Monday, January 19, 2009
Revelation 12:1 - 17
As noted previously, chapters 12 through 19 constitute a rerun of the Tribulation hour as presented in chapters 6 through 11. Thus, at this point we come once again to the middle of the Tribulation-and to the worst wave of anti-Semitism the world has ever observed. This is truly what Jeremiah had in mind in chapter 30, verse 7, when he said, Alas/for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble. Jacob, as one discovers in Romans 11:26, is Israel.
A number of great signs and occurrences are witnessed in this chapter, each having to do with the horrendous judgment that is enveloping the earth, including the persecution being directed against Israel. These include a great wonder (verse 1), a great red dragon (verse 3), great wrath (verse 12), and two wings of a great eagle (verse 14).
Verse 1: 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:
In total, the Book of Revelation pictures four different women: (1) Jezebel, the high priestess of paganism (chapter 2, verse 20); (2) the scarlet woman, the high priestess of apostasy (chapter 17); (3) the Lamb's wife, the representative of the true, blood-bought Church (chapter 19, verse 7); and (4) Israel, in the text before us.
This woman of chapter 12 is a picture of Israel. Mary Baker Eddy Glover Patterson presented herself as this woman, but her claim was absurd, to say the least. The woman's offspring could not possibly be the Christian Science movement. Who, then, is this woman, and why does she appear? The term wonder in our text comes from the same Greek word sign. Thus, we see that the woman is a sign. What sign? The sign of Israel. Let's prove this assertion.
The woman of Revelation 12:1 was pictured in the dream of Joseph centuries ago: And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it [to] his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon [representing father and mother] and the eleven stars [representing Joseph's eleven brothers] made obeisance to me [the twelfth star]. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou host dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying (Genesis 37:9-11).
Clearly, the woman clothed with the sun and wearing a crown of twelve stars upon her head, just like in Joseph's dream, is Israel. The birth of this woman's (Israel's) son is predicted in Isaiah 66, verses 7 and 8: Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children [or her son]. Isaiah's prediction finds its fulfillment in the next verse.
Verse 2: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
Here we have the mother, Israel, bringing forth a man-child who is none other than the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, as one discovers in verse 5. This truth harmonizes with many New Testament texts. For instance, Romans 9:4,5 states; [They] are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
Christ, in His flesh, came forth from Israel; and, at this point in our text, Christ's adversary, Satan-the one who rebelled centuries ago against the authority of God (see Isaiah 14:12-14)-is about to strike another blow.
Verse 3: 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.
Verse 4: 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.
The red dragon is conclusively proven to be Satan in verse 9. The number seven speaks of completeness, and therefore, the dragon's seven heads picture his wisdom. It is written that Satan is full of wisdom (Ezekiel 28:12). God created him that way when he was the anointed cherub [or angel] that covereth (Ezekiel 28:14). His ten horns speak of universal power, just as the ten toes of Daniel's image do. Satan's international control, of course, is possible because millions of demons jump at his command. Remember, he is the god of this world system (2 Corinthians 4:4). He is also the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and the prince of this world (John 12:31). However, since he is not omniscient (all knowing), or omnipresent (in all places at all times), Satan must rely on demonic hosts (fallen angels) in diversified places to administer his power. This explains why Christians are not fighting against flesh and blood only but against spiritual wickedness in high places as well (Ephesians 6:12). Satan probably enlisted the angels who fell at the time of his rebellion when his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven [a reference to angels] and did cast them to the earth. A similar reference is found in Jude 13.
At this point, one may ask why we use these texts to discuss past, present, and future history. The answer is simple. The scene we are about to witness speaks of the entire age-long conflict from beginning to end. Its details are squeezed into these few verses before us. The same devil who attempted to destroy the woman's (or Israel's) son in centuries past (see Genesis 3:15) is now about to strike out against the woman herself via the greatest anti-Semitic purge in history. Hitler's murderous and barbaric attempt at Jewish annihilation will seem like a Sunday school picnic compared to this holocaust! That's why Daniel stated: There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book (12:1). Jesus himself said in Matthew 24:21,22, For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. The elect, as spoken of here, are the Israelites of Romans 11:28.
Verse 5 proves my earlier statement that the verses before us cover the age-long conflict-past, present, and future.
Verse 5: And she brought forth a man child [1,900 years ago], who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron [future]: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne [the present age of grace].
Verse 6: 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.
During this final forty-two-month period, described as the Great Tribulation (see Revelation 7:14), because of its intensity and immensity, the Children of Israel are protected by their God. He took care of them for forty years as they wandered through the wilderness, and now He again proves His love to His ancient people by delivering them. Yes, they shall be saved out of it (Jeremiah 30:7). And at that time thy people shall be delivered (Daniel 12:1). Matthew 24:22 adds, For the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. In the next few verses, a shocking space war takes place, which we will cover in our next newsletter.
Verse 7: And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
Verse 8: And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
Verse 9: 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.
Some Bible authorities believe that this war in heaven began at the time of the Rapture in chapter 4, verse 1. Since a war involves a number of skirmishes or battles, this is a distinct possibility. The assumption is based on Daniel 12:1 and 2.These scholars reason that since those who are caught up in the rapture of the Church must pass through the areas where Satan reigns-the aerial and stellar heavens-Satan becomes aroused and attempts to hinder this evacuation of the saints from the earth. However, as he attempts to interfere in this glorious event, angels-ministers of the saints (see Hebrews 1:14)-rush to the rescue, and the space confrontation and conflagration begins. This happened in the past-why could it not occur again? Where did it happen in the past? Consider Daniel 10:13 as we are introduced to Michael, the commander in chief of heaven's armies. Daniel says, But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes [an angelic name and title], came to help me. God tells Daniel that He had every intention of answering His prayers, but that for twenty-one days the devil tried to hinder the response. Finally God had to send Michael to battle the devil in the area of his domain (the first and second heavens) in order to make the answer a reality. Thus, it is possible that Michael will again battle God's adversary at the time of the Rapture in order to allow Christians their entrance into glory in the twinkling of an eye, as promised in 1 Corinthians 15:51-54.
