Sermon: The Accuser Barred From Heaven And Cast To Earth: Revelation 12:7-12

Old Testament Reading: Job 1:1-12

“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did continually. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1:1–12, ESV)

Sermon Text: Revelation 12:7-17

“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 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. 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. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 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!’ And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 12:7–17, ESV)

Introduction

Remember that in Revelation 12:1-6 John described for us a sign that he saw in heaven. And we discovered that the sign he saw revealed something to us about the ancient and spiritual battle that rages in the invisible realm beyond our senses. The battle is very old, stretching all the way back to the time of the fall of man. And the battle is very real. Though we do not see it, we do see the effects of it. This spiritual battle manifests itself in the world even today. The evil that we see in the world – the trials and tribulations that God’s people face – are visible manifestations of this ancient cosmic conflict.

In particular Revelation 12:1-6 revealed that it is the dragon, “that ancient serpent… called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world”, who is the primary opponent of God, his people, and of his Christ.

The dragon is there portrayed as a viscous opponent of God who, before the birth of Christ, pursued the people of God, in an attempt to swallow up the Christ of God.  Indeed, the history of redemption is filled with examples of this invisible battle manifesting itself in the world. Cain rose up and killed Able, but God provided Seth. The world was filled with wickedness before the flood, but God showed grace to Noah and to his family. Abraham and his seed were threatened continuously, particularly by the bareness of Sarah, but God fulfilled his promise by bringing forth Isaac his son. Jacob’s offspring were swallowed up by Egypt and were enslaved there, but God sent Moses to redeem them. And when the people left Egypt only to find themselves stuck between the sea and the army of Pharaoh, God divided the waters for them, so that they might walk through on dry land. When Israel was threatened by hunger and thirst in the wilderness, God provided water from the rock and bread from heaven. God gave Israel victory over all her enemies and brought her safely into the land promised to her. When false prophets and wicked people multiplied in Israel, God kept a remnant for himself. When taken to captivity by the Babylonians, God was faithful to bring some back. And so things were until, when the fullness of time had come, the Christ was born.

And he too was pursued by the dragon. When Jesus was born Herod sought to kill him. He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to abandon his mission. He was despised and rejected by men. In the end he was crucified. Surely Satan thought that he had finally succeeded when the Christ was crucified, but he new that he was defeated when Christ rose again and “was caught up to God and to his throne” (Revelation 12:5, ESV). When the Christ was caught up to the right hand of the Father the dragon then turned his attention to the woman again (remember, the woman symbolizes God’s covenant people) his objective being to devour her. But God had a place prepared for her in the wilderness where she would be nourished by him for 1,260 days (a period of time that throughout the book of Revelation symbolizes the time of tribulation for the church stretching from Christ’s first coming to his second coming).

So what we have in Revelation 12:1-6 is the whole of the history of redemption compressed into six verses with special attention given to the battle that rages in the heavenly places between Satan and God, his people, and his Christ. Though this battle is first spiritual, it manifests itself on earth.

The rest of Revelation 12, which we will consider today, is focused upon the same cosmic conflict, but considered from different vantage points. In verses 7-11 we learn that Christ’s victory on earth produced a victory in heaven. In verse 12 we learn that Christ’s victory in heaven produced trouble for those living upon the earth. And in verses 13-17 we will learn that God will keep those servants of his who live upon the earth.

Let us consider verses 7-12 this morning and save 13-17 for next week.

Christ’s Victory On Earth Produced A Victory In Heaven

First of all, notice that Christ’s victory on earth produced a victory in heaven.

When I speak of Christ’s victory on earth I am, of course, speaking of his life and death followed by his resurrection from the dead and his ascension to his heavenly throne. We should recognize that this victory won on earth – Christ’s death and burial followed by his resurrection and ascension – produced a victory in the heavenly places.

We are accustom to thinking of all that Christ accomplished for us in his death and resurrection, but our minds typically go to those aspects of our salvation that are intensely personal.

For example, we speak often of how Christ took our sins upon himself when he died on the cross. He payed the penalty for your sins and mine, and for the sins of all who ever have or ever will believe in him. And we speak often of how Christ took upon himself God’s wrath in our place. He shielded us from it. The justice of God demands that sin be judged, but Christ took the judgement upon himself, standing in the place of all who ever have or ever will believe upon him.

