verses 1-5, and notice what it ways. Revelation 12:1-5, “A great sign (sēmeion) appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;  and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.  Then another sign (sēmeion) appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.  And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.  And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.”
What in the world is going on here? What this is is a history lesson; it’s a revelation of strategy number one that Satan tried and it didn’t work trying to stop the birth of Jesus Christ. This is no ordinary history lesson; this is a history lesson narrated from the perspective of the angels. This is describing what was happening in the invisible realm, the invisible world, the invisible war as biblical events were happening in the physical world, because what’s happening in the invisible world dictates largely what’s happening in the physical world, it’s just we as humans can’t see it. And so we’re dependent on certain parts of the Bible to pull back the veil for us, to pull back the curtain for us to give us understanding into this invisible conflict to give us understanding in the long invisible war against Christ.
Apparently Satan has declared war on Christ for a long time, exercising strategy number one, yet to no avail. Now this is a little bit tricky to understand because obviously when you study Revelation 12:1-5 it sure doesn’t read like the Gospel of John. It sure doesn’t read like the Book of Romans. You’re dealing here with heavenly symbolic material. In fact, you’ll notice the word “sign” appears in verse 1 and verse 3 that shows us we’re dealing with symbols here. And you notice the Greek word sēmeion translated sign.
What we have just fallen into here in Revelation chapter 12 is the most symbolic chapter of the most symbolic book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. It doesn’t get more symbolic than what we’re reading here and yet there’s a very easy way to ascertain what every symbol here means. And if you follow the rules I’ll give you can figure out virtually any symbol anywhere in the Bible, anywhere in the Book of Revelation.
And what’s important to understand is all human language fits into two categories. People either speak literally, sometimes if you want a fancy name for that that’s called connotative speech. Other times they’ll speak literally, a fancy name for that is denotative speech. My wife asked me this morning, “well how’d you sleep last night?” I said “I slept great, I slept in till 8:00 a.m.” which is true, “and I slept like a log.” Now you’ll notice that in that statement I just used plain speech and figurative speech, denotative speech and connotative speech. We do this all the time. When I say I slept in till 8:00 a.m. she doesn’t say “well, what do you mean by 8:00 a.m. is that some kind of code?” Well in my case it may be but the reality of the situation is she is an inherently linguistic speaking being, as I am, she knows exactly what I mean by 8:00 a.m. Then I turn right around and I said I slept like a log and she doesn’t say well, I know our last name is Woods and so you must have turned into a piece of wood in the middle of the night? [Laughter] No, the word “like” alerts her that I’m using a figure of speech called a simile where you equate two things with like or as.
We do this all the time; the Bible written in language does this all the time. The Book of Revelation, written in language, does this all the time. And the danger is mistaking something for literal speech that’s meant to be understood figuratively or mistaking something for figurative speech that’s meant to be understood literally, and vice versa. So one time I had some coffee that I put in the microwave oven and I forgot it was there. Has that ever happened to anybody? As you get older you kind of start doing these kinds of things. You walk in a room, you can’t remember why you walked into the room and all of these sorts of things. And so the coffee is in the microwave oven and it’s boiling over and I just went into my office in the house there and forgot it was there and my wife yells out to me “Honey, your cup is running over.” And I said “yeah, you’re right, I’m very blessed and my cup is running over.” She said “no, your cup is running over.” In other words, I was misunderstanding her thinking she was giving a figure of speech when she was meant to be understood literally.
And sometimes I’ll go into our closet and try to figure out what I’m going to wear and one time were getting late and she yelled out to me, “you need to come out of the closet,” and I thought [laughter] what in the world is she talking about, “come out of the closet.” So you can see how many times you can miscommunicate, you understand something figuratively that’s meant to be understood literally, and vice versa. And we risk that error when we read the Bible, you risk that error when you get into heavily symbolic material like this. So how do you figure out what it means? Well, there’s obviously three symbols here; the word “sign” alerts us to that fact. You have the son, s-o-n not to be confused with the sun, s-u-n, in verse 1, son, s-o-n verse 5, and then you have a dragon, verse 3, then you have a woman clothed with the sun, s-u-n, and the sun, moon and the stars, verse 1.
