Summary: Good impressionists are a joy to watch, and they command our attention. But the greatest impressionist of all is not a joy to watch, but still commands our attention. We meet him in the book of Revelation.
“The Great Unveiling: The Great Impressionist”
I’m always captivated by good impressionists – people who can mimic the voices, quirks, and facial nuances of others. It’s a tremendous talent and takes a great amount of study and work to do it well. And when it’s done well, it commands our attention. Revelation 12 & 13 introduces us to the greatest impressionist of all, who also commands our attention. His stage name is Satan and he mimics the trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Let’s look first (12:1-17) at the FATHER IMAGE of this other trinity. In these verses he is pictured as THE DRAGON. We believe that God the Father is the Creator, who shared His authority and power with His Son in order to bring about worship and praise of Himself. And this dragon, is a father image who mimics God perfectly. The dragon, Satan by name, is THE CREATOR OF EVIL WHO SHARES HIS AUTHORITY AND POWER WITH ANOTHER TO BRING ABOUT WORSHIP OF HIMSELF.
Rev. 12:1-2 sets the stage for his impressions. Here we find a brief SUMMARY OF THE BIRTH OF CHRIST. The woman, Israel, is awaiting her child, the Messiah. She’s ready to give birth. Christmas and Revelation are connected! In verses 3 & 4, SATAN IS POISED and ready to capture and kill this newborn child. Recall that Satan used the jealousy and wrath of Herod to slaughter the innocents in a vain attempt to reach the child; he went himself into the wilderness to try to tempt and topple Christ, but to no avail; as Jesus began to minister, Satan aroused the Pharisees and the established religious leaders, and governmental authorities to suppress Him. Eventually they had their day as they nailed Him to a deadly cross.
But, (verses 5&6), CHRIST CAME TO LIFE AND WAS “SNATCHED UP” INTO HEAVEN, (He ascended) thereby sealing Satan’s doom. And, before Satan could recover, THE CHURCH was given a SPIRITUAL SANCTUARY to assure her safety throughout her earthly life. Satan was foiled; Christ had won! And now the church is safe for these “1260 days” in which we live, until Christ comes again. Satan will chase and attack her, but Satan will not win. The wilderness protection here is parallel to the spiritual sanctuary of Chapter 11 – again we are promised that even as Satan is sleepless in his attacks on us, God cares for us. And this framework of spiritual safety for the Church allows us to proceed with this chapter and better understand the conflict between evil and the Church.
Verses 7-12 show us THE REASON SATAN FIGHTS so hard against the Church. We see Satan fighting in heaven. This represents the conflict between Eve and Satan, between Israel and idolatry, between evil and good right on through the time of Christ. Satan was trying to re-establish himself as a power in heaven. As Christ rose victoriously and took up His throne in heaven, SATAN WAS CAST DOWN! So heaven was glad and rejoiced! But it says, “woe” to those who still dwell on the earth! Why? Since Satan can no longer fight in heaven and therefore cannot get Christ, he TURNS IN ANGER AGAINST THE CHURCH. He knows his time is short, he knows he’s defeated, and he knows he’s living on borrowed time. So he’s going to make the most of it. Like a dog frothing at the mouth, he is out for us! The end is underway! The bell has rung and he’s come out fighting! As Paul told the Ephesians (Eph. 6:12): “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.”
So verses 13-17 show Satan coming after us. This, also, is parallel to chapter 11, where the church, though safe, is trodden under foot outside the temple. Jesus predicted all this when He said to his disciples (John 15:18-21): "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”
Here’s the reality with which we live: we are participants in two worlds. We live in a daily tension between this earthly world of evil and the heavenly world of good. We travel and do battle here on this earth, but our citizenship is in heaven. As long as we are earthbound, life will never be easy; THERE WILL ALWAYS BE TURMOIL AND TRIBULATION; WE ARE LIVING IN ENEMY OCCUPIED TERRITORY. Wherever the seeds of Christ’s Kingdom are sown, there will be opposition. Wherever firm commitments are made, Satan will go to war. Whenever congregations make a commitment to deeper faith or greater service, we will see signs of Satan’s increased activity. I tell you, he will not be happy. And he will increase his efforts to defeat us. It reminds me of soccer goalie I once saw who defiantly wore a shirt on which was a bulls’-eye – it was his way of saying, “Go ahead! Shoot at me! Bring it on!” As soon as we make a firm commitment we challenge Satan to bring it on – and make no mistake about it, he will! As Martin Luther wrote, “For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.”