In last week's study, we looked at the concluding part of chapter 11 in a study titled "The Witnesses Resurrected". We looked at the resurrection, glorification and translation of the two witnesses as well as the calamity that befell God's enemies on earth and the proclamation of God's Kingdom and the worship of our Maker. We concluded the study with the announcement of God's pay back for both the good and the bad.
This week, the study takes a new turn. In these intriguing verses, crammed with symbols and figurines, we delve into the excitement of these breathtaking events (akin to a blockbuster movie) as we watch Satan lose the battle and realize that he is all bark and no bite! So imagine for a moment, the word is spread round the streets of heaven: "Showing tonight in HD 3D - "The Woman, Her Son, and the Dragon"". You arrive at heavens cinema and take a front row seat, the curtains are drawn and Revelation 12: 1-17 unfolds . . .
1. Verses 1 - 4: Two Great Signs (An Attempt To Understand The Signs)
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
It is important to note that John referred to the "woman" and the "dragon" as signs. A sign is defined as: "An object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else."
· Symbol 1 - The Woman
The fact that the "woman" is referred to as "a great sign" means that John was not referring to a literal woman. Although there are many thoughts on what the woman represents e.g. the virgin Mary; (which by the way would not be wrong as we see in verse 5) as well as the Nation of Israel (physical & spiritual).
The thought however that I believe is more appropriate is the Nation of Israel (physical & spiritual). The Bible, in the Old Testament referred to Israel as a woman (God's wife). See Isaiah 54:5,6; Jeremiah 3:6,8; 31:32; Ezekiel 16:32; Hosea 2:16.
The symbol of Israel as a woman travailing in birth is found in several Old Testament passages. (See Isaiah 26:17-18; 66:7-12; Hosea 13:13; Micah 4:10; 5:2-3).
· Symbol 2 - The sun, moon, and twelve stars
The symbols of the sun, moon, and twelve stars remind us of Joseph's dream in Genesis 37:9-11 refer to Jacob, his wife and the 12 tribes of Israel. (This "validates" the thought in Symbol 1 above)
· Symbol 3 - The Child
This is obviously a reference to Jesus Christ who, as promised in Scripture, was from the nation of Israel. Verse 5 says the child is the One who rules with a rod of iron. See Matthew 1:1-25; Psalm 2:8-9; Revelation 2:27; 19:15.
· Symbol 4 - The Red Great Dragon
In verse 9, the Bible identified the dragon as Satan. The description is also symbolical; his "red" color suggests bloodshed and death, the seven heads represent mountains (Rev 17:9) and the ten horns represent kings (Rev 17:12; Dan 7:7-8, 20, 24). Its tail "drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth:" These "stars" are fallen angels who revolted with Satan at his fall (see Isa 14:12-17; Ezek 28:12-14).
Verse 4a creates some sort of "special effects" The past and present events all happening at once (in John's eyes). He brings together events in Ezek 28:12-14 and his vision in verses 1-3
Verse 4b says, "the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child."
Satan is not ignorant about God's plan of redemption. He also knows that redemption would come through the Messiah who would come from the lineage of Israel. As we journey through the Bible, we find Satan's attempt to wipe out God's plan in the persecution of the Jews culminating in Matthew 2:13
2. Verses 5 - 6: Jesus - Triumphant And Caught Up!
"And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days"
Verse 5 perfectly summarizes Christ's birth, his life, and ascension into heaven. Satan failed to destroy Jesus at His birth, during His life, and in His death, Jesus Christ ascended victoriously into heaven.
Unable to destroy Christ, Satan turned his attention toward the "woman" - Israel. But God prepared a place so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days."
3. Verses 7 - 10: The Final Battle - Angelic Victory!
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night."
"And there was war in heaven: . . ." Was this the same war referred to in Ezek 28:12-14 or is this a future event? It is almost like déjà vu; the use of the word "And" in the beginning of the verse will suggest that this time John's vision was futuristic. After the woman fled under God's protection, Satan and his angels went and waged war in heaven. It would be akin to the last effort in battles as we see in movies. He knew he was going down but not without a fight; and down he went! He and his angels for the second and final time. While Satan and his demons, in Ezek 28:12-14, fell and were cast out of heaven, Satan still had access to heaven to accuse the brethren (see Job 1:6-7; 2:1-2 & Zech 3:1-2). However, after this battle in question, he will no longer be permitted access to heaven.
It is important to note that is NOT a battle between God and Satan, but between Michael and Satan. It is two created angels and their forces battling each other. Satan has perpetuated the lie that he is God's opposite. He is not God's opposite. He is not omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. He is only a created being. In our times of discouragement and seeming defeat, we must remember that the powers of good will overcome the powers of evil. Satan and his demonic forces may win some battles along the way but they will ultimately lose the war!
4. Verses 11 - 12: The Weapons - Human Victory!
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
Verse 11 describes three weapons the martyrs will use to overcome Satan.
a) The Blood of the Lamb: The first weapon is "the blood of Lamb." The bloodshed on the cross ensures that God will forgive us (Rom 8:31-34). Thus, Satan's accusations, however true, are rendered null and void in God's court of law. So how can we practically apply this truth?
First, we have to honestly admit the truth of Satan's accusation: We are sinners!
Secondly, we should remind Satan that the blood of the Lamb covers us. Our sins have all been nailed to the cross of Christ and we will no longer be judged or accused by God for these sins.
b) The word of our testimony: The second weapon we have is the word of our testimony (see 1:9; 6:9). This refers to testimonies of both our lives and lips. We must be salt and light to our world (Matt 5:13-16). When we share our testimony, we move into Satan's territory and it's intimidating to him! Our testimony is powerful and irrefutable.
c) The refusal to love one's life: The third weapon we have is a refusal to love one's life. These tribulation martyrs were willing to lose anything and everything for Jesus: (reputation, status, and possessions, etc.) They were even willing to give up their lives for what they believed, even if it meant suffering the violent death of a martyr. See Rev. 2:10, John 10:11, 15. Revelation (1:9; 6:9; 14:12; 20:4).
Verse 12 is yet another encouragement why we should endeavor by God's grace to be on the first flight. While in heaven there will be rejoicing, on earth there will be woe! Satan knowing that he has only 1,260 days before Jesus Christ returns to the earth and binds him (20:1-2) unleashes his whole arsenal in one last desperate attempt to drag many down with him.
5. Verses 13 - 17: The War Against The Remnant
"And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
Satan tries to do everything in his power to destroy the woman (Israel). But God's provides a way for her (them) to escape. Once again the use of the word Eagle is a metaphor used to describe the way God will deliver Israel. God often uses this metaphor of the Eagle to refer to His protection of Israel (Ps 55:6-8; Isa 40:31). The comparison between an eagle that can fly overhead and an earth-bound serpent implies the superior protection of God. (Exodus 19:4; Deut 32:11).
In verse 15, he changes battle strategy - he "cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood."
Notice again that the Bible says water "as" a flood, it would be difficult to tell if the flood should be interpreted literally or figuratively. Because it is possible that Satan will use a Tsunami as a form of attack, and it could also be that he will pursue them with soldiers as a river (Jer. 46:7-8; 47:2-3; Ezek 38-39). A flood is also a biblical metaphor for overwhelming evil (Ps 18:4; 32:36; 69:2; 124:2-4; Isa 43:2). The flood however did not accomplish its task because the earth helped the woman, and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. Isaiah 59:19
Satan is now three times a loser. He has failed to destroy the man child (verses1-6), he has lost the war in heaven (verses7-9), he has been unable to destroy the woman (verses13-16), and thus his wrath is directed toward the "rest of the woman's children." These "children" referred to here will be any true child of God, Jew or Gentile. (See 1 Cor. 2:1-2; 1 John 5:11-12 & 2 Timothy 3:12)
You get up from your seat and walk out of the cinema thinking to yourself; "how do they make it look so real?"You still feel the adrenaline rush during the war in heaven and the burst of excitement in verse 12 when the call was made to heaven to rejoice and the feelings for the inhabitants of earth. "How do they make it look so real?"
Well, because it is (or rather, it will be) real. So as you get into your car and drive home; remember that the Christian life is not a playground; it's a battleground! Do all you can to live for Jesus Christ in this life, prepare for and go through suffering when they come, get ready for the first flight because despite all, our concern should be to make the first flight and reap our eternal rewards. (As well as have a front row seat when the whole "drama" unfolds)
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai