The Absence of Accusation (Rev. 12:7-12)
The presence of shame, in its many forms, goes well beyond the scope of a challenging emotional struggle. In his book, The Soul of Shame, Dr. Curt Thompson writes, “This phenomenon is the primary tool that evil leverages, out of which emerges everything that we would call sin.” Thompson argues that shame is at the root of all other negative emotions and it eventually effects the way we think and behave. For instance, our own sense of inadequacy may lead us to become overly harsh and critical of others. In order to kill sin, we must silence the voice of shame!
If all of this is true, then shame is not something we can simply get over. One sermon is not going to fix our thinking. We must learn to fight against the root causes of shame with the truth of God’s Word. But the task does not end there. Shame thrives in secrecy, so we must learn to bring it into the light. This requires a great deal of vulnerability. Brené Brown says vulnerability is shame’s kryptonite. We can begin to experience victory in our fight against shame by confessing our sin to one another, and responding to that confession with gospel truth.
John is writing to the church at a time when they are experiencing spiritual and physical attack. Oftentimes we focus only on the extent of physical persecution. We think of the enemies of the Church as being comprised of political powers and religious authorities that condemn Christianity. Maybe we think we have been largely spared from Satan’s fiercest attacks.
Without minimizing the significance of physical persecution, I think this passage raises our awareness of Satan’s most common tactics – deceit and accusation.
While we may not have enemies trying to physically harm us, Satan has attempted to deceive us with false teaching or the fleeting pleasures of sin. All of us can relate to the debilitating effects of shame that stem from true or false accusations against us. The first readers faced these same challenges.
All of Revelation 12 depicts the conflict between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The characters of that ongoing conflict were introduced last week in verses 1-6. The woman represents the universal church enduring prolonged labor pains until the child of promise was born. The dragon is the ancient serpent (9) who seeks every opportunity to thwart the redemptive purposes of God.
But, according to God’s sovereign plan, the Christ-child was born. His humiliation and exaltation are summarized with a reference to his birth and ascension. The ascension of Christ marked the beginning of his heavenly reign which will culminate in his eternal reign with his saints in the New Heavens and New Earth. The backstory of history continues in the rest of the chapter.
While verses 1-6 describe the spiritual warfare behind the scenes of the earthly events, this passage describes the heavenly combat.
Read Rev. 12:7-12
The Defeat of Satan (7-9)
Christ’s victory over Satan was summarized by reference to his humiliation and exaltation (5). This results in the defeat of Satan that is also portrayed in this passage (8-9).
We begin with the depiction of angelic warfare between Michael and the Dragon. The book of Daniel portrays Michael assisting the Son of Man in visions of latter day events (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1). Ancient Jewish literature often portrayed Michael as their protector. In Revelation, Michael is connected to Christ and supports his redemptive work. Whereas the cross and resurrection defeated Satan on earth, Michael and his angels defeated him in heaven. These victories occurred at the same time in different contexts.
Prior to Christ’s ascension Satan had access to the throne of God. Satan came before God and proposed hardship for Job which he believed would cause Job to curse God to his face (Job 1:6-11; 2:1-5). In Zechariah, Satan stands in the heavenly courtroom bringing accusations against Joshua, the high priest (Zech. 3:1-5). However, after the dragon was defeated he had no place in heaven (8). His access to bring accusations before God was immediately revoked. So he and his angels were thrown down to earth (9).
The cross delivered us “from the present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). Jesus appeared in order “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8). Through his own death Jesus destroyed “the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). This brought deliverance to those enslaved to sin. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).
This is incredible news! But our challenge is believing it to be true. We might grasp the gospel with our minds, but we struggle to believe it on a daily basis. To illustrate, let’s consider last week’s sermon. I said that the woman in labor represents the church. The illustration suggests that God sees us as beautiful and protected.
But we are uncomfortable with compliments like this. We don’t know how to respond. We look down at the ground, which reveals the shame we feel. We tell ourselves we don’t deserve that kind of affection. So we hear it, but quickly move on. We cannot sit and be present in that moment. We cannot appreciate that blessing for too long. That is my own instinct. I did not know what to say – so I moved on. But, this morning I want to slow down. I want us all to reflect upon this reality some more.
