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Worthy is the Lamb: The Real War of the Worlds

Worthy is the Lamb  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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One of the central themes in the Revelation is the struggle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world that is dominated by Satan. But during the tribulation God will assert His sovereignty over all things.

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Text: Revelation 12:1-6
Theme: One of the central themes in the Revelation is the struggle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world that is dominated by Satan. But during the tribulation God will assert His sovereignty over all things.
Date: 08/19/2018 File name: Resurrection27.wpd ID Number:
The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells written in 1897. It is one of the earliest science fiction stories that detail a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. It’s the story of malevolent Martians who land on earth bent of stealing all of our resources to replenish their dying planet, and they are more than willing to kill all of earth’s inhabitants. H. G. Wells writes in the first paragraph of the book, “As humanity busied itself with their own various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.” As the story unwinds we see that mankind’s weapons of war are no match against the Martian “war-machines.” Humanity appears doomed as two worlds struggle against each other. In the end, after all man's devices had failed, the Martians are killed by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth — microbes to which they have no immunity. It was a hugely successful book for Wells, and became the basis for two movies, and a 1938 radio drama by Orson Welles that panicked listeners across the country who believed the drama was describing real events — that America was actually being invaded by Martians.
Revelation 12 reveals a real war of the worlds. It is a clash between the kingdom of this world led by the usurper Satan, and the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Like the Martians in H. G. Wells story, the Devil is a cool and unsympathetic character, who regards God’s creation with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew his plans against God and God’s people. One of the central themes in Revelation is the struggle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan that will culminate in a Great Tribulation. During that time a satanically inspired ruler, simply referred to as “the beast” (Rev. 11:7), but better known to us as the Antichrist, will try to frustrate the rule of God on earth by gaining universal power, demanding the worship of men, and inflicting martyrdom on all who remain loyal to Christ. At the same time God will be delivering wrathful blow after wrathful blow as he seeks, even to the very end of the age, to turn the disobedient to Him in faith.
Before the end actually comes, John is going to describe for us the appearance of the Antichrist and his efforts to destroy the church. In chapter twelve, the Apostle parts the curtain that separates earth from heaven to depict a great warfare in the spiritual world.

I. A GREAT DRAGON

"Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days." (Revelation 12:3–6, NIV84)

A. SATAN IS THE PERPETRATOR IN THIS COSMIC CONFLICT

1. Revelation 12 puts us in touch with a very real world — one we don’t see, and to which we rarely pay attention
a. it’s a world where God, and angels, and demons, and Satan all live and move
b. though it’s a realm we can’t see, it’s a realm that has a very real affect upon our world and upon our lives
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10–12, NIV84)
2. Revelation 12 introduces us to a major character in the scheme of cosmic warfare taking place in the world around us
a. we are introduced to a great red dragon who, later in the chapter, is identified as that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray (vs. 9)
ILLUS. Most of the Medieval art depicting Satan is taken from this passage. Even today, Satan is most often portrayed as blood-red, with horns and a tail and cloven hooves.
1) you need to understand that this is not a physical description of Satan, but a moral description
2) it speaks of his vial character — he is a dragon, implying that he is fearsome and dangerous, he is a serpent, meaning he is sly, and deadly, he the devil meaning he is "the Accuser", and he is Satan, which means “the opposer”
ILLUS. In his classic book The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis wrote, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors ... “
b. vs. 9 also tells us He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him
1) in his pre-incarnate glory Jesus was a witness to that event “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:17–18, NIV84)

