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Revelation 5:9 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:47 mins 27 secs

Intro. to Angels and the Angelic Conflict; Rev. 5:9

 

We have seen in this section a fantastic worship scene as the Lamb of God comes forward to take up the scroll which represents the title deed, the contractual basis for divine ownership of planet earth. That ownership was bequeathed to man in the garden of Eden. Man was to rule and reign over the planet but he gave that up to Satan, Satan has been operating as the prince of the power of the air and the god of this age all throughout history since Adam's fall. Now at the end of history we see that God is going to finally make things right. There is going to be a time when justice is going to be enacted and all injustices throughout all history made right. Man has been waiting for this. Why, the psalmist asks, do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper? What happens in the Tribulation period is that God is finally going to bring all things to a conclusion, but it is not simply a conclusion in human history, it is the conclusion in the history of all of God's creation, including that of the angels. Human history, as we have seen in the past, fits within a greater framework of an angelic conflict, a war that broke out among the angels at some time in the past.

 

Rev 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood {men} from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. [10] You have made them {to be} a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth. [11] Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands."

 

The first thing we should not is the introduction of the fact that for the first time there is a greater number of people around the throne who have not been identified before called "many angels." There are three groups: the angels, the living creatures, and the twenty-four elders. Then we read "the number of the." The question is: does this "them," the pronoun simply refer to the last mentioned, which would be the elders, or does it refer to the entire group? The difficulty grammatically is that these other nouns are all masculine nouns and masculine genitive plurals, they all have the same ending, so grammatically it is impossible to identify whether he is speaking of one of those groups or to the entire group. It is most likely from context that he is referring to the whole group composed of three different sets of creatures. The entire crowd that surrounds the throne is innumerable, it is expressed in a hyperbolic way in the text to indicate a vast uncountable number.

 

This reveals to us again the role of the angels in the book of Revelation. So we will digress a little bit to talk about this doctrine of the angelic conflict and the role of angels in Revelation. This is one of those doctrine that we hear from people again and again and again that once they have heard it everything begins to make sense. It just helps organize all the different bits and pieces of history and doctrine and theology, and suddenly there is an umbrella doctrine that helps to make everything else make sense and come together.

 

In Old Testament times there were people who did see and hear angels and they had a specific role in history. So we often ask a number of questions, like who are the angels? How many are there? What do they look like? What are their powers? What about people in this age who claim that angels have appeared to them and have given them revelation? That should bring two groups to mind, the Muslims and the Mormons. Are there good and bad angels, and how do we know the difference? When were angels created? When did Satan fall? What relationship does Satan's fall and the rebelliousness of the angels have to do with human history? Who are the fallen angels? Who are the demons, also called evil spirits? What can they do to us? Can Christians be demon possessed? What is demon influence? Finally we have to ask" What does human history have to do with the angels, if anything? It has a lot to do with the angels and to the angelic conflict, which is why when we come to the book of Revelation we find numerous references to angels. There are, depending on which text we look at, between 63-72 references. That is out of a total of about 175 references in the New Testament. That should tell us something right there. In fact, if we analyse the use of the word "angels" in the book of Revelation approximately 50 of those occur in Revelation 4-21:9. Up to that time we are talking about events before the Millennium occurs. So just on statistical evidence alone we recognize that we can't really comprehend the whats, the whys and the wherefores of the Tribulation if we don't understand this within a broader context of God's purpose and rile for the angels in history.

 

Summary of the basic doctrine of the angelic conflict

 

1)  What do we mean by angelic conflict? There are different terms that are used to refer to this: the angelic rebellion, spiritual warfare, spiritual conflict, etc., all of which refer to the fact that there is an ongoing war, and ongoing rebellion that occurs in the invisible heavenly sphere between two groups of creatures known as angels. They were all originally created by God holy and righteous and just but at some time in eternity past there was a rebellion that occurred and that this was the first introduction of sin and evil into God's universe. So a definition of the angelic conflict is the invisible spiritual warfare between the forces of Satan and the forces of God. Ephesians 6:10-18.

