Revelation 12:12

Sermon preached on December 8, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. More sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Last year there was a horrific accident at a construction zone on Route 11. Cars were stopped by a flagman and a tractor trailer didn't see them stopped and slammed into the line of cars. In one car two women and three girls were killed. Four of them were from one family. The husband wasn't with them and in that accident he lost his wife, his only two children and his mother. It's hard to imagine how horrible it must have been for him.

In 1956 missionary Jim Elliot was killed trying to reach the Auca tribe in eastern Ecuador. He and a friend were murdered by the tribe before they could present the gospel to them. Jim left behind a young wife. They had been married just over 2 years. He also left behind a 10 month old baby. It was a terrible tragedy. His widow, Elisabeth Elliot, remarried in 1969. Shortly after she was married, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and he died in 1973, just four years after they were married. In a very real sense, the life of this godly woman was marked by periods of tragedy.

Tragedies are so common—and we Christians are not immune. I have a relative who lost her mother and two of her sisters to a certain type of cancer, and the last I heard was that her other sister came down with that same type of cancer. I've mentioned before how the Reformer Zwingli's was killed in a battle His wife lost her husband, a son, a brother, a son-in-law, a brother-in-law and many of her most intimate friends—in one day.

But we really don't have to look far afield for examples. I know that if I asked you many of you would be able to tell of tragedies that you have experienced. And if there are some here who haven't gone through great difficulties, unfortunately it's just a matter of time before they come to you.

This world is a place of tragedy and sorrow. Horrible things happen in this life. When they happen, people ask,

"Why me?"

We all want a nice life. We want things to go good for us. There's nothing wrong with such a desire. But very often it doesn't turn out that way. This world is so often a very sad and difficult place. I've heard more than one Christian say that they were so happy at a certain point in their lives in that God gave them what they always wanted, and then it was suddenly snatched away from them.

Why is that? Why do things often go horribly wrong for Christians? We certainly don't have all the answers. God's ways are mysterious and far beyond us. Isaiah 55 reminds us that His thoughts and ways are far beyond our thoughts and ways. God said, (Isaiah 55:9)

"As the heavens are higher
than the earth, so are my ways
higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Isaiah 40:28 says of God,

"his understanding no one can fathom."

In Job 11:7–8 Zophar the Naamathite said to Job,

"Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than the heavens—
what can you do?
They are deeper than the depths
of the grave—
what can you know?"

And in Romans 11:33 the apostle Paul declared,

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom
and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!"

God's ways are mysterious to us. Yet we know that God is perfect and His ways are just and perfect. (Deut. 32:4, 2 Sam. 22:31) In Daniel 4:37, King Nebuchadnezzar, after his sanity was restored—praised, exalted and glorified,

"the King of heaven,
because everything he does is right
and all his ways are just."

Yet, even though God's ways are a great mystery to us—we are given pieces of the puzzle. We have one of the pieces in our text.

Why is there so much misery and suffering in the world? Why do bad things happen to Christians—to the very ones who are doing good? Part of the answer is that

Satan has been cast down to earth.

He has been cast out of heaven and now dwells on this earth. This is his dwelling place now. Our text says,

"woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury, because
he knows that his time is short."

Verses 13 to 17 tell us that one of his main activities here is making war against God's people. Verse 17 says,

"Then the dragon was enraged
at the woman and went off to make war
against the rest of her offspring—
those who obey God's commandments
and hold to the testimony of Jesus."

Now we know that Satan is not responsible for all the evil in the world. But it's noteworthy how often the Bible names him as being responsible for certain evils. We know from the book of Job that Satan was behind all the troubles that came upon Job. When the Sabeans attacked Job's servants who were looking after Jobs oxen and donkeys and killed them—that was part of Satan's attack on Job. When fire came from the sky and burned up Job's sheep and his servants, Satan was behind that. When the Chaldean raiding parties swept down and stole Job's camels, Satan was behind it. When the whirlwind swept in the from desert and stuck the house where Job's sons and daughters were—and destroyed them in it—Satan was behind it. When Job got sick—Satan's hand was in it. When Job's wife urged him to curse God—Satan was behind it. When Job's friends turned out to be miserable comforters—it was because Satan was behind it.