Indeed it was this work – Christ’s atoning work, and his work as a substitute for sinners – that makes our salvation possible. We are justified by God through faith in Christ because Christ has paid the penalty of our sins. We are adopted as sons because Christ has removed the enmity that once existed between us and God because of our sin – you were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:3), but now you are adopted as sons (Ephesians 1:5).

This is all true1 The victory that Christ has won in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension has brought us benefits that are intensely personal. We are personally justified, adopted, and sanctified if we have faith in Christ. And there are many other personal “benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from then”, such as the “assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end” (Baptist Catechism 39). But his victory accomplished more than this.  When he was raised up from the grave (see Matthew 28), and when he ascended to his heavenly throne (see Acts 1:9-11) a victory was won in the heavenly realm with cosmic consequences.

Notice that Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension were very quickly but clearly summarized in 12:5 where we read, “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne….” (Revelation 12:5, ESV). Who is the woman? She symbolizes the people of God in general, but Mary the Mother of Jesus in particular. Who is the male child? Clearly he is Jesus the Christ, for he is the “one to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” And what does it mean that the “child was caught up to God and to his throne”? In this one little phrase we have summarized the whole process of Christ’s exultation – his resurrection and his his ascension. His humiliation is summarized in the words, “she gave birth to a male child” – The eternal Son of God took on flesh, suffered and died. But his exultation is summarized with the words, the “child was caught up to God and to his throne.” Christ died, but he rose from the grave and 40 days later he ascended and was seated at the Fathers right hand. That process of exultation is what the phrase, the “child was caught up to God and to his throne” refers to.

With that victorious event in mind we are then prepared to read on. Verse 7 picks up there and shows us the effect that Christ’s earthly victory – his humiliation followed by his exultation – had within the heavenly realm. We read,

“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 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. 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’” (Revelation 12:7–10, ESV).

The heavenly battle described here is between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels. In other words, the battle is between the elect angels with Michael leading, and the fallen angels with Satan leading.

Surely you have heard of Satan. But perhaps you have not heard of Michael. He is referred to in Daniel 10 as “one of the chief princes” of God’s angels. He is mentioned again in Daniel 12 as “the great prince who has charge of [God’s] people”. In Jude 9 he is referred to as “the archangel”. Friends, notice this. The scriptures are clear that there exists a spiritual world that corresponds to the physical one in which you and I live.

Notice that “the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven” (Revelation 12:7–8, ESV). Satan was then “thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12:9, ESV). The end result was that Satan and his angels were barred from heaven.

When did this battle and the barring of Satan from heaven take place?

Some might assume that what we have here is a description of the fall of Satan and his demons which took place sometime before the fall of man. And I can understand why your mind would go in that direction. A quick read of the passage might conjure up thoughts of the original fall of Satan, but this cannot be the case, as we will see.

Others think that this battle has not happened yet, but will happen in the future immediately before the so called great tribulation. But it is an unbiblical system of doctrine and faulty methods of interpretation that produce this view, and not a careful consideration of this text.

The correct answer is that this battle and the barring of Satan from heaven took place when Christ rose from the dead, ascended to his heavenly throne, and was seated there. Christ’s victory on earth produced a victory in heaven.

Notice three things that prove that this is the proper interpretation:

First of all notice that verses 1-6 and 7-12 are tightly linked to each another. The first section concludes with the words, “her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days”, and verse 7 begins with the words “now war arose in heaven”. It is clear that the victorious event described in 12:5 – namely the “ascension of Christ to his throne” – is the event which prompted the victory over Satan in the heavenly realm, which is described in 12:7-9.

Secondly, notice that the heavenly voice of verses 10-11 specifically says that the victory won in heaven is owed to Christ’s victory on earth.  In verse 10 John says,

“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. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:10–11, ESV).

When was salvation earned? It was earned at Christ’s first coming, through his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.

And when did the kingdom of God arrive in power? It came in power at Christ’s first coming, through his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. This is why John the Baptist prepared the way for the Christ by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2, ESV). And Jesus himself also said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15, ESV).  In Matthew 12:28 Jesus explicitly said that his ability to cast out demons by the Spirit was proof that “the kingdom of God [had] come upon [them]” (Matthew 12:28, ESV).

And when was Christ given all authority? He was given all authority at his first coming through his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. You remember the great commission, don’t you? Christ commissioned his disciples, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:18–19a, ESV).

The voice that John heard in heaven connected the salvation earned by Christ, the arrival of God’s kingdom in power, and the authority given to Christ with, “the accuser” being throne down.

Thirdly, we should also pay attention to what the rest of scripture has to say about this subject.

You would do well to notice that prior to the resurrection of Christ Satan did indeed have the ability to stand before God and to accuse the people of God.

I read from Job 1 at the beginning of the sermon to demonstrate this. Job 1:6: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them” (Job 1:6, ESV). Where did he come from? He came “from going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it” (Job 1:7, ESV). And what did Satan do once he stood before God? He accused Job, saying, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (Job 1:9–11, ESV). Satan is the accuser of the brethren.

The same can be seen in Zechariah 3 where we read, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (Zechariah 3:1, ESV).

And remember how Jesus revealed to Peter that Satan was actively accusing him in the heavenly realm. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32, ESV).

So prior to Christ’s resurrection and ascension this was indeed the case. Satan did come before the Lord to accuse the people of God. He would stand before the Lord and say, “this one is unworthy. This one is unclean. This one deserves your condemnation.”

Why would Satan be able to do such a thing? It is because salvation had not yet been accomplished. From Satan’s limited perspective the people of God were being accepted as righteous before God but for no good reason. From Satan’s limited perspective these men and women were filthy and deserving of condemnation and nothing had been done to make them righteous before God.

But from God’s perspective these were clean and righteous and holy by virtue of the finished work of Christ on the cross working retroactively. It is true, the Christ had not been born, nor had lived in obedience to the law, nor had he died, nor had he risen and ascended in the days of Job and Joshua and even Peter (prior to the crucifixion). But these men, and many others, were made righteous by the blood of Christ working ahead of time as they believed upon God and promises concerning his provision of a redeemer.

From God’s perspective Joshua the high priest was clean, not because of his own righteousness, but because of the righteousness of the Christ (who would come at just the right time) imputed to him by faith. But did Satan know about the cross of Christ beforehand? Could he see into the future and know that Christ would die and rise again for the sins of his people? Could Satan understand the accomplishment of salvation before it was finished? No. He, like the elect angels, is a finite creature. He knew what God had promised to bring salvation. He could see the gospel portrayed through the types and shadows of the Old Covenant. But he could not see the work as finished as God did. 1 Peter 1:10-12 tells us that the prophets and the elect angels herd the gospel under the Old Covenant, but the exact plan for the accomplishment of our redemption remained mysterious to them, and they longed to see it. The same was true for the fallen angels. The accomplishment of redemption was a mystery to them before it was finished.

And so there Satan stood before God, accusing the people of God day and night, not understanding how it could be that a righteous and holy God could receive sinners like Job, Joshua, and Peter as holy in his sight. But then the Christ came. He lived, he died for the sins of his people, he rose, and he ascended. Now it is clear even to that finite creature, Satan, and to his fallen angels that salvation has been accomplished by Jesus the Christ, who is the eternal Son of God come in the flesh, through the sufferings of the cross, his death and resurrection. And now that he is ascended and is seated in the heavenly places with all authority in heaven and on earth being given to him, there is no longer room for Satan to accuse, for our salvation has been accomplished.

Please listen to Paul’s words in Romans 8:31-34. They are pertinent to the subject at hand. Paul asks,  “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” The implied answer is, no one, ultimately.  He continues by asking, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The implied answer is, yes, if God has loved us to the point of sending his Son to die for us, certainly he will graciously give us all things. And then he asks, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” The world “charge” means to bring accusations against someone. “Who will dare to accuse the elect of God”.  The implied answer is, no one can bring an accusation against God’s elect.  And why is that, Paul? He says, “For is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?” And then Paul presents the basis for it all, saying, “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:31–34, ESV).

So why is it, brothers and sisters, that we are able to speak in such a bold way as Christians, asking, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And “who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?”  And “who is to condemn?” It is because, “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:31–34, ESV).

His victory accomplished on earth has produced in heaven so that we might say with confidence, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37–39, ESV).

Brothers and sisters, when Christ died, rose, ascended, and was seated in power he did more than pay for your sins. He also won a cosmic victory in the spiritual realm so that Satan and his angels were “defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.”

Christ’s Victory In Heaven Produced Trouble For Those Living UpOn The Earth

Secondly, and very briefly, notice that Christ’s victory in heaven produced trouble for those living upon the earth.

