Defeating Your Dragon
Dr. Jim Denison
A woman rubbed a magic lamp, and out popped a genie. The amazed woman asked if she got three wishes. The genie was indignant: “Three-wish genies are a storybook myth. I’m a one-wish genie. So, what will it be?”
The woman did not hesitate: “I want peace in the Middle East. See this map? I want these countries to stop fighting with each other and I want the Arabs and Jews and Sunnis and Shiites to get along. I want world peace and harmony.”
The genie looked at the map and complained, “Lady, please be reasonable. These countries have been at war for thousands of years. I’m out of shape after being in a bottle for 500 years. I’m good, but not that good. I don’t think it can be done. Please make another wish, and make it reasonable.”
The woman thought for a moment and said, “Well, I’ve never been able to find the right man. You know–one that’s considerate and fun, likes to cook and help with the house cleaning, gets along with my family, doesn’t watch sports all the time. That is what I wish for–a good man.”
The genie let out a sigh and said, “Let me see the map again.”
The genie is right: there have been wars since history began.
This Memorial Day weekend we pause to remember with tremendous gratitude those who have died serving our country in those wars.
And in worship, we remember that we are in a war as well. Not in Iraq or Afghanistan or Palestine, but in our souls. There is a spiritual war which has been going on since time began. You’re right in the middle of it this morning.
Knowing that fact will help you understand why you face the battles, temptations, and struggles you do. Learning how to win this battle is crucial to finding the abundant life of Jesus, the joy of the Lord, the power of the Spirit, the victory you are intended to experience every day. So let’s watch the battle of the ages unfold, and learn how to make its victory ours.
Know that you win
So far in Revelation we’ve focused on Jesus as he truly is. In contrast to The Da Vinci Code’s human prophet, we have watched him rule the universe from his throne, open the word of God with his power, and receive the worship of heaven and all eternity. Now we watch his enemy and ours stride on the stage of heaven and history.
“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven” (Revelation 12:1a). “Sign” is used in the Bible to warn us that something of cataclysmic importance is about to happen.
Here it is: “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (v. 1b). “Clothed with the sun” is a reference to divine favor and blessing; “the moon under her feet” shows that she has been raised and exalted by God. The “twelve stars” most likely refer to the twelve tribes of Israel and/or the twelve signs of the Zodiac, indicating that she is crowned by the One who rules the nations and the universe.
Some think this image refers to the believing community which anticipated the Messiah, or the early Christian movement. The more obvious reference is to Mary and Herod’s attempt to murder her family. Whichever we choose, here we learn that God’s people are protected by his purpose and power.
“Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads” (v. 3). The “dragon” is a typical symbol of Satan in the Old Testament and ancient literature (cf. Isaiah 51:9). “Seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns” symbolize great knowledge, power, and authority. This dragon did his best to devour the Child of God, but he was defeated (v. 5).
Defeated on earth, and in heaven. Michael cast him from heaven’s glory to his eventual doom. As he was defeated in Revelation 12, so he will finally be destroyed in Revelation 20:10: “the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
I saw a t-shirt which conveyed some excellent theology: “The next time Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.” He loses and we win–this is the promise of God. Now, how does this battle relate to your battles today?
Defeat your enemy today
C. S. Lewis once suggested that we make two mistakes regarding the devil. One is to give him more authority than he deserves–then he can do what he wants. The other is to deny that he exists–then he can do what he wants. People today typically think of Satan as a symbol of evil, wearing red tights and a tail, the stuff of Saturday cartoons. He’s just as happy to be ignored as to be feared.
But it’s impossible to ignore his work–broken hearts and homes, abuse, disease and immorality. In some places in America, the worship of Satan is growing ten times faster than any Christian church. In recent years, the Satanic Bible has outsold the Holy Bible in many university bookstores.
How are we to do battle with Satan today?
First, know your enemy. Jesus described his nature and agenda in frightening detail (John 8:42-47).
Satan wants to control us. He claims ownership over every unsaved soul. Jesus referred to his enemies as children of their Satanic “father” (v. 44). He is the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), the “prince of this world” (John 12:31). Christians live in a world dominated by the devil. We are soldiers stationed on enemy soil, living in an occupied country.
The devil wants to manipulate us. He blinds our minds to the truth, for he is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). This is why the person who has not received the Holy Spirit cannot understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). From the Garden of Eden to Jesus’ wilderness temptations to the present, he manipulates truth to lead us astray.