This sermon is number 5 in a series of 6
Crucial Questions On Christ's Return - Part 5
"Satan - Figment Of Imagination Or Emerging Foe?"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2004 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I want us to turn to Revelation chapter 20, and we'll begin to read at verse 1 - and of course, our title this evening is 'Satan: Figment of Imagination or Emerging Foe?'. Verse 1 of chapter 20 of Revelation: "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever", and we end our reading at verse 10, and do keep a marker in Revelation chapter 20 for we'll need to look at it later on.
There were two little six-year-old boys who were heard arguing about the existence of the devil. One was heard to say: 'Oh, there isn't any devil', and the other was a bit upset by this and he said: 'Well, what do you mean there isn't any devil? It talks about him right throughout the whole of the Bible'. The first little boy very knowingly said: 'Oh, that's a lot of nonsense you know - is just like Santa Claus, he turns out to be your Daddy'. Now the fact of the matter is that a lot of people do laugh about Satan, and poke fun about Satan, as if he is a figment of our imagination, or as if he is a fairytale character. He is humorous, or he is some kind of clown caricature that we laugh at but don't really take seriously. One of the reasons for that is the way that Satan has been caricatured down all of human history. In fact, one of Satan's characteristic strategies is to give an entirely wrong concept of what his true nature and what his true character really is. In the Middle Ages, when there were no radios or televisions, magazines, newspapers, films, or any of the pastimes that we put in our time with in the 21st century - people were frequently amused by plays, many of them were religious. Some of them were called 'miracle plays', a sort of religious pageant in which religious stories were acted out on stage. The audience became very familiar with some of the characters in these plays, and they in particular kept looking for one character out of them all - this was a character who was dressed in red, he wore horns on his head, he had a tail dangling out from behind him, his hooves were cloven, and he had a pitchfork in his right hand. The onlookers used to be just thrilled and excited when this particular character came on the stage - he used to sneak up behind the hero and the heroine. They used to poke fun at him - as in the pantomimes today that some of our children go to, where they all shout 'Behind you!' - it was such a fun-filled time, where they poked fun at the character of the devil.
That is where the idea of Satan in our world has arisen from today, this kind of 'Old Nick' character, or as he sometimes is called 'His Satanic Majesty' - a slightly comic character that no one really wants to take seriously. In fact when the Roman Catholic Cardinal John O'Connor of the Archdiocese of New York said that he actually believed in the devil, he got into the newspapers and onto the television news bulletins across America - even Time magazine reported, and asked this question: 'Was O'Connor seriously suggesting that demons are loose in the land?'. They could hardly believe that even a so-called Christian cleric could really believe that the devil actually exists. The ironic thing is that Time magazine recently, around that particular period, also had many stories about mass murder, wild gang rapes, brutal wars, heinous negligence among health and all sorts of facets of our society - yet they are asking the question: 'Is it possible that we could believe in this day and age, which is filled with so much evil and wickedness, in a personality called the devil?'.
Now we must be very careful this evening, as Christians, because there can be an unhealthy fantasising - even among believers, sometimes particularly among believers - with the devil. Corrie Ten Boom, who you remember was in the Nazi concentration camps, a very wise old Christian lady, said: 'We must be careful not to advertise the devil by talking too much about him and his devices' - and that is one extreme we want to guard against even this evening. But we must beware of the other extreme, and that is completely ignoring or being lethargic with regards to the threat the devil is to our lives, to the church, and indeed to the world around us.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians: 'We ought not to be ignorant of his devices' - Satan's - 'lest Satan should get an advantage over us'. CS Lewis in his 'Screwtape Letters' said that 'there are two equal opposite errors into which our race can fall into about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence, the other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them'. My desire tonight is not to engender within your minds and hearts an excessive unhealthy interest in the devil - but what we want to be this evening is real, and in an increasingly sceptic world we want to answer the question: is Satan real? Is Satan a personality? Or is Satan simply an influence, a force, some kind of principle of wickedness round about us? Or is there a demonic personality, that we find within the word of God, called the devil?
Before we actually look into the points that are before you tonight: his origin; his influence; his accession; his last attempt; and his doom - I want to prove to you the personal existence, or the personality, of the evil one, the devil - the fact that he is not an influence spiritually, that he is not simply a principle or a force, but he is a person. Now how do we do that? Well, the first thing that we notice - and you could note these down, I think they would be helpful to you in the future - is that there are personal attributes attributed to the evil one in scripture. There are personal attributes attributed to the evil one in scripture - let me give you an example, 2 Corinthians 2 and verse 11 that we read from already: 'Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices'. A principle does not have a device, or an intention in other words. Second Corinthians is clearly speaking of someone, a personality, who has a will and a desire to really take over believers minds and hearts - and in their ignorance of his existence, to really get one over them.
There are other attributes that we find in Ephesians 6 and verse 11, in that great passage about the armour of God. Paul warns us to put on the armour of God that we may protect ourselves against the wiles of the devil. That word 'wiles' is just an old English word for the schemes and the stratagems of the devil. So he has plans, he has a plan for you believer, he has a plan for me. We see in Luke 22 and verse 31, very definitely, that the evil one has a will, a volition, and an intention. You remember the Lord Jesus said to Peter: 'Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat' - he desired to have Peter, he wanted to rip him to shreds - but he had a desire! A personality has a desire, not an influence, not a force, not a principle - no matter how wicked that may be.
First Peter 5 and verse 8 says that Satan is as a roaring lion, and Peter warns us: 'Resist him steadfast in the faith, because he is seeking to devour you!'. He seeks to devour Christians. In Revelation 12, that we'll look at later on in our meeting, and verse 9 Satan is described as 'he which deceiveth the world'. He wants to deceive people - now a principle on its own cannot have a will and an intention to actively deceive people. It may deceive them passively, but we read here of Satan actively desiring to deceive the nations, and we read more of that in chapter 20 verse 3, verse 7, and verse 8. So all I want to do is establish that there are personal attributes attributed to the evil one in scripture, which prove that he is a person.
Here's a second thing that proves to us his personal being: there are accounts of his encounters with God that portray him as a personality. Let me give you an example: Job chapters 1 and 2 - you don't need to turn to them, but read them when you get home - the narrative account of something that was going on in heaven that Job was ignorant of. God said to Satan: 'Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in all the face of the earth?'. God is talking to Satan as a personality, and Satan is there as God's equal - not in the sense of morally, or powerfully, but as a personal equal in the sense of a personality - standing before God, whom God is talking with and conversing with. You could go further and see in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ that Satan is portrayed as a personality. In Matthew chapter 4, Satan comes and tempts the Lord Jesus - you know all about it - but he comes as a personality, and he talks to the Lord Jesus, he converses, he interacts, he reasons with Him in His temptation.
So Satan is given to us in the scripture, in these accounts of his encounters with both God and the Lord Jesus, and he is seen as a personality. So there are personal attributes attributed to him, we see him in his encounters with God and the Lord Jesus as a person, but also the way that Satan's name is placed side-by-side with Christ's name and God's name shows that he is a personality - and, with some people in the world, he is worshipped as God. We read in 2 Corinthians 6 and verse 15: 'What concord hath Christ with Belial?' - Christ is a person, Belial is a person (behind which, the god Belial, is Satan; the spiritual force behind every demonic spirit and every god that is worshipped, whether they be idol or a real demonic power) - but he is set beside Christ as a real personal being. Satan is also set beside and juxtaposed with God in some verses in scripture. Take James 4 and verse 7 for instance, James says: 'Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you'. God and the devil juxtaposed, set side-by-side, as personalities - one to submit to, the other to resist.
Now add to those three facts the fact that Satan is named right throughout the Scriptures, maybe 150 different times, and many different titles. Sometimes he's called 'the accuser', which is simply the Hebrew translation of the word 'Satan'. He's also called 'the prince of the power of the air' in Ephesians 2 and verse 2; he's called in 2 Corinthians 4 and verse 4 'the god of this world', or 'the god of this age'. He is a personality, not an influence, not a wicked principle, not a spiritual force, but a personal being. So hopefully we've established that fact, that the devil exists, he is not a figment of our imagination.
Now, if we are to know what a threat he is to us as believers, indeed what a threat particularly in a prophetic light of Scripture, what a threat he is to the future of this planet, we need to look at the whole of his history. So we want to start tonight by looking at his origins, the first point on your sheet: the origin of the evil one. What I want you to notice primarily in this point is: here we see Satan's original challenge to God's theocratic kingdom. Now God's theocratic kingdom just means God's rule over the whole of the universe throughout all of time. In Satan's origin, Satan's creation - as a demonic being now we're talking about - we see his first challenge to God's sovereign rule in His created universe. I want you to turn with me to Ezekiel chapter 28, and we'll read a few verses from this chapter, verse 11: "Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more".
Keep a marker in Ezekiel 28, and turn with me to Isaiah 14 verse 12. Here you will see a name that you'll recognise as being that of Satan, verse 12: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart", notice the many 'I wills' in this verse, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit".
Now historically speaking Ezekiel chapter 28, that we read from this evening, was addressed to the King of Tyre - it says that very clearly in the first verse that we read, verse 11 and 12 - addressed to the King of Tyre or Tyrus as the Authorised Version says. But here we see more than just a simple word from God to an evil King. Many sceptical scholars say that we cannot see Satan in this, but I believe that if you look very closely you will see in verses 1 to 6 - yes, the pride, the wisdom, and the wealth of the Prince of Tyre are described - and in verses 7 to 10 we see his destruction by the Babylonian forces - and he is particularly the King of Tyre, Prince Ithobaal II - but as you look through these verses you will see something deeper than all that, because God's word is speaking of something more than just a pure earthly scene. He seems to be speaking to the spirit that was behind the King of Tyre that was animating this evil man in Ezekiel's day. We see a personality that is greater than simply a wicked earthly king.
Now let me show you this, verse 12 says that he was full of wisdom and perfect in beauty; the King of Tyre could not be described as being perfect in beauty. Verse 15 described him as being blameless, now the King of Tyre was far from blameless! In fact, I would put to you that no human being could be described as being blameless, for we all know Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Verse 13 of Ezekiel 28 says: 'You were in Eden, the garden of God', now when was the King of Tyre ever in Eden? He was never in Eden! Some scholars say: 'Well, it must be Adam that's being talked about here', but as you read on this one who was in the garden of Eden, the garden of God, is described as being clothed, bejewelled with every stone, every beautiful jewel, and in beautiful settings of finest gold. Jewels that speak of the glories of God - and incidentally in Revelation we read that one day the saints of God will be dressed in, and all the splendour to reflect God's glory - but this particular one is described as being bejewelled in a mass of brilliant colours, gemstones that have no light of their own, but reflect the Shekinah glory of God. Now I ask you: could that be describing the King of Tyre, a wicked man who God is pronouncing judgment upon? When was he in Eden? Is it not speaking of the spiritual force behind him? It is indeed, I believe, it's speaking of Lucifer himself, Satan.
I believe that Satan was probably given jurisdiction over God's creation, that was God's plan in the beginning. In verse 13 we read further of Satan that 'the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes' - now what's that talking about? Well those are musical instruments that God is describing the workmanship of. Listen to what Dr Dwight Pentecost says in this particular verse, 'the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes', he says: 'Musical instruments were originally designed to be the means of praising and worshipping God. It was not necessary for Lucifer to learn to play a musical instrument in order to praise God, if you please he had a built-in pipe organ, or he was an organ. That's what the prophet meant when he said 'the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes' - Lucifer, because of his beauty, did what a musical instrument would do in the hands of skilled musicians: bring forth praise to the glory of God. Lucifer didn't have to look for someone to play the organ so that he could sing a doxology, he was a doxology'.
