Satan's Attacks on the Church

This is a flyover of chapters 2 and 3 and discover what Jesus tells them then - and us today - about Satan's tactics used in opposition to the church.
Lots of things in these chapters will be skipped over.

Nature of God

God is Eternal

God is Creator (both the visible and the invisible) Colossians 1:16
Includes rulers and authorities - both heavenly and earthly.

The invisble aspect of his creative work includes heavenly beings - angels

What are angels?

The Bible does not say much, but it does give us glimpses.
They are distinct from human beings Hebrews 1:14

Angels are spirits - angels have personalities, express emotion (praising God, exercised will, shuddering, get angry, rejoicing)
Luke 15:10 Angels rejoice in heaven when a sinner repents

Angels are limited - because they are created
Things they don't know (Ephesians 3, 1Peter 1), not all knowing, not everpresent, not all powerful

Number of angels - big number
Rev 5:11 speaks of myriads of angels.
Jesus had legions of angels at his disposal.
Multitudes of angels proclaimed the birth of Jesus
Heb 12:22 speaks of innumerable angels

Roles of angels - serve God in worship and ministry
Messengers, instruments of God's judgements, bring answers to prayer, aiding God in bringing people to Jesus, encouraging in times of danger
Perhaps also caring for the righteous at the time of death (Luke 16) - parable, maybe Jesus giving us a glimpse of the unseen.

But what specific role do they play for us?
Hebrews 1:14 - they minister to us. See this in aftermath of Jesus' wilderness experience.

Heirarchy, of sorts, in angelic realm
Positions of authority, some grander than others, different roles
Some have wings (Seraphim, Cherabim - seem to be special classes of angels)

Seraphim take care of God's throne (see Isaiah 6:2).

Archangels (chiefs)
Michael, a fighter (see Jude)
Gabriel, a messenger (see Luke)

Fallen angels - demons, evil spirits

They have a leader - the devil (greek : backbiter or accuser)
Gen 3:1 suggests he was greater than any other feature of God's creation

Power of devil referred to in Jude - Michael careful about how he spoke to and fought against the devil
Michael rested in the power of God and not his own.

Also called Satan (Hebrew : adversary) or Beelzebub (Hebrew : baal exalted, lord of the flies)
Symbolically referred to as a lion, dragon, serpent.
In Hebrew serpent is synonymous with seraphim.

How did this all happen? Not told much.
Revelation 12:3-4 paints picture of rebellion in the heavenlies
Luke 10:18 Jesus saw Satan fall. Lucifer means bright star, morning star, false star.
Jude 1:6 angels who left their proper dwelling
Isaiah 14:13-15 supports this idea
Ezekiel 28:12-19 speaks of Satan's pride

We seem to have Satan the greatest of all the angels demanding more acclaim and rebelling against God.
Cast out of heaven, followed by one third of all angels, with no hope of restoration.
Lives not in opposition to God and God's people - his fate eternal fire.

Created beings can get very enamoured with creation (themselves!), even in the presence of God.

Also get a glimpse of the pride of Satan in the temptation of Jesus.
Satan knew who Jesus was. One of Satan's demands - bow down to me!

What does Satan's rebellion look like today?
In gospels Jesus is often in contact with Satan either directly or indirectly
Jesus was tempted by Satan
Jesus made plain his intention to destroy Satan's rule
Jesus liberated people bound by Satan
Paul sent to turn people from power of Satan to God
Satan influences followers of Jesus (Jesus' rebuke to Peter)
Satan demanded that he be allowed to severely test Peter
Satan entered Judas Iscariot and filled heart of Ananias
Satan influences believers in areas of lack of sexual self-control
Satan tormented Paul by means of 'thorn in the flesh'
Satan mascarades as an angel of light
Some people turn from faith and stray after Satan
Satan opposes proclamation of the Gospel, he tries to snatch the word sown in people's hearts
Satan described as the accuser, father of lies, murdere, schemer, prowler, destroyer
Satan described as the master or death and destruction
People handed over to Satan for spiritual discipline by the church
e.g. excommunication puts people back into Satan's realm (God of this world)
Anger can give the devil a foothold in a believer's life
We are to put on God's full armour in order to stand again devil's schemes
The shield of faith stops Satan's flaming arrows
Satan defeated by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12)

Beware the dangers of either ignoring Satan or giving him excessive attention (CS Lewis)!
He is equally pleased with both errors.
Do not neglect Satan's great ally - our flesh and the fallen world in which we live
Need to approach this subject with balance.

What can we learn about Satan's tactic against the church?

Why seven churches? - why is Collosae missing?
The number seven represent completeness - addresses complete church in all places at all times.
To each one Jesus sums up with 'give ear to what the Spirit says to the churches' (not church).
In these chapters he deals with issues the church has dealt with, is dealing with and will deal with until he returns.

By unveiling the unseen Jesus is showing us here that Satan is all over the scene.
Devil throwing people into prison, Satan's throne, deap things of Satan, synagogue of Satan, displays of Satan's influence.
Two things standout - Satan brings deception, Satan brings death.

