7 Then war broke out 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. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
10 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.
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”
13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. 15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.
There was war in heaven we’re told in verse 7 and the dragon and his hangers-on lose. They’re kicked out of heaven.
The word Satan means “Accuser” and when Jesus dies and is resurrected the accuser is no longer able to accuse Believers – verse 11 says that the believers overcame the Dragon, the Satan, by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony. By the forgiveness that Jesus brings no one can bring any accusations against them because they are forgiven [Rom 8:33].
The Devil was defeated at the cross.
This dragon is powerful. It has seven heads and ten horns and a crown on each head. The horn was the symbol of power. Like a bull or a rhino. It has 7 heads – they represent his world domination. He is the head of nations. He is powerful – his tail sweeps a third of the stars from the sky. But he is defeated by Jesus. Verse 12 says, “He is filled with fury because he knows his time is short.” He has been defeated and he’s awaiting sentencing.
Verse 14 repeats what has been said earlier in verse 6- that the church is taken to a place of safety for a time, until the very end of things described earlier when the two witnesses, who represent the gospelling church, are killed. Evil seems to have won [verse 15], but then the church is brought back to life [verse 16].
When the dragon can’t defeat the woman, the church, he goes off to try to kill off her offspring, the individual believers. This is the great tribulation, the time of persecution and suffering that revelation has been describing on and off all the way through. It’s the gospel age – the age of witness and proclamation of the gospel – our age. This is the battle of Armageddon.
During this time of tribulation and trouble, Satan has his henchmen do their worst. In chapter 13 John sees a seven-headed, ten horned beast come out of the sea. This beast incorporates characteristics of some of the most fearsome animals alive – part lion, part leopard and part bear. That is a formidable creature. It comes out of the ocean and the ocean was the realm of chaos and unrest. It seems to have a fatal wound that has been healed. Its seven heads represent world powers: Babylon, Assyria, Rome, and so on. This is world governments in opposition to the church. Wherever government opposes the church Satan is behind it.
The fatal wound that has been healed [13:3], some want to say represents Rome, when Nero, the great persecutor of the church, committed suicide and people thought that Roman persecution was over, but it came back under Domitian. Be that as it may, the message is that there will always be governments out to destroy the Christian faith and the church. It shouldn’t surprise us!
As we look at the way things are going in Australia at the moment it would be easy to get depressed as we see laws being passed that make it harder and harder to live out a biblical faith. We are vilified more and more because of our views on sexuality, abortion, marriage, gender, the way of salvation, sin and on it goes. It is all part of the work of evil in the world, but it is dressed up as progressiveness and tolerance. However, it is not outside God’s will and his plans for his creation. He can be trusted. There is no need to be anxious. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for us”.
Are you anxious and uptight about life? Do you really trust your loving Father?
Lord of heaven and earth, give me firm trust in your control and your goodness. Amen
The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?”
People worship the dragon and its beast, it says in chapter 13 verses 3 & 4. The beast is given power for 42 months, or 1260 days. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. There will come a time when the church will seem to be dead and the believers wiped out. We saw that with the two witnesses who represent the church. At this stage the whole world will worship the evil one v 8.
There will be a few of us left, a small left-over, but the rest of us will go into captivity and be killed. That’s in verse 9 & 10. It will be a terrible time. It will be mankind organised against God. We have seen that in so many parts of the world and we continue to see it. The church has been almost wiped out in so many places. BBC news in 2019 reported:
“The persecution of Christians in parts of the world is at near "genocide" levels, according to a report ordered by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The review, led by the Bishop of Truro the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen, estimated that one in three people suffer from religious persecution.
Christians were the most persecuted religious group, it found.
The interim report said the main impact of "genocidal acts against Christians is exodus" and that Christianity faced being "wiped out" from parts of the Middle East.” [https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48146305]
Another beast appears and this one looks quite harmless. All he has is 2 horns like a lamb. But he speaks like the dragon. This beast serves the first beast and encourages everyone to worship the 7 headed beast. This beast even performs miracles – he looks like someone from God, the real deal. This beast is religious and in effect is spouting a new world religion. A religion that is acceptable to almost everyone. This involves receiving “the mark of the beast” on hands and foreheads, the number 666.
There are people who think that this is yet to happen. They think that there will literally be either a tattoo on people’s foreheads or a microchip. Over the years it’s been claimed that
all barcodes have 666 on the code, and that bankcard had the 666 mark in its logo.
Others have made the point that our corporations are already using the sign of the beast to get us accustomed to it so that we won’t object when it’s brought out. It may happen that way, but I think these people are dangerously missing the point. Earlier on in chapter 7 verse 3 we’re told that God puts a seal on the foreheads of the believers. We don’t insist that that must be a physical thing. What’s going on here in chapter 13 is that Satan is marking out his people and in effect. He is claiming his people for himself.
Back in Exodus 13 when God tells his people to celebrate the Passover he says, “This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”
The mark on hands and head is about everything you think and say and do. So those with the mark of the beast are really those who, even though they don’t know it, belong to the beast. It is the spirit of opposition to God. You probably won’t see a symbol or a mark or a number. You will see people honouring that which is not God and opposing the worship of Jesus.
Why 666? We really don’t know for sure, but we know that 777 was a symbol for perfection, so 666 is a falling short, a failure. In fact, failure after failure after failure.
If we are waiting for the micro-chip or the tattoo or some other physical sign, then we miss what is already happening – those with the mark of the beast are all around us: those who oppose God and God’s people. And in many places in the world today people cannot buy or sell if they belong to Jesus. Christians are persecuted all around the world – denied food, denied education, denied jobs and medical care. We are already living in the age of the mark of the beast. It is all around us.
What do we do about it? Chapter 13 verse 10 tells us. We will not avoid the suffering and persecution that is to come, and that is all around in our world. Some will go into prison for their faith, some killed, but we are all to patiently endure. It does not mean God has abandoned us. It’s like a marathon – suffering is just part of the journey. And didn’t Jesus himself warn us about that? Didn’t he say that we would enter the kingdom with suffering and persecution? Why are we so shocked when it happens?
Why is that suffering turns so many away from God! He tells us it’s part of the deal. The lack of suffering is actually the exception to the rule.
But the Devil’s time is short. Jesus has already won. And we are his people.
Patient Father, please be gracious to our broken and fallen world and send your spirit to change hearts and minds so that the Gospel can take root in their hearts. Amen
17 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. 2 With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. 5 The name written on her forehead was a mystery:
babylon the great
the mother of prostitutes
and of the abominations of the earth.
6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
We move on to chapter 17 today. It would be good to read the intervening chapters but they have some repetition as they enter a new cycle and we have already dealt with much of what they cover.
During the same-sex marriage debate a few years ago I thought “Am I being irrational and narrow-minded and unloving in opposing what so many people seem to think is a good thing? Is there any way that they can be right and I can be wrong?” It made me go over my reasons for believing that what the Bible says is true. Do you ever feel like that? Christians are considered crazy for our views on sex outside of marriage, our views on divorce, our views on abortion, on euthanasia, on Jesus being the only way to God, on the Bible, on pornography, on creation and on and on it goes. Do you ever think, “Maybe they’re right!”? So many smart and educated people seem to be against us! It’s like there’s this steamroller of opinion moving across us and you either have to get on board or get crushed.
Chapters 17 & 18 tell us that our culture is not so smart and not so sophisticated and not so reasonable and not so right. We’re not on the losing side.
In chapter 17 we’re introduced to a new character in John’s vision – someone he calls “the great prostitute.” She is described in verse 3 as being dressed in purple and scarlet. She glitters with gold and precious stones and pearls. She is rich, wealthy and powerful, and she looks the part. She’s not a person; 17:5 tells us she is “Babylon the Great, The Mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth.” Imagine having that written on your forehead! In the Old Testament Babylon represented the epitome of arrogance, evil, decadence, immorality and false worship. In Revelation it is symbolic for Rome, the centre of the Roman Empire. In lots of ways the Roman Empire was very impressive, like the woman. You stand up against something like that empire and you are on a hiding to nothing. But the empire stood against God’s people and it stood against God.
Today is no different. Stand up for the values of God as shown us in the Bible and you will be mocked and ridiculed and called all sorts of things. In some countries in our world, you will be gaoled or put to death. And that’s because the great prostitute, Rome, stands for all that is immoral about human culture; all that represents greed and self-centredness. All that stands against God and his values.
Verse 2 tells us that “With her the kings of the earth have committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” In this sort of context in the Bible, adultery is a reference to spiritual adultery – it’s turning away from God to pursue other gods and other things.
This woman looks so good and so powerful and so wealthy. And people are intoxicated with what she represents. They are drunks running after sexual fulfilment, running after wealth and materialism, running after pornography, running after fulfilment without commitment, rights without responsibilities, love without sacrifice, and running away from God and all that he represents. It all looks so attractive! It looks so sophisticated.
Research into why people don’t go to church anymore, and he said the real reason people don’t go to church anymore is that they really can’t be bothered! A large proportion of Australians say they believe in Jesus, but it takes too much effort to change. It is too low on their priority list. Other things are more important and more attractive. That is the great prostitute at work.
God of all power and might, please help your people to see through the deceits of the evil one and false hopes of a culture that sets itself against you. Amen
When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. 7 Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. 8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.
9 “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. 10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. 11 The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.
12 “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. 13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
Contrast the description of the evil woman in chapter 17 with the woman representing the church back in chapter 12, the latter clothed with the sun and moon and a crown of twelve stars on her head. The church is the heavenly woman, and as we’ll see in chapter 19, she is the bride of Jesus. It’s as though John puts the two side by side and encourages us to compare them, and there is no comparison. Why would you align yourself with the culture and not God’s people? The great prostitute is seated on the beast with seven heads and ten horns and they both sit on the waters, which in verse 15 we’re told represent “peoples, multitudes, nations and languages”. This woman, together with the beast, rules the world – in some ways it is under her control. And she holds a golden cup, and I quote “filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.” And the beast she rides is covered in “blasphemous names.”
There you have the culture, the woman, luring us away from God and his values by seduction and temptation, and you have the beast standing arrogantly in God’s place claiming to be God. The woman acts with stealth an enticement, and the beast openly opposes God. The woman is more our problem in the west, and the beast, governments opposed to God, is more the problem in places where the Government is anti-Christian.
And this woman, we’re told, is not just seducing people into spiritual adultery, but she is drunk with the blood of the saints [verse 6], of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
Just as the people of our world are intoxicated with the ways of this world she represents, so she is intoxicated with the blood of Christians. It’s estimated that 70 million of us have died at her hands in the last 2,000 years. [Dr Todd M Johnson Professor of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary Dec 18, 2019].
John says he is astonished when he sees all this, but the angel explains it. The beast has seven heads, which represent the seven hills on which Rome is built, but also represents 7 kings. The ten horns represent ten future kings. There are a number of explanations of this – Some say it refers to the Roman emperors of the day or to great empires including Egypt, Babylon, Rome, Greece and so on. Still others say that it represents all the empires of the world. Others think the ten horns represents areas of influence like the arts, and education, commerce and industry. Others say that it represents world rulers.
The main point seems to be that all these rulers and the great empires will all have one purpose – verse 13 says that their one purpose is to give power and authority to the beast.
“And they will make war against the lamb, Jesus, but that the lamb will overcome them because he is “Lord of Lords and King of Kings”.
As we’ve already seen, the ultimate victory was at the cross, but the Accuser is now carrying out as much damage as possible against God’s people before his sentence is handed down, but he will never win. And Jesus will keep his people safe with him.
Then John says that the beast will take an extreme dislike for the woman who sits on it and will destroy her. Satan fighting against Satan! This is always the way with evil. It is self-destructive. It never does anything constructive. Sin destroys. There is never a victimless sin. Sin can look so desirable but in the end, it will wreak havoc. And many of us have experienced that haven’t we. We’ve seen families destroyed, lives destroyed, reputations destroyed. We’ve seen pain and agony produced by pride and violence and selfishness.
Now, look at verse 17 – the beast devours the woman “For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose…….” Isn’t that astounding! Here is the great mystery of God’s sovereignty. Evil is under God’s control. God put it into the hearts and minds of those who are evil to destroy their own. This is not a new idea in the Bible.
Proverbs 21:1 says “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” God controls the thinking process. We’re told in Exodus 7:3 that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to stop him freeing the slaves. God controlled Pharaoh.
We’re told that God brings the nation of Assyria against Israel to punish them. In Isaiah 10:5 he says , “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,
in whose hand is the club of my wrath!
6 I send him against a godless nation,
I dispatch him against a people who anger me,
to seize loot and snatch plunder,
and to trample them down like mud in the streets.
7 But this is not what he intends,
this is not what he has in mind;
his purpose is to destroy,
to put an end to many nations.
God says that the Assyrians didn’t invade to do what God wanted. They did it for their own evil purposes, but God did it for good. We see this again and again in the Bible. One event with two motives behind it.
How does it work? God puts a compelling idea into our minds and we, in our sin and rebellion, we agree with that thought and carry it out. We choose it, yet God is in charge and makes it happen.
Some people struggle with this view of God’s sovereign control, but the Bible seems to be very clear and consistent in this. One writer has put it like this; The ones carrying out God’s plans are the horse and God is the rider. To the horse belongs all the restless energy and huge strength of its nature; to the rider belongs all direction skill and management. [J.A. Motyer pg. 113 Isaiah commentary.]
God does not do evil – people choose to do evil. God doesn’t overrule their thinking process – he doesn’t take away their choice. People carry out evil acts. But God uses evil to carry out his purposes. Both those things occur in the same action, so that we can say that God does it and that evil people do it. That is a great comfort. It means that nothing is outside of God’s control. Surely that has been the whole message of Revelation. All these things that are happening in our world and that the book of Revelation describes, none of it is outside his plans for us, or outside his control. Not one thing! Everything in our lives goes according to plan, for good. Absolutely everything.
Lord what a comfort it is to know that you are in control. Help me to trust your goodness towards me, even when I can’t see your good purposes. Amen
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendour. 2 With a mighty voice he shouted: “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’[a]
She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.
3 For all the nations have drunk
the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say:
“‘Come out of her, my people,’[b]
so that you will not share in her sins,
so that you will not receive any of her plagues;
In Chapter 18 we come to the fall of Babylon – the fall of all cultures that oppose God and proclaim their own greatness. The end of a culture that is in opposition to God will come suddenly and unexpectedly. At the time it looks so completely in control the culture that opposes God will be destroyed.
And it contains a warning for us; for God’s people “Then I heard another voice from heaven say, “come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.” [verse 4]
We can be seduced: seduced by materialism; seduced by what looks so attractive and so smart and so acceptable; seduced by our culture to ignore God, to take him for granted, even to abandon him. We can be seduced into putting other things and other people before God, which is idolatry; seduced to accept the values and practices around us. And we are seduced. In many areas Christians are no different from anyone else:
- A recent US survey in Christianity Today shows that 45 percent of Christians indicate having done something sexually inappropriate, and 23 percent have committed adultery. (Anderson, 2000). These numbers pretty much mirror the national averages in our culture.
- The Orlando Women’s centre claims that 13% of abortion patients in the US describe themselves as born-again or Evangelical Christians.
That’s just two areas in which it is clear Christians have been seduced by the culture.
Let’s be clear: we all sin. We all do things that we regret. The great news of the gospel is that there is forgiveness to all who repent of their wrongdoing. The only unforgiveable sin is to once and for all reject the call of God to repent. We need to come out of that culture. We need to repent. If you are caught up in anything that is pulling you away from God or God’s church, you need to repent. You need to come clean with God.
Our culture that looks so advanced, so mature, so sophisticated, so attractive, will be destroyed by God in an instant. It will be shown up for what it is. How the mighty have fallen!!
Three things come out of these recent chapters.
- 1. God is in control. That is the constant message of Revelation. Whatever happens to you is according to God’s good plan. Accept that. Relax into that.
- 2. Don’t fret that we seem to be on the losing side; that our culture mocks us treats us as fools. We are actually on the right side and one day everyone will see it.
- 3. There is a call to us come out of the culture around us and repent of the things that have seduced us? Are you sorry that you’ve given in to what is wrong; that you’ve been enticed by those around you and the culture that is so persuasive? Repent today. Apologise to God and make up your mind with his help to change. If it’s in the past don’t just sweep it under the carpet – acknowledge it and repent of it. If it’s got you right now, do something about it. Repentance is the path to forgiveness, and wonder of wonders, 2 Timothy 2:25 tells us that even repentance is a gift of God.
What a great God we have. What a great Saviour Jesus is!
Lord, thank you for the encouragement that comes from the assurance that we are on the winning side. Amen.