Why did Job suffer? It was because he was the most righteous man on the face of the earth. He suffered because God was pleased with him. He suffered because God boasted about him. Satan attacked Job precisely because there was no one else like him. Satan was behind all the attacks on Job. He was the one that brought these troubles on Job. Satan is active in attacking God's people.

We see this theme in many other places in Scripture. For example, 1 Chronicles 21:1 says,

"Satan rose up against Israel
and incited David
to take a census of Israel."

And in Luke 13:16 Jesus rebuke the synagogue ruler because he spoke against Jesus healing a woman who had been crippled for 18 years and could not straighten up. Jesus said,

"Then should not this woman,
a daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has kept bound
for eighteen long years, be set free on
the Sabbath day from what bound her?"

Jesus said that Satan kept her bound. Her affliction had a demonic cause. In Luke 22:3 we read that just before Judas betrayed Jesus,

"Satan entered Judas,
called Iscariot, one of the Twelve."

In Acts 5, when Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and lied about the amount, Peter said to Ananias, (verse 3)

"Ananias, how is it that
Satan has so filled your heart that you
have lied to the Holy Spirit and have
kept for yourself some of the money
you received for the land?"

In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul spoke about his thorn in the flesh. He wrote,

"To keep me from becoming conceited
because of these surpassingly
great revelations, there was given me
a thorn in my flesh, a messenger
of Satan, to torment me."

And in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians,

"For we wanted to come to you—
certainly I, Paul, did,
again and again—
but Satan stopped us."

Paul had to leave the Thessalonian Christians soon after they believed. He had to flee for his life. After he left he had great anguish about them and their spiritual condition. He wanted to return to them. But Satan stopped him.

Satan is active in trying to stop the gospel. He attacks Christian leaders. In Luke 22:31 Jesus said to Peter,

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked
to sift you as wheat."

But it wasn't just Peter, Paul and other great Christian leaders that Satan attacks. He attacks ordinary Christians, like you and me. In the Bible we are warned about him and his attacks. In 1 Peter 5:8–9 the apostle wrote,

"Be self-controlled and alert.
Your enemy the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion looking
for someone to devour.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith,
because you know that your brothers
throughout the world are undergoing
the same kind of sufferings."

And in James 4:7 James said,

"Resist the devil,
and he will flee from you."

In Ephesians 6:10–12 Paul wrote,

"Finally, be strong in the Lord
and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God so that
you can take your stand
against the devil's schemes.
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."

In verse 16 Paul added,

"In addition to all this,
take up the shield of faith,
with which you can extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one."

For those of you who are not Christians, Satan is concerned about you too. Revelation 12:9 tells us that if you don't believe, it's because Satan has had a hand in it. It says,

"Satan, who leads the whole world astray."

To a certain extent this world is under the sway of the devil. Ephesians 2:2 talks about the Ephesian Christians before they came to Christ. It sayas,

"in which you used to live
when you followed the ways of this world
and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air,
the spirit who is now at work
in those who are disobedient."

The second thing we should understand from our text is that

This world is a battlefield. This world is the second stage of the battle.

There was a battle in heaven. Satan was cast out of heaven. He has been thrown down to the earth. Now he is on the earth. As we already saw from verse 17 one of Satan's great activities now is making war against the church, against us.

This world is a battlefield. We Christians don't live behind the lines. We live on the frontlines where the battle is being fought. We belong to Jesus. Because of that Satan hates us. He specifically targets Christians.

It's true that Satan deceives unbelievers, but he doesn't target them like he does Christians. Remember the story in the Old Testament when the king of Aram was going to fight against the Israelites. He said to his chariot commanders, (1 Kings 22:31)

"Do not fight with anyone, small or
great, except the king of Israel."

