Hello, and welcome to this teaching from Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque. Skip's teachings are shared globally, and we're encouraged when we hear how lives are being transformed. If this message impacts you, we'd like to know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/giving.
We live in a culture that is constantly looking for the next big thing, asking, what's next? But sometimes we can forget the most important thing. In this series, Skip reminds us that as believers, we're called to wait with anticipation for the return of Jesus Christ. Now we invite you to open your bibles as Skip continues our series, What's Next?
I want to speak to you about an invisible war. A cosmic conflict. So turn in your Bibles please to Revelation Chapter 12. Revelation Chapter 12. Two years ago, you may or may not know this, there was an asteroid the size of an airliner that almost hit the earth. It came dangerously close, the experts said. It went by the wonderful fond name of 2014xx110, something like that. Some crazy little number.
But experts said that it would have caused significant damage had it hit the surface of the earth. Most people were unaware of that. Most of us would not have known it unless we read it or it was told to us by those who were able to pick it up with specialized equipment. Then if you go back a few years to 1985, there was a vessel in the Pacific Ocean that had a little one-man submarine that it let overboard. And a scientist was in this, called Deep Rover, down to a depth of 1,500 feet where the sea is inky black.
And suddenly, this scientist said, from out of nowhere came a creature he never even knew existed. It was 120 feet long, semi-transparent, with thousands of tentacles and dozens of stomachs. The weirdest thing ever. Not only did he see one, but eventually his entire submarine was surrounded by these odd creatures. And then, they gobbled him up. No, I'm just kidding. That's Hollywood.
My point in those two stories is that there are things happening around us that are unknown to us and unseen by us, but they're real. They're there. They're invisible. We wouldn't know they exist unless we had specialized equipment and direct revelation that they had occurred.
Consider Revelation Chapter 12 special equipment. Specialized information. They get us in touch with a very real world. One we don't see, one that many of us pay no attention to as we live our daily lives. It's a very real but invisible world. The world where God and demons and angels all live and move. A very real world.
Since the fall of Satan, there has been a constant war going on in the universe. Think of it as the real Star Wars. Even much more profound than all of those wonderful movies that you've seen over the years. And this battle made its way to the theater of operations known as the Earth.
Satan tried to pervert the paradise of heaven. He was kicked out of heaven. He and a third of the angels fell. He then was consigned to the earth, and he tried to pervert the paradise of the earth. He effectively drug Adam and Eve and all of humanity into the crosshairs, into the crossfire of this great cosmic battle.
So that mutiny in heaven became the misery of the earth. Chapter 12 of Revelation is a panorama of that warfare. Seen in symbolic fashion, because after all, Revelation is a book of signs. We believe it literally, but there are symbols that point to a reality.
In Revelation 12, we go all the way back to the fall of Satan from heaven, and all the way forward to the end of the great tribulation period on the earth. But I've always believed that Revelation 12 is one of those crucial passages that unless you understand this chapter, or the principles that are written in it, you will have no real clue as to past history, as well as future prophecy. We ask the question, what's next? None of it will make sense to us until we understand the principles of Revelation 12.
I was reminded this week of an interesting period of our own history in World War II. We had a very famous general named George C. Patton. And his nemesis in Germany was Erwin Rommel, a German general that faced Patton in a series of battles in North Africa. What Rommel did not know is that George Patton had studied Rommel's book on war strategy that he had written.
He read it. He studied it. So he was aware of what the general was going to do next. And that knowledge helped him outmaneuver Rommel in North Africa. And it is reported that at one point in the battle, they got so close to each other that George Patton yelled out of this tank as he saw Rommel eye to eye, and he said, I read your book, Rommel. I read your book.
So as we read God's book, who shows us the strategies of the devil, I pray that we will both be aware and encouraged. You know, Paul in Corinthians said, concerning the devil we are not ignorant of his devices. Says, for we are not ignorant of Satan's devices.
The trouble is, I know far too many Christians that are ignorant of his devices. And because of that, they live in constant defeat over and over and over again. There's certain things we need to be aware of in this cosmic conflict. So we're going to look just today at six verses in Revelation Chapter 12. And there are four notable characteristics about this invisible war, this cosmic conflict.
First, it involves a people. That is, it involves a nation, a group of people. Now, we begin by looking at Verse 1. Now he says a great sign appeared in heaven. A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of 12 stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
Note that he sees a great sign. Now, the word great here is the word mega. It's a mega-sign. And it's a word that is use repeatedly in this chapter. Not only does he used the word in Verse 1, a great sign, but down in Verse 3, he sees a great, fiery, red dragon, a mega-dragon. Verse 12, that dragon brings great wrath. Verse 14, a great eagle transports this woman to be protected in the wilderness.
So everything John sees in Chapter 12 is massive. Mega-woman, mega-dragon, mega-wrath. Question is, who is this woman? Who is she? Well, there have been a lot of guesses as to what this symbol points to in reality. And I'm not going to go through them all because we don't have enough time. But let me ask you a question. Where else in the Bible do you ever read about the sun, the moon, and the 12 stars?
There's only one other place that has this same motif, this same imagery, and that is back in the book of Genesis. Young Joseph has a dream. And he tells his dad the dream. He say, you know, last night I was dreaming, and the sun and the moon and the 12 stars were bowing down to me. Immediately, Jacob, Joseph's dad, reacted, and listen to what he said. "Shall your mother and all I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?"
Now, why is that important? Because Jacob interprets the symbolic meaning of the dream. It's the key to unlocking what we're reading here in Revelation 12. In that dream that Joseph had, the sun was Jacob, the moon was Rachel, the 12 stars were the 12 sons of Jacob, who would become the 12 tribes of Israel. So all of that was a symbol of the Jewish nation.
The idea of a woman is very, very common in the Old Testament to refer to Israel as a woman, as a mother, as a pregnant woman in travail giving birth. All of that symbolism is of the nation of Israel repeatedly in the Old Testament. So a woman clothed with the sun and the moon and the 12 stars, we can safely say, based upon the only other time it's mentioned in the scripture, as this is a symbol of the nation of Israel.
And that doesn't surprise us. Any of us who have read apocalyptic literature, whether it's Daniel or Revelation or Matthew 24, what Jesus said on all of that discourse, we know that Israel as a nation plays a significant role in end time events. The tribulation period is called by Jeremiah as a time of Jacob's trouble, Israel's trouble. The angel Gabriel said to the prophet Daniel, 70 periods of seven are determined for your people. That's the Jewish people. For your holy city. That's the city of Jerusalem.
Jesus, in Matthew 24, spoke about the end times with the local flavor of the Jews. He spoke about the abomination of desolation that takes place in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. He said pray that your flight not be on the Sabbath. If you live in Judea and you're running to the mountains, get out quick. All of that has a flavor of local Israel and Judaism.
Now, here's what's interesting. Have you ever wondered-- I hope you have-- why is it that of all the nations that have ever existed on the earth, there's one nation that has been more hassled, oppressed, opposed, attacked than any other nation, and yet has survived. That's Israel. I mean, it's uncanny. If you go all the way back to 586 BC when the Babylonians came in and effectively destroyed them, brought them to their place in captivity, even though Israel returned 70 years later and was gaining independence, the Romans later on came in.
There are several battles that ensued between them that wiped them out, but I won't even go into that. When the Romans came in in 70 AD, not only destroying the city of Jerusalem, but massacring 1.6 million Jews. And then that happened again in 135 AD under Hadrian, the Roman emperor. And then hundreds and thousands of years of diaspora, dispersion, oppression, persecution, Spanish Inquisition, extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II. Over and over and over and over again.
And yet, we just got back from Israel. That nation still exists today in the Middle East. And it was birthed almost instantly as the prophet Isaiah predicted in Isaiah 66, shall a nation be born in a single day? And it was, May 14 of 1948. So it's interesting that this one group of people have been hassled and opposed and oppressed, and yet they still exist today.
Why? Because there's something going on in this cosmic conflict that involves this nation. This cosmic conflict is geocentric. It's a geocentric conflict, because God has made unique promises to the Jewish nation.
It's reported that in the late 19th century, when Queen Victoria of England sat upon her throne, and she had a very interesting prime minister named Benjamin Disraeli. They were having a conversation one day and the queen said to her prime minister, what evidence, Mr. prime Minister, can you give to me of the existence of God?
The prime minister was thoughtful, and after a few moments he said to the queen, the Jew, your majesty. The Jew. The Jews still exist, and as a part and central to God's purpose and God's plan.
So we have this mega-sign. A woman appearing clothed with the sun, the moon, and the 12 stars. But notice in Verse 2, then being with child-- that is, she is a pregnant woman-- she cried out in labor and pain to give birth. Now, it's not too hard to figure out who this child is. I think most of us right off the bat can determine this is, no doubt, Jesus Christ. What is it that the Jewish nation has longed for for generations?
What is it every Jewish mother longed for? The Messiah, the deliverer that would come. In the language of Genesis Chapter 3, the seed of the woman will come and crush the head of Satan. But let's look at further proof. Verse 5. She bore a male child.