Satan Brings Deception

Satan's Deception - compromised teaching (Pergamum Rev 2:12)
Particularly special enlightenment, idol worship, sexual immorality,
Pergamum centre of Caesar worship, also temple to Zeus.
Place to subtly introduce deceptive teaching allowing participation in two worlds (e.g. to avoid persecution!)
This is in contrast to what Jesus says to the church at Ephesus (Rev 2:6).

Rev 2:12,16 The two edged sword which comes out of Jesus' mouth (wounds and heals)
He wages war against this church with the word of God.

Compromised teaching shows up in Thyatira Rev 2:20.

This type of teaching is prevalent today. It does not emphasise grace, it abuses it.
It attempts to remove any possibility of offence - the unpardonable sin.
Began in garden - "did God really say".

Satan's Deception - good works (Ephesus Rev 2:1)
Good works being held out as evidence of a passionate intimate walk with Jesus where none exists.
Tempting us to the good, having us believe it is the best. (e.g. Martha missing Jesus by good works Luke 10:41).
They went from hating the teaching of the Nicolaitans to hating the Nicolaitans themselves - needs to be a distinction.

If this deception is not a direct work of Satan it is a deception of self which still serves his ends.

Jesus calls them to return to their first love - or else he will remove them.
A church which does great works for Jesus, but no love for Jesus is no good at all - lets get rid of it!

This deception also shows up is Sardis Rev 3:1b-2

This is also the deception of religion - synagogue of Satan.

Satan's Deception - our current state
On one extreme this is believing that our health, wealth and prosperity is a sign of God's blessing and favour.
See Laodicea Rev 3:17
Jesus says I am on the outside, let me in!
If you believe you lack nothing why will you come to a Saviour? No need for one!

The other extreme is believing that the absence of such is a sign of the opposite - God not for me!
See Smyrna Rev 2:9a
Jesus has to tell them that they are rich!
They needed reminding that God is for them, and they have future rewards (crown) waiting for them.

Shows up in statements like "That's not fair".
Peter asked Jesus about John at end John's gospel - Jesus reminded Peter to follow him.

Do I believe that in Jesus I do have all I need.
Satan wants us to believe that Jesus is not enough.

Satan Brings Death

He was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).

Real and physical death shows itself in chapters 2 and 3.
Rev 2:10,13
Cf Judas' suicide Acts 1:18
Removal (death) of church at Ephesus Rev 2:5b.
Church at Sardis dead Rev 3:1b.
Isn't the church at Laodicea, with Jesus on the outside, dead to?

Satan prowls around seeking those he can devour 1Peter 5:8.

We cannot see chapters 2 and 3 as something in the distant past.
As we look around today we see the activity of Satan in it.
We see the presence of a very real darkness.

Satan shows himself not only in physical death, but also in seeking to destroy all that is good, honest, noble, right in society. He claims 'progress' in the name of the evolution of man (marriage contracts, gender changing, abortion), but in reality it is the work of the enemy.

John 8:44 Satan is the father of lies. This is what we see in Revelation 2,3.
Death and deception are the tactics of the enemy.

The spirit of Jezebel (Revelation 2:20)

A reference to the wife of King Ahab described in 1Kings 16:29 - 1Kings 19:18, 2Kings 19:30-37.

Is Elijah bold? Jezebel is brazen.
Is Elijah ruthless toward evil? Jezebel is vicious toward righteousness.
Does Elijah speak of the ways and words of God? Jezebel is full of systems of witchcraft and words of deceit.

The war between Elijah and Jezebel continues today.
The chief warriors on either side are the prophets of both foes.

In the tradition of Samuel, Elijah was the head of the school of prophets. Under him were the "sons of the prophets" – literally hundreds of prophetic minstrels – who proclaimed the Word of the Lord in song. In this war, however, Jezebel had viciously and systematically murdered nearly all of God's servants until it appeared only Elijah remained (see 1 Kings 18:22).

What would Jesus say to your church?
What would he commend? What would he call needed repentance? What possible deception has crept in?

Also need to consider what Jesus would say to you or me?
Easy to look at churches, tough to look internally.
Places of compromise? Good works motivated by a cold heart? Basking in a past reputation?
Are you being tested? Is he telling you to be faithful - a crown awaits.
What dangerous things in my life am I choosing to ignore.

This section (week 3) which has focused on the enemy can easily leave us despondent.
The next section (week 4) will focus on Jesus - his promises and his character, which is how we fight our enemy.

The book of Revelation is to encourage us not to discourage us.
Things are not as they seem - God is on the throne! The lamb is worthy!
Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.
Its not a fair fight - our enemy has been disarmed by the blood of the lamb.
A lamb who rules and is sovereign over all.

We are in a battle which cannot be fought in our own strength.
In fact our flesh, in which we reside, is not our ally - its Satans!
Battle with the unseen and invisible demands that we arm ourselves with the unseen and invisible.

Further Reading

Matthew 24:3-14
When will this happen?