This angel of light, Lucifer, the spirit behind the King of Tyrus, we have to believe, was probably in charge of the praise of God in the heights of heaven. Just imagine this: that was his person, probably given jurisdiction over God's creation, given a leading role in the praise and the honour and the glory of God, shining and reflecting not his own glory but the Shekinah glory of Almighty God - that's his person. Listen to the privileges he had: verse 14 of chapter 28 says he was the anointed guardian cherub on God's holy mountain - an anointed guardian cherub on God's holy mountain. Now listen the Old Testament Scriptures know only three anointed offices: the office of prophet, the office of priest, and the office of King. Now those three anointed offices could not be attributed to the King of Tyre, could they? A wicked, Gentile King? The King of Tyre could not be called a guardian cherub whose purpose was to protect God's holiness, and primarily to guard God's throne. He is described here as 'one that covereth', in the sense that he is covering God's presence - imagine this! Verse 15 says: 'He walks up and down in the midst of the stones of fire', the sense of the meaning is this: that this being has unrestricted access into the very immediate glorious presence of God. Satan covered God's glory; Satan, as Lucifer before his fall, was a guardian cherub of God who guarded His throne, who guarded His glory, and actually brought glory reflected to Almighty God.
We don't have time to read Ezekiel 1 and verse 10, but we read of the cherub in there, that it bore the likeness of a lion, the likeness of a calf, the likeness of an eagle, and the likeness of a man. Let me just remind you that Matthew's gospel, primarily to the Jew, is the lion-like gospel of the King, the King of the Jews. That corresponds to the face of the lion on the cherub. Mark's gospel is the gospel of the servant, which corresponds to the calf, to the ox, the servant of the land. Luke's gospel is the gospel of the perfect man, which corresponds to the face of the man on the cherub. John's gospel is the gospel of divinity, that the Lord Jesus Christ was God's Son, and God the Son; and that corresponds to the eagle soaring in the skies. The face of the cherub, the fourfold face of the eagle and the ox and the lion and the man, are actually in a typological sense showing forth the glory of Christ in a prophetic form. But could I suggest to you tonight that this guardian cherub of God, Lucifer before his fallen state, was actually given the role of telling forth the glory of Christ before He came into being on this earth as a man. Imagine this: this was the role and the privilege of the evil one.
What a great leader he was. We all know what happened, verse 17, God says: 'Your heart was filled with pride because of all your beauty'. We saw those five 'I wills' in Isaiah 14:12-14 - 'I will, I will, I will, I will ascend unto the heights, I will be like God, I will sit on His holy mountain', and on and on and on. It wasn't enough for him to reflect God's glory, it wasn't enough for him to point towards Christ, he wanted his own glory, he wanted to be his own Christ. The consequences of that fall was what the Lord Jesus said in Luke 10:18: 'I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven', and he fell from heaven to earth, and on earth as a serpent in the Garden of Eden we know the outcome of it all. Romans 5, that by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin in that all men have sinned, and all have fallen short of the glory of God. Friends this evening, that's why we're all in the predicament we are - not to exonerate responsibility from ourselves - but the fact of the matter is that Satan fell, and Satan tempted Eve, and Eve gave to Adam, and that's why we're here tonight as sinners.
