“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:1–6 ESV)
Satan’s War on God
Hatred and murder of Jesus
Let’s think about the extraordinary events of Jesus’ life. Matthew tells us about some wise men from the East who show up, perhaps a year or two after Jesus’ birth. First they go to Jerusalem. Why? Where else would the king of the Jews be born? The whole city is shocked at their appearance and what they say, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2) We have come to worship him. King Herod was a maniacal and pathological king. He decides to use the wise men to find this potential threat to his throne. He tells them to find the child and then he himself would come to “worship” him.
The wise men go to Bethlehem (you likely know this story), they find Jesus, they worship him, they lavish him with expensive gifts. But God tells them in a dream not to go back to Herod. God also tells Joseph to leave quickly for Egypt. They do. Herod discovers the wise men had not returned to him. He orders every child two years and under in the whole region to be killed. Who was really behind that?
Years later, Jesus hasn’t eaten anything in 40 days. He is alone in the desert. Who shows up in his moment of weakness? Satan. He tempts Jesus to sin. Why? To eat the child. To destroy the plan of God.
Another example. Jesus’ right hand man takes Jesus aside and rebukes him for talking about dying. What did Jesus say? “But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23) Jesus sees who was really behind Peter’s words.
How about Judas? We can say he was motivated by money or political gain and that’s why he betrayed Jesus, but the Bible says there was something else going on. “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.” (Luke 22:3)
The night Jesus was betrayed, Pilate’s wife had a dream that compelled her to tell Pilate NOT to do anything to Jesus (Matthew 27:19). Who was behind that?
The ultimate moment for Satan where he thought, at last I’ve got him! must have been the cross. What Revelation calls “devour the child” seemed to be what happened when Jesus died on the cross.
This brings us back to Revelation. The scene is that just as the child is born and the dragon is about to eat the child, look at verse 5, “but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” What is this describing? Jesus’ ascension. “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9)
John describes Christmas and the Ascension, but no life and ministry here in Revelation. Why? I don’t know. But what we do know is the point that he is making. Behind what we see in history and the story of Jesus and Christmas is a cosmic and ancient war. It started when Satan first longed to rise to the level of God himself. The first sin was pride and self-love. Satan was the pinnacle being in God’s angelic creation. Powerful. Beautiful. Evil twisted that power and beauty into an equally powerful evil and hatred. How would you illustrate Satan’s betrayal and treachery? How about a massive red dragon with seven heads, all of whom are ready to murder Jesus the moment he is born? That’ll work.
We must see Christmas beyond the sentimental or even Jesus coming to save us. Yes, that is wonderfully true. But beyond our salvation is God’s victory over Satan and the demonic hoard and evil and everyone else who is part of the kingdom of darkness. This reminds us of the stakes and who our real enemy is.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” (Ephesians 6:12–13)
Christmas was wonderfully about a baby in a manger who was wondrously also the very Son of God. We rightly sing the songs and celebrate.
But the sentimental Christmas is also a ruse of the devil to blind us to the deeper truth. Jesus’ birth was an act of war. Jesus’ birth was God’s ancient purpose fulfilled to crush the head of Satan.
This dragon is still alive and well. He hates God and he hates us. He hates the gospel and he hates the church. He hates Christian marriage and he hates Christian families. He is a destroyer and he continues to seek to destroy God’s purpose in redeeming and restoring a lost humanity through the gospel and the church. We may do well to add a giant red dragon to our nativity scenes. It would help us recognize this dragon in our homes, in our bedrooms, in our small groups, in our families, and in our lives. In spite of Christmas and Ascension, he continues his war against God.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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