Struggle of the Ages

Will you be an end-time victim, or a conqueror?

As a US Army soldier the most disturbing possibility wasn’t just war, but chemical war.  In my young mind, I wished we could keep things simple with bullets and tanks, because at least I could see those weapons and respond to them.  But chemical warfare involved a lot of odorless, colorless gas, and you might not even know it was present until the guy next to you suddenly started to die.  

Christians reading through Revelation can begin to feel a similar way, as if the book were all about a lot of freaky things happening around them without warning or preparation.  Revelation is their least favorite book because there’s no way of relating to its contents. When they actually respond to it, they do strange things, like stockpiling grain in their basement, and buying guns for a home arsenal.  This is preparation for more of a zombie apocalypse than a biblical one.  At any rate, we Christians should never feel afraid or awkward with the very book that shows how we win.   

We must correctly understanding end-time conflict and how to interact with it. 

Firstly, the struggle of the ages, as seen in Revelation chapter 12 is not based on might, but right.    

7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 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.

It probably comes as a shock to many readers that war could happen in heaven.  Heaven, after all, is supposed to be the place where you rest, sit on a cloud, and play a harp.  Still less, we think, should the devil be there. Yet the fact that there is “no longer any place” for him, indicates that for a protracted time he had been tolerated there.  This means he had some sort of access to heaven, as further shown by Job 1:6, where all the angels were gathered in front of God and then the devil came in among them, specifically to challenge God.  Later when Paul writes about the devil and his angels, he mentions they are “spiritual forces of evil in Heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).  

We might think the outcome of the angelic war here is all about raw power—as if we were dealing with a couple of rival gangs that occupied a certain section of a city.  The larger one with the stronger members decide they’re fed up with the other, and eliminates it. But it’s not like that. This war is based upon legality and process.    

Before he fell, Satan was an angel of God.  In Ezekiel chapter 28:12-19, you’ll get a good description of this angel and of his fall.  In that particular part of the Bible, God is speaking to the King of Tyre, and as he rebukes the pride inside that man, His reprimand morphs into an address to someone who isn’t human.  The recipient is ultimately a cherub (angel), who was an extraordinary created being—“You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (v. 12).  There is even some intimation that this angel fulfilled some sort of pre-adamic priestly office—”every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings” (v. 13).  Mention of these precious stones might be analogous to those of the priestly breastplate described in Exodus 28).   

It was a divinely appointed office–“You were an anointed guardian cherub.  I placed you…” (v. 14).

In the midst of the fanfare, the Bible says this angel noticed he was awesome.  This was his downfall.  “Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor” (v. 17).  It’s like the story of narcissus who saw his reflection in the water and fell in love with himself.  

That meant every person and matter underneath this cherub was in trouble.  When the leader goes bad, it becomes perilous for the followers. Although Satan didn’t create the Earth, he stole it.  Although he didn’t create any of the angels, he stole some of them, and although he didn’t create mankind, he usurped and ruined it, recruiting it for himself.  How did he do this? Remember his powers of persuasion from verse 9—that he is the deceiver of the whole world. His power is in his ability to lie.  

And yet God did not immediately nuke this angel.  Our God is a God of government. When he appoints an office, He respects that office.  This is why, as the devil spoke of this world, he said to Jesus, “it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will” (Luke 4:6).  Jesus didn’t argue, because He knew at one time in the ancient past, God had delivered a certain part of the created order to this archangel.  In fact, He Himself referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30). Paul referred to Satan as “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), and in Jude 9, the Archangel Michael had an argument with Satan, but “he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’” 

But now in Revelation 12 things have changed.  Where Michael had been careful, here he drives the devil out.  The reason is that something governmental changed. God didn’t just say “I’ve had enough.  Time to get rid of the guy.”

Our nation is currently embroiled in a controversy surrounding attempts to remove a sitting president.  We may learn, just as we did back in the 90s, that you can’t discard a duly elected official—especially a president—just because you don’t like him.  Legal and constitutional processes must be satisfied. Even God respects this. Yes, He can do whatever he wants, but he will not if it causes him to compromise who He is.   

None of the end-time drama in Revelation comes from a random prophetic script.  It happens because an old, corrupt, satanic Kingdom is being driven out, and it resists being overthrown by any means necessary. 

