Saturday, 16 September 2017 22:12

81. There was war in Heaven: Satan’s plan of attack * Revelation 12:7-9 - Part 1 of 2

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7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, who deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

 

PART 1

 

*** Background ***: The text in Revelation 12:1-6 shows how Satan wanted to destroy Jesus during His time as a man time on Earth. Through the actions of different people, Satan tried to attack Christ several times: starting when He was a baby (Matthew 2:16), and finally through a chain of events that started with Judas' betrayal (Matthew 26:14-16). Even though this trail of events did lead to Christ’s death on the cross, His death was not a result of human action. Hanging Him on a cross was a human decision, but Jesus said this about His own death: "Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:17-18). The Jewish leaders and Roman authorities crucified Jesus, but Jesus chose to die for our transgressions.

In Revelation 12:13-17, we see how Satan wanted to destroy the woman (the church). We see a pattern shift. Satan was no longer after the child at that point. This implies that Heaven, where the Child had been taken to, had become off limits to Satan. Let's look for a moment at Satan's attack strategies on Earth. We can see three distinct moments in his plan:

1) Preventing the woman from being faithful and making it difficult for her to give birth to the child (events from creation to Christ’s birth);

2) Attacking the child (events during Jesus' time on Earth);

3) Attacking the woman (events after Jesus' resurrection and ascension).

More specifically, Satan first deceived the whole planet (Adam and Eve). Then he went on to deceive the nations and lead people to idolatry (as seen in most stories of the Old Testament). When the Messiah was born, Satan moved on to attack Christ directly, through a decree to kill all babies younger than 2 years old. Later, he tempted Christ in the desert, trying to cause Jesus to sin. And we see other examples of attacks against Christ described in the Bible as well. After Christ died, resurrected, and ascended, Satan moved on to attack the nations, and eventually was able to deceive the entire world (Revelation 12:9, and the activities seen in Revelation 13 and Revelation 17).

But why did Satan become so furious with the woman? In phases 1 and 2, the woman was just a casualty of war. The main focus, up to that point had been on the child. Something must have happened to cause this shift. And that is exactly what Revelation 12:7-12 is explaining. In fact, the section describing the persecution of the woman starts out by stating what triggered this persecution: "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the male child." (Revelation 12:13). This verse tells us what triggered the persecution, but does not tell us why, how or when the casting down happened.

*** When was Satan Cast down from Heaven? ***: the Bible mentions two different moments when Satan was removed from Heaven.

- The first time: The first moment was when he lost his privileges as a celestial worker. What does that even mean? Well, let's imagine Heaven before Lucifer became Satan. Heavenly beings surround the throne of God. The angelic choir was singing praises to God. Creation plans were being prepared for new worlds, galaxies, and creatures. Heaven was a society based on love. Every being was free to choose to love God as well as the other beings. Yet they all chose to love selflessly. One day, one of the angels saw all this love coming his way, and for a moment he thought how deserving he was to receive all that attention. He looked at God's position and thought he was good enough to be promoted to a status greater than that of an angel. He told himself: "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the farthest sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High." (Isaiah 14:13-14). Lucifer wanted to be like God.

There was one big problem in Lucifer's plan. That position in Heaven was already filled by Michael. The name Michael comes from the Hebrew Mikha'el, which means 'who is like God'. Michael is mentioned a few times in the Bible. He is the leader of God's Heavenly army (Revelation 12:7), and is described as the archangel (Jude 1:9), one of the chief princes (Daniel 10:13), a prince (Daniel 10:21), and "the great prince which stands for the children of your people" (Daniel 12:1). The word archangel means the 'chief messenger', or the 'leader of the messengers'. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 tells us an important information about Jesus' Second Coming: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first". In this verse, we see that Jesus is the one with the voice of the archangel. He is the leader of the angelic host. Note that Michael is never referred to as an angel but as the leader of the angels. Many times in the Old Testament, God's is referred to as Lord of Hosts (few examples: Isaiah 28:29; Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 37:16 - the NIV translates the expression as Lord almighty). God is the leader of His armies, be them angelic or human. We saw in Revelation 7:4 (study #47) how His people on Earth was prepared to fight the spiritual battles against the enemy army (which was described in Revelation 9:16-17). Michael is another title Jesus has as the defender of the Truth.

We read about the fall of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12: "How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, who did weaken the nations!" The book of Isaiah was written hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Jesus Himself mentions the initial fall of His enemy: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." (Luke 10:18). This initial fall happened sometime before Eve listened to the serpent's lies. The Bible tells us that the serpent was Satan (Revelation 12:9; 20:2).

