War in Heaven

“There was war in heaven” (Revelation 12:7).

We hear a lot of talk today about a war on terrorism. We hear about a war called jihad, a war in Palestine, threats of war from North Korea. Never in history has there been such a time of war throughout the earth. And these conflicts are widely publicized, because of the instant communication we have now. Almost immediately, we receive reports of bombings, ambushes, death tolls.

I’m convinced these are the wars and rumors of wars Jesus spoke about. And just as Christ prophesied, people’s hearts are failing them for fear. The wars we’re seeing are causing terror throughout the earth.

Yet these wars are all minor skirmishes. They’re merely symptoms of a much greater war. You see, there’s actually just one war going on. And this war-above-all-wars is taking place in heaven. It’s a war between God and the devil.

This war was declared eons ago. Revelation tells us, “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels” (12:7). The dragon represents Satan and all the fallen angels he deceived. While in heaven, Lucifer rallied these angelic hordes to rise up against God. He wanted to usurp God’s authority and take over his throne.

But the devil lost that first battle. “[The dragon] prevailed not: neither was their place found any more in heaven” (12:8). God told Satan,“There is no place for you here in my presence.” And he cast him out of heaven, along with the angels who had rebelled with him. They were plunged into a world the Bible says was void and without form.

Now, Satan had already deceived those angels who followed him. And when God created humankind, Satan determined to deceive them, too. If he couldn’t be God, he would get revenge by destroying God’s seed. So he started this war in the Garden of Eden, against the very first man and woman.

Satan tempted Eve first and then Adam. And when he caused their fall, it seemed he’d won a great victory. Paradise was now closed off to man. Satan and his hordes must have gloated over that victory. And the battle they’d waged was a declaration of war against God and all his seed.

There is still a war going on in heaven. Yet Satan doesn’t fight this war from heaven, nor does he wage it from hell. No, Satan fell into the formless void, out of which God created the earth. And once God created man to inhabit the earth, Satan set up his seat of power there.

Scripture makes all of this very clear: “Neither was their place found any more in heaven” (12:8). “The dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth” (12:13). “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath” (12:12).

Even before the foundation of the world, God devised a war plan to defeat the devil. The Lord would create man in his own image. And he would allow man to have a free will. Therefore, man would be tested and tried. Indeed, he would be placed in the very middle of the battleground, near Satan’s own power structure.

Man failed that first test, in the battle Satan won in Eden. And from that point on, the devil continued to deceive man. During Noah’s time, Satan succeeded in deceiving the whole world. Out of all the earth’s population, only eight souls were saved. This went on for centuries, as Satan deceived entire nations. He held power over ancient Egypt, over Sodom and Gomorrah, and, for a season, even over God’s chosen people, Israel. In fact, it’s discouraging to read Israel’s history in this war between God and Satan.

From the very moment God placed his hand on Israel, the devil recognized it. The Lord performed supernatural works for his people, delivered them with miracles, gave them great revelations of his love. Yet, for forty years after the Exodus, Satan incited rebellion, idolatry and sensuality in Israel. He brought into their midst prostitutes, homosexuals, demon-possessed prophets. Finally, when the time came to enter the Promised Land, only two Israelites who had left Egypt escaped his deception, Joshua and Caleb.

Once again, Satan must have gloated. It seemed every battle was going his way. And he continued to gain victories through his demonic deception. He overtook all the nations surrounding Israel: the Babylonians, Philistines, Moabites, Hittites, Canaanites and northern kingdoms. Finally, Satan set his sights on the surviving children of Israel.

These Israelites had entered Canaan with Joshua after their parents died in the wilderness. It seemed like the dawn of a new day for God’s people. But Satan came after this generation with even greater deceptions. He brought in idolatry, fornication and false prophets. He introduced demonic worship of Baal, Asteroth and Molech. Scripture presents this generation as continuously worshipping idols“in the high places.” And they continually rejected the Holy One of Israel.

I find this chapter in Israel’s history totally baffling. Think about it: these people had watched their parents die under judgment in the wilderness. They had seen their parents and grandparents succumb to horrible deaths. Indeed, for forty years, this younger generation had gone from funeral to funeral, burying their elders left and right. Yet even after witnessing all these things, they still turned to demonic idol worship.

For centuries afterward, Satan enjoyed victory after victory over God’s seed. He possessed Israel’s kings from Ahab to Jeroboam to Manasseh, wicked men who shed innocent blood freely. Eventually, the final chapter of Judges reveals just how low God’s people had fallen.

Judges 21 is a gruesome, grievous account of how a crazed mob of homosexuals sodomized a priest’s concubine and left her for dead. When the priest found her, he decapitated the corpse and sent the body parts to the twelve tribes of Israel. The incident ended in a civil war among God’s people over homosexual rights. Thousands of Israelites were killed.

The book of Judges closes with these awful, chilling words: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

I tell you, this is Satan’s design for every generation. He succeeded in bringing down all true worship in Israel. By the end of Judges, men, women and children had gone their own way. And that’s exactly what Satan is achieving right now, in our generation. He’s attempting to outlaw the Bible, making it seem totally irrelevant. Everyone is encouraged to interpret God’s Word in his own way. It’s a deception straight out of hell.

The truth is, there was a king in Israel at the end of the Judges. That king was Satan. He ruled not only the heathen world, but God’s chosen nation as well. At that point, the devil appeared to have won the battle entirely. He and his demons seemed invincible in their war against heaven.

The Lord wasn’t worried about Satan’s victories. Yes, he grieved over his people’s continual descent into sin and death. But God already had a war plan in motion.

Finally, in“the fullness of time,” God sent his Son down to the battlefield. Here was God in flesh, entering the battle himself. The Lord was stating,“The battle has now changed. I’m taking command. Satan will no longer prevail. This is the beginning of the end of the war in heaven. And the victory is mine.”

God then put the devil on notice, declaring,“I’m going to raise up an army. And my Son will be the captain over this army. He’s going to have a church made up of a sinless, blameless, spotless, holy bride. And that church will be built on one foundation stone: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

When Jesus’ birth took place in Bethlehem, it sent shudders throughout Satan’s camp. Every demon cried,“This is God’s Son! He’s going to take away all our power and dominion. And he’ll rule and reign as a king. We couldn’t defeat God in heaven. How can we win this battle with his Son? We’ve got to kill him in the cradle.”

Oh, how the devil’s emissaries tried to destroy the Christ child. Scripture says every male child under a certain age throughout that region was slain, all in an attempt to kill Jesus. But this was one battle Satan couldn’t win. God was going to prevail.

At his chosen time, God planted a cross right in the middle of the battlefield. And on that cross he put his Son. Christ’s blood spilled down onto the battleground. And drop by drop, it began a powerful, cleansing flood, mighty to wash away the sins of all humankind.

In that hour, Jesus let out a cry that thundered throughout creation:“It is finished.” When Satan and his demons heard this, they trembled and quaked. They realized it was all over. They must have shrieked,“We are finished! The Son of God has trampled on us. He’s put us to open shame. He has robbed us of every power we’ve had over people. We can no longer hold anybody who’s under his blood.”

Three days later, another powerful cry was heard:“Christ is risen!” This was Satan’s darkest hour. In an instant, the war suddenly changed. Revelation describes it this way:

“I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:10-11).

What was the power Satan lost in that instant? It was the ability to accuse any person who had been cleansed by Jesus’ blood. The devil could no longer hold a believer in chains of guilt, fear or condemnation. He was robbed of all his power to deceive or destroy those who live by faith in Christ’s sacrifice. He no longer had dominion over anyone who trusts in Jesus.

God was making a legal declaration to all who would believe in his Son:“You have been made free. The power of the devil can’t hold you if you trust in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ. There is no power under heaven that can bring you down.”

First, there was the kingdom of God and his Son, Christ. And second, there was the kingdom of Satan and his fallen angels. One kingdom was a kingdom of light, the other a kingdom of darkness. We’ve already seen how the devil tried to steal the kingdom of heaven throughout history. He’d won victories in Noah’s day, during Israel’s wilderness years, and in the time of Judges. But Christ prevailed over it all.

This is where we return to Revelation 12:12:“Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” This“short time” began at Calvary. Since then, Satan has grown exceedingly more incensed. And he grows ever more wrathful as his time of judgment draws near.

A few verses later, a woman is mentioned: “The serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood” (12:15). I believe this woman is the bride of Christ, the overcoming remnant. Scripture says this remnant will be made up of a mighty host no human can number. It will include every person through history who has made Jesus his Lord.

Next we read, “The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (12:17). Yes, Satan is mad at every believer. But if he dares to touch us, he touches the apple of God’s eye.

What we see happening in the world right now is Satan’s last-ditch effort to destroy the bride of Christ. The devil has issued an all-out battle cry. And he’s releasing everything in his arsenal to try to bring down God’s elect.

This flood is one of iniquity. And Satan has brought it against the woman, to try to carry her away from the protection of Christ’s blood. Jesus warned that in the last days iniquity would abound. And because of this flood of iniquity, the love of many believers will grow cold (see Matthew 24:12).

I picture Satan at his command center, barking out evil directives:“Take charge of the media! Fill wicked men’s minds with lust. Cause their fleshly desires to lead them into pornography. Then send those men to molest children.”

The result is a flurry of wickedness the world has never seen. But especially grievous is the onslaught being brought against children. Consider:

  • Violent movies have numbed the minds of many Christians who indulge in them. And now sexual acts in films have become perverse beyond belief. Our ministry receives reports of grade-school-age boys, only six or seven years old, who have tried to rape little girls their age and younger. When asked why, they answer,“I saw it on a video my daddy and mommy had.”
  • There are now more than 300,000 pornography sites on the Internet. These sites contain the most vile, wicked images humankind has ever seen. Worst of all, young children are stumbling onto these sites. Their tender minds are being exposed to images that damage them for years to come.
  • Homosexual marriages are about to become commonplace. Already some newspapers feature gay couples on their wedding pages. Now a growing number of elementary schools are preparing to teach a curriculum titled“How to live the homosexual lifestyle.” Young children are about to be indoctrinated in the specifics of homosexual life.
  • Homosexual militancy has pushed its way into upper levels of the church. The Episcopal denomination recently ordained an avowed homosexual as a bishop. When the ceremony ended, the new bishop turned and held his male lover’s hand.

Satan has brought the homosexual deception further into the church, and children again are the victims. More and more homosexual priests are being exposed and convicted for molesting children in their care.

  • The fashion world is no longer just risque, but has begun to exalt nudity. This is an attempt to shock, by an industry that has given itself over to shameless sensuality. But Satan intends it to influence God’s people, especially young believers. This subtle demonic trend is meant to wear down their resistance to sensuality.
  • There is a resurgence of wild drinking among teenagers. Even Wheaton College, for decades a standard of holiness, now allows alcohol. The reason? They want to attract more educated professors — meaning, more drinking professors. More Christian colleges are sure to follow suit. An entire generation of believing young people is going to suffer, being incited to iniquity they wouldn’t have sought otherwise.

Consider these other recent examples of Satan’s final assault:

  • A movie star who’s running for governor of California was advised he would win if he could just be exposed in some kind of scandal. He was told that having an affair would make him a hero in people’s eyes. And it would increase his popularity, gaining him more votes.
  • A flood of laws is being released in a final push to remove God’s name forever from society. Two U.S. Senators have proposed such legislation. Their law would forbid the appointment of any judge who believes in God or has faith of any kind.

You’ve probably read about the notorious ruling of a U.S. circuit court judge. He ordered the removal of a granite carving of the Ten Commandments from the grounds of a government building in Alabama. Meanwhile, the judge made his ruling from a federal building that has a statue of Zeus at its entrance.

At first I thought these things must absolutely grieve the heart of God. But now I believe the Lord laughs at these puny efforts of men. Why? Because God is at work among millions of young people, writing his law on their hearts. And no judge on earth can remove it from them.

I want to show you what’s still to come in this war in heaven between Christ and Satan. The Bible states, “He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth” (Romans 9:28). God is saying,“I’m going to end this battle soon. I’ll make a short work of it.”

You may wonder,“So, what is God waiting for? Why hasn’t he acted before now? We’ve clearly reached a critical point. Where is God’s mighty hand?”

James gives us the answer: “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain” (James 5:7). In short: Jesus is patiently waiting for souls. He’s waiting for the very last of the harvest to be brought in.

Most biblical scholars believe the“early rain” James refers to was Pentecost. As for the latter rain, I believe we’re seeing it right now. What better describes God’s latter rain than a thriving underground church of millions in Communist China? This body of believers grew miraculously over just a few short decades. In the years around World War II, when the last missionaries left China, the church there was a tiny, dying movement. Then, by God’s Spirit alone, it somehow exploded from a handful of isolated pockets into a mighty work the world never knew about.

What about the fall of the Iron Curtain? No one expected to see Communism end during our lifetime. Yet God brought this about overnight. On the very day I write this message, the New York Times reports that Russia’s government is now speaking out against abortion on moral grounds.

Even hard-line Islamic nations are seeing this latter-day rain of the gospel. Satellites now beam the good news into Islamic countries through radio and TV messages. When an evangelist held a meeting in Pakistan last year, over 50,000 people showed up.

Yes, the latter rain has come. The whole world is being filled with the good news of Jesus Christ. So, when can we expect the Lord to act?

Jesus himself tells us, “Except those days be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). He’s saying,“No one knows the day or hour of my return. But I’m going to move it up.”

Look again at Paul’s statement: “A short work will the Lord make upon the earth” (Romans 9:28). The Greek root of “short” here means “one quick stroke.” God is saying,“I’m going to do a quick work. I’ll wait patiently for the harvest to end. But then I’ll move swiftly in judgment.”

Suddenly, overnight, we’ll witness judgments we’ve never seen before. It will happen in an hour when gross darkness has covered the earth…when Islam has been given great power and authority…when the beast and Antichrist have risen to speak great blasphemies…when Satan seems to have overcome all that is holy and righteous…when scoffers mock the day of Christ’s coming…when pleasure-madness reaches its peak, and the world’s sins mount to the heavens.

That’s the moment when we’ll hear the Lion of Judah roar. In a mere instant, he will end the war. He’ll declare,“Enough. No more excuses for sin.”

John foresaw the day when the Lord would come forth speedily to do this short work on earth. He describes it this way:

“I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

“And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on this vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-16).

Here in New York, people often ask, “Where were you when 9/11 struck?” Or, “Where were you when the lights went out, in the great blackout?” My question to you is:“Where will you be when Jesus comes? What will be the condition of your heart when the King of kings makes his quick work of judgment? What will you be doing when he comes to end the war?”

May we all be found under his precious blood, hidden in the cleft of the Rock.