[K:JNWTS 26/2 (2011): 3-7]
It seems to me that as long as I have been alive there have been wars on this earth. I experienced the First and the Second World War, then the Korean conflictthen the battle in Vietnam, Iraq; and still we're at war with Afghanistan and the Taliban. When will war cease? The Lord tells us as long as we're here wars will not cease because of the nature of man. But war in heaven? Have you ever heard about war in heaven? Don't you think of heaven as that wonderful place to which we're going where there's bliss and peace and happiness? But war?
Well, there was war at one time in heaven, so that we may go back and find bliss there. War! war with the woman on one hand and the dragon on the other hand as combatants. We want to see the battle itself and then observe the aftermath in our lives.
Prior to this chapter, John has told us about seals. Seals that were opened on the scroll. Only Jesus Christ could open those seals. Those seals talked about the coming of Christ in conquest, the coming of Satan, and then famine, death, persecution and earthquakes. And then there was silence in heaven for half an hour. We thought that maybe Christ was going to come back at the end of that scenario. But no; instead there was an announcement of trumpetstrumpeting loudly, sounding more and more and more judgment. Why should that have to be? That we have to go through all this persecution and all this turmoil that we find here upon this earth. Well then comes chapter 12 and chapter 13 and they tell us why.
We read that there is a great and wondrous sign in heaven. You see, John is using symbols to tell us this story. And the first symbol is found in a woman. She is a woman who has conquered and who is radiantshe looks like the sun. She has her feet on the moon. Yes, and she has a crown of twelve stars on her head. Twelve, the number of the church. She is going to give birth to a male child who is supposed to rule the world. You say, "This must be Mary." Oh, is it? That is the natural way we would think of it because, of course, it is Mary who gave birth to the Christ child. But in this symbolic way, you see, John is not just talking about Mary. He's talking about the church, as becomes evident later in the passage, when she is being pursued by the dragon and has to go into the wilderness. This is not Mary. Oh how the church over the centuries has venerated Maryput her on a pedestal; she's a way to Christ; she's a co-redemptress. But it's not Mary. This is John writing. You remember when Jesus was on the cross that he told John, "Here is your mother"; and he told Mary, "Here is your son" (John 19:26, 27). It was John who was to take care of her. She was an ordinary woman just like the rest of us. She was not immaculately conceived. No! She didn't go into heaven without dying. No! May the church wake up and understand God's ways as he has revealed them in the Scriptures. Yes, she was a blessed lady in that she was able to bear the Christ child. Oh yes, a blessed lady, but she was not venerated as churches that claim the historic roots of the apostles claim. She was not that kind of person. For when we want to understand the ways of God, we have to understand that it was the church that gave birth to the Christ child.
There was another great sign of heaven. That great sign was a dragonan enormous fiery red dragon. Oh yes, it had seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns. It had lots of power you see, as horns (note the book of Daniel) are expressions of power and authority. It also had a perfection of heads. It was not just a double dragon. No, this was a very wise dragona very wise dragon that ruled this world. That fiery red color is also found back in chapter 6, verse 4also a reference to the dragon. We are told very clearly there that the dragon was the serpent or the devil or Satan. Since he was the adversary of God, he now wants to eat the childto devour himbecause he doesn't want that child to be born. He knows that through the birth of that child in Bethlehem, God is going to bring forth his salvation to defeat the sources that have rebelled against him. God is going to take over the absolute rule of all nations through that child. So he's there to devour that child.
But look at how succinctly John speaks of it. The child goes to heaven; the woman goes out into the desert for one thousand two hundred and sixty days (v. 6). That's it. He doesn't elaborate on that at all because that's the way it is. Yes, God is in charge folks! He does his work very clearly, succinctly and powerfully; greater than the power of this crazy dragon.
Once we have these two combatants explained for us, we are told that the war is in heaven, not on earth. We look around and see all the wars going on today; we see all the persons who are very much at odds with one another and trying to take over nationsall these things happening on this earth and we wonder when is it ever going to end? In face, it's not going to end. We wonder when the Afghan war is especially going to end with all the money we are pouring into that conflict. But war here, beloved, is in heaven! That's where the war was.
What kind of war was it? God had his angels and Michael as his archangel (v. 7). There they were, fighting for God. On the opposite side was the devil. Oh yes, that's the old serpent who tempted Eve and caused the whole problem on this earth in the beginning. He's not only evil, he's also the devil which means "slanderer". He slanders everybody he can. Also he's Satanhe's the "adversary". He's not on our side. He makes it look like he is so that we think he's on our side, but he isn'tthat's who he is.
The battle is engaged between these angels. There's the war. And when the angels finished, it was God who won. Surprise! God won. Well, he's the Creator of the heavens and the earth; he's the Creator of the universe; he's the Creator of all things that are around us. He is God who is God over all. He has full powerfull control! He is sovereign! He is God!
That old Satan deceived himself, didn't he? He thought he could win. What kind of a crazy guy? Right? Well, at the end of the war, he is cast down to the earth and his angels with him (v. 9).
Next, we have John exalting in the circumstance. Yes! now has come the salvation, the power,d the kingdom of God and the authority of his Christ. You see how God has engaged in this spiritual battlethis great cosmic battle. And engaging in that battle, God has won. As a result, Satan is cast down to earth and the kingdom of God has come. Christ is now in heaven ruling on the throne at his Father's right hand. The battle is over. That's right. The battle is over in heaven. God has won. And that required that Satan and his cohorts are cast down to earth. You see, there is peace in heaven now, but turmoil upon earth.
