David N. Martin, Weymouth
THE DEVOURER; THE ACCUSER; THE PERSECUTOR; THE BLASPHEMER
With the increase of Satanic activity in various parts of the world, and the prophetic evidence of the truth of 2 Timothy 3. 1-5, it behoves all believers to remind themselves of the character of their most subtle enemy.
In Revelation 12 we have depicted a remarkable series of his workings. May the Lord open our eyes and minds to the reality of his existence as a person, the subtlety and determination of his plans, and the power that has been provided to meet him at every step.
We are told who the dragon is in verse 9, "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world" — like the aliases of an habitual criminal.
The man-child, from Psalm 2 and Isaiah 9. 6, etc., is usually interpreted as our Lord Jesus, "a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron", Rev. 12. 5. His mother, in symbolic language of course, being Israel (of whom according to the flesh, Christ was born), is seen as the faithful remnant persecuted and preserved through the tribulation of the short 1260 days after Satan has been cast out of heaven (where the redeemed saints have been seated, ch. 4). On the earth he is in great anger, for his time is short before he is chained in the pit.
In our spiritual conflict, it is folly to despise the strength of our foe; it is wisdom to reckon on a power infinitely greater. Many in the present day do not believe that there is a devil. They do not realize or feel any workings on their conscience of an external power. They think, therefore, that the devil is only a word of the theologians, an expression that may be used to deceive and frighten children, but that intelligent men in this twentieth century are not to be taken in by it. With their friends of old they "say that there is . . . neither angel, nor spirit", Acts 23. 8. But this does not alter the fact that there is a devil. Men may conscientiously, and therefore strongly believe a lie. In fact in 2 Thessalonians 2. 10-12, men "received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness".
Others who believe from the teaching of Scripture that there is a devil have little knowledge of his personality. They do not seem to realize that he is a person, though invisible, as is the Son of God his great opponent. They think of Satan as a mere influence or power. But that Satan is a present, scheming, watchful, cunning being, going about seeking our destruction, is realized by few, and by those few very imperfectly.
The Devourer. "And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born", Rev. 12. 4. Jesus is said to be "born king of the Jews", Matt. 2. 2. In this chapter, we find the devil's first attempt to devour Him as soon as He was born. Herod, Satan's tool, slew "all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under". The weeping of Rachel is the sad witness to the devil's awful power, but through the mighty wisdom of God the young Child's life is spared. Thwarted in this murderous plan, he comes with plausible temptation, trying to make Him leave the place of the Sent One and the Servant; but the Word of God made him flee for a season. We see this great dragon, the serpent, in his last and most desperate attack on the man-child at Calvary, bruising His heel, trying to hold Him in his death-hold, wounding Him with his venomed sting. The devourer feels sure now of his prey — Jesus is in the jaws of death. "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?". Yes: there is a greater power than the mighty here; there is the Almighty. There is a power higher than even that seen in creation or providence; there is the power of coming out from under death—laying down the life and taking it up again. Through death He destroyed "him that had the power of death, that is the devil". Not only has Satan failed to devour the Prince of Life, but he has got his own head bruised. This is the venomous serpent, whose power has thus been destroyed by the Son of man lifted up, John 3. 14. The sting has been wrenched from the serpent's jaws. The keys of death and the grave are now hung at the girdle of the glorious Conqueror, who has fought the fight alone, by weakness showing Himself to be almighty, 2 Cor. 13. 4. By weakness and defeat
He won the meed and crown; Trod all our foes beneath His feet,
By being trodden down.
He hell in hell laid low;
Made sin, He sin o’erthrew; Bow'd to the grave, destroyed it so,
And death by dying slew.
The Accuser. He accuses the brethren before God day and night, Rev. 12. 10. Michael and his angels are to cast him down to earth at the beginning of the times of great trial; but meanwhile he is there as the prince of the power of the air, having power to stand before God and accuse the brethren. That Satan has access into God's presence may startle some who have not thought about it; but it is the teaching of Scripture. 1 Kings 22. 21 shows that a lying spirit appeared before God, to put lies into the mouth of Ahab's advisers. Again in Job 1.6, "there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them" to accuse Job. In Zechariah 3. 1, "he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him". Again, "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against . . . spiritual wickedness in high places", Eph. 6. 12. Day and night, dear fellowbeliever, he has access to God, and accuses us before Him; sometimes, alas, truly! How often does he first tempt and then accuse! How much failure of ours can he put his hand upon!, and besides he is a slanderer, a false accuser. He is not the accuser of the world, only of "our brethren"; rather he "deceiveth the whole world". What is the believer's answer? "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father" — One who never slumbers nor sleeps. We speak much, and we cannot dwell too much, upon the finished work of Christ; but how precious is this untiring, unremittent present work of our blessed Lord! He is "Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins". It is with Him that the accuser must find fault, for we are in Him. Nothing short of an appeal to the presented value of the blood will silence his insinuations and overcome his accusations. So it is said, "they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb", Rev. 12. 11. Believers do not cast him out of heaven—angels do that; but the brethren overcome him while he is there, accusing them. He cannot devour us: we are in Christ. He is overcome when he accuses us; Christ's blood is for us. Will he leave us alone now? No! He exercises his power against us now as
The Persecutor. "When the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman", Rev. 12. 13. And here his cunning is taxed to the utmost, varying with times and peoples, tastes and civilisation. His manner changes, but the venom of his sting is always the same — the deluge of his mouth always poured upon us. He brings into his service all kinds of tools; the stake, the inquisition, the scaffold in one age, hatred and bitterness of man towards his fellowmen, and all other ill-will, and what is worse than all, evil speaking and slandering of fellowbelievers. Individually, fellowbelievers, let us ask, are we washing one another's feet, or advancing Satan's work, being used as his tools in speaking evil of those things that we know not? You may know what it is to be misunderstood, misrepresented, maligned, looked at with suspicion by a fellowbeliever, and may have felt it to be the direst persecution, more painful than physical injury: watch and pray, lest you in turn be thus used against others.
An old brother used to say quaintly, "the devil acts like a bulldog to bark at us and drive us closer to Christ". The Psalms are the experience of David, in the place of the poor man in the wilderness finding his all in God. What a blessed thing that Satan's persecutions but drive us nearer to our only good! The wilderness is the happiest place, when we receive there from the hand of our living, loving Father His own manna, His own drink, and the guidance of His own pillar-cloud. Christ is all in all. Satan's devourings bring us to the "caught up" Christ, the Christ "received up into glory", and we are thus met by life in victory. Satan's accusations bring us to "the blood of the Lamb", and are met by life taken again for us. Satan's persecutions bring us to the wilderness provisions, and are met by life nourished.
In the desert God will teach thee, What the God that thou hast found; Patient, gracious, powerful, holy, All His grace shall there abound.
Though the way be long and dreary, Eagle strength He'll still renew; Garments fresh, and feet unweary, Tell how God hath brought thee through.
Satan may still show his venom after he is thoroughly defeated, for we find him next as
The Blasphemer. Satan originated "blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven", Rev. 13. 4-6. But blasphemies can do us little harm. We need no fortification against them. From our school-days we remember the big boy that used to lord it over all the little ones, but, subdued and conquered, he lay on the ground. In his defeat he could only call bad names which he knew could do no harm. Even though Satan slay the body, he touches not our life — it is hid with Christ in God, as in a double bulwark. Can he devour that? It is because of the name we bear that the blasphemies of hell are poured upon us. There are "synagogues of Satan", in which the blasphemous doctrines of demons are taught. We need not fear the servants of Satan, though homage on all sides be paid to him by all classes, in their business and their pleasure, with the crowns of earth laid at his feet. Those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life can listen to his blasphemies, and can rejoice in the Lord. Though he should slay their bodies, they can afford to wait for their inheritance. Fellowbeliever, rejoice in the Lord. The power of our greatest enemy is broken: soon he will be really (and as to fact), what he is already judicially (and to faith), bruised beneath our feet. Christ is thine, and all His power, and dominion, and might, and glory, and inheritance are thine; and above all, His heart, His love, Himself are thine. In Him we conquer the devourer; In Him we overcome the accuser; In Him we defy the persecutor; In Him we are beyond the blasphemer.
"More than conquerors through him that loved us", Rom. 8.37. "Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world", 1 John 4. 4.