B. SATAN’S MUTINY IN HEAVEN BECAME OUR MISERY ON EARTH

1. since the fall of Satan there has been a very real war going on in the universe
a. think of it as the real War of the Worlds
b. the opening campaign of Satan’s war of the ages took place in heaven ...
“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.” (Revelation 12:7–8, NIV84)
c. war between holy angels and apostate angels ... how do even begin to imagine what that looks like, and yet here it is ... right from the pages of the Bible
d. the Archangel Michael figures prominently in this war
1) in the Old Testament book of Daniel, the Archangel Michael is described as the prince who protects your people
ILLUS. In Christian art, Michael is almost always portrayed hold a sword and shield.
2) Michael and God’s holy angels prevail, and the devil and his host are ejected from the heavenly realm
2. the Prophet Isaiah identifies the reason for that war
“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” 15 But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:12–15, NIV84)
a. unmitigated pride is the reason for Satan’s fall
1) as you read through the Isaiah passage you see that Satan repeatedly asserts I will rather than Thy will be done
b. when Satan rebelled, one-third of the angels foolishly and wickedly cast their lots with him
1) Revelation 12:4 tells us that his tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth
a) most conservative bible scholars believe this is a reference to the angels — who are sometimes compared to stars — who rebelled with Satan against God
2) none of them could have known what the eternal consequences of their choice would be — that eternal consequence being the Lake of Fire
3) wanting to be like God, they became as much unlike Him as possible
3. this war made its way into our lives in a place called Eden
a. when Adam and Eve plummeted into corruption by choosing to listen to Satan’s lies and disobey God, the human race became embroiled in the cosmic war of the ages
1) in fact, since the Fall the earth has been the primary theater in which that war has been fought
b. though already fallen, every member of the human race faces the same choice as the angels did in eternity past: to fight on God’s side or on Satan’s
c. remaining neutral is not an option
1) in Matthew 12:30 Jesus declared, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”
d. Satan’s plan of attack in this war is found in vs. 9 — he leads the whole world astray
1) the educated and ignorant, the king and the pauper, male and female, Jew and Gentile, the strong and the weak, the young and the old, every race — all are deceived by him
2) all the world’s philosophies, conceived ever so brilliantly by profound thinkers — whether pragmatism, idealism, Gnosticism, determinism, hedonism, materialism, transcendentalism, existentialism, deism or any other ism, all are Satan-originated, Satan-centered, and Satan-honoring, rather than God-originated, God-centered and God-honoring
5. Revelation 12 is, therefore, a panorama of the cosmic warfare that is taking place around us
a. in this chapter we go all the way back to the fall of Satan before the dawn of creation, and all the way forward to the end of time to this period call the Great Tribulation
1) in just a few verses, we get a synopsis of the spiritual warfare that is going on behind the scene of this temporal world
b. I believe that the events described in vs. 1-9 are not a prophecy of some yet future event, but a description of the struggle in the spiritual world which lie behind history
1) at the same time, I believe that struggle in the spiritual world will break upon our temporal world during the Tribulation
2) mankind will see that God, and angels, and demons, and Satan are real

II. A GREAT SIGN

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.” (Revelation 12:1–2, NASB95)
1. the cosmic war of the worlds taking place involves a people
a. John looks and he sees a great sign that appears in heaven
ILLUS. The word great in this passage is familiar to us. It comes from the Greek word mega, as in huge, or enormous. It’s a word that is meant to emphasize awe or amazement which is why the NIV translates that word as wondrous.
b. the great sign is a woman, radiantly clothed with the sun, the moon is her footstool, and on her head she wares a crown of twelve stars
2. the question is, Who is this woman?
a. some bible students think this woman represents the Church, and the man-child she gives birth to are the saints
1) they point to Revelation 2:18-29, where the saints at the Church in Thyatira are promised that the faithful shall rule the nations with a rod of iron
2) this interpretation is a hard sell for me
b. Catholic eschatology identifies the woman as Mary
ILLUS. This is why in virtually every Catholic church in the world you’ll find a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus depicted as this woman is here described.
1) this interpretation is even a harder sell for me
c. among Protestants in general, and Baptists in particular, the woman in this passage is believed to represent Israel
1) if you’re familiar with the story of Joseph in the Old Testament it’s hard not to make the connection
“Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, “Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” (Genesis 37:9–10, NASB95)
2) it’s obvious that even Joseph’s father, Israel, understood the meaning of the dream
a) the sun represents Israel, the moon represents Rachel, and the 12 stars represent the sons of Jacob that would ultimately become the nation of Israel
b) Joseph’s father understands the meaning of the dream, and he rebukes Joseph for his haughtiness
3) the most obvious reason that this woman whom John see represents Israel is because she is about to give birth to Messiah
3. do you see the sweep of Messianic history in these verses?
a. it begins with the creation of God’s Elect people chosen and fathered through Abraham — his progeny is the woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head
b. then we skip ahead 2,000 years to the night Mary gave birth to a boy-child and called him Jesus as the angel instructed
c. then we skip ahead mere weeks or months in vs. 4 as the great red dragon sows the seeds of paranoia and hate into Herod’s heart, and he dispatches soldiers to the town of Bethlehem to kill God’s Messiah
d. finally, in vs. 5 we speed through thirty-three years of our Lord’s earthly ministry to the day of his ascension when he is snatched up to God in heaven
4. the sign is wondrous, not because of the woman, but because of the child she is about to give birth to
a. it’s not the woman who has drawn the rage of Satan, but her offspring
b. Satan has a long memory — he knows that this child is the one God promised Eve would crush his head
5. but this woman also has other offspring according to vs. 17
a. these other children are all those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus
b. this is the Church — we are the other offspring of Israel
1) this corresponds with what the Apostle Paul taught in Romans ... that Gentile believers are the wild olive branches grafted into the olive tree that represents God’s Elect throughout the ages — both Jew and Gentile
c. one cannot read the Bible honestly, and not realize the close spiritual kinship Christians have with the Jewish people
1) while it is true that only a remnant of Israel believe, and the vast majority don’t we cannot forget that God the Father is also the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that the Savior of the world is the Jewish Messiah ... that two-thirds of our Scriptures are Jewish Scriptures ... that much of the Church’s public worship flows out of Jewish synagogue worship
6. this woman and her offspring have been the focus of the great red dragon’s hatred
a. Satan knows that to destroy Israel would make it impossible for God to fulfill His promises to the Jewish people
1) God would not allow him to do that
b. it should come as no surprise that the devil will intensify his persecution of Israel and Christ’s Church as the coming of the millennial kingdom draws ever nearer
7. the great sign, the wondrous event, that the apostle John sees in all of this symbolic imagery is the grand sweep of God's redemptive work in history
a. it’s something Satan has continually sought to hinder
b. but God seeks to offer redemption to a people who have chosen to follow Satan and his angels into rebellion