His origin - that is where we see, Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14, right before the world was ever created in a sense, the original challenge to God's theocratic kingdom, God's rule. Now let's look at the present-day in the sense of his influence. Now what this really is is his continuing challenge to God's universal kingdom. You see, just as in the beginning Satan desired to be like God, he still desires to be like God, he still likes to counterfeit and duplicate the things of God. J. Oswald Saunders, whose writings I commend to you, wrote a book on one occasion called 'Satan Is No Myth', and in that book he compared the things that Satan duplicates that God does. He still is desiring to be like God. Here's one: Satan has his own trinity - we'll find out later in Revelation 16 that there is the devil, that great dragon that is spoken of that we read of; there is the beast, which is the antichrist, the second person of his trinity instead of Christ is Antichrist, the beast; and the third person of his trinity is the false prophet, the one who does lying signs and wonderful miraculous works - he's a bit like the Holy Spirit in a sense, duplicating God's work through, supposedly, God's power. He has his own trinity, did you know that he has his own church? In Revelation 2 and verse 9 we read of the synagogue of Satan. Did you know that he has his own ministers? Paul said in 2 Corinthians chapter 11 verses 4-5 that a minister of Satan was sent to him, and there are ministers of Satan preaching false doctrine. Did you know that Satan has thought out his own system of theology? When Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4 verse 1 he warned him about the doctrines of demons - the devil has his own theology. Did you know that he has his own sacrificial system? In 1 Corinthians 10 and verse 20 Paul says the Gentiles sacrifice to demons. Not only does he have his own sacrificial system, he has his own communion service! We read in 1 Corinthians 10 verse 21 of the cup of demons and the table of demons. His own ministers that we spoke of a moment ago preach his own gospel. Paul said to the Galatians in chapter 1 verses 7 and 8 that it is a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, a gospel which is not a gospel, a gospel which is accursed, which is of the evil one. In Revelation 13:2 Satan has his own throne, in Revelation 13:4 he has his own worshippers.
I could go on in how Antichrist tries to duplicate the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth one day, but we've got to move on - save to say that in 2 Thessalonians 2 and verse 7 we read that the mystery of iniquity behind Antichrist already exists and works. Turn to that verse till I just show you, 2 Thessalonians 2 and verse 7, talking about Antichrist he says: 'For the mystery of iniquity doth already work', or the mystery of lawlessness, 'only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked', the Antichrist, that wicked one, 'be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming'. In Paul's day, and he's writing to the Thessalonians, he saying that the spirit of this Antichrist who is yet to come, is already working; Satan's influence is all around us!
A lady on one occasion, who was a very nice lady who never ever spoke ill of anybody, was said to by her friend: 'I believe that you would say something good even about the devil if you were asked'. She says: 'Well, you certainly do have to admire his persistence, don't you?'. That's the truth, isn't it? Without giving credit where credit is not due, Satan has, through all time, been persistent in his desire to bring his man to the fore and to have his way with human beings. The mystery of iniquity has always worked right throughout all of time, he has been trying to defeat the forces of God in God's kingdom; right from Adam, through Cain the first murderer; through Nimrod, the first worshipper of false gods in a sense, the first false religionist; through the pharaohs of Egypt; through the Herods of Palestine - the attempt of Satan through various kings and potentates, and rulers and leaders of time, was to wipe out the line of Messiah. He tried to wipe out the Lord Jesus when he was on the earth in his own way, he did not succeed; and now that the Lord has died and rose again, he is still seeking to wipe out the influence of Christianity in this world. Since Babel, where that tower was built in the book of Genesis to worship God as they saw fit, anti-God and anti-Christ, Satan's agenda still today is a globalism where the world is united together in a false worship of him as king and saviour.
Now here's where the crux of the matter comes prophetically: soon God is going to allow Satan to ride onto the battlefield of time; soon God is going to permit, as He has never done before, Satan to take the stage and, as it were, Satan to have his day. His influence has always been with us, and the continuing challenge to His universal kingdom, but what we're going to see come soon - thirdly - is his accession. He is going to be allowed by God to take that place of priority, as it were, in the eyes of the world - and his challenge throughout all of time, from the very beginning, will be allowed to come to fruition.
Turn with me to Revelation 12 till we see where this is, verses 1 and 2 of Revelation 12: 'And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars'. Now there's a great debate as to who this woman is, but it is obvious from scriptural typology in the Old Testament, and much of the symbolism in this passage, that this woman is not Mary but it is Israel - Israel, who gave the Christ child to the world. The twelve stars obviously represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Mary has never been persecuted in all of her life, but this woman is being persecuted - verse 2: 'And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered'. This woman is Israel, bringing the Christ, the Messiah, to the world. Here we see this woman is crying, she is suffering because she has brought Messiah into God's universe. Now we see the devil enters the scene in verse 3: 'And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born'.
There we have Satan against the Lord Jesus, and against the influence of the Lord Jesus in all of this universe. Incidentally, let me just say that probably the meaning of this tail of the great dragon sweeping the third part of the stars in heaven is a reference to the rebellion right there at the very beginning, that we read of in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. We believe that these stars are probably symbolic of the angels, telling us that a third of all the angels went with Satan in that initial rebellion. But as we read on, look further at verse 5: 'And she brought forth a man child', and we know what happened in the Gospels, 'who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron', that has not happened yet, 'and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne'. That is talking of the ascension now, the Lord Jesus is taken back to heaven and to His throne. Then in verse 6, primarily talking to Israel now: 'And the woman fled into the wilderness', read of that in Matthew 24, 'where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days'.
Now if you look to the diagram that's on your sheet, what's happening here is that number that we have just read - that figure of days - totals to be the three and a half years of the second half of the Tribulation period, the second half of the seven years, the last three and a half years. What we are reading here is that Satan will really unleash his greatest persecution against Israel in that last three and a half years of the Tribulation period, Jacob's trouble. It will be a marked intense persecution of the people of Israel, and we read further of it in verses 13 to 17 - but you remember one week we read from Daniel 9:27, which said that there would be a man who would make a treaty with Israel. That treaty with Israel in Daniel 9:27 will bring in a false peace at the beginning of the Tribulation seven-year period, just at the start - a false peace! Everybody in the world is looking for peace, everybody in the world is looking for a man to bring the Palestinian and the Jew together, and the whole world together in a false utopia - and it will happen at the beginning of this period. But it all goes sour in the middle, and there is what is called the abomination of desolations spoken of by Daniel, where this antichrist, this beast, Jesus said, will go into the temple of God and make out that he is God, and seek to be worshipped as God - and the Jews will lose faith in him at that moment, he will break up his covenant with them and he will begin to persecute them as never before. What a Tribulation that will be! Remember we saw last week that that Tribulation period, one purpose of it was to bring the Jews to their knees so that they would submit to Messiah, and repent and believe in Him, and there's no doubt about it that that's what will happen in what we're reading of in Revelation chapter 12.
Satan's chief instrument in the time of the Tribulation is Antichrist, and we read about him in Revelation 13 verses 1-9. He will be his chief man, his personality for venting his wrath on men and against God's kingdom, almost his last attempt against God's rule. We read in verses 11 to 18 of chapter 13 about his sidekick, the false prophet, who will perform great miracles. The Lord said in Matthew 24:24: 'For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect' - that's talking about the Jews, the elect from the four corners of the world that God has brought back to the land of Jerusalem. These signs and wonders will deceive many of them!
Revelation 13 tells us that many will take the mark of the beast, 666, upon their foreheads and upon their right hand - I don't know how that will be realised, but nevertheless it says it will happen, and God will pour upon this world, upon the forces of Antichrist, upon the followers of Antichrist and the systems of Antichrist His wrath, because the cup of iniquity of humanity is full! This is Satan's accession to power, and it is God's opportunity to judge him.
