“Christmas and the Cosmic Battle       Revelation 12   December 23, 2007

 

SI:  The book of Revelation is full of mysterious details, that Christians have

   pondered and argued about for centuries. 

   But the main point of Revelation is clear:

Through a series of visions given to the Apostle John,

   the curtain that separates the physical from the spiritual world is pulled back,

   and God gives his people a glimpse at the spiritual forces at work during

   this age in which we live—this age between the first and second coming of Christ.

 

And the reason the Lord gives us a glimpse of these spiritual forces,

   is so that we will know what is really going on, and not be ignorant.

   And so that we will be encouraged, and not overwhelmed or despondent.

 

It has been argued by some commentators that Revelation 12 is the

   most significant chapter in the book in terms of giving us the big picture

   of what is really going on in the world, in history, and in our lives.

 

This is also one of the great Christmas chapters in the Bible.

   It starts, as you will see, with the Christmas story—

   but told from a very different perspective than what we’re used to.

There is no manger.  There are no shepherds and wise men.

 

Instead, Christmas is shown to be the opening shot, of the last battle,

   of the great war between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light.

 


INTRO:  I have a niece named Kate, she’s two and a half—my sister’s child.

My sister told me that they bought a wind-up Nativity set.

   I’ve never seen it but apparently when you wind it up,

   some of the figurines move and it plays music.

Kate was a little scared at first of the moving figurines,

   but now can’t stop looking at it and has started calling it “the Bible Jesus house.”

Children love Nativity sets—the animals, the baby—it’s all so fun. 

 

I want you to picture a different Nativity set—this one does not have the stable

   and the manger, or Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, the sheep and cows—

   it has just two figurines.

 

The first is a woman—she’s a queen, she’s royalty.

   Wearing a crown with 12 stars.  Clothing is bright like the sun.

   Moon is her footstool, lovely feet are resting on it.

This queen is expecting a baby, she’s at full term and in labor.

   So her face—though it is very beautiful, is grimacing,

   and her mouth is open with a cry of pain and distress.

And the cause of her distress is obvious.

 

Because the other figure is a dragon—a snake-like dragon, covered with red scales.

   He has seven heads and he’s crouching in front of the woman.

His seven pairs of eyes are watching her,

   and his seven sets of fangs are open and salivating

   because he plans to eat her baby as soon as he is born.

I shudder to think how Kate would respond to that Nativity set.

   It would be quite traumatic.

 

And yet, Revelation 12 is clearly a Nativity scene.

   It begins with the Christmas story.

   Who is the male child born of the woman? 

   Who is this baby the dragon tried to devour?

It is Jesus Christ.  Identified as the one who will rule nations with an iron scepter.

   That prophecy should sound familiar, just read it in Psalm 2.

   So what does this strange vision tell us about birth of Jesus Christ?

 

It tells us that Christmas was the opening shot of the final battle

   of the great war between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. 

 

It tells us that behind the quiet Nativity scene that is so familiar to us—

   Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in manger, with the shepherds,

   sheep, wise men—behind all that, a battle was raging.

Jesus Christ came into this world at Christmas to do battle.

   He came to defeat Satan, to deliver God’s people, and to make all things right.

 

How does this vision help you? 

   What practical benefit comes from it?

   This is the benefit:  It gives you a dose of reality at Christmas.

Reality?  Red dragons and pregnant women standing on the moon.

   Yes—if you understand this vision, and if you believe it,

   it will enable you to see how things really are. 

 

It will give you a balanced, realistic view, of your own life

   (with its joys and sorrows, victories and defeats),

   and a framework for understanding all of history.

You will be able to look at life with rejoicing

   because Jesus has defeated all your enemies.

   Nothing can harm you in any permanent way.

 

And you will be able to look at your life soberly

   recognizing that there is still a spiritual battle,

   that will continue until the end of your life or Christ’s return,

   which ever comes first. 

And in this battle you are called to fight sin, do good works.

  

Let’s study this vision.  Two big points that we draw from it.

   1.  Christ has won the victory.

   2.  We are still at war.


MP#1  Christ has won the victory.

The first great revelation in this vision is that Christ has won the victory.

   There are 3 aspects of Christ’s victory over Satan, 3 stages in vision.

 

1.  Satan’s plot to ruin God’s salvation plan has failed.

Vision begins with the Woman about to give birth—male child Christ.

So, who is the woman?  

   If go with first impression—Mary.  Mother of Jesus.

   But think more about details, someone much bigger than Mary.

The Woman is the church, particularly the Old Testament church,

   but by connection, the church in all times, God’s covenant people.

 

Think about the symbolism.  Often in OT Israel depicted as the wife of God.

   It was not always complimentary.  Whenever Israelites worshipped false gods,

   God called their idolatry adultery.  Israel, my wife, is unfaithful to me.

But in this vision, everything is glorious.  God’s view of church, she is beautiful.

 

Two details in the vision are particularly important.  Crown with 12 stars.

