Welcome to A Revelation of Jesus. We are continuing our series on the Seven Seals and will be examining who is the strong angel that John saw in his vision.
In the last video we looked at Revelation chapter 5, where John saw God sitting on His throne holding out the Book of Life to be opened. But there was an unexpected and distressing development: “A strong angel proclaimed with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to loose its seals?” (Revelation 5:2) John began to “weep greatly” as he realized that “No one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book, or to look at it” (Revelation 5:3)
Who is this strong angel, and why is he challenging what seems to be God’s obvious desire for the book to be opened? I’ll give you the short answer, and then we will look at the supporting scriptural evidence and consider the implications.
I believe that the strong angel is Satan. But that possibility brings up some important questions we need to answer: why would Satan be called a strong angel? What would he be doing in heaven? When does this scene take place? And how does it fit with other parts of Revelation?
First of all, we have seen in the last three videos that this scene takes place in the heavenly sanctuary, and specifically, in the throne room in heaven.
We might not expect Satan to be there, but Revelation chapter 12 tells us that Satan has had access to heaven. “War broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7-9).
From this passage we see that the dragon, also called the devil and Satan, is the leader of “his angels.” The fact that there was war in heaven indicates that Satan (strong angel) and his angels used to have access to heaven, but at some point, they were cast out and could no longer go there.
Ezekiel chapter 28 gives insight into the history of Satan. In verse 11 Ezekiel was instructed to “Take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:11,12).
Tyre was a powerful Mediterranean trading city, but this passage obviously doesn’t refer to the literal king of Tyre, because it says, “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God” (Ezekiel 28:12,13). It was that ancient serpent Satan who was present in the Garden of Eden. We also see that he was not always evil—he was once “the seal of perfection”.
God continues the description of His brightest angel: “You were the anointed cherub who covers…You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones” (Ezekiel 28:14). Amazingly, we see here that Satan was once the “covering cherub”. In the earthly sanctuary (which was modeled after the heavenly sanctuary), the throne of God was symbolized by the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant. Above the mercy seat were two covering angels or cherubs hovering over the Shekinah glory, the visible presence of God.
From this, we see that Satan was once one of the angels closest to God’s throne. In Isaiah 14 we learn that his name was Lucifer. The description goes on, “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:15).
How could iniquity, evil, or sin arise in a perfect being?
I plan to go into that in more detail in a later video, but for now, I want to say emphatically that God did not create evil or an evil being. But He did create two classes of beings, humans, and angels, which have true freedom of choice, and the greatest of the angels, Lucifer chose to violate the law of love that is the foundation of harmony in the universe; From him, the disease of sin spread to a third of the angels and 100% of the human race.
We have a few hints as to how Satan fell into sin. Ezekiel continues, “By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned” (Ezekiel 28:16). This doesn’t mean that Lucifer started a trading business. But God inspired Ezekiel to compare the attitudes that Lucifer began to indulge into those of traders and merchants.
The essence of trading is that I evaluate what I have, compare it with the value of what you have, and make an agreed-upon exchange. Trading can and should be a transaction in which both parties benefit. But all too often trading involves an attempt to take advantage of ignorance, weakness, vulnerability, or desperate need. Power imbalances can lead to ruthless competition, exploitation, and oppression. The focus shifts from what do you need, how can I serve, what can I share? to what can I get, how can I take advantage, and the wealth, power, and position that I have achieved.
This theme is emphasized in Revelation 18, a whole chapter dedicated to exposing “The sins [of satanic Babylon] that have reached to heaven” (Revelation 18:5).
We often think of Babylon in terms of false religion and bad theology, but when describing her fall, John focuses on her luxury that resulted from oppressive trading and exploitation: “She glorified herself and lived luxuriously…and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury…for [her] merchants were the great men of the earth; by her sorcery [deceptions and seductions] all the nations were deceived, and in her was found the blood of prophets and saints and of all who were slain on the earth” (Revelation 18:7,3,23,24).
This kind of self-seeking and exploitation originated with Lucifer as he turned away from God and focused on himself. “He became filled with violence within and sinned; his heart was lifted up because of his beauty; he corrupted his wisdom for the sake of his splendor” (Ezekiel 28:16,17).
His pride actually led Lucifer to aspire to the position of his Creator. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!… For you have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God [in other words, above the other angels]… I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:12-14).
So when John saw “a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” (Revelation 5:2) it is hard to imagine that this could be anyone but Satan. As the former covering cherub and the leader of the fallen angels, he would be a powerful force to be reckoned with, even in the throne room of heaven. And with his inflated opinion of himself and ambition to “be like the most High,” he would have the audacity to challenge the right of anyone to open the Book of Life.
But Ezekiel goes on to tell us that he was cast out of heaven. “You [Satan] sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I expelled you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones” (Ezekiel 28:16).
Actually, Satan was cast out of heaven in two stages. Jesus said in Luke 10:18, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18), showing that at the time of Jesus’ ministry, Satan had already been expelled from his place of honor.
Even so, Lucifer still had access to the courts of heaven, where his continuous accusations were a source of grief. For example, in the book of Job we learn that “There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.
And the Lord said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’ So Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it” (Job 1:6,7) Satan was actually claiming the right to rule the earth.
But God reminded Satan that He had created the earth for humanity, and there were still some who were faithful. “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:8).
Rather than accept God’s evaluation of Job, Satan launched a vicious accusation: “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him?… You have blessed the work of his hands and his possessions… But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (Job 1:9-11).
In this passage we see Satan in heaven, disputing God’s wisdom and judgment, accusing Job of superficial loyalty to God, and trying to bolster his claim of authority over humanity and his stronghold, the earth.
Apparently, this kind of drama in the heavenly courts was one of Satan’s main activities; in Revelation chapter 12 he is called “The accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10).
But Jesus made it clear that Satan, the strong angel, would not have permanent access to heaven. Just before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31).
The story of this second casting out is found in Revelation chapter 12. It begins with a “great sign in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun…in labor and in pain to give birth” (Revelation 12:1,2).
We will talk about the woman in a later video, but as John watched “a great fiery red dragon (who he later identifies as Satan) stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Revelation 12:3-5)
In Psalm chapter 2 we learn that the male child is Jesus, and we see in the New Testament story that Satan tried his best to “devour” Jesus, starting when he was still a baby when he incited King Herod to slaughter all the infants in Bethlehem. But Satan was not successful; “Her Child was caught up to God and His throne” (Revelation 12:5). After Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven: “Jesus…endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
That which he could not accomplish on earth, Satan attempted to accomplish in heaven. Jesus, the male child, “was caught up to God and His throne…And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought, and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer” (Revelation 12:5,7,8).
We should not imagine that the war in heaven was a physical conflict; it was a war of words, arguments, of loyalties.
As the Apostle Paul said, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal (physical) but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2Corinthians 10:4,5).
Satan and his angels fought with their accusations and misrepresentations, but they could not prevail; the angels loyal to God had witnessed Satan’s fierce attacks on Jesus which ultimately led to His brutal torture and crucifixion; now “there was no place found for [Satan and his angels] in heaven any longer” (Revelation 12;8).
The war in heaven, which took place just after the resurrection, was the last time that Satan had access to heaven. That means that the scene in chapter 5 where the strong angel challenged the Lamb that was slain before the throne of God must be the same scene as the war in heaven in chapter 12, but with different symbols.
After His resurrection, Jesus returned to heaven, having endured the Cross in order to win salvation for all who believe in Him. But Satan, the strong angel, challenged his right to open the Book of Life.
John wept bitterly when it seemed like no one could open the book. But “One of the elders said to [John], ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll…And [John] looked, and behold…a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:5,6).
In this passage, Jesus is depicted with three different symbols, each of which emphasizes a different dimension of His identity that meets Satan’s challenge.
Jesus is “The Lion of the tribe of Judah”. This phrase hearkens back to Genesis 49 where Jacob pronounced a prophetic blessing on Judah and his brothers, the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. In his blessing, Jacob compares Judah to a lion and prophesies that Shiloh, another name for Christ the messiah, will descend from Judah and will possess the kingly scepter.
The imagery is of power and authority. The lion, the most powerful of all animals, is a fitting symbol for Jesus, the mighty victor who conquers all His enemies; He has all the power He needs to open the sealed Book of Life.
Jesus is also “The Root of David”. The Jews, in expectation of the Messiah, repeatedly called Jesus “the Son of David,” and He is, according to human genealogy. But He is much more; In Revelation 22:16 Jesus says of Himself, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David” (Revelation 22:16). As the Root of David, Jesus is the very foundation of David’s throne.
David’s right to rule was not because of his tribe or family; The prophet Samuel said of him, “The Lord has sought for a man after His own heart, and the Lord appointed him ruler over His people (1Samuel 13:14). Jesus is the true Man after God’s own heart; He is God from eternity, but he emptied Himself and became human, living a sinless life, becoming as the Apostle Paul put it, the “new Adam”, the perfect man. As the “Root of David” Jesus can meet every accusation of Satan.
However, when it was time to take the sealed scroll, it wasn’t the all-powerful Lion of the tribe of Judah or the perfect Root of David who stepped forward: John saw “a Lamb as though it had been slain…take the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (Revelation 5:6,7). This is so important that I want to dedicate the whole next video to the significance of the Lamb.
If you have been following this series on the Seven Seals you may be wondering how this scene fits on the timeline. I have presented scriptural evidence that Revelation chapters 4 and 5 depict the opening of the investigative phase of the final judgment, and that chronologically it began during the Philadelphia era of the 19th century.
But in this video we have examined the challenge of the strong angel, Satan, and his defeat by Jesus, the Lamb that was slain. We showed evidence that the controversy between the strong angel and the Lamb in chapter 5 is a parallel passage to the war in heaven in Revelation 12; The timeline here is that Jesus, the male child, was “caught up to God and His throne” after the crucifixion and resurrection and then “war broke out in heaven…the dragon and his angels…did not prevail, nor was any place found for them in heaven any longer” (Revelation 12:5-9).
So how does that fit with a judgment that began in the 19th century? To answer this, let’s review some concepts from the last three videos. Remember that the investigative judgment is not so that God can get more information. He has already written the names and circumstances of those who have responded to Him in the Book of Life.
It is the angels that need assurance that humans who have repeatedly broken God’s law are safe to save. During the judgment, the heavenly court will be able to review the decisions and the spiritual trajectory of those who at one time or another have exhibited faith in God.
But no one will be worthy of eternal life, because “all have sinned” and “the wages of sin is death”.
The law of sin and death is the basis of Satan’s challenge that the Book of Life cannot be opened, and even God’s unlimited power (symbolized by the Lion of the tribe of Judah) or Jesus’ perfect life (symbolized by the Root of David) do not provide atonement for sinners.
But when Jesus took upon himself the guilt of sin and died the death that sinners deserve, Jesus met the demands of justice. That is what the symbol of the Lamb that was slain is all about. When Jesus returned to heaven after His death and resurrection, Satan’s challenges and accusations were overturned. This meant that the Book of Life could be opened when the time came for the judgment to begin.
This is why Revelation chapters 4 and 5, which depict the beginning of the judgment, include a flashback to a scene from 1800 years earlier.
A review of that drama is the opening statement in the investigative judgment and a reminder to the heavenly court that the only basis for anyone to be judged worthy of eternal life is the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lamb of God. As they review each name in the Book of Life the most important consideration will not be their behavior, but their faith in Jesus who died for them.
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