You want to understand why we have to live in this world? You want to understand why we have to go through all the things we have to go through? Why there is so much sorrow and sadness in this world? Here is the explanation of it. It's because Satan has come down to earth; this is the place where he is now. You say, "He was there beforeI mean he was there trying to devour that woman; he tried to devour the church." Yes, he was at work then, but now he knows his time is short and he is mad. He is so raging mad that he wants to get us. But notice, they overcame him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimonial witness (v. 11). They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
You see? The story is told already. The victory is won already. Not only for God and his Christ, but for us as well. That's right. They overcame Satan, not by their own power, not by their own wisdom, not by their own strength, but by the blood of the cross of Christ. Christ accomplished the victory. He fought the battle; he won the battle and we are part of him by faith. We have his righteousness; we have his holiness. We live in him.
Oh, I know living in this life is not easy. We're going to talk about that in just a second, but nevertheless, you must have the right mind-setthe mind-set that Christ is in control and that he takes care of you. No matter what happens, it's not a disaster; no matter what happens, it's under Christ's control. If you don't have that mind-set, you can be tossed from pillar to post by every wind and doctrine and by every thought of mantossed by all the turmoil that's going on in this world. You may sense that it's hopeless; it's worthless. Look at the number of suicides that are being committed every day. They give up. But you don't have to give up. The war in heaven has been wonhas been won by the Lord Jesus Christ and you are now reigning with him in heaven.
That's right. You see life that way don't you? Or do you only think of the things you have to do and all the troubles that you have to go through? And all the problems that are in the family; all the difficulties in the government. Yes, if you listen to that stuff all the time you feel life is terrible. How can you rejoice? You can only rejoice in the Lord. He has won the victory. He has accomplished and conquered. Jesus has defeated Satan.
Notice what John says, "Therefore rejoice you heavens and you who dwell in them" (v. 12). The heavens rejoice! Satan's gone. He can't stand (like he did in the book of Job) before God and accuse you day and night of all these terrible things. He's gone. Notice what else John says, "But woe to the earth and the sea because the devil has gone down to you." He's filled with fury because he knows that his time is short. That's right. He's working overtime down here. You all know that. You've sensed the problems, haven't you?
Well what's he doing down here? What's the aftermath of this war? The dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth; he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. He didn't win with Jesus did he? Jesus was born; he lived for us; he died and rose again and ascended to heaven. He's ruling. Satan's lost out with Jesus. So what's he doing now? He's trying to work on the churchworking on every one of you. He's a roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). He's out there working hard. But notice, the woman was given the two wings of a great eagle so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a timeout of the reach of the serpent (v. 14).
What then is the Lord doing in your life? He's taking you out to the desert. Remember the background for that? Israel was suffering in Egypt at the hands of the Egyptian taskmasters. They cried to God and the Lord brought them out into the desert. He protected them and provided for themthousands upon thousands of people with nothing there in that desert, no stores to buy things. The Lord God provided their food; he provided their water; he provided their clothing so that it did not wear out. God alone did all this in the desert.
We, who are pilgrims and strangers here, are now in the desert. And what do we do here? We find ourselves in the desert, as those who are citizens of heaven, relying upon the Lord. That's rightrelying upon the Lord to provide for us and take care of us. Notice the emphasis of our passage. From his mouth, the serpent spewed water like a river to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent (v. 15). WaterGod provided water from the rock in the wilderness. In Ezekiel 47, God provides the water of life as it flows forth from the temple. WaterJesus provides the water of life to sustain and keep us (John 7:37, 38). But that devil, in his awful way, spews forth a big torrent of water to rush out into the desert and to kill the pilgrims. It flows forth out of his mouth. But noticethe earth opens up and swallows the water. That is interesting, is it not? For what are people worried about? Wind storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods: we think that the earth is against us. But really the earth swallows up the water (v. 16). God uses even the forces of nature for the sake of his church. He uses all things that go on in this world for the sake of his church. Amazing isn't it? Amazing!
For a time, times, and half a time. Have you figured it out? Three and a half years? You say, "We've been on this earth longer than three and a half years since Jesus' time." Oh yes, but do you know your Daniel? This phrase comes out of Daniel 7:25. And it's explained for us in Daniel 9:24-27. That's a whole sermon in itself, but I'll give you the capsule of it so you can see how it fits in here.
For seven sevensthere are seventy sevens that comprise the work of God. In the seven sevens, it's the time from Cyrus's decree for the Jews to go back to Jerusalem. He told them they could leave Babylon and go back to Jerusalem and settle there. From that time of going back to Jerusalem to the time of the coming of Christ is sixty-two sevenssixty-nine out of the seventy. You have one seven left. Now half a week (half of that time), half of that seven is the time between Jesus' life and death and resurrection and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem (70 A.D.).
What does that leave? A half of seven or three and a half; or, as we see it in other places, forty-two months, one thousand two hundred and sixty days. That is the gospel age. During this gospel agefrom Christ's first coming and the destruction of Jerusalem to his coming again the second timeis this three and a half years. God is going to be with us through it all. He will never leave us or forsake us, says Jesus. He will be with us to guide us and direct us. The war of heaven has been fought and has been won. It has been won for us nowwe live in that victory in Christ. We claim that victory in Christ. Even though the devil had to be cast down to earth and we are to experience all these troubles, know thisthat if you rest in Jesus Christ and live for him and give testimony to him, he will take care of you no matter what.
So congregation, let us learn to rejoice in the Lord and live victoriously in his victory.
Let us learn to be his servantsto be pilgrims and strangers here. Amen.