You figure into the elimination of that old government.  

12:10 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.

Did the kingdom come primarily because the angels of God were stronger?  No. First of all, it came because the accuser was thrown down. For a long time the devil had been using heavenly access to tell tales about things he saw down here on earth.  About you.  As a child of God, our names have been mentioned in ways we really don’t want.  About things we did in secret, words we shouldn’t have said. Instances of our cowardice. Moments of our hatefulness. And when the devil brings charges against us in the presence of God he doesn’t tell bald-faced lies.  Gross untruth simply wouldn’t fly in the presence of God. The mark of a truly skillful liar is to lie with truth. To present facts while misrepresenting concern, exhibiting evidence while pretending outrage.  

How do we handle such allegations?  It won’t work for us to point out that our accuser is worse than we are–that he inspired the holocaust, and therefore, that makes us better than him.  Nor will we triumph by pointing out a smattering of our good deeds.    

Verse 11 says “they [the accused brethren], conquered him by the blood of the lamb.”  No gifts of eloquence and argument could silence our ancient foe. Nothing less than the death of Jesus for sin would ever muzzle him.  That blood provides a foundational victory we all stand upon, as Jesus said when He was going to the cross, “Now the ruler of this world is cast out” (John 12:30).  

And when believers in real time trust and apply this work, it becomes “the word of their testimony” (12:11).  

Satan says, “You are ruined!”   We say, “We have redemption through the blood!” (Ephesians 1:7).

Satan:  “You’ve gone too far now!”
Believers:  “We’ve been brought near through the blood of Christ!”  (Ephesians 2:13)

Satan:  “You are filthy!”
Believers:  “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin!”  (1 John 1:7).

Satan:  “You’re in trouble!”
Believers:  “We have peace through the blood of his cross!”  (Colossians 1:20).

Satan:  “You’re unholy!”
Believers:  “We have been sanctified with His blood!” (Heb. 13:12)

Satan:  “You have no right to call yourself a Christian!”
Believers:  “We have boldness to enter the holy of holies through the blood of Jesus!”  (Heb. 10:19).  

Satan:  “You are guilty, and deserve hell!”
Believers:  “We are justified by his blood!” (Rom. 5:9).  

These are not merely motivational sayings we tell each other when we’re feeling down.  The word of our testimony is our most cherished possession. We would rather lose our lives than lose it– “they loved not their lives even unto death” (12:11).  

When it’s like this, then it’s time for verse 12:  

Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

You see, when sins have been answered, and the righteous government of God satisfied, then ruined humanity is ready to rule in Christ.  It’s time for the devil to go, and so the Marines, with Michael leading, give him the boot.    

There’s something riding on you—your willingness to take up the gospel in full agreement with its power.  As a believer therefore, you are more than a passive, helpless spectator.    

During my service days of dread concerning chemical warfare, the Army provided training with protective masks, suits, and gloves.  We were expected to use the equipment. And now we’re expected to do no less during our current spiritual struggle.  

My first mentor in the Christian life asked me if I knew what to do with my sins.  It was an appropriate question, because I was a vulnerable new Christian. I knew more about Mad Magazine than I knew about the Bible.  That meant I was extremely unstable in my faith, and prone to believe every contrary emotion. In dread, I wondered how much longer my faith was going to last.  But eventually I learned what to do when I committed sins, and weakening thoughts filled me. I would confess these things to Christ, believing His blood had washed those sins away, and then I would get up and keep going. 

The cross became more than a beautiful thought; it became my equipment, and weaponry to keep a forward momentum. I stopped doubting if I would last another week, and began to understand that due to the work of Christ, I would be able to radically follow Him all life long.  

Make sure you’re part of the struggle.  There’s no victims here.  Just highly engaged believers.  

2 comments

  1. I’ve reflected for a long time on the biblical reality that Satan does indeed have access to Heaven, as per the book of Job and the Scripture you cited above. My conclusion is that God is amazingly gracious and merciful to His created beings, to whom he gives the respect that they are due (to make their own choices) as those created in His image.

    And, ultimately, we also see that Satan and his demons (along with all of us other sinners who rebel and refuse to be covered by the shed blood of Christ) will be held to account. That’s part and parcel of the whole respect equation. God is just, as well as loving, gracious, and merciful!

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