READ : Revelation 12:10-11
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 brethren 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 rsv
It’s alarming to learn that we have a mortal enemy. Let’s say there’s someone out there who hates us, who is determined to do us harm, and possesses formidable cunning and power. Just knowing about the existence of such persons and their evil intent against us can take the joy out of life. We may lose sleep at night, may live in constant dread, may be incapacitated for the normal activities of life. Always in the back of our minds is the shadowy awareness of that malicious foe.
On the other hand, our situation is even more perilous if we have such an enemy and don’t realize it. Then we may throw ourselves carelessly in harm’s way. We may become easy targets. We have no possibility of defending ourselves because we scarcely dream that we’re in any danger. All things considered, if there’s a deadly threat to my well-being, I’d like at least to know about it, wouldn’t you? Better to feel grimly on the defensive than foolishly secure.
That’s why I want to talk to you today about your greatest enemy, and mine. He goes by many names, but this is his story. I’m reading from the vivid imagery of the book of the Revelation, chapter 12, beginning at verse 7:
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were 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 brethren 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. . . .”
Think with me now about this enemy of ours and how he’s described in this passage. He’s called the great dragon. The visions of Revelation picture him as devouringly destructive. He’s the one who tried to kill the God-man, Jesus, when He was born as a baby in Bethlehem. Remember Herod? He was the agent of the “great dragon.”
He is also called the ancient serpent. That makes us think immediately of the Garden of Eden and the way in which the tempter came to our first parents in the form of a snake. He is the one who seeks to lead all of God’s human children into disobedience.
He’s called the devil which means “the slanderer,” the one who spreads vicious lies about people. That gives you a hint about his character. He’s also called Satan, which means “the adversary,” the one contending against us, the enemy. Again, he’s the deceiver of the whole world. This is his constant strategy, to beguile and destroy by means of the lie. Jesus calls him, in fact, “the father of lies,” the great originator of falsehood.
But I’m thinking especially today of one more description. The hosts of heaven describe this enemy as “the accuser of our brethren, who accuses them day and night before our God.”
When I read that, I think immediately of the book of Job. Remember the account of this God-fearing man upon whom such terrible tragedies fell? The cosmic background of the story is a scene in heaven where Satan has become Job’s accuser. He says things like this, “Does Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse thee to thy face” (Job 1:9-11). In other words, Job is no godly man. He simply knows what’s to his own advantage. Take away the blessings he’s received, and you’ll see that there’s nothing to his religion.
When Job weathers that grim testing, and still cries out, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” Satan accuses again. “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But put forth thy hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face” (Job 1:4-5). That is, just let something happen to him, to his personal health and safety. Then he’ll turn away and renounce God.
You and I have an enemy, apparently, who is seeking before the throne of heaven to put the worst possible construction upon what we’ve done and our motives in doing it. He’s charging us with the worst of wrongs, challenging God to put us to the test. Imagine having this “attorney for the prosecution” against us in the highest of all courts!
But it’s not only in heaven that this happens. Satan is the accuser on earth too. Every time you’ve ever been falsely charged with something, every time your motives have been impugned, your behavior twisted to make it appear its worst, the evil one was somehow behind it.
It happens too in the inner court of your own mind and heart. You’ve met the accuser there, haven’t you? “You’re no Christian,” says the inner voice, “you’re the worst of hypocrites. Look at this that you did, or failed to do. You call yourself a Christian? You aren’t fit to live on the earth.” And so it goes. I’ve known people inwardly tormented, hearing voices that they were under God’s judgment, guilty of the most heinous evils. The causes for that inner suffering are manifold: chemical imbalance in the brain, psychological traumas in the past. But there’s a malevolence about it all, a fiendish cruelty, that points also to an accusing enemy. All that makes you feel hopelessly down on yourself and ready to give way to despair is an expression of Satan’s hostility, his work as the accuser of our brethren.
What the apostle John is given to see in the visions of the Revelation is “war in heaven.” The archangel Michael and his angels are fighting against the dragon and his angels. We aren’t given the details of that, but there’s clearly a cosmic conflict behind the scenes that has enormous effects for life on the earth. The forces of light are contending with the hosts of darkness, the angels of heaven with the demons of hell. And victory is with the servants of God. The devil and his minions are overcome and cast down. The heavenly chorus celebrates now that “the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, so the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down.” The devil, the fierce accuser, has been decisively defeated. The issue is no longer in doubt. The enemy has been vanquished.
The writers of the New Testament leave no doubt as to how this victory has been achieved. It is the work of that one known in Revelation as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). It is the victory of the one who rides on the white horse and who is called faithful and true, whose name is the Word of God. Jesus is the mighty victor.
The gospels portray Him as entering into our history as man, to contend with the great dragon, to bind the strong man and release his captives. Everywhere He goes, people are released from Satan’s grip. The evil spirits cower at His coming, flee at His word. He resists temptation at every point, refusing to turn aside from the way that leads to the cross.
For a time, it seems that the old serpent, the devil, will prevail. Satan enters into Judas the deceiver, the betrayer. He stirs up envy in the religious authorities. He sparks the murderous blood-cries of the crowd. This is Satan’s “hour,” as Jesus puts it, “and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). Finally, on Golgotha, all the malice of hell seems directed against the suffering Savior. Bearing the weight of the world’s sin and all the malevolence of hell, He gives Himself up to die. But by dying and rising from the dead on the third day, He wins a marvelous triumph.
The Scriptures say that Jesus spoiled principalities and powers and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His cross. He destroyed the works of the devil. He overcame him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, so that He might deliver those who all their lifetime were subject to bondage. The war in heaven results in a victory over the powers of evil because here on earth the king of heaven has conquered by His self-giving love. The songs of triumph among the heavenly host are also songs of praise to Him, the Victor.
Now the scene shifts to the earth. The dragon has been cast down, but in his death-throes he still does great evil on the earth. Though sure of a victory already won, believers on earth are still under attack, still being persecuted, defamed, accused, harassed. But now the victory won by Jesus in the heavenly realms comes to expression in their smaller triumphs here on earth. How do they stand against the tide of evil? How do they remain faithful amid fearful pressures? Here is their secret: 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.” That’s it. They overcome by the blood of the lamb. They overcome by Jesus’ atoning death, by His all-sufficient saving work, by the victory He won in death and resurrection over all the powers of evil.
The saints of the Lord have nothing to boast about in themselves. It is not by their might or valor that success is achieved. Everything depends on the great forerunner, the One who endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. They triumph only in Him and because of Him. They glory only in His cross.
And they overcome by the word of their testimony. As those who believe in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, they testify in this world to His saving work, to His lordship, to His power to redeem. Against all the accusations of the evil one, they raise the standard of the gospel. They proclaim the all-prevailing name of Jesus. They preach a gospel before which the hosts of darkness flee. They preach good news to the poor. They proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind. Whatever befalls them, they never stop testifying to small and great that Jesus is Lord.
And finally, they overcome because they love not their lives even unto death. Does that jar you? Let’s understand what it means. They love life as much as anyone does. Christians find more zest in life than anyone else because they know the Lord of joy, but they do not cherish their life in this world more than they love Him. They do not love their safety and security so much that they will deny Christ to save their skins. They have settled that, just as Peter did after his shameful denial. The next time they will remain faithful unto death. That’s why they overcome. They trust in Jesus, crucified and risen for them. They keep on bearing their witness and they can’t be intimidated even by the threat of bloody persecution.
We began today thinking of how frightening it is to have a malicious enemy, intent on our destruction. That is terrifying indeed unless we know that the enemy has been vanquished, unless we’re sure that the lion is held on God’s leash. We don’t need to be afraid now because nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Martin Luther in his time was pounded with accusations about his character, about his writings, about his motives. He said on one occasion, “I deny these things. But even if they all were true, I’m not preaching Martin Luther. I’m preaching Jesus Christ.” Yes, and He’s the one who saves us from the fierce accuser.