Michael is mentioned five times in God's Word, beginning with Daniel 10:13. We find him again in Daniel 10:21 where he is described to the Children of Israel as Michael, your prince. His third mention is in Daniel 12:1: And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people. In Jude 9, we find Michael, the archangel, contending with the devil over the body of Moses. Notice that every time Michael appears, he is connected with the Children of Israel-making it very plausible that he is at war with Satan in our present and fifth text, defending the Jewish people.The war is on, and it is the greatest aerial combat in history: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon [Satan]; and the dragon fought and his angels. Are you shocked to discover Satan in heaven? Most people (including most Christians) imagine him as a little creature dressed in a red uniform, running around in a place called hell, jabbing his victims with a pitchfork. This is all a lot of mythological nonsense.
Satan is a magnificent creature to behold. In fact, his beauty brought his ruin. Ezekiel 28:17 states: Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Not only is it a lie to picture Satan as a grotesque monstrosity, but it is equally false to place him in hell. He has never been there. He is the god of this world system, the prince of the power of the air, and the prince of this world, as we have already observed. He has been in heavens one and two (the aerial and stellar heavens) since his fall-and he will remain there until he is cast to the earth in verse 9. It is also important to note that he is not cast into eternal hell (the lake of fire) to join those he has duped until after the Millennium (chapter 20, verse 10). Now, as this battle is fought, Satan is defeated. Praise God! Satan is mighty, but God is Almighty! Satan can destroy, but God can destroy the destroyer! That is why the Christian should never fear the events of daily life. He has victory in Jesus. Yes, greater is he that is in you, than -he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).Satan's demise began when he was cast out of the third heaven (see Isaiah 14:12-14), continues until Revelation 12:9 when he is cast out of the first and second heavens, and is completed when he is cast into the lake of fire (chapter 20, verse 10). John foresaw that hour and said, The prince of this world [shall] be cast out (John 12:31) and the prince of this world is judged (John 16:11). To the eternal Christ, Satan's doom was as good as accomplished, but for you and me, time had to pass. Now, in our text, the moment has arrived: (Satan and his angels) prevailed not (verse 8.) Michael's gunners zero in, and Satan's place-an abiding location for centuries-is found no longer. Instead, the dragon (Satan) which deceiveth the whole world: [is] cast out into the earth, and his angels [are] cast out with him. This signals the end of Satan's rule in the aerial and stellar heavens, and the victory celebration begins. All heaven rejoices over that which Michael's defeat of Satan has accomplished.
Verse 10: 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.
The spontaneous praise session within this verse occurs because (1) salvation from Satan's atmospheric control has taken place; (2) God's strength has crushed Satan's might; (3) the kingdom is about to arrive; and (4) the power of Christ will be seen as He comes to set up His kingdom. Think of it! The united power of Father and Son casts the accuser of the brethren out of the heavens.
Did you know that accusing the brethren is Satan's present ministry? He also uses some ministers and holier-than-thou church members to accomplish this goal. Listen carefully. Every bit of slander against another brother or sister in Christ is simply the devil using an individual's mind and vocal cords. In fact, devil means slanderer. The term false accuser in the English Bible is translated from the word diabolos or devil. Thus, Titus 2:3 states: The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers. Literally rendered, this verse states: That the aged women be not she devils. A woman who gossips is a she devil, and a male gossip is a macho devil. Both are controlled by the power of the vile one. No wonder lying is one of the seven sins God hates (see Proverbs 6:16-19).When Satan is cast out into the earth (verse 9), the hot spot will be our terra firma where men walk and breathe. At that time there will be only one place of safety and victoryin the arms of the Lord Jesus through His shed blood.
Verse 11: 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.
These wise saints resisted Satan by the blood of Jesus and by the Word of God. There is no other way to win a spiritual battle (see Hebrews 4:12). They also overcame Satan by their testimony and loved not their own lives unto death. What a crown awaits them-and you, if you're true blue! Thus, John states in Revelation 2:10: Be thou faithful unto death, and l will give thee a crown of life.Though there is rejoicing in the heavenlies, the picture is quite different for earth dwellers.
Verse 12: 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.
At this point Satan unleashes all his fury for he knows that within forty-two months (three and one-half years), his reign will be ended. Thus, the great anti-Semitic purge now begins.
Verse 13: And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
Immediately God intervenes.
Verse 14: 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.
This verse describes God in His sovereignty and love, protecting His chosen people for three and one-half years. The eagle's wings probably indicate an airlift or some other miraculous speedy escape. God is probably reminding the Children of Israel of His act of preservation in Pharaoh's day, and uses the picture of wings to show them His goodness. He declares, Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself (Exodus 19:4). Safety is promised to His people.
Verse 15: 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.
The flood undoubtedly portrays a volume of propaganda-anti-Semitic insinuations, slanders, and slurs-released internationally. Yet, God promises: When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19).
Verse 16: 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.
This verse, too, is reminiscent of the miraculous deliverance God provided the Children of Israel during their exodus from Egypt, when the Red Sea closed in over Pharaoh and his army. The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them (Exodus 15:9-12). At this point Satan reaches the height of his anger.
Verse 17: 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.