Most of us view God’s compliments with a skewed glance. Instead of “Behind a frowning providence, he hides a smiling face,” we reverse it to say “Behind a smiling face, he hides a frowning providence.”1 God blesses us, but we know better. We see this image of a beautiful, glorious woman (1-2) – and we look for the flaw. She is shining bright, but we assume the darkness is hiding somewhere. God knows we are not truly beautiful.
Satan’s accusations have no place in heaven, but we often make room for them in our soul. Does Satan’s condemnation drown out the truth of Christ’s victory? Christ declares, “I have redeemed you, my beloved!” But we hear the enemy say, “You will never good enough!”
Whenever we pray “Thy kingdom come” we are praying for the defeat of sin and Satan in terms of our present experience. We want the grip of sin to be more and more weakened. We want the desires of our heart to be more and more aligned with the will of God for our lives. But if the work has already been accomplished, if Satan has already been defeated, then it is truly a matter of faith. In order to walk in the light we must believe that Jesus has transferred us out of the kingdom of darkness.
Satan’s defeat means that he can no longer accuse the brethren. All of his accusations have been answered by Christ’s death on the cross. When Satan points out your sin, point to the blood of the Lamb.
The defeat of Satan implies…
The Triumph of Saints (10-12)
A loud voice proclaims that the accuser has been thrown down (10). Salvation has come to the covenant community. The accuser was conquered by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (11). Verse 11 places the climax of this heavenly defeat of Satan at the cross. Not only is the event of Christ’s crucifixion significant in the defeat of Satan, but the testimony of his disciples is considered to be a part of that victory.
When Jesus said he saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven, he was speaking to the 70 disciples who had just returned from successfully evangelizing and casting out demons (Lk. 10:17-20). He had given them authority over unclean spirits so that the proclamation of the gospel would not be hindered. As Christ was lifted up on the cross, Satan was thrown down from heaven (John 12:31-32). Now that the accuser has been removed “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). As Martin Luther stated it, “Satan knows that his doom is sure.”
The reality of Satan’s defeat leads to rejoicing in Heaven, but woe to those on the Earth (12). Next week we will see that the devil’s fury is directed toward everyone on earth (13-17). This woe is not limited to unbelievers, but believers should not fear the limited power of their defeated foe.
Satan is still very much active in his attack upon saints, but he is like a dying cockroach. All of his kicking and screaming get him no closer to his goal. He cannot do any ultimate harm to God’s covenant people. He is just as active in declaring his accusations, but the Judge has tuned out his frequency. Our problem is that we still have the tendency of tuning in. We hear his accusations loud and clear.
Since Christ already bore the wrath of God on behalf of those who believe in him, there is no further punishment that can fall upon believers. Every attempt of Satan to condemn you has already been answered by Christ’s death.
Believers always have a way of escape from Satan’s temptations (1 Cor. 10:13). We have the example of Christ who was tempted as we are “in every respect” yet he remained without sin (Heb. 4:15). As we submit ourselves to God and “resist the devil” he will flee from us (Jam. 4:7). Those who conquer will be rewarded with the enjoyment of the New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 2:7, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).
What are the practical implications of Satan’s defeat? If the accuser has been thrown out of heaven, then his accusations have no authority. My filthy garments have been removed. I have received a robe of righteousness that will NEVER be stained. All past, present, and future sins in a believer’s life have been washed by the blood of the Lamb.
If the blood of Christ has cleansed us from our sin, then God will no longer entertain any accusation Satan might lodge against one of his elect. Therefore, any debilitating shame we might experience as believers has absolutely no warrant.
I’m not talking about experiencing a growing grief and hatred for our sin – that too is a gracious gift from God. I’m talking about those whose guilt quickly turns into condemnation. I’m talking about those who have experienced the forgiveness of Christ, but are unable to forgive themselves. They live in the isolating shame of their past.
You need to know that you have conquered Satan by the blood of the Lamb. The word of our testimony is one of freedom in Christ. We are no longer enslaved to sin. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). Hebrews 12:1-2 teaches us that Jesus is the “founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The One who defeated sin despised the shame.
When Satan points out your sin, point to the blood of the Lamb. Since Satan has been defeated (7-9), the saints have become triumphant (10-12). The absence of accusations in heaven means that the dragon has been declawed. His power has been severely limited by the blood of the Lamb. So let us sing with great confidence the words of Charities Lees Bancroft:
When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see him there who made an end of all my sin. Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the Just is satisfied to look on him and pardon me.
- William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” ↩︎