Now notice what this child does. Who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. That can only refer to one person. And her child was caught up to God and his throne. So after the incarnation was the ascension of Jesus into heaven before his coronation and his second coming. So this conflict involves the people. And the people are the people of Israel, the Jewish nation.
The second notable characteristic. This conflict includes a perpetrator. There's somebody else in the story we haven't yet met. We're about to meet. Also given to us in symbolic language, Verse 3, and another sign appeared in heaven. Behold a great, fiery, red dragon. The kraken. The dragon. Having seven heads and 10 horns, and seven diadems on his heads.
His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven, and through them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth to devour her child as soon as it was born. Now, here we don't have to guess as to who the dragon is. We don't have to find some Old Testament passage to unlock the meaning. All we have to do is look at Verse 9 here.
Verse 9 of Revelation 12 says, and so the great dragon was cast out. That serpent of old called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world. And he was cast to the earth and his angels were cast out with him. 13 times the Book of Revelation refers to Satan as a dragon.
Now, here's what's important to understand. This is a symbol of a reality. It is not a physical description of the devil. It's a moral description. It speaks of his vile character. I'll tell you why this is important, because the whole idea of the devil wearing a tight red suit with little red horns and a pitchfork come from this passage. And people, in assuming that this is the physical description of the devil, they have pooh-poohed the whole idea of a literal devil.
Oh, come on. You expect me to believe in that? Little devil running around with pitchfork and horns. That's comic book stuff. Gallup organization did a poll, and they said most Americans believe in God, but most Americans do not believe in a literal devil. And it's because of the images like this that people have taken and assumed that it is a physical description. All of this is a symbol to point to how vile a creature he is. How cruel and fierce.
CS Lewis said, "humanity falls into two equal and opposite errors concerning the devil." One, some people take him too seriously. Number two, others don't take him seriously enough. So on one hand, you have denial. On the other hand, you have obsession. Many people deny that there's a devil, as I just mentioned.
But you know what. You can't have a more powerful enemy than the one you don't believe exists. If you have an enemy that you don't know about, he's got you. You are under his control. He's out-flanked and out-maneuvered you simply because you don't know he's there. But the other extreme is obsession. And I have met far too many Christians who seem to be obsessed with the devil. They want to cast them out of their scrambled eggs and every person they ever meet. There's a devil behind it all.
We fail to realize greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. I love what John White-- he wrote one of the greatest books I've ever read on Christian living called The Fight. And he gives good balance to this issue saying, "have no delusions about demons' reality or their hostility. They will oppose you as you obey Christ." If you play it cool, and you decide not to be a fanatic about Christianity, you will have no trouble from them.
But if you are serious about Christ being your Lord and your God, you can expect opposition. Now, look at this dragon's description. He has seven heads and 10 horns. He's a seven-headed monster. That's one ugly dragon. That's one fierce dragon.
What does all this mean? Well by now, you should know that the number seven is a significant number in the Book of Revelation and throughout the Bible. And seven is a number that speaks of what? Don't say perfection. It speaks of totality, completion. Just as seven days make a total or a complete week, seven notes make a total or complete scale, the idea of seven heads speaks of a comprehensive intelligence.
I put it this way. Satan has an IQ that is off the charts. He was an intelligent being that crafted a mutiny in heaven. It got him kicked out of heaven, but it also, he managed to take a third of the angels with him. You've got to be pretty intelligent to pull that off. He has studied human nature and human character for thousands of years. He knows all of your weak points. And he can craft temptation specifically suited for you.
Seven-headed dragon. But also, he as 10 horns. An animal's horn was the animal's strength. It's what he used to fight with. It was its weapon. Satan has dominated the world. He has authority over all realms of the world. He is called the god of this world.
And you'll notice that the authority was given to him. There are crowns on his head. He's been coronated. The citizens of this world have yielded that authority and power over to him. And in the end times-- don't have time to get into it today-- we will see that the counterpart to the devil called the Antichrist manages to put together a coalition of 10 world empires or kingdoms together to forge his own powerful kingdom on the earth in the end times.
So we have to mega-woman and we have a mega-dragon. Woman symbolizes Israel. The dragon is none other than the devil himself. But something about this dragon. He doesn't come off as a dragon. He's revealed by God for his true colors here, but the Bible says that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. He wants people to think he's benign, or he doesn't exist, or he's not that bad, or that people under his sway aren't that bad, et cetera, et cetera.
He's an angel, although he's very, very crafty. Reminds me of a story I read, a true story, about polar bears in the Arctic. When they hunt for seals, a polar bear, they're tricky. They'll take in a deep breath, dive under the ice, go to where the holes of the seals, the feeding holes of the seals are, and they'll scratch with their little-- with their big-- claws on the ice to imitate the movement of fish under the ice. So that the seal, not knowing it's a polar bear scratching, thinks it's fish swimming. So the seal is lured into diving into the hole to get its supper, only to discover it's the main course for the bear.
This massive, ugly dragon disguises himself as an angel of light. There's a third thing, characteristic, about this conflict. It entails a pursuit. This conflict entails a pursuit. Now, this is where the understanding comes to us. If we fail to see this, all of history will not make any sense. Most of the scripture will not make any sense. And prophecy won't make any sense. Unless we realize this conflict between the woman, Israel, and the dragon, Satan, has to do with a third character introduced here, and that is the male child.
Look at Verse 4 once again. His tail drew a third part of the stars of heaven. Drew them to the earth. The dragon stood before the woman who is ready to give birth to devour her child as soon as it was born. She bore a male child who was to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, and her child was caught up to God and to his throne. This dragon, Satan, hates this woman, Israel. Why?
Because of the child. It's all about the child. It's all about getting to this child and destroying this child. Why? Because this child would one day rule the world and take away Satan's own authority that he usurped. Remember the prophecy in Isaiah 9. We talk about it every Christmas. For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. And the government will be upon his shoulder.
In other words, the child born will be the King who reigns. Satan not only knew that prophecy, but he was there in the Garden of Eden after Adam fell, and he heard the curse uttered. And he heard the prophecy uttered that a seed of a woman would crush his own kingdom. And ever since that promise was given, he thought of a counter-strategy to destroy that child, that seed, who would destroy his own kingdom.
So the cosmic conflict has been a pursuit to destroy the seed that would crush his own authority and kingdom. There are several examples of that. I'll give you just a few. In Genesis Chapter 4, we read about Cain killing Abel. Abel was the righteous son of Adam and Eve. I believe Satan inspired Cain to kill Abel. The Bible even says Satan was a murderer from the beginning. And John, in his writing, said it was Satan who inspired him to do that.
Why would he do that? It's an attempt to destroy the seed. Maybe this is the seed, this is the who will destroy my kingdom. Well, it wasn't. And even though Abel was dead, God raised up Seth to continue that godly line. Then we get to Genesis Chapter 6, and we discover that Satan caused such evil to pervade the entire earth, God had only one choice, and that is to destroy everything on the earth and everyone on the earth.
And they all perish except for eight people. And that line that would bring us the seed of the Messiah continued. We get to Genesis 27 and we discover that Esau tries to kill Jacob. Ah, Jacob. Why Jacob? Because Jacob was Isaac's son of promise. There would be Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the 12 tribes of Israel, and the tribe of Judah who would eventually bear the Messiah.
We get into the Book of Exodus and we discover a guy by the name of Pharaoh, one of the kings of Egypt, gives this strange edict that if a male Hebrew child is born, it is to be killed. Effectively trying to wipe out an entire race of people. I believe that was Satan's attempt. He was an agent of Satan trying to destroy the Jews.
We get to the book of 1 Samuel, we discover that over and over again, King Saul attempts to kill, almost like a madmen, almost like a crazy person, sometimes for no reason at all, to destroy David. David would be the royal line through which Jesus, the son of David, would come. We get to the Book of Esther, a guy named Haman wants genocide on every Jew in the kingdom.
And there are so many more examples in the Old Testament, I don't have time to go through them. But let's go to the New Testament. As soon as Jesus is born, the male child is born of the woman, a guy by the name of Herod decides that every child two years and below ought to be exterminated from Bethlehem. Again, Satan's desire and attempt to get at that seed who would become the ruler who would crush his kingdom and destroy it.
I think we see further proof when Satan himself tempts Jesus and suggests that Jesus throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. No doubt hoping that he would die in the process. I think we get a hint of that in the synagogue in Nazareth, when Christ proclaims that he's the Messiah. And the people of Nazareth take him to the brow of the hill and want to throw him over.
And I think this warfare, this pursuit continues all the way until one Friday afternoon at 3:00 PM. There must have been a party in hell when Jesus' limp body was taken off of a cross in placed in a tomb. And Satan thought, we've done it, boys. We've done it. We've destroyed the male child. We've destroyed the seed.
But he, Satan, didn't read the fine print. You see, in the fine print, Jesus made a promise. He said no man takes my life from me. I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down. Here's the fine print. And I have the power to take it up again. And three days later, he did exactly that.
I tell you, on Easter morning, there was not an Easter party in hell. Satan now turns all of his wrath and fury on the new followers of this Messiah, this resurrected Messiah. And the church gets persecuted throughout history. But not only the church, but Israel. You say, why Israel? I mean, the promises, he couldn't overturn. The Messiah was born, the male child was born. Why wouldn't he stop persecuting Israel?
Why is there a continual anti-Semitic push that continues up to this day like never seen before? Well, that's very good question, I'm glad you asked. Think of it strategically. Think of it as playing chess, not checkers. If God's promise of redemption requires the existence of a nation and the continuance of that nation, if you can destroy that nation, you will have thwarted God's purpose.
If God requires a nation to establish a literal kingdom-- God made several promises in the Old Testament that Israel would be reigned from by a messiah in Jerusalem, that has never happened yet. If you can destroy that nation, God can't keep all of his promises. So the conflict entails a pursuit.
Let me take you to the fourth and final notable characteristic before we close. Now this brings a positive note. And I'm going to take you to Verse 5 and have you close with these great thoughts. This conflict ends in primacy. Primacy is a word that means dominance or superiority. Christ will rule. Christ will reign.
Whatever the conflict is, Satan will lose and Jesus will win. Make sure you're on the right side. Verse 5, she bore a male child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her child was caught up to God and his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness where she has a place prepared by God that they should feed her there 1,260 days. That's the last 3 and 1/2 years of the tribulation period.
So we go from the fall of Satan all the way to the end of the tribulation period in six verses. More on that next week. But think of this thought as you leave. Christ will rule with a rod of iron. What does that mean? A rod of iron is, in antiquity, the strongest metal was iron. It was unbreakable. And iron rule meant absolute authority.
Listen, when Jesus comes back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, he won't be voted into office. He won't have to caucus anywhere, or schmooze people, or make promises. He's just taking over. He created it and he will rule and he will reign. He will rule the nations with a rod of iron.
Something about that word. The word rule is the word poimeno, which doesn't just mean to rule or to reign, but the word poimeno is the New Testament word for shepherding or to shepherd. A pastor is called a poimen in the Greek language. Paul said to the elders of Ephesus in the book of Acts, Chapter 20, shepherd the flock of God which is among you. The word is poimeno, tend them.
So now we see the tender side of Jesus' eternal rule and reign. He is the tender enforcer. He is the gentle warrior. He is the firm shepherd. And just as Satan the dragon couldn't stop him from being born, and Satan the dragon couldn't stop him from enacting his redemption, and Satan the dragon couldn't stop him from ascending to the right hand of the father, he won't be able to stop his eternal rule and reign forever.
Let me say this. Don't let Satan stop Christ from ruling over you. He's going to rule over the world. But individually, he places the power within us, the power of choice, to say yes to him or to say no to him. To reject him or to receive them. Don't let Satan stop Jesus from ruling over you.
So the word that started in heaven made its way to the theater of this earth . And you and I are involved. But you don't have to be scared. I meet too many frightened believers who forget the promise, greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.
Yeah, but Skip, a third of the angels fell with Satan. That's a pretty big number. Yeah, that's right. A third fell. Don't forget, they're outnumbered two to one. Two thirds didn't fall, and those are the good guys that help you out. So you're on the right side. You're on the winning side. Satan is outnumbered two to one.
I want to close by giving you what I think is the proper balance. It was given by Martin Luther. He wrote many things, including hymns. Some of you may know that Martin Luther was, himself, the target of the devil on a number of occasions, or so he writes. But in one of my favorite writings, one of my favorite hymns written by Martin Luther, there's a stanza in it. It goes like this.
"And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for Christ has willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure." One little word will fail him. Just one word from Christ, and he's down. He's down.
The question is-- the most important question to leave with now is, are you under the primacy of Christ? Are you under the dominion, the rule of Jesus? I know one day every knee will bow. I know that every tongue will confess. But then it will be enforced. How about doing it willingly now?
Father, thank you for the special briefing provided by your spirit to the Apostle John while on Patmos. Thank you, Lord, that you peeled back the curtain, so to speak, and enabled us to see into the spiritual realm. To see beyond the disguise of an angel of light to a fiery red dragon that persecuted a nation throughout its history, all because of its relationship to the Messiah.
As we understand that pursuit and we understand the devices of Satan, we understand that Satan's device and desire in our life is that we don't get close to Jesus Christ, the one who will rule and reign. That we don't take Jesus seriously, and that we don't allow our lives to be under the total primacy control and dominance of Jesus.
And because that is Satan's desire, I pray that we will wholeheartedly abhor that desire and turn and give you our lives completely. And serve you wholeheartedly. In Jesus' name, Amen.
We hope this message encouraged you to get busy for God's kingdom as we wait for Jesus' return. How will you put the principles you learned into action? Let us know. Email email@example.com. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.