"To Deceive The Nations No More"
Revelation 19:17 - 20:10
(Delivered Sunday, Sunday, August 6, 2000 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James version.)
In his first epistle, Peter gave this warning to believers in his day:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
That warning is as much meant for us today as it was for them. You and I must understand that we live our Christian lives under a continual state of 'yellow-alert'. We are the objects of the hatred of a malicious, clever, and unspeakably dangerous spiritual enemy. If we disbelieve Peter's warning, and dismiss it as nothing more than mere legend and mediaeval folk-lore; then we've already fallen victim to him and are in far greater danger than we know.
The devil is a real being. Many discount his existence, and treat him as if he were nothing more than a 'literary device' -- a mere rhetorical symbol of evil. But Jesus taught that the devil is real, living, and very powerful. Every follower of Jesus Christ is obliged to hold the beliefs that their Master taught; and so, every follower of Jesus must believe toward the devil as Jesus did. Every follower of Jesus is obliged to heed Peter's warning that the devil wages a campaign of deception and destruction against the human race in general, and the people of God in particular.
Who is the devil? The Bible teaches us that he is a powerful angel who fell from his place of honor before God. He is a created being -- originally perhaps the most beautiful and glorious of all God's creatures (Ez. 28:12-15). But he became prideful and arrogant. He said in his heart, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the furthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:13-15). He -- a creature made by God -- sought to exalt himself above his Creator and to rebel against Him; and thus, evil made its entry into God's universe.
I believe that the devil viciously hates humanity. God not only thrust him from his lofty position in the heavens, but has also promised that redeemed human beings will "judge angels" (1 Cor. 6:3). When Paul closed his letter to the Romans, he told them, "And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly" (Rom. 16:20). The devil considers it the absolute height of indignity that he is destined to be judged by human beings; and so, he has done all that he could to keep human beings from experiencing the favor of God's grace, and to be used by God to judge him.
Consider all that the devil has done in his campaign of destruction against humanity.
First, he's the author and instigator of mankind's fall. He was the one who, in the form of a serpent, tempted our first parents to disobey God in the Garden. God's only command to Adam and Eve was that they were not to eat the fruit that had been forbidden to them; and that on the day they did so, they would die. But the devil deceived the woman by telling her, "You will not surly die. for God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:4-5). He lied to her and deceived her into disobeying the command of God. She ate; and she gave some to her husband, and he also ate. And as a result, death entered the human family; not only physical death, but the most horrible death of all -- that of separation from God. This first strike of the devil against humankind has resulted suffering, death and the eternal loss of millions and millions of people throughout history.
Second, because fallen men and women can now only be restored to a right relationship with God through a Redeemer, the devil turned his attacks on the Redeemer Himself. When mankind fell, God cursed the serpent and told him, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Gen. 3:15). The devil knew that this promised Redeemer -- born from the human family -- would strike a fatal, head-crushing blow to him; and so, he did everything in his power to prevent the promised Redeemer from even coming.
The devil has opposed God's plan to send a Redeemer in two ways. First, he sought to prevent the Redeemer from being born into the human family at all. God promised that the Redeemer would be born through the Jewish people (Gen. 12:3); and so, whether through Pharaoh's oppressions in Egypt (Exodus 1), or through the malice of Haman (Esther 3), or through the brutality of Herod (Matthew 2), the devil has incited the hatred of the great and the mighty of this world for the Jews -- all in the hopes of preventing the Redeemer from even being born. The book of Revelation tells us that the devil would have devoured Jesus the moment He was born from the Jewish people if he could have (Rev. 12:4). Throughout the centuries, and even to this day, he has viciously attacked and sought to destroy the Jewish people because they were people through whom the Crusher of his head was born.
And once the Son of God took human form, and had been conceived in the womb of Mary; and once Jesus was born, and grew into adulthood, and entered into His earthly mission, the devil sought to tempt Him from ever going to the Cross and dying for our sins. When Jesus began his public ministry, the devil tempted Him, while in the wilderness, to follow some other path than the path of suffering and the Cross (Matthew 4:1-11). During Jesus' ministry, the devil tempted Peter to try to talk Jesus out of His mission of dying on the Cross (Mark 8:31-33). And I believe that the oppression of the devil was behind much of the suffering and temptation Jesus felt while in the garden before He was betrayed (Luke 22:39-46). The devil would have done anything he could to destroy our Redeemer before He could die for us; and it was only the mighty hand of God that preserved Jesus from the devil's attacks so that he could be our sacrifice for sin.
