Father, help us to remember there is more to life than what we can see. Help us not to think the earthly details of our lives are the sum total of human existence, but help us remember that our primary struggle is spiritual. We have a great enemy who is bent on destroying us, but we also rejoice because You have promised to destroy him and rescue us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read Revelation 12-14
This section of Revelation actually begins the second half of the book, and there’s a distinct change that takes place in its focus. In the first half of Revelation, the sufferings of the church have been clearly under the sovereign control of God, but they are essentially earthly sufferings: famine, disease, war, and especially persecution. Now, though, we’re shown that behind all that ultimately stands a spiritual evil who was once bent on destroying Jesus Himself, but whose rage is now turned against us!
This video, 21 Martyrs, reminds us that many of our brothers are still being persecuted. (2:28)
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The two visions in 12:1–6 and 12:7–12 show us two perspectives on what was happening in the spiritual realm during the life of Jesus. On the one hand, there’s the woman in 12:1–6; she represents the people of God waiting in hope for the Messiah, and she is threatened by the dragon who is Satan. Satan waits to destroy the coming King, but God rescues Him, while the woman—now representing the people of God who are faithful to the Messiah—flees into the wilderness.
In 12:7, the same period of time is described again, but now the focus shifts to heaven, where because of the work of Jesus, Satan is cast out. Revelation 12:13 then picks up where both visions left off. The dragon has been thrown down, Jesus is ascended and enthroned in heaven, and the dragon is enraged. So he turns his fury against the woman—the church—and tries to destroy her.
Beginning in Revelation 13, the dragon calls on two creatures to help him in his war against Christ’s people. The first is a horrible picture of a beast rising out of the sea—the dark, watery, chaotic abode of evil. Various details show us this beast is tightly connected to the dragon, perhaps even a personification of him. The wound on his head is reminiscent of Genesis 3:15.
But what or who is the beast? Is it one person who is the Anti-christ? Probably not. The image of the beast comes from Daniel 7, where four beasts represented four different kingdoms or governments. Here in Revelation 13, aspects of those beasts are all brought together, so this beast probably represents government power throughout history.
The warning is clear: We live in a fallen world, and it is in the nature of fallen people to gather as much power and worship for themselves as they can. Therefore, insofar as we Christians continue to insist that it is not Caesar who is Lord, but rather Jesus, we are a threat. Thus the kingdoms of the world are here depicted as servants of Satan for wiping out the threat.
Revelation 13:11–17 depicts another beast in service to the first—a beast who encourages people, persuades them, and seduces them to worship the first beast. When considering the characteristics of this second beast—its religious, economic, and social features—it seems to be personifying the entire cultural fabric of the world. All of society—religion, economics, entertainment, and politics—are used to pressure Christians to give allegiance to something other than King Jesus.
9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
- We as Christians face an enemy who is bent on destroying us because we are the people of King Jesus. And yet, even in the face of this assault, we’re called to remain faithful and bear witness to Jesus because we know the dragon and all his allies will one day be finally and completely defeated.
- And do you know what fuels that kind of endurance more than anything else? It’s knowing that Satan’s greatest weapon has been stripped away from him. Read Revelation 12:9–10 again. Throughout the Bible, Satan is given authority by God to accuse God’s people. In fact, the very word for “devil” means “slanderer.” And the problem is that before Jesus died, there was truth to the devil’s accusations. But when Jesus died and rose again, the grounds for Satan’s accusations were removed. There was no more sentence of death because there were no grounds for condemnation. Thus Satan was stripped of his greatest weapon. The accuser of God’s people was thrown out of court! What an incredible thought: Satan, the one who would accuse you and press the sentence of death against you, has no place in God’s presence, and God the Father will not even hear his accusations against the Son’s redeemed people.
- So let the nations rage, and let them persecute. Our eternity is secure in the hand of Jesus, and we will therefore never stop bearing witness to that glorious truth!
Watch Don Carson remind us how we overcome the accuser. (5:32)
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- Spend some time meditating on what Jesus has done to remove sin from His people. How does that give you courage to persevere in bearing witness to Him?
- Think more about the two beasts who are called into the dragon’s service. What do you think they represent? If they represent government power and cultural power, how do you think Christians should think about government and culture? Are there other passages of Scripture that help fill out our response to them?
- Tell your accountability partner what you put into action from your Outreach and Evangelism plan.