Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XCI)

August 29, 2010

In this post, I am going to do an overview of the teaching of the Book of Revelation on the Devil, demons and angels.  For convenience’s sake, this can be called the doctrine of spiritual warfare, if you wish.

And, that is exactly where the material on Satan begins: as spiritual warfare in the churches in Asia Minor (Rev. 2:9, 10, 13, 24).  The three local churches involved are at different places in the battle.  In Smyrna, the Devil is apparently using those in a Jewish synagogue to persecute the church and have its members thrown in jail (2:9, 10).  In Pergamum, The influence of Satan is very strong through the very culture of the city (2:13; perhaps prefiguring “Babylon the Great” in one sense).  Then, in Thyatira, some in the church are said to have been taught “the deep things of Satan” (2:24) by the false prophet called “Jezebel”—definitely a preview of Babylon the Great!

Then, there is nothing more about the Devil or the demonic realm until chapter 12, except for the lament in 9:20 that the unbelievers who refuse to repent (i.e., the earth-dwellers, though the wording is not used there) do so, among other reasons, because they worship “demons.”  Now, it is unlikely that those unbelievers realize they are doing so, nevertheless, it is true (see 1 Cor. 10:20-21).

It is the material in chapter 12 which pulls back the curtain, so to speak, and reveals the ongoing invisible warfare all the way back to Genesis 3:15.  It’s here that the reader is finally made aware that the brutal killing of the male babies under two years old in Bethlehem in Matthew 2:16 may have been ordered by Herod the Great, but was effectively suggested to Herod—who was the Devil’s instrument, even if unwittingly—by Satan.

It is possible that 12:4 refers to the original rebellion of Satan and the demons against God.  If so, “a third” of the angels defected at that point.  If that understanding is correct, 12:7-9 is ironic in its wording when it speaks of “the dragon (Satan) and his angels” (i.e., the demons) getting kicked out of heaven.

In a sense, that is when all heck breaks out on earth.  A “woe” is predicted to the earth because of the wrath of the Devil and the fact that he knows his time to create havoc is short.  He will be unable to destroy the “woman”—apparently a mass of Jews converted in 11:13—who flees to “the wilderness.”  However, he is much more successful in delegating his diabolical authority to the beast (13:4), who is permitted in God’s plan to kill many of the saints—apparently Gentiles converted either through the ministry of the two witnesses (11:3-6) or in 11:13.

In chapter 16, in the run-up to the battle of Armageddon, there are references to “unclean spirits” (v. 13) and “demons” (v. 14).  The most intriguing angle related to this topic in that context, though, is what appears to be an “unholy trinity” in verse 13: the dragon (Satan), the beast and the false prophet.  Is it fair to say that this usage is intended to get across that, at the end of the age, they will intentionally function as the antithesis to the Divine Trinity?

Then, in 18:3, the great world system, Babylon the Great—here depicted as “the great city,” is said to be a dwelling place for “demons” and “unclean spirits.”  That may well be intended to imply that everything that is of the world is influenced by the demonic realm.

Finally, even though it will not happen in such rapid fire order in future history, chapter 20 tells us of the two-phased demise of Satan, separated by 1,000 years.  In 20:1-3, the Devil is thrown into the Abyss for the 1,000 years.  For whatever Divine reason, he is released at the end of the 1,000 years to incite one final rebellion , before being thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity (20:7-10).

The two things seen about the Devil in Revelation that are completely consistent with what is found elsewhere in Scripture are: 1) he is the accuser of the brethren (12:10); and 2) he is the deceiver of the world (20:3, 7).  With those two points in mind, we realize that the only major differences in what Satan is doing now and what he will do at the end of the age are: 1) he will greatly intensify his onslaught; and 2) he will unveil his masterpieces: the beast and the false prophet.

As far as what the Book of Revelation teaches about the angels who have continued to follow the Lord, several summarial observations can be made: 1) angels are involved in mediating the content of the book to John from the beginning to the end (see 1:1; 22:16); 2) every one of the seven local churches apparently has a “guardian angel” (2:1, etc.; see Heb. 1:14); 3) there are a number of kinds of angelic creatures seen in the heavenly throne room, all of which are primarily involved in worshiping the Lord; 4) the number of angels in heaven is apparently beyond human numbering (5:11); 4) Michael—who Daniel 12:1 indicates has responsibility for the welfare of Israel—leads the angels who expel Satan “and his angels” from heaven in 12:7ff.; and 5) An angel is powerful enough to secure the Devil in the abyss for 1,000 years (20:1-3).

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