So this is obviously three symbols and you need these three symbols to understand what Satan is doing related to strategy number one. So how would we figure out what these three symbols are. Well, there’s basically two rules, you follow these two rules you’ll understand every symbol in the whole Bible, you’ll understand every symbol in the Book of Revelation. The first rule is you search the immediate context because many times in the same context, usually in the same paragraph, usually in the same chapter, the symbol will be interpreted. Why does God do that? Because He doesn’t want us to rely upon our sanctified imagination to interpret His Word. You get on youtube I’ve seen some of the craziest interpretations ever on Bible prophecy because people just come to a symbol and they just dump into it any meaning they want and the don’t pay attention to the rules or the context which will usually interpret the symbol for you.
Now John Walvoord in his commentary on Revelation says this happens twenty-six times in the Book of Revelation. Well what if the immediate context doesn’t help you? Then you’ve got to go to other places of the Bible; with the Book of Revelation you’ve got to go to the Old Testament. It is very interesting, the Book of Revelation has 404 verses in it, 278 of the 404 verses are references or allusions to the Old Testament. Robert Thomas, in his commentary on the Book of Revelation gives us that number. And the reason that the Book of Revelation is so mystical to us and it’s so foreign to us is we really haven’t studied the Old Testament. If you know a little something about the Old Testament suddenly the things in the Book of Revelation start to make sense.
With those two rules in mind let’s apply them to our three symbolic characters so we can understand this angelic history lesson, so that we can understand Satan’s past strategies that failed. The first symbol here is the Son, S-o-n, verse 5. Now any guesses as to who that would be? Look at Psalm 2:9, It says, ‘You” a Messianic Psalm, “shall break them with a rod of iron, you shall shatter them like earthenware.’” There’s one coming who will rule all the nations with a rod of iron if you know Psalm chapter 2 is a very clear reference to the Messiah or Yeshua or Jesus Christ Himself. And it’s sort of a giveaway when you go back to Revelation 12:5 where it says the son, s-o-n “was caught up to God and His throne.” [Revelation 12:5, “And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.”]
Any guesses as to when that happened in biblical history? That’s Acts 1:9, the ascension. It says, “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” If you know Acts 1:9 and you know Psalm 2:9 you know that the son, s-o-n, verse 5 is none other than Jesus Christ.
All right, well what about this second symbol here, there’s a dragon. Well, that’s not hard to decipher either because if you go down to verse 9 look at what it says, same chapter, “The great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan who deceives the whole world.” [Revelation 12:9] Notice the very end of the Book of Revelation, chapter 20, and notice if you will verse 2,notice what it says: “And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;”] There the serpent is called none other than Satan himself. So using the simple rule, search the immediate context, you know exactly who the dragon is, you don’t have to use your sanctified imagination because the Bible is its own interpreter.
The tricky one is this woman, verse 1, “clothed with the sun,” s-u-n, “the moon and the twelve stars. There are a lot of people out there that will tell you that this woman is the church. “Houston, we have a problem with that.” Why is that? Because this woman is giving birth to Jesus; the church never gave birth to Jesus! In fact, Jesus gave birth to the church. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “…I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” This is talking about an entity, whoever this woman is, giving birth to Jesus.
And by the way, if this is the church I thought the church was supposed to be a virgin bride betrothed to Christ; this lady is pregnant and I think the groom might be a little upset about that. Amen! So this can’t be the church, in fact, the word “church” isn’t even used here. Other people say well, this must be the virgin Mary; that’s probably closer to the truth but you’ll notice the word “sign” there. The virgin Mary was a literal person; what we’re studying here is a sign or a symbol for something else. And the problem is you can go through Revelation 12, you can go through the whole Book of Revelation and this woman, verse 1, clothed with the sun and the moon and the stars will never be identified anywhere in the Book of Revelation. So if that happens where do we go? To the Old Testament.
And if you know the Joseph story you start to see an immediate parallel. “Now he” that’s Joseph, “had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, ‘Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun” s-u-n, “and the moon and eleven stars” Joseph being the twelfth star “were bowing down to me.” [Genesis 37:9] Does that start to sound familiar? He related it to his father” that would be Jacob, “and to his brothers, and they said” this is great, praise the Lord that God has given us this vision. No, they were jealous of him, they “rebuked him.” And in the process of the rebuke the symbols of the dream start to get deciphered. “…rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow down ourselves before you to the ground?”
And this is what got Joseph the trade by his brothers, thrown into the pit, sold as a slave into Egypt and just pure jealousy because this vision was given to Joseph when he was seventeen years old. By the time he hits age 30 the dream is fulfilled where he’s elevated to second in command over all of Egypt and his family comes to him to find grain in the midst of famine. But you’ll notice that as this is interpreted the sun, s-u-n, who would that be? That would be Jacob, his father. The moon would be who? Leah, Jacob’s wife. What about Rachel? Rachel already died; Rachel died in Genesis 35. Jacob had two wives, right, as you know the Biblical story, this is Leah. The eleven stars would be Joseph’s brothers bowing down to Joseph, the twelfth star, twelve stars taken in whole represents the twelve tribes of Israel, Jacob’s dozen, Jacob’s sons, who became the twelve tribes.
So Genesis 37 tells us that the sun and moon and the twelve stars taken together is none other than the nation of Israel. Why is this important? This is important because many people are telling you that the Book of Revelation, it’s amazing how well I planned my sermon today, [laughter] they actually offer a class in seminary how to coordinate your teaching with weather patterns [laughter] so I worked very, very hard on this and am glad it’s bearing some fruit. So we’re going to go as long until the power kicks out and then we can’t go anymore unless you want to sit here in the dark with me screaming at you. [Laughter]
Many people are telling you today that the Book of Revelation can’t be understood. This is a view called postmodernism. The view of postmodernism is all truth is uncertain. And I usually say are you certain about that? [Laughter] Because you can be uncertain about anything except your own uncertainty. That becomes a certainty. You can be agnostic about anything except the reality of your own agnosticism. And it’s a view that says you can’t get to the truth and the post-modernists have a field day with the Book of Revelation; they say it can’t be understood.
In fact, did you know that some of the greats in church history wouldn’t touch the Book of Revelation? John Calvin, one of the most voluminous writers in church history comments through commentaries on every single book of the Bible except the two little John letters, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation, on the grounds that the Book of Revelation can’t be understood. Martin Luther, who we respect as a church performer didn’t even think the Book of Revelation should be included in the biblical canon. And so all through the centuries people have told you the Book of Revelation can’t be understood and yet isn’t it interpreting that little old me and little old you by just applying a few simple rules can understand the whole thing!
I like what Henry Morris says in his commentary. “It must be stressed that Revelation means ‘unveiling,’ not ‘veiling.’” In fact Revelation 1 gives us the title of the Book of Revelation, it’s a translation of the Greek noun apokalopsis, which means to disclose. Why would a book be called the disclosure if God didn’t want us to understand what it means?
And so what is happening here is a history lesson, rightly understood, from the angelic perspective. Now look at verse 4, right in the middle of the verse. “…and the dragon” who’s the dragon? Satan! “…and the dragon stood before the woman,” who’s the woman? Israel. “…the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child,” who’s the child? Jesus Christ.” [Revelation 12:4] What is being described here is what was happening in the spiritual world when Jesus Himself was born into our physical world.
You see, if you were simply to study Matthew’s Gospel and Matthew’s accounting of this the only thing it tells you is there was a man named Herod who was insecure over his own throne, he found out where the Christ child was going to be born and he began to kill all of the male infant Bethlehem innocent children. And that’s all Matthew 2 tells you. The Book of Revelation comes along and says let me give you that same story…same story, but let me tell you what was happening in the invisible world, in the spiritual world, as that story was unfolding in the physical world. It was actually the devil himself who was using Herod as his instrument to prevent Jesus from coming into our world.
Now when I talk to preachers or would-be preachers I say look, when it comes to Christmas time don’t give them Matthew 2 again, they’ve heard that ten thousand times, they already know the Matthew 2 story. Give them Revelation 12, that’ll be a Christmas message they’ll never forget. And essentially what this is, is it’s a divine commentary on the strategy of Satan to stop the fulfillment of the first Messianic prophecy ever given in Scripture in Genesis 3:15. Genesis 3:15 I think is perhaps the most important verse in the Bible because if you can understand Genesis 3:15 you can understand the whole Bible. The whole Bible is an unpacking of Genesis 3:15. Remember when our forbearers fell in Eden? Remember what God said? [Genesis 3:15] “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.’” Now there’s coming one from the seed of the woman, who’s the woman here? Eve, who’s going to take your head, Satan, and crush it. That’s a reference to the coming Messiah. Now along the way you’re going to be able to exercise some damage of a temporary nature; you’re going to be able to bruise His heel but He’s going to crush your head. If you had your choice would you rather have your heel bruised or your head crushed? I’ll take the heel because once your head is crushed it’s over.
