The Unspoken Backdrop to Revelation Four and Five (Enthronement 8)

A striking aspect of Revelation four and five is the total absence of Satan or his influence in the heavenly courts, in spite of the fact that the heavenly crisis of chapter five must have something to do with the cosmic conflict. As a character in the story of Revelation’s vision, Satan makes his first appearance in the context of the fifth trumpet. He is the leader of the demonic hosts in the fifth trumpet (the evidence for calling them “demonic” will appear when we get to chapter nine), the one called Apollyon and Abaddon (Rev. 9:11). But he plays no such direct role in chapters four and five.

But the role of Satan in Rev. 4-5 is clarified in Revelation twelve. The main character of the drama in Revelation twelve is the dragon. The dragon lies in wait for the birth of the male child in order to destroy him (Rev. 12:5). The dragon then makes war in heaven with Michael (another image of Jesus Christ) and loses (Rev 12:7-8). The dragon is then defined as Satan, the ancient serpent and the devil (Rev. 12:9). Then in Revelation 12:10 the dragon is described as the “accuser of the brethren.” He accuses them “day and night.”

Revelation 12:10 summarizes the scene of chapter five in terms of Christ’s coming to power. A loud voice in heaven proclaims “the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ.” But His coming to power is paired with the casting down of Satan, the one who accuses the brothers “day and night.” This is strikingly reminiscent of Revelation 4:8, where the four living creature sing the triple holy song “day and night.” This parallel is not an accident. The constant praise of the four living creatures is not a mindless ritual, as might seem at first to be the case. They do this in order to drown out the constant accusations of Satan, which are no longer heard or seen in the chapter. Chapter twelve actually sets the context for chapters four and five.

Satan is absent from the scene of chapters 4-5 because he has already been cast down on account of the cross. The casting down is not a military or physical matter. Satan is cast down as the accuser of the brothers and sisters. He is no longer welcome in heaven because his accusations are no longer believed there. The cross clarifies both the character of God and the reality of the human race. From that time on the heavenly intelligences fully trust in God and see how Satan is seeking to tear down the human race. So by the time the Lamb arrives in the heavenly court to be enthroned there (fifty days after the cross) the heavenly court is freed of the presence and influence of Satan. The crisis his accusations have caused is now resolved by the Lamb that was slain. Jesus Christ is enthroned because the accuser has been cast down. That is why Satan is totally absent from the vision of Revelation four and five.

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