Now this will all end - praise God, it will end - when the Lord Jesus Christ comes. We read of it in 2 Thessalonians 2 and verse 7: 'He will devour that wicked one with the spirit of His mouth when He comes'. But in Revelation 20 verses 1 to 3 we read of it specifically, look at it - now we're talking about the end of this Tribulation, not talking about the rapture, we believers will be away seven years before this. But at the end of the Tribulation period, remember when all the world, through the forces of Satan and Antichrist, are around Jerusalem ready to wipe out that third portion of Jews that are left, that remnant - they will look to heaven and cry to their Saviour, and their Saviour will come and deliver them. Verse 1 of Revelation 20: 'And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season'.
There is at the end of this seven years the battle of Armageddon, you've heard of it spoken about - in that battle Jesus will wipe out all of His enemies and the enemies of the Jews, and it says that a chain will be taken, Satan will be bound, he will be thrown in a bottomless pit, and his influence will be prevented for this whole thousand year reign when righteousness will rule through the King, our Lord Jesus Christ. The battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, and Christ shall reign, and righteousness shall be displayed - Satan bound and removed.
Let me just say in passing that a-millennialists who imbibe the teaching of Augustine - and I explained that in the past - right up to today many of them believe that this little word 'little season' in verse 3 of chapter 20 refers to this present age. They believe that Satan is bound presently, that's why they believe that we are in the millennium as we speak, this Christian age of salvation blessing. They believe that Satan was bound during the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he will be released just for a little time at the end of this age. But as you read Revelation 20 you see very clearly that the binding of Satan doesn't happen until the Lord comes - Satan cannot be bound unless our Lord came and we don't know about it. He comes, and He binds him - and his loosing, this chapter says, doesn't take place again until the thousand year reign of Christ is over.
Now let me take you through all this: Christ comes at the end of the seven years, Satan is taken and he is bound, and a thousand year reign takes place - but then we read in verse 7 that when the thousand years are expired Satan shall be loosed out of his prison and shall go and deceive the nations across the four corners of the world. Satan will be loosed again at the end of this thousand year reign. Now a lot of people ask the question: why? Well, this is your final, or almost final point, your fourth point: this is Satan's last attempt, if you like it is the final ever challenge to God's authority. You might say: 'What purpose is there in releasing Satan and causing all this bother all over again after a thousand years of peace on the earth where Christ has been reigning in the millennium?'. Well, look at it first of all from Satan's perspective: he's going forth to deceive the nations in order to lead a final revolt against the theocracy of God, and if I could put it this way: he can't resist himself once he's released by God. It's one more attempt for him to reach the final goal of the first sin that he committed, to be like God, to be worshipped like God and to rule like God. But from God's perspective, and partly from our perspective as human beings, this final attempt, last attempt of Satan against the rule of God is the final test that demonstrates the corruption of the human heart. Did you get that? It is the final test that demonstrates the corruption of the human heart.
What am I talking about? Well, God has subjected fallen humanity to numerous tests down through all the ages, and as we look at them - take the law for instance, the law of Moses, the ten commandments and all the other rules in Exodus through to Deuteronomy - man failed, man has fallen short of the glory and the law of God. Walter Scott says this: 'Alas, what is man? He has been tried and tested under every possible condition, in every possible way: under goodness, government, law, grace, and now under glory - and he fails again!'. Now you see this thousand year period when righteousness will reign, the people who will enter that will enter because of their obedience. Now we can't go into all the ramifications of that, but many people will be saved during the Tribulation period, tribulation saints, and there will be resurrections and so on. The righteous resurrected will go into that period, but there will also be the nations - and because of their reaction towards the Jewish people, and how they have treated them throughout all the persecution, and them themselves not taking the mark of the beast or worshipping the beast, will enter into the millennial reign - but they will have children. They may live hundreds of years, as it says in some of the prophets, but they will have children and their children will be of the nature of Adam, just as they are even though they're redeemed. They will be little sinners, and some of them may trust Christ - they will be ruled with a rod of iron, no doubt about that - Satan's influence, that external influence of temptation in the world around us will be done away with, but they will have the same sinful desires and fallen nature.