It's the same way with Satan. He targets Christians.

There are three lessons for us here.

First, as a Christian you should expect trouble in this world.

We live in the world and Satan is here and he is filled with fury. We are his enemy. He hates us. He is seeking to destroy us.

In John 16:33 Jesus said to His disciples,

"I have told you these things,
so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart!
I have overcome the world."

So when trouble comes to you and you don't understand it because you've been faithful to God—it could very well be that you've been targeted for that very reason.

Instead of reacting with a, "Why me?", you should be thinking, "Of course, why not me?" If we truly understood the nature of this world we would be asking, "Why hasn't this happened before now?"

In John 15:20 Jesus said,

"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."

And in John 3:19 John told us,

"This is the verdict:
Light has come into the world,
but men loved darkness instead of light
because their deeds were evil."

But it's not just persecution that you should expect. Like Job, you need to be prepared for all kinds of trouble and tragedy.

We must not misunderstand Psalm 112:7 which says of the righteous man,

"He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast,
trusting in the Lord."

That doesn't mean that no bad news will come to the righteous—rather it means that the righteous will not, (John Calvin)

"tremble at… even the slightest rumor, [but] calmly and peacefully confide in God's paternal care…"

In this world you will have trouble. Be prepared for it.

Secondly, this means that

you are not to put your hope of happiness in this life.

This world is not our home. We are aliens and strangers here. (1 Peter 2:11) We are not to have our hearts in this world. 1 John 2:15–17 says,

"Do not love the world
or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world,
the love of the Father is not in him.
For everything in the world—
the cravings of sinful man,
the lust of his eyes and the boasting
of what he has and does—
comes not from the Father
but from the world.
The world and its desires pass away,
but the man who does
the will of God lives forever."

In Luke 17:32–33 Jesus said,

"Remember Lot's wife!
Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life will preserve it."

Thirdly, we should learn from this text how to answer those who blame God for all the troubles and suffering on this earth.

Who is to blame for the troubles on the earth? Where do troubles come from? Most people blame God. He's the one in ultimate control.

But that blame is totally misplaced. God is not the author of evil. God is good. His works are perfect. When you think of God's initiatives regarding man—they were incredible.

Think of the original creation. Everything God made was good. The world was good. When God created Adam, Adam was the crown of God's creation, made in His image, in His likeness. God was so good to Adam. He made a helper suitable for him—Eve. God placed Adam and Eve in paradise, the Garden of Eden. He told them that they could eat of every tree except for one. God would walk with them in the Garden. His goodness to them was incredible.

Yet Adam and Eve followed Satan and rebelled against God. What did God do? Did He cast them immediately into hell? He could have done that and been totally righteous and just in doing so. No fault would be found in God. He would be perfect in doing so.

Yet God did not cast them into hell. He gave them a great promise about the seed of the woman and how, although Satan would strike His heel, He would crush Satan's head. John 3:16 says,

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

Acts 10:38 tells us that,

"God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power,
and how he went around doing good
and healing all who were
under the power of the devil,
because God was with him."

Jesus was crucified. He died for us. He loved us His enemies. Such love.

Why did God do all that? He did it for us. He did it to destroy what Satan was doing. As we read in 1 John 3:8,

"The reason the Son of God appeared
was to destroy the devil's work."

The devil seeks to steal, kill and destroy. That's what he is doing now.

The evil, suffering and misery in the world—where does it come from? Where is its origin? It comes from sin. It comes from the devil, the demonic world, from evil men's hearts. It does not come from God.

Christians, you can rejoice even in this world because 2000 years ago Jesus came to destroy the devil's work. He has saved you and given you a place in heaven. He as given you His Spirit and has left you here in this earth to live for Him. The more you do that the more the devil will hate you. He may unleash great attacks on you—but you are to be like these in verse 11,

"They overcame 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."

But more on that another time. What a wonderful Savior we have in Jesus.