In fact, in an ultimate act of irony, the devil's own murderous hatred for Jesus resulted in the Redeemer fulfilling His mission for us by His death on the Cross. What a blow God struck to the devil when He raised Jesus from the grave! Third, the devil carries on an unrelenting campaign against mankind even to this day. For example, the Bible tells us that he actively blinds people spiritually so that they will not hear the Gospel message and be saved by it. In 2 Cor. 4:3-4, Paul says, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" In His parable of the Sower, Jesus said that, when the Gospel message is sown and some people hear it, "Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts" (Mark 4:15). The devil has everything to lose from people hearing the Gospel and being saved by it; and so he does all that he can to prevent it or pervert it, so that it will not be heard and believed.
The devil also seeks to turn people from God's way for them. Paul told Timothy that, in his own day -- even among those who professed a faith in Jesus -- "some have already turned aside after Satan" (1 Tim. 5:15). The devil even tempted Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to fall down dead (Acts 5:3). Paul told the Ephesian believers that the devil is the spirit that works on a world-wide scale "in the sons of disobedience" -- causing them to walk "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2). Paul urged Timothy to humbly correct those who oppose the Gospel message, "if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:25-26). All over the world, the devil works tirelessly to keep people bound, shackled and imprisoned in the chains of their own sins, and to prevent people from following God's way for them.
The devil also works to actively hinder God's faithful ministers and missionaries from spreading the good news of the Gospel in the world, and from building up and strengthening churches. Paul, while on one of his missionary journeys, filled with the Holy Spirit, once spoke to a sorcerer who was opposing the Gospel message, and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord" (Acts 13:10). The apostle once told the Thessalonian believers, "... We wanted to come to you -- even I, Paul, time and again -- but Satan hindered us" (1 Thess. 2:18).
And the devil attacks God's people directly and individually. He actively spreads lies and promotes murder against God's people Jesus once told some of His own countrymen who were openly opposing His preaching, "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). The Bible tells us that he is enraged at all God's people; and that he goes off "to make war" with those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:17). The devil slanders us (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5); he accuses us (Rev. 12:10); he propagates false doctrine in opposition to us (1 Tim. 4:1); he fires his flaming arrows at us (Eph. 6:10); he even, at times, physically afflicts us (2 Cor. 12:7). It's truly staggering when you think of all that the devil has done throughout the centuries -- and continues to do -- in his efforts to harass God's people, and to keep lost and dying people from hearing the Gospel and being saved by the grace of God.
It's almost beyond our abilities of conception to think of what a dreadful lion it is that roars against us and seeks to devour us.
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In spite of the devil's efforts, the Redeemer has come, and the gospel is in the world. One day Jesus will return to earth in power and great glory, and begin His reign on this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. And the Bible tells us that in the future, all the devil's hatred for God's people, and all his vicious efforts to thwart God's plan of redemption, will finally culminate into an all-out, last-ditched, desperate effort to prevent that reign.
The Bible tells us that the devil will gather the nations of the world together into an organized world-system under the authority of a satanically empowered world ruler -- the Antichrist. This world-ruler will be aided by this ruler's false prophet, through whom the devil will -- once again -- deceive the nations. The devil will be filled with rage in his actions because he knows he has but a short time (Rev. 12:12); and so, this system will be unspeakably aggressive in its hostility toward the Gospel. Through it, the devil will war against the saints in an unprecedented way. This world system will be openly violent and murderous toward all who profess the name of Jesus, and fanatically opposed to the rule of Jesus Christ on earth at His return.
This final and most desperate program of the devil constitutes the immediate context of our passage this morning from the Book of Revelation. And though there's a multitude of different things we could look at from this fascinating passage, I'd like for us to concentrate on only one aspect: the final judgment of the enemy of God's people, the devil. I'd like for us to see how the Lord Jesus Himself will bring his vile career to an end -- beginning with the time of His Second coming.