   12 and multiples symbolize church.  12 tribes/apostles

But even more significant is the woman’s pregnancy, and her labor.

   When was the Messiah conceived?  When angel came to Mary, Holy Spirit.

But could also say that Messiah conceived in the church in the Garden of Eden.

   Genesis 3:15 is the first promise of the Messiah.

   After Satan tempted Adam and Even to sin, creation cursed, God said to serpent:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers;

   He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

 

Two things started with this promise.

First—God started to fulfill it in real history.

   Started to set the stage for the coming of the male child of woman

   who would crush the head of Satan and restore world to its glory.

   Old Testament is a record of how God prepared for coming of Deliverer.

 

Second—Satan did all he could to ruin God’s salvation plan.

   Old Testament a record of Satan’s attempts to ruin plan, attacks Israel.

Can read whole OT this way—one story after another—cosmic struggle.

   God preparing, Satan trying to ruin. 

   Every attack on Israel, an attack on the promised child.

   So what happened?  Who won?  Did God’s plan work out or Satan ruin it?

Male child born, dragon pounces, snatched up to God’s throne.

   One verse all of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection.

   Jesus was born, he ascended into heaven and is seated at right hand of God.

God’s salvation plan fulfilled.  Devil was foiled.

   Christ has come and brought salvation and now he reigns.

   Cause for rejoicing.  All salvation history in God’s hands.

 

2.  Satan’s ability to hold people in spiritual bondage has been torn away.

Christ ascends to heaven, then the vision shifts.  See a war in heaven.

   Between dragon and his angels (demons) and Michael and good angels.

   Michael—called the archangel.  Perhaps Christ’s general, guiding angels.

   Dragon and angels are cast out of heaven to earth.

Then there is this chorus of praise—loud voice from heaven.

 

What does this all mean?  Symbolic language.  Vividly depict profound truth.

   Wrong if actually try to imagine angels fighting. 

   Angel kills another angel what happens?  How can you kill a spirit.

Wrong also to try to put this into some kind of geography. 

   Satan actually in heaven, all these forces, occupying space. 

 

Being cast out of heaven not a comment on Satan’s location.

   Means he has lost power in spiritual realm.

Key is in this chorus—John heard a loud voice from heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.  For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.  They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”

 

On account of Christ’s work of salvation, proclamation of Gospel,

   people are delivered from bondage to Satan.  No longer has hold over them.

   Jesus—Luke 10, talking to disciples about preaching Gospel—I saw Satan fall.

So the spread of the Gospel to the nations cannot be stopped.  Jesus reigning.

   And we’ve seen that for 2,000 years, church has grown and spread around world.

 

And on a more personal level this means that whenever you feel accused—

   and you think you are beyond God’s grace because you’ve sinned too much,

   or committed to bad a sin—through repentance and faith no condemnation. 

Satan can accuse, but he has been defeated.

   If you appropriate Gospel, accusations will not bring you down.

 

3.  Satan’s attempts to destroy the Church are continually frustrated.

Vision shifts again—First, Satan’s plot to destroy the Messiah failed.

   Then see Satan cast out of heaven, his power broken by the Gospel.

So how does he respond?  What is final stage of vision? 

   Tries to destroy Woman.  Wants to keep Gospel from being preached. 

 

His attacks on the church are depicted symbolically—wonder what some mean.

   What is the water spewing from his mouth to sweep the woman away?

   We could get bogged down in these details.

Notice the big picture—every attempt to destroy the woman is frustrated.

   He chases her, she’s given wings, and a safe place in the desert.

   He spews water and the earth swallows the river.

And all through this time of persecution, this age between first and second coming,

   the church is kept safe and cannot be destroyed.

Certain branches of it have been—through persecution or false teaching.

   But will always be a people of God and a Gospel witness on earth.

   “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

 

Christ has won—Satan decisively defeated.

   He Failed to ruin God’s salvation plan.

   he lost his power to hold the world in spiritual bondage,

   and he is continually frustrated in his attempts to destroy church

How does this help you?

 

Gives you a firm basis for being joyful in the midst of suffering.

Give you a framework for all of the misery, sorrow, troubles face in this life.

   If you are a Christian you can look at all of these things, worst sort of problems,

   sorrows, even if you are weeping, can have a deep, unshakable confidence. 

 

No matter what happens, you will not be destroyed.

   The Enemy of your soul cannot manipulate things to cause your spiritual

   destruction, because Jesus Christ is victorious. 

And all things work together for good to those who love God.

   And there is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus,

   And this present suffering is not worthy to be compared to glory revealed.

   And nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

And on and on.  All the precious promises are yours to claim and enjoy,

   Because the first great promise was fulfilled, the male child of woman

   has been born, and has crushed the dragon’s head.  Christ has won the victory.


MP#2  We are still at war.

But this vision ends with a sober note—we would be wise to pay attention.

   Brings us to our second point, we are still at war.  Last verse, 17: 

“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” 

 

If the woman is the church, Christ her eldest son, who are rest offspring?

   You are.  If obey God, faith in Jesus.

Christ is victorious, church cannot be destroyed—so Satan trying to do as much

   damage as possible out of hatred for Christ and church.

   And you—Christian—are the object of his attacks.

Wants to do all he can to make you miserable, feeling accused, ineffective

   and unproductive in Christian life.  Defeated but dangerous enemy.

 

Read that during WWII Gen. MacArthur’s officers and men greatly resented

   one of his practices.  Make triumphant announcements to press

   that certain Pacific island had been taken and enemy defeated, only mopping up.

Made it sound to press, people back home—an easy business, good as done.

   Men who served with him knew that mopping up some of the bitterest fighting.

   Especially if facing a cornered enemy who has nothing more to lose. 

That’s exactly the description of Satan, a cornered enemy with nothing to lose.

   “He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short.”

 

But Jesus doesn’t make it sound like easy business, he is realistic and warns us—

   This period before my second coming going to be bitter.

When you become a Christian, you don’t step into a magic circle.

   There will be lots of battles with sin, discouragement, doubts.

   There will be the troubles and pains of life in a fallen world,

   and all of those things will be used against you by the devil.

 

Now, knowing that we are in this bitter period of mopping up—two applications,

   one long term, one immediate.

 

1.  You must be determined to fight to the end.

Book of Revelation doesn’t end here.  Skip to chapter 20 for final show down.

   Satan cast into eternal lake of fire and the New Jerusalem comes to earth.

  

One day all struggle with sin and Satan will end—Christ’s return.

   End is going to come suddenly. 

 

That is our hope—victory in a single day when Jesus Christ returns

   every enemy will be defeated and everything set right.

   Today the church is struggling, tomorrow things completely reversed.

On a personal level, own struggles with sin will end on that day.

   John:  “when he appears, we shall be like Him”

   Paul:  “we shall be changed, in a moment, in twinkling of eye, at last trumpet”

 

When you see Lord Jesus Christ—coming in clouds—all made right

   you will become the powerful and beautiful person God created you to be,

   glorified like Jesus was after his resurrection.

And there will be no struggles and weaknesses and doubts

   just strength, light, joy—one great age after another,

   of working and building and reigning in Christ’s eternal kingdom.

 

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ should be prominent in you hopes

   “come quickly Lord Jesus”  not an empty prayer, every day closer

 

But if He tarries (as Christians used to say) you will have to fight to end of life.

   Battle won’t end until you get to heaven.

   Have to be determined to persevere for a lifetime. 

Eight times in Rev Jesus says:  “To him who overcomes I will give crown of life.

That means there will be obstacles to overcome.

   Spiritual victories not going to happen overnight

Perhaps look at mature Christians, read about giants in the faith

   I’ll never be there, never know God like that.

   I’ll never have victory over this temptation in my life.

 

But you have the very same means of grace that they have.

   The word and worship and prayer, fellowship with other believers.

Spiritual growth takes time.

   Take time and effort to become loving, brave and patient.

Victory over sin takes time—temptations and setbacks. 

   So be determined to fight to the end of your life. 

 

That’s the long-term application.

   But there is a more immediate application, that you must do this week.

   In fact, you need to do it on Tuesday.

 

2.  You need to have yourself a Merry Christmas.

What is Christmas for the Christian in light of Revelation 12?

   Opening shot of last battle of great war between Christ and Satan.

Yes—we are still at war, but you need to celebrate. 

   This will be easier for some of you than others. 

   If you are enjoying a season of peace, then celebrating Christmas is easy.

 

But some of you are in the thick of the battle, your wounds are hurting.

   You might not feel like having a merry Christmas, but you must.

Remember what Nehemiah told the Israelites on the feast day

   when they were weeping over their sins and the brokenness of Jerusalem?

“Go your way.  Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

And that’s what you need to do. 

Few things cheer Christians more and frustrate the devil more than Christmas.

   We’re celebrating the birth of the one who has come to set all things right.

 

As evangelical Christians, when we talk about Christ, mostly talk about the cross.

   That’s central to our preaching and theology.  Jesus died for our sins. 

But as some church historians have pointed out, in times past,

   Christians were more at the manger than at the cross.

   They were continually filled with wonder that God had come in human flesh.

 

It’s not that they downplayed the cross,

   but they knew that if this Son of the woman has been born,

   who is also, at the same time, the divine Son of God,

   then all his other work, his suffering, his cross, his resurrection victory,

   is as good as done—Satan is finished.  That is reason to be merry.

 

   God rest you merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay,

   Remember Christ our Savior Was born on Christmas day,

   To save us all from Satan’s pow’r When we were gone astray;

   O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy.

 

Merry Christmas, my friends.  King Jesus was born in Bethlehem. 

   Now He reigns victoriously.

Take confidence in that—no matter what you are facing,

   and commit yourself to fight the good fight against sin and devil,

   until your King returns and sets all things right.