Let's go back to what happened in Heaven, when Lucifer started to wish he was the ruler of the Universe. Try to imagine the disruption that this thought generated. He could never take down the Lord of Hosts, the Chief of the angels, without an army of his own. Lucifer needed supporters. He started spreading his lies about how God is unfair, preventing His creation from becoming like God. This is exactly the strategy he used with Eve: "And the serpent said unto the woman, You shall not surely die: For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5). In other words, Satan accused God of being a liar by stating that Eve would really die if she disobeyed. Also, he implied that God was trying to prevent her from becoming like God.

The Bible tells us that Lucifer was able to deceive many angels. Revelation 12:4 tells us that the dragon was able to take with him one-third of the angels (symbolized by the word 'stars'). After the dragon got his army, he was cast down from Heaven. He then placed himself in front of the woman, waiting for the child to be born: "And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born." (Revelation 12:4). This passage is a reference to Satan's first casting down of Heaven. He was removed from Heaven because he no longer agreed with how God was running His society. Lucifer could no longer continue to work or live in Heaven. Lucifer openly rebelled against the Heavenly way of life. In essence, Lucifer was thrown out of Heaven when he decided not to follow, love or respect God anymore.

Lucifer turned his attention to Earth and brought his lies over with him. Adam and Eve had just been created and God had just given them dominion over the planet (Genesis 1:26,28). When Adam and Eve sinned, by choosing to follow the serpent's lies, they handed that dominion over to Satan, and so, Satan became the ruler of this planet. Jesus referred to Satan as the ruler (or prince) of this world (John 12:31; John 14:30, John 16:11).

As the new ruler of Earth, Satan still had access to Heavenly meetings. We see in the Bible some examples of Satan's new role. "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, From where come you? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it." (Job 1:6-7). Another instance is seen in Zachariah 3:1-2: "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke you, O Satan; even the LORD that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?"

Revelation 12:4 refers to the first moment when Lucifer quit working for God and was sent out of Heaven. At that point, he started working for himself and became Earth's representative.

- The second time: Once Christ sealed the fate of sin with His death on the cross, Satan lost his dominion over the planet. Satan had been trying to avoid this at all costs. He even tempted Jesus in the desert, offering Him an apparent way out of having to die in order to regain the rulership over the Earth. "Again, the devil took him up into an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And said unto him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me." (Matthew 4:8-9). Jesus' answer to Satan pinpoints exactly Satan's ultimate goal (Matthew 4:10). Satan wants to be worshipped. If he was able to get the One who is like God to worship him, then his attack against the male child would have succeeded.

Speaking about His death, Jesus said: "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.” (John 12:31-32). Mankind would be saved by coming to Jesus. We are saved because of His sacrifice. At the same time, Jesus' death cut Satan completely out of the Heavenly picture. Satan no longer was the representative of Earth. Jesus became our ruler, and He is now the One who represents us in the Heavenly courts. Satan has absolutely no chance of reaching his goal of universal domination. When Christ ascended to Heaven, He sat down on the throne of God (Revelation 5:7, Revelation 3:21), the very place Satan had coveted for so long. The section about the child in Revelation 12:5 ends with the child being taken up to Heaven. Revelation 12:7 picks up from that point, telling us what happened in Heaven before Satan started to persecute the woman.

*** Overview ***: Satan had a plan of attack from the moment he realized he wanted to ascend to the throne of God. By starting his rebellious war against God, he was no longer able to live and work in Heaven as one of the angels of the Lord. Lucifer became Satan, the enemy of God, and was cast down from Heaven. Satan continued his attack by targeting God’s creation. He managed to deceive Adam and Eve, and generations that followed. When the promise of a messiah was given to Adam and Eve, Satan began to work even harder to achieve his goal of becoming like God. He was going to destroy the One who actually is like God, Jesus. He attempted to win against Jesus on different occasions and failed every single time. Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension sealed Satan’s fate once and for all, removing any possibility of victory against God’s authority. Jesus’ assertion to God’s throne meant that Satan had lost his rulership over Earth. Satan had no longer a reason to participate in any meetings in Heaven. There was no longer a place in Heaven for him (Revelation 12:8). We also have a choice today. We have the freedom to choose who we want to serve, God or Satan. Christ is now our representative. He will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15), and He invites us with open arms to join the winning side. Satan is a defeated enemy.

   
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