III. A GREAT WRATH

“For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” 13 And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.” (Revelation 12:12–13, NASB95)
1. since his fall at the dawn of creation, Satan has been in a rage
a. Satan’s rage against God was on display when Satan slithered into the Garden to seduce our primeval parents by his questioning of God’s goodness
1) they believed his lies, they sinned and humanity reaps the whirlwind of that Fall
b. Satan’s rage against God was on display in the history of the nation of Israel — the people through whom God’s redemptive plan would be fulfilled
1) no other people on the face of the earth have been as maligned, mistreated, and persecuted as the Jews
2) and yet they have survived
a) have you ever wondered why?
ILLUS. Benjamin Disraeli was a British statesman of the Conservative Party who twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the reign of Queen Victoria. In one of their many private conversations, the queen ask Disraeli, "Mr. Prime Minister, what evidence can you give me of the existence of God?" Disraeli thought for a moment and then replied, "The Jew, your majesty."
b) the survival of the Jewish people is indeed a miracle of God
c. Satan’s rage against God was on display in his opposition to our Savior’s life
1) from instigating King Herod to destroy him at birth, to attempting to seduce Jesus in the wilderness to worship him, to inciting evil men to betray Jesus, to accuse Jesus, to beat and whip Jesus, and to ultimately crucify Jesus Satan’s purpose was to frustrate the work of Christ
d. Satan’s rage against God was and remains on display in his opposition to Christ’s Church
1) for the first three-hundred years of the Church he sought to kill it through persecution
2) when he couldn’t kill it, Satan sought to weaken it through heresy
3) when he couldn’t weaken it through heresy, he sought to nullify it though compromise
ILLUS. Unfortunately this last one has worked about as well as anything he has attempted. In a desire to become “relevant” to the culture, much of the Church as adopted the ethics and morality of the culture, and in doing so has nullified the power of the Gospel.
2. the great cosmic war of the ages between God and Satan that began with Satan’s rebellion is set to reach its climax sometime in the near future
a. in this passage John provides important background information on that war and introduced its key figures

IV. LESSONS AND APPLICATION

A. God Always Sees His Redeemed People from a Heavenly Perspective

1. God sees His people through the shed blood of His only begotten Son
a. this male child who is birthed in this chapter is the Christ, the Son of the living God
b. he came into this world to purchase men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9, NIV84)
1) he purchased them with his blood
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7, NIV)

B. God Always Sees the Devil as a Repulsive Dragon That Opposes the Redeemed

1. the chapter is a reminder that the spiritual war going on behind the scenes of this world have very real consequences for the earthly experience of the church
a. we need to prepare ourselves spiritually for the daily battle
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10–18, NIV84)
2. this chapter of Revelation is important because it helps expose Satan for who he really is
a. the Bible exposes Satan’s devious and deceitful nature as the “father of lies” (John 8:44), and cautions us that he “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) so that he might more easily deceive people
3. one of the most pervasive and persistent popular myths about Satan pictures him (complete with pitchfork, horns, and pointed tail) as being in charge of hell
a. in reality, Satan is not in hell; in fact, there is no Scriptural evidence he has never been there
b. he will not be sentenced to the lake of fire until after his final rebellion is crushed at the end of the Millennium (20:7–10)
4. Satan is indeed like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8), but we are also told in James 4:7 that if you submit yourself to God, that you can then resist him, and he will from you
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4, NIV84)

C. God's Divine Protection of His People During the Final Crisis Does Not Mean That They Will All Be Kept from Martyrdom

1. most of you know by know — I’ve tried to be very up-front about it — I believe the Church, that is Christians, will go through this terrible end-time period the Bible calls the Tribulation
a. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe it
2. at the same time, I thoroughly believe that during that time God’s people will be miraculously protected from His wrath, just as the Hebrews in Egypt were miraculously protected from the plagues that God poured out on Egypt
3. this doesn’t mean that we will be miraculously protected from the wrath of the great dragon who will take out his rage on the people of God
a. but we will even overcome that
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:10–11, NIV)
In H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, the Martians are killed by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth — microbes to which they have no immunity. At the end of the age God will achieve His final victory through the humblest of things that God, in His wisdom, has put upon this earth — it is Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away sin. His blood, shed for you, is the immunity you need against the wrath of God, the rage of Satan, and the doom of hell.
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