Now, you put all that together and wait till the very end of the millennium, till Satan is released again, and right away you have an automatic army that will like magnetism react to his call. That's why you have Gog and Magog, and a number that can hardly be numbered, the progeny of men - whether they're redeemed men or not - born with fallen sinful human nature. Jennings writes this: 'Has human nature changed, at least apart from sovereign grace? Is the carnal mind at last friendship with God?', listen to this, 'Have a thousand years of absolute power, and absolute benevolence, both in unchecked activity done away with all war for ever and ever?' - imagine this! Christ reigns for 1000 years over humanity with a rod of iron, righteousness and all the blessings upon this world and upon humanity, because Christ is King - yet that doesn't do some men any good, apart from grace!
Doesn't it make you thankful that grace has reached you? After this last attempt at the end of the millennium, Satan will come to his final doom. In Revelation 20 and verse 8 we read: 'He shall go out to deceive the nations', verse 9, 'And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever'. That is his end - many believe that the false prophet and the Antichrist have already been cast into the lake of fire at the end of the Tribulation when the Lord comes. If anybody believes in conditional punishment - i.e. that you just go out like a light, and your life is blown out, and you don't have an eternal hell - here's a proof against it, because for 1000 years probably the false prophet and the Antichrist have been in hell before the devil gets there. But here we have it, friends, the awful fact: Satan will be cast into the lake of fire, Gehenna, but my friend if you're here tonight and you're not saved, there's something that I want you to sit up very very definitely and take note of in these verses. Look at verse 11: 'And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works', verse 15, 'And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire'.
The devil's final doom will be the final doom of everybody who follows his way, who follows the mystery of iniquity, who follows the Antichrist, but who follows sin and opposes Jesus Christ - they will be there! You will be there, my friend! The Lord Jesus said that hell was prepared for the devil and his angels, He doesn't mention anything about men - but men are going to be there, because they followed his rule rather than God's rule. Where will you be? What will you face?
According to doctors of the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Centre in Phoenix, Arizona, rattlesnakes are thought to be dead, but they can still strike you. Even if you shoot them and their head falls off, or you chop their head off, they still have the power to bite you. In fact, many patients come into this regional hospital suffering from bites, because they thought the snake was dead, and they had even chopped the head off - but there is a muscular reaction in the jaws of the snakes even after their head is severed, it can still bite you, and incidentally actually gives you more venom than they would usually do if they were alive and their head was still on their body!
My friend, it's wonderful tonight to be saved - and do you know what it means to be saved? It means, theoretically, that Satan's head is bruised, or could I say his head is cut off - Satan, the serpent who, in the garden, deceived all of the human race, his judgment was pronounced in Genesis 3:15: 'I will', God says, 'put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel' - and at Calvary, Jesus bruised the evil one's head. He said in John 12: 'Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out; and if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me'. John said in 1 John 3:8: 'For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil'. Praise God, his head has been severed - but do you know something? He still has a venomous bite. His time is limited, and he knows it, but isn't it wonderful tonight to know that one day his time will be no more! Amen!
Martin Luther, who faced the emissaries of Satan, the enemies of God in the person of the Roman Catholic system - he was trying to deliver himself and others from it with the gospel of grace, and he wrote that mighty hymn: 'A Mighty Fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing'. I believe this is one of the verses that you don't find in your hymnbook, he wrote this:
'The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure -
One little word shall fell him!'
He is defeated, Jesus' blood has defeated him - and just as the Tribulation saints in Revelation 12 shall overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and the power of their testimony, we overcome him too - Hallelujah! But one day the consummation of it all will be that he will be gone forever! I love the sayings of Vance Havner, one of them is this: 'The adversary is not in the first two chapters of the Bible, nor is he in the last two' - Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifth tape in his 'Crucial Questions About Christ's Return' series, titled "Satan - Figment Of Imagination Or Emerging Foe?" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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