So Satan, who was in Eden as the serpent to hear this prophecy is put on notice, his intellect does not work correctly, his splendor has been corrupted, his splendor has corrupted his wisdom, and he is working in history to stop that prophecy from being fulfilled. And that’s why he moves into strategy number one to stop the lineage leading to Christ. That’s what the whole Old Testament is about. If you understand that then all of the details of the Old Testament start to fit into place. That’s kind of weird, why does Genesis 4 record Cain killing Abel? 1 John 3:12 tells us that the evil one, Satan, was in the thoughts of Cain. [1 John 3:12, “not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.”]
Satan reasoned that the Messiah is going to come through Abel’s lineage because Abel sacrifice was accepted, Cain’s was rejected. He thought the Messiah was going to come through Abel, I’ll fix this problem right now, I’ll have Cain murder Abel. If you don’t understand Genesis 3:15 you don’t understand why that murder happens in Genesis chapter 4. Do you see that? And God always gets around it supernaturally, in this case the birth of Seth.
Well, what about that weird story in Genesis 6:1-4, “sons of God” who I understand as angels, cohabitating with human women. Why would that happen. [Genesis 6:1-4, “Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them,  that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.  Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”  The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”]
Well there again Satan is at work trying to mix or damage the genetics of the human race so that a Messiah can’t be born that’s fully man. You say I need some more explanation on that. Well, when I get into the subject of angelology in Sunday School I’ll give you the reason why I think that’s true. But it fits this pattern.
How about Exodus 1 where Pharaoh arises and he begins to enslave the Egyptians and he begins to take the infants and have them drowned in the Nile. Why would Pharaoh do that? It’s another attempt by Satan using Pharaoh to prevent the birth of the Messiah, Satan understanding that the Messiah must come from the Hebrew race. [Exodus 1:15-17, “Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, …;  and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”  But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.”]
And if you want a time in history where Satan got within a millimeter of winning it was in 2 Chronicles 22 where the usurping queen, Athaliah, went on a rampage exterminating all of the royal offspring of the house of Judah. The kings must come from which tribe? Judah. There was almost no one left from Judah. And had it not been for Jehoiada the priest, hiding baby Joash, the only Davidic descendant, in the temple until Athaliah died, had that not happened the Davidic line would have been cut off and Satan would have won.
How about the story of Esther in the Persian period where a wicked man named Haman devises a plan to exterminate the Jewish race? That’s another example of Satan working in history to prevent the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. Then the Messiah is born; have you noticed that there were several attempts to take Christ out during His earthly life, prior to Him dying on the cross? Remember Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and he said what? “Throw yourself off,” trying to prevent the Messiah from fulfilling His mission. And then you have John 8:59 where they picked up stones to stone Him to death, that’s Christ, because He claimed to be God. [John 8:59, “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”] And yet He magically, or supernaturally I should say, escapes through the crowd.
Or how about all of the times on the Sea of Galilee and out of nowhere comes a storm. Where did the storm come from? These are all part of this first strategy that Satan has to stop either the birth of the Messiah or prevent Him from fulfilling His mission and what is happening in Revelation 12:1-5 is just the latest chapter in that failed strategy. Satan used the insecurity, it’s right there in verse 4, he used the insecurity of a man named Herod to kill all of the innocent male infants in Bethlehem because Satan knew the Messiah was going to be born in Bethlehem, Micah 5:2. [Micah 5:2, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”]
And I’m going to work in history to prevent this Messiah from even coming. I, in my darkened mind, will stop Genesis 3:15 and in the process I will prevent my head from being crushed. That’s the conflict that’s going on, the invisible spiritual conflict. And guess what folks? Satan lost round one; that’s the Christmas message; the Christmas message is despite attempt after attempt after attempt after attempt after attempt to kill Christ prematurely or to shut off the lineage leading to Christ, God is always in control, He supernaturally superintended and the Messiah was born.
That’s why Jesus, 1 Peter 3:18-20, in between His crucifixion and resurrection descended to where the demons are involved in the Genesis 6 sin, they’re incarcerated, those demons involved in that, and he did not euangelizal them, evangelize, the verb is carusso, He proclaimed to them that they’re on the losing side of history. The Messiah was born; the Messiah accomplished His mission despite Satan’s first strategy to stop the plan and the work and the program of God. [I Peter 3:18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;  in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,  who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.”]