This is a message of hope for the world; and especially for all of us who are in Jesus Christ. It's a message of hope for all who suffer for Jesus' sake in the midst of this hostile world -- a world that seems to be growing more and more hostile toward Christ every day. It's a message of hope for all of us who feel the attacks, the slanders, and the temptations of the enemy of our souls because of our devotion to our Savior and to His Gospel. It's a message of hope for all of us who have felt the devil's blows against us personally -- or against someone we love. It's a message of hope for all of us who love Jesus' return.
This message of hope is this: Don't give up! Hold on! Jesus, our Redeemer, wins in the end -- and we win with Him! This passage shows us Jesus' victory over the devil, by showing us the devil's future defeat, the devil's future bondage, and the devil's future destiny.
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1. The devil's future defeat.
The book of Revelation tells us of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ at the time of His return. John, in his vision, described it this way:
For those of us who love Jesus and have trusted Him as our Savior, there can be no more thrilling words in the book of Revelation than those! But as far as the enemy of our souls is concerned, there's no description more terrifying than the one they convey!
The Bible tells us that heaven will rejoice greatly at the coming of Jesus to earth (Rev. 11:16-18). But it also tells us that it won't be an occasion of rejoicing for those nations of people on the earth who had been deceived by the devil's lies, and who had sold themselves to the devil's world-system and world-ruler. It will be a time of great desperation and panic for the devil; because the reign of Jesus Christ on earth means the immediate end of his own!
The Bible tells us that the devil will take action through one final attempt to prevent the rule of Jesus Christ on earth. We're told that Satan will inspire the rulers and kings of the world to gather together -- deceptively, as if for a great battle against one another. We're told about this battle earlier in John's revelation.
Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 'Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.' And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (Rev. 16:12-17).
But in reality, this is just another ploy of the devil. He will have organized this great, mass of armies and troops for a much more diabolical reason than that of fighting one another. He has organized them in order to try to dethrone the Lord Jesus Christ at the time of His Second Coming. That's when we're told how this final, desperate phase of the devil's program will end.
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great." And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh (Rev. 19:17-21).
What a ghastly picture! The significance of "the birds that fly in the midst of heaven" is obvious, when you see that they're invited to eat the flesh of the kings, captains, mighty men, horses and riders, and of all people in this great vast battle scene. It's a clear picture of utter defeat as they sought to make war against the Son of God!
We're told that the beast and the false prophet will be "cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And then, this vast army of the devil is killed by "the sword which proceeds from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse". In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul taught about the Antichrist, "whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming"; and apparently, the Lord destroys the false prophet and the vast army in the same way. Imagine with what terrible and unspeakable ease King Jesus destroys His enemies! He simply speaks the word, and they're destroyed!
This should be a message of hope for us who follow Jesus. The devil may appear to have complete control of this world's system. He may seem to have turned the whole world against the saints. But no matter how great the opposition seems, no matter how hostile this world appears, let's never lose our confidence. King Jesus will utterly defeat the most universal rebellion, fought by the most terrible army, led by the most hostile foe -- and will do it with the mere breath of His mouth. Even the devil's most aggressive and powerful effort will end in utter failure. We can be confident today that, if God is for us, nothing can be against us.
2. The devil's future bondage.
We're to have hope, also, when we read of how the devil himself will then be put under lock and key. John writes,
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while (Rev. 20:1-3).
It's fascinating how the devil is being described in this passage. He's called the "dragon"; which is how he's described throughout the latter half of the Book of Revelation -- a description which underscores his evil and hostile nature. He's called "that serpent of old"; which reminds us that he has been the great oppressor of humanity from the time he instigated mankind's fall in the Garden of Eden. He's called "the devil"; which means "the accuser" or "the slanderer". And He's called "Satan"; which literally means, "the adversary". All of these names add impact to our understanding of what an enemy he is; and it gives us cause to rejoice when we read that an angel comes down from heaven with great authority, and puts him in bondage. His vile career will brought to an abrupt end! Praise God!!
And the way he's described as being bound also teaches us the confidence we can have in his imprisonment. The angel (1) lays ahold of him (not just chases him away, but actually apprehends him), (2) binds him for a predetermined period of time (a thousand years), (3) uses a great chain (not just a chain, but a "great" chain), (4) casts him into the bottomless pit (with the implication that there's no crawling out over the top of a bottomless pit!), (5) shuts him up in the pit (probably using the key to the bottomless pit), (6) sets a seal on him (that is, an identifying mark of some kind,which has the expressed purpose of making it impossible for him to deceive the nations any longer until the thousand year period had elapsed), and (7) stating that he will remain there until the thousand years were finished (not a moment before or after), at which time he must be released "for a little while".
Now understand: this isn't describing the devil's ultimate judgment. This is only describing his incarceration. The devil's ultimate judgment comes later. Before the devil is finally judged, Jesus Christ will personally reign on earth for a literal thousand years; and for the first time in human history, the devil will be unable to do anything to trouble, tempt or harm mankind throughout any of it! Imagine what a glorious time that will be!!
Who will be there? John goes on to say;
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ,and shall reign with Him a thousand years (Rev. 20:4-6).
Again, there's much here that deserves a closer look; but we'll have to save that for another time. For the moment, however, let's appreciate the general flow of this passage, and that its message is meant to give us hope. Today, we suffer under the devil's tryanical oppression. But we should never despair. We're assured that, one day, he will be bound; and earth will enjoy a glorious absence of his tyranny. How we should long for that day! How we should work to spread the Good News of Jesus to others so they can enjoy that day too!
3. The devil's future judgment.
Now, given all this, it may seem strange to read what will happen after the glorious thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ reaches its completion.
Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them (Rev. 20:7-9).
Gog and Magog are referred to in Ezekiel 38-39; and the reference to them is most likely meant to be symbolic of a nation or army that originates from "the four corners of the earth", and sets itself up in opposition to the capital city -- Jerusalem -- from which King Jesus will reign on the earth. This rebellion against King Jesus, His saints, and the beloved city is short-lived, however. Fire will come down from God out of heaven and destroy this army before it can do any more than simply surround the city.
But what's so surprising is the fact that the devil is released from his prison to form this rebellion. This is like a "revolving-door" prison policy on an ultimate scale! Why would he be released only to foster rebellion against the Lord again?
We were already told that this would happen. It was a part of the plan even at the time we were told that he'll be bound. His bondage would be intentionally temporary; and his release would occur by design. My belief is that God permits him to be bound for a thousand years first, and then released to form a rebellion, to show several things. First, God wanted to show that, after a thousand years of his absence from the scene, it truly was the devil who was the deceiver of the nations throughout mankind's history all along. Second, God wanted to show that a thousand years of detention didn't change his heart. It's still as black as ever; and God's judgment upon him is just. And finally, God wanted to show that a thousand years of glorious prosperity doesn't guarantee mankind's devotion any more than living in the perfection of the garden of Eden did. People exist in peace with God only by virtue of God's grace, and never -- even in the best of times -- on the basis of their own nature.
That brings us to the end of the devil's story -- his ultimate judgment. John writes,
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev. 20:10).
Thus ends the career of the devil. What follows after this is the creation of a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Never again will the devil plague mankind. Never again will sin, suffering and death plague the human race.
And again, we're told this not in order to satisfy our curiosity, but for our own hope. God can cast the devil into prison any time He wishes. And the devil is released only by God's will. And God promises us one day that the devil will be forever cast into the lake of fire. The fact that the devil is active today is only a matter of God's permission; not because of God's inability to stop him. Conclusion.
Let's never be discouraged or defeated then, when we're feeling the attacks of the enemy. He is, ultimately, a defeat foe. The Bible tells us, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death" (Rev. 12:11). We defeat the devil by our faith in the blood of Jesus, by our faithful proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus, and by our readiness to love Jesus even to the cost of our own lives.
Let's keep on living for Jesus, suffering for Him sacrificing for him, proclaiming Him to others, and resisting the enemy in His name and in His power. And let's remember the Bible's sure promise: "And the God of peace will church Satan under your feet shortly" (Rom. 16:20).
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