Satan was barred from heaven. Over this fact the angels in heaven rejoiced. But being banished from heaven where is now confined to roam? Verse 9 says, “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” (Revelation 12:9, ESV). In verse 12 the heavenly voice says, “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!” (Revelation 12:12, ESV).

In the days of Job Satan roamed the earth but also had access to God so that he might accuse. No that the Christ has accomplished salvation Satan is confined to roam the earth and it barred from heaven.

And now he is particularly furious. Why? “Because he knows that his time is short”. His days are numbered. The victory has been won by Christ. Satan has been mortally wounded. He has taken that great and decisive blow to the head of which God spoke shorty after the fall. So what can he do except continue to bite at the heal of the women on to the very end.

It is true, the Bible teaches that because of the victory won by Christ Satan has been barred from heaven. No longer does he have access to God to accuse the elect before him. And it is true, the Bible teaches that because of the victory won by Christ Satan is now bound. He is bound so that he can no longer deceive the nations (Revelation 20). He is bound so that he his house (the world) might be plundered by Christ. (Matthew 12:29). He is, in other words, bound so that the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20 will be accomplished. But it would be foolish to live as if Satan is no more. No, having been barred from heaven, he is now confined to the earth where he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV). And how does he devour? The rest of Revelation will make it clear that he devours through the threat of persecution, false teaching, and the seductiveness of the world.

“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!”” (Revelation 12:12, ESV)

Application 

Let us take a moment to apply this text before we conclude so that we “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves]” (James 1:22, ESV).

Of course this text can be applied in many ways, but I have three suggestions for application.

One, I do wish to encourage us to cultivate thankful hearts concerning all of the benefits that we have in Christ Jesus. We are very rich in Christ Jesus, friends.

Our Savior has won for us the cosmic battle. He has triumphed over all his and all our enemies. God has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ] (Colossians 2:15, ESV).

And our Savior has taken our sin away.  He has “forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14, ESV).

And our Savior has given us new life. “[We], who were dead in [our] trespasses and the uncircumcision of [our] flesh, God made alive together with [Christ]” (Colossians 2:13, ESV).

We are rich in Christ. We have been justified by him. We have been adopted as Sons. We are being sanctified day by day.  We ought to be very thankful, friends. And our thankfulness should be constant, for these things do not fade.

I could add to this the mention of all the temporal blessings we enjoy in this world. We have food to eat, water to drink, cloths to wear, and shelter. Indeed, by the grace of God, we have these things regularly and in abundance.  And indeed, by the grace of God, we have much more than this. We have friends and family. We have one another in Christ Jesus. We should be very thankful in this life.   Indeed, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6, ESV). And yet so often we are found moping around like ungrateful children. How wrong we are to sin against God in this way. How right it is to wake in the morning with thankful hearts, to eat and drink with thankful hearts, and go to sleep with thankfulness in our hearts.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4–7, ESV).

We should think more deeply about all that we have in Christ Jesus and we should give God thanks always for things big and small.

Two, I must warn you again to “be sober-minded” and “watchful”concerning “your adversary the devil” who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:7–8, ESV). This point will be made again and again as we progress through the pages of Revelation but with ever greater detail and precision. We will be reminded that Satan has been thrown down to the earth and that he has come down “in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” But will also be reminded that he is cunning in his ways. He is indeed fierce like a lion, but he also deceptive like a serpent.

I was in the backyard with David a few weeks ago doing some yard work when out of the corner of my eye I see a large rattle snake slithering along. As I walked towards it moved up into our large and overgrown tomato plant and I quickly lost sight of it. I’m sure he moved on but I didn’t pick tomatoes for a few days. Serpents are very sly. They come and go quietly. They hide. The catch their pray by taking them by surprise.

Our spiritual foe fights against us in this way. He strikes when we least expect it. He hides behind the powers of this world, false teachings that at first tickle the ears, and seductiveness of this world.  Be sober-minded and watchful concerning him.

Lastly, I cannot close without urging you to trust in Jesus. Indeed, he is our champion. He is our king who has defeated all that threatens us. He has paid for our sins, he has defeated all of his and our enemies, and he has done so in such decisive manner that there no longer remains a place for Satan in heaven to accuse us. Believe upon Christ. And once you have believed upon him, cling to him, for he is our rock and our salvation.

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