2)  The course of the angelic conflict. It began at some time in the past when a creature name Lucifer rebelled against God, expressing the desire of his heart to be worshipped as God, to be elevated above all the other creatures because he thought that he could rule and reign the cosmos better than God could. He wanted all of the glory for himself. In that rebellion he recruited approximately one third of all the angels to his side and this revolt occurred some time prior to the creation of man in Genesis chapter one. On the basis on Matthew 25:41 because there is a past tense there, these angels were recruited and condemned to the lake of fire. At the time of Christ the lake of fire was already in existence and had been created and prepared for the devil and his angels. But for some reason they aren't there. So the question is: Why not? What has lead to this postponement? By theological deduction and from a number of passages Satan accused God of injustice related to the sentence: something along the lines of how could a just God send His creatures to the lake of fire? Along the same lines Satan may have accused God of not allowing him to show that he could do just as good as God, that he could be God and run the universe. There may be a number of ways to articulate these ideas but it seems that when we go through the whole of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation there are certain themes that dominate in relationship to creatureliness and leadership. What God is demonstrating throughout all of history, and why He allows Satan to continue, is that the creature can never do that which only the creator can do, and that the creature doesn't have those infinite capabilities—omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience—to do what he wants to do, and the only way there can be order, truth, stability and happiness in the creation is for the creatures to be oriented to the authority of God. 

 

What we learn from Scripture is that the creatures consistently repeat the same error that Satan began with: they desire to operate independently of God, autonomously from God, to make life work on their own terms, and so they suppress the truth in unrighteousness People come up with all kinds of rationales and self-justifications and self-lies, and they say that next week they will start getting serious about their Christian life. We don't realize that the decisions we make today, that are decisions in carnality based on our own self-centred orientations to life and to the world, can come back to haunt us with major negative consequences down the road. The only basis for happiness, stability and meaning in life is to obedient and committed to God's plan.

 

This angelic conflict that began sometime in early Genesis, that impacts all of human history all of the way up to Revelation, comes to a resolution and conclusion with the defeat of Satan, the Antichrist and the false prophet at the end of Revelation 19. The false prophet and the Antichrist are cast into the lake of fire, Satan is put into a holding cell for a thousand years where he is chained, and then human history continues in the almost perfect environment of the Millennial kingdom. It is almost perfect because the earth is still going to be populated by a lot of sinners. The Millennial kingdom is going to show that it is not just Satan's fall, it is our own sin nature that is the problem, and there will be a rebellion at the end of the Millennial kingdom organizing all those human beings with their sin natures who decided to reject Christ, even in that perfect environment of the Millennium. Satan will be released for a short time at the end of that period and will lead them in a rebellion against God, and at that time God is going to destroy them in a fiery judgment.

 

So we see that the whole panorama of history fits within a broader framework of the judicial activity of God towards Satan and the fallen angels, and it is only when we look at both of these at these at the same time—God's dealing with the angels and His dealing with the human race—that we can come to understand the purpose of history. God is going to bring to a head His plan of judgment and resolution of all of the injustices in history related to all of His creatures, and this is what comes to a conclusion at the end of the Tribulation period.

 

How do we know that angels exist? We only know things four different ways. The first three operate independently of God: rationalism, empiricism, mysticism. Then there is revelation. God has given us the objective source of revelation and we can know it. Revelation, the Bible, the 66 books of the canon of Scripture, are the final, complete and proficient source of knowledge and the foundation and framework for all knowledge. This is the only way we can know anything definitely about angels and that they exist, and we can only know it because God has communicated it to us. There is a tremendous amount of biblical evidence related to the existence of angels. For example, 34 of the 56 books of the Bible mention angels specifically and referred to by that name. The basic terms that are used for angels are malak in the Old Testament and angelos [a)ggeloj] in the New Testament, and both of these have the same core meaning, which is a messenger. We see that this has the idea related to being a servant. They serve God by carrying out His commands throughout the universe; that is their function. These terms are found over three hundred times in the Bible and of those a quarter are in Revelation. The are also other terms for angels, e.g. cherubim, seraphs, princes, sons of God, the power of the air, principalities, rulers of the darkness of this world, etc. They are referred to many times by Jesus Christ as real creatures. If Jesus affirms the existence of angels and treats them as real creatures with real ability then to deny the existence of angels is to deny the veracity of Jesus Christ. To the believer the only source of authority about angels, demons, Satan, what they can do, what their limitations are, what their powers are, is the Bible. 

 

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