Satan is trying to now move into strategy two; he’s trying to prevent this from happening, Revelation 11:15 where “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” He hears that proclamation with trump number seven and he says you know what, I like ruling the world so you know what I’m going to do about halfway through the tribulation period, I’m going to launch a frontal attack against the nation, the woman clothed with the sun and the moon and the twelve stars (who is that again?) Israel, I’m going to gobble up Israel during the final 1,260 days of the tribulation period to prevent the coming of the kingdom, because I know prophetically that just as the Messiah had to come through the Jewish race I also know prophetically that the capital city of the kingdom one day will be where? Not Washington D.C., Jerusalem, a Jewish kingdom.
And my goodness, Satan says, I can’t let that happen because once that happens I’ll be bound for a thousand years with Jesus ruling from David’s throne and then I’ll be thrown into the Lake of Fire at the end of that so in my darkened mind I’m going to stop that whole thing from happening by blotting out the nation of Israel. And that’s what begins to be explained in Revelation 12:6-17 which begins to describe, not a past strategy but a present and a future strategy, a strategy that I believe to some extent is being used right now, to prevent the birth of the kingdom. I couldn’t prevent the birth of the Messiah but I’ll tell you one thing, Satan says in his darkened mind, dollars to donuts that kingdom will not come. I know it’s been announced but I’m going to stop it. God makes a move, Satan makes a counter move! And that’s what’s happening in Revelation 12:6-17, Satan’s second strategy.
And you say wow, I’d still like to hear more about that. Well, you’ll have to come back next week when we’ll talk about it. But it truly is an astounding part of the Bible that reveals this conflict that goes on all around us all of the time that we’re not really aware of and yet the Bible describes these things as absolutely reality.
So the real question is what side of the conflict are you on? And what’s interesting is in a war like this there’s no such thing as neutrality. You’re either on one side or the other! You say well, I don’t believe in all of this stuff. Well when did that matter? I don’t believe in the law of gravity, does that somehow allow me to jump off a three story building? These are actual truths whether we accept to embrace them or not. And if you’ve never made a decision for Jesus Christ then you’re on the losing side of history, you’re on the wrong side of the battle. And isn’t it an exciting thing when a person comes to the realities and they trust in Christ and Christ alone as their Savior and they suddenly, in an instant, are moved into the winning side of history. Warfare continues but we know how this whole thing is going to play out.
And so here at Sugar Land Bible Church we don’t like to conclude our services without giving people an opportunity to come onto the right side. What did Jesus say? If you’re not for Me you’re against Me. People say oh, I’m not going to make a decision for Christ today. Well you know what? That’s a decision in and of itself; you just made a decision whether you realized it or not.
And so what we are teaching here, what we celebrated this morning at the Lord’s table, is the gospel; the gospel is Jesus did everything necessary to bridge the gap between fallen humanity and a holy God. In fact, His final words on the cross prior to His death were, “It is finished!” Everything’s done. Christianity is not a doing religion, it’s a done thing which allows you to have a relationship with God and the only way you can have it is by receiving what Jesus did for you as a free gift. And the only way to receive a free gift from God is by faith, faith alone! Good works won’t accomplish it. Good intentions won’t accomplish it. Joining a church won’t accomplish it. Giving money won’t accomplish it. Trying to be a good person won’t fix the problem.
What fixes the problem is what Christ did for us two thousand years ago through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, and the Spirit convicts us of our need to trust in what He did, not ourselves, not our denominations, not our parents, not what someone else in our family tree believes, but we personally trust in what He’s done for us. And if the Spirit of God is convicting you of your need to do that our exhortation to you at Sugar Land Bible Church, either here in this room or people that may be listening via online is to go ahead with that next step which is to trust what Jesus did. You can do that right now in the quietness of your own thoughts and heart and mind as the Holy Spirit places you under conviction. Again, it’s not something you have to walk an aisle to do, join a church to do, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you rest or trust, which are all synonyms for saying you believe in what Jesus did. And the moment that happens your eternal destiny is changed, your identity is changed and you’re transferred in a nanosecond from the losing side of the angelic conflict to the winning side. If it’s something that you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.
Father, we’re grateful for chapters like this that show us realities that we could know no other way. You’ve called us to warfare, help us this week to put on the full armor of God as we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, and powers and rulers of this dark world. We’ll be careful to give You all of the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen!