Spiritual Warfare

Revelation 12

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
February 2023

Today, we are going to go deep.  You are going to see some things in a way you may have never seen before.  Revelation 12 is a strange chapter.

It deals with angels and demons, Satan and spiritual warfare.  It deals with strange beasts, hideous looking monsters with seven heads and fiery red dragons.

It is a scary chapter.  A big red dragon tries to eat a newborn baby. A woman gives birth to a baby in great pain and agony and a gigantic dragon waits for the baby boy to be pushed out so he could grab it and eat it.  Most mothers do not worry about a monster eating their baby just after they give birth.

That is a little frightening.  It is almost like a horror movie with multi-headed beasts.  You are going to learn a lot about Satan in this chapter.  You are going to learn who he is, what he does, what his names are.

You are going to learn some things in this chapter about Satan that you don’t see anywhere else in the Bible.  There is some really bad news in this chapter and there is some good news for believers.

We learn how to defeat a dragon in this chapter.  Most of us like to win.  Revelation 12 brings us to the topic of spiritual warfare.

Four Introductory Truths

There are four truths that you need to understand about spiritual warfare before we look at Revelation 12.

1) There are two worlds: a visible world and an invisible world.

The Bible teaches this. Jesus created both worlds, according to Paul.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, VISIBLE and INVISIBLE, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16 NIV)

Skeptics reject the invisible word but there are real things that exist which we cannot see with the naked eye, like atoms.  We can’t see viruses, but they are real.

2) Our greatest enemy is spiritual, not physical.

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 6:12 NIV)

We are in a war.  It is a real war against unseen forces of darkness.  It is a spiritual war.  It is a war with invisible spirit beings.

It is a war that you can’t see with your physical eyes.  It is a war with an invisible enemy.  There is a real battle going on around you.  Revelation 12 describes this battle.

If you don’t like fighting, you won’t like Revelation 12.  There is a lot of fighting in Revelation 12.  There are FOUR BATTLES in this chapter.

There is war between the dragon and the woman.  There is war between the dragon and the woman’s baby boy.  There is war between the dragon and the women’s other children.  There is war between the dragon and an archangel.

Satan fights the angels in heaven, and he fights the saints on earth.  Satan fights God.  He fights other angels, and he fights God’s people.

You may have thought that there is only war on earth, but Revelation 12 describes war in heaven as well.

You may have thought that only people fight but in Revelation 12 we see angels fighting angels.  We see good angels fighting bad angels.  We see angels fighting demons.  How they fight is a bit of a mystery.

How do spirit beings fight?  Guns won’t work.  Knives won’t work.  Do they use hand-to-hand combat?  Do they use some type of angelic kung fu or jiu-jitsu?  No one knows.

3) The invisible world affects the visible world.

We see that clearly in Revelation 12.  There is a direct relationship between war in heaven and persecution on earth.  Satan is defeated in heaven.  He is cast out of heaven, sent to earth and he takes it out on the woman and persecutes her.  The chapter describes war in heaven and woe on earth.

4) Revelation 12 describes this battle symbolically.

The way Paul describes spiritual warfare is very different from the way John describes it.  Paul describes it directly.  John uses symbols to describe it.  Why use symbols?

Symbols are sometimes more powerful than words.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  We see hundreds of symbols every day and know instantly what they mean.  A red heart represents love.  John uses some symbols of spiritual warfare in this chapter.

Revelation 12 begins a new section of the book.  It is the sign section of the book.  There are two signs in this chapter: the sign of the woman (Revelation 12:1-2) and the sign of the dragon (Revelation 12:3-4).  The woman is called “a great sign.”  The dragon is called just “another sign.”

The two witnesses were not called signs but these two are called signs.  What does it mean that they are signs?  They are symbolic.  They stand for something.  They represent something.

Now, all of the Bible is not symbolic.  All of Revelation is not symbolic but the highly symbolic part of the book begins in chapter twelve.  There are things in this chapter and the next chapter that you should not take literally.

The Roman Catholic Church takes the woman literally and believes it is the Virgin Mary.  It sounds like an individual woman.  She gives birth to Jesus, which Mary did, and they develop a whole system of theology based on this passage.

This woman has an exalted position.  She is dressed in the Sun, Moon and stars.  She has the Sun and Moon under her feet and twelve stars on her head as a crown.  Mary is the Queen of Heaven.

What they miss here is that the woman in Revelation is a sign. She has the Sun and Moon under her feet.  The Virgin Mary did not have the Sun and Moon under her feet and did not have twelve stars on her head.

This woman also has two wings and flies (Revelation 12:14).  This woman is a sing, not a literal mother.  How do we know for sure?  After Revelation 12, there are three women in Revelation from this chapter on.

There is a woman mentioned in Revelation, 12, Revelation 17 and Revelation 19.  One a mother.  One is a prostitute and one is a bride.  None refer to an individual woman.  They are all symbolic.

The Sun-clothed mother in Revelation 12 is symbolic.  It refers to Israel.  The clue is what she was wearing (Sun, Moon and stars).  That takes you back to Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37.

Israel is described as a pregnant woman in the OT (Isaiah 26:17-18; 66:7-9; Jeremiah 4:31; 13:21; Micah 4:10; 5:3).  The nation of Israel gave birth to the Messiah.  Jesus was Jewish.

Some say that the woman refers to the church but that does not work.  The church did not give birth to Jesus. Jesus gave birth to the church and the church is the bride of Christ, not the mother of Christ.

The great prostitute or harlot in Revelation 17 is not a literal woman.  That woman is the counterfeit bride of Christ.  The bride of Christ in Revelation 19 is also not a literal bride.  It is symbolic of the church, a whole group of people.

The woman is symbolic.  The dragon on is symbolic.  Israel is not really a woman.  Satan is not really red and is not really a dragon.  He does not really have a big, long tail.  The red dragon is just a symbol of Satan.  We have the idea of a red devil, and it comes from Revelation 12.

We add a pitchfork for Halloween, but this is symbolic.  It is not a description of the Devil’s physical appearance. It is a description of his nature and character.

Five Special Characters

There are five characters in Revelation 12.  Four are good and one is bad.  There is a beautiful pregnant woman.  She is not just pregnant; she is in labor and in great pain.

There is a giant multi-headed dragon with an extremely long tail.  He goes after the baby boy.  Then he goes after the mother.  When he can’t get her, he goes after he other children.

There is a helpless baby boy (a male child).  This is not any child.  This child is destined to rule the world.  One day, Jesus will rule the world.  He will rule all the nations with an iron scepter (Revelation 12:5 NIV).  There is a mighty archangel (Michael).  The final character is the woman’s other children.

Three Future Predictions

Part of this chapter is historical (Revelation 12:1-6) and part of it is prophetic (Revelation 12:7-17).  There are three predictions clear from this chapter.

1) The Tribulation will be a period of intense persecution of the Jews

The Tribulation Period will be a period of terrible antisemitism.  Israel will be subject to the worst persecution in the history of the world.  Satan will begin a period of Jewish destruction.  The Antichrist will attempt to kill every Jew on the planet.  It will be worse than the holocaust which killed six million Jews.

How do we know for sure that this is the correct interpretation?  The OT teaches this will take place as well.  It is clear teaching in Scripture.

Jeremiah predicted the Day of Jacob’s Trouble would come on Israel before the return of the Messiah.  Daniel predicted a time of great distress that would come on the nation during this time.  Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 24.  Daniel even mentions the angel Michael during this time, the same angel mentioned in Revelation 12.

7 How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.  8 “‘In that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them. 9 Instead, they will serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. (Jeremiah 30:7-9 NIV)

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:1-2 NIV)

For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:21-22 NIV).

2) The Tribulation will be a period of divine protection of the Jewish Nation

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 (Revelation 12:14-16 NIV)

This is symbolic language.  We don’t know how God is going to do it but He is going to protect and preserve the nation from extinction.  The archangel Michael will help save the nation from extinction.

Archangels are assigned to nations and Michael is assigned to Israel.  His special assignment, according to Daniel, is to protect Israel.  During the Tribulation, Israel will experience terrible trouble but will not be destroyed.

3) The Tribulation will be a period of increased satanic activity

This chapter is all about Satan.  If you want to know who Satan is, what he does, read Revelation 12. It is a major passage on Satan.   He has many names in this chapter.

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. (Revelation 12:9 NIV)

“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. (Revelation 12:10 NIV).

Notice Satan’s six names in this chapter.  He is the DRAGON.  He is the SERPENT.  He is the DEVIL.  He is SATAN.  He is DECEIVER, the one who leads the whole world astray.  He is the ACCUSER.  He is the accuser of the brethren.

We learn some things about Satan that we are not told anywhere else in the Bible.  Genesis says that a serpent tempted Eve in the garden.  Revelation 12 tells us who the serpent was or who was inside the serpent talking.  Genesis does not mention Satan or the Devil being there.

Ezekiel mentions the fall of Satan.  Revelation 12 is the only passage in the Bible that tells us how many angels followed Satan in his fall.   We are told that his tail knocked a third of the stars out of the sky.  In apocalyptic writings, stars refer to angels (so I Enoch).

When Satan fell, one-third of the angels went with him (Revelation 12:4). We don’t know how many angels God created but if created three billion, then one billion went with Satan.

Satan’s Three Main Activities

In Revelation 12, we learn more information about Satan’s three main activities.  What are his three main activities?

1) Murder

Where do we see this in the chapter?  He tries to kill the woman’s baby just after it is born.  He goes after the woman.  He tries to drown the woman in the wilderness, and he tries to kill her other children.

He is not only a dragon; he is a red dragon.  He is red, because he is a murderer.  He is stained with the blood of billions of people.

I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word…

As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:37, 40-44 NIV)

Satan is a murderer, and his children are just like him.  Murderers are children of the devil.  They act like their father.  Satan motivates people to kill.  He motivated Cain to kill Abel.  He motivates people to kill today.

When Herod wanted to kill Jesus and killed the babies in Bethlehem, he was motivated by Satan.  When you look at all of the murder and bloodshed in the world today, you know where it comes from.

2) Deception

Satan is not only a murderer; he is a deceiver.  He is a liar.  He is not only described as a dragon in this chapter; he is described as a serpent.  He is described as “the one who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9 NIV).

He leads the whole world astray.  He is a master deceiver.  He deceived Adam and Eve in the garden and is still in the business of deceiving people today.

He deceives people into believing all kinds of things that are not true.  People believe all kinds of false religions and cults.  They are absolutely convinced that their religion is true, but it is false.

Of course, the best antidote to lies is the truth.  If you know the truth, you won’t be deceived.  That is why we need to know the Word.  We need to know what it says from cover to cover or we will be deceived as well and we need the Hoy Spirit to help understand it.

2) Slander

Satan’s third activity in this chapter is slander.  He is called “an accuser of the brethren.”  He is described as “the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10 NIV).

When Satan talks to you about God, he is a deceiver.  When he talks to God about you, he is a slanderer.  There is some irony here.  Satan tempts people to sin and then accuses them for doing what he tempted them to do.

The picture here is a courtroom scene. God is the judge sitting on his throne. The word “accuser” is a legal term. Satan is our accuser.  He brings an indictment against us.

He does it day and night.  While we are sleeping, he accuses us.  He accuses us of not being a child of God.  He accuses us of not being saved.  He points out our sins before God.

He is the great accuser of Christians today.  He is watching you every day to see what he can say to accuse you of.  What is he saying about us right now?

Good News for Believers

What is the good news in this chapter?  It has supernatural beings who hates God and His people.  They are scary looking.  Some of them have seven heads.  They are angry and they are powerful.

He must be powerful if his tail knocked out a third of the stars in the sky.   He must be powerful if he got a third of the angels to followed him.  It is still a minority, but he has a lot of helpers.

Satan has his own angels (Revelation 12:7).  He rules over a kingdom of evil angels, and he has power to attack God’s people on earth, so what is the good news?  There is a lot of good news here.  Heaven praises God in this chapter.

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.  (Revelation 12:10 NIV)

There are three good news for believers in this chapter.

1) Satan’s FATE is sealed

Satan is going to lose in the end.  Everywhere you look in the Bible, Satan is going down.

– He fell in heaven. He sinned and lost his original position in heaven (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28) but continues to have access to heaven (Job 1:6-12; cf. Ephesians 6:12).

– He fell during the ministry of Jesus.  In the Gospels, Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18 NIV).  His power was broken during exorcisms.

– He fell on the cross. He was defeated on the cross.  The moment Christ died, Satan and his angels were defeated.  Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out (John 12:31 NIV)

– He will fall during the Tribulation Period. In Revelation 12, he is tossed out of heaven.  He is banished from heaven.  He won’t be able to go up there anymore.  There will be no more accuser in heaven.  He will be thrown down to the earth.

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. (Revelation 20:9 NIV)

– He will be thrown into the Abyss before the Millennium. He will go from the earth to the Abyss.  He is not only thrown into the Abyss; it is locked and sealed, so he cannot get out (Revelation 20:3).

He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended (Revelation 20:2-3 NIV).

– Finally, Satan will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Revelation 20:15 NIV).

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

2) Satan’s TIME is limited

He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. (Revelation 12:12 NIV).  Satan’s time is limited.  It is limited to forty-two months (Revelation 11:2; 13:4-5).

3) Satan’s POWER is limited

Satan is powerful but he is not all powerful.  He can be defeated.  Michael defeats him in heaven.

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 (Revelation 20:7-8 NIV)

He will be defeated in heaven, and we can defeat him on earth.  We can overcome him.

How to Defeat the Dragon

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 12:11 NIV)

This tells us how Satan can be defeated. It is the most important statement in the whole chapter. It says, “they triumphed him”. It does not say “Jesus overcame him”.  It says, “they overcame him”.  How did they do it?  Three ways.

1) By the blood of Jesus

How do we overcome the devil by the blood?   The only hope for sinners before we are saved is the blood of Jesus.  The only hope for us after we are saved is the blood of Jesus.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:1-2 NIV)

When Satan accuses us in heaven.  He is heaven’s prosecuting attorney but there is a lawyer who defends us before a righteous God and His name is Jesus.  He our defense attorney (I John 2:1).  He died as a sacrifice for all of our sins.  His blood is our only hope.  Are you trusting in Jesus’ blood or something else?

2) By public testimony

To have a testimony, you have to be saved.  A clear public testimony for Jesus Christ is an effective weapon against Satan. This is a way in which Satan is overcome. When we witness and lead others to Christ, Satan is defeated.

No one can say anything about your testimony.  They can argue about religion and theology all day, but they can’t argue with how God has completely changed your life.  There is no answer to that.  Do you have a testimony?

3) By martyrdom

Satan is overcome, not just by blood and words but by actions (they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death). They would rather die than deny Christ.

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25 NIV)

What is that all about?  One way they defeated the devil was through martyrdom.  It looks like the devil won but he actually lost because they did not renounce their faith.  Do you love your life?  Do you love Jesus?   Would you be willing to give up your life for Him or do you love your life more than you love Him?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *