“Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.”
Revelation 12:7-9 NLT
I must say I was perplexed when I read these verses because they don’t seem to fit in with the schedule of events in John’s vision. It is as though John has had a flash back in time. A bit like a film in which historical clips are occasionally shown in order to illustrate the plot, clips perhaps including the leading actor or actress when they were much younger, now being played out years later in front of the audience. The events that led up to the devil being ejected from Heaven are largely unknown though there are hints in Scripture that he was the most senior angel, involved in leading worship in Heaven. John’s vision described in today’s verses gives us some idea of the consequences of the devil’s rebellion. Sin was at the root of the devil’s downfall, as it was when Adam and Eve were ejected from their earthly paradise. We read in Genesis 3:23-24, “So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” There was, and is, no place for sin and sinful behaviour in Heaven, because our wonderful holy God lives there. The Garden of Eden was an extension of God’s domain here on earth – He frequently came to visit Adam and walked and talked with him – so sin couldn’t be tolerated there either.
The sad thing for mankind is that the devil and his angels are now occupying the same space on Planet Earth that we are. Not a problem for most people, because the devil’s malevolent ways fit in with their sinful and wicked inclinations. But for us pilgrims, trying to live and breathe God’s ways, the devil is a problem. Always trying to trip us up. Always trying to get us to fall into sin so that he can destroy our relationships with our loving Heavenly Father and divert us from polluting his sinful domain, Planet Earth, with purity and holiness. Of course, we have read the end of the Book. We know what will happen to him. But in the meantime we have to be on our guard. Thankfully, we have been warned in God’s Word, our Biblical Handbook. A well known verse is in 1 Peter 5:8, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” How does he “devour” pilgrims like us? One way is through temptation to try and get us to sin. He tried that on with Jesus (he failed, of course) but that never stopped him trying with anyone else. He started it in the Garden when he said to Eve, “ …. Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). Putting doubts in our minds about God is one of the devil’s primary strategies. He will find out our weaknesses and will try and exploit them at every opportunity.
Thankfully, God knows our weaknesses and doesn’t condemn us when we fail. We read in 1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” We are living in a season of God’s grace, but as we know from the information contained in the Book of Revelation, it won’t last for ever.
I am writing this at the start of a glorious day in the West of Scotland. The sea is calm, like glass, and the Isle of Jura is visible through the early morning mist rising off the sea. In such a moment it is easy to forget the devil is still out there. But God has prepared a place of care for us, a place of beauty in the world He created. And we are thankful for His provision, sustaining us in our pilgrimages through life, as, step by step, we trust in His protection.
Dear Father. Once again we thank You for Your love and grace. We reach out to You today secure in the knowledge that You are caring for us. Amen.