Sunday, March 13, 2016

REVELATION 12 - The Battle Between Christ & Satan


Revelation 12
Two Visions of the Battle between Christ & Satan

We have now finished our study of two cycles of 7 judgments. Shown from different perspectives, the seal judgments and trumpet judgments showed the suffering of the church and God’s partial judgments on the earth during the church age, both leading up to Christ’s return and judgment of his enemies. Both series had the same structure.

Now, the Revelation goes deeper. It will show us the battle behind the battle, the battle between Satan and his followers and Christ. These visions are not numbered, but there are seven of them just like the first two sets. In these visions, Christ shows us, through John, the characters, or players in the drama of this war. The characters are shown to us symbolically, so we will need to study and ascertain the meaning of the symbols. The characters are: a woman and child and their enemies: dragon, beast out of the sea, beast out of the earth\land, Babylon, people with mark of the beast.

Chapters 12-14 covers the church age again, ending with Jesus ruling & judging
introduces the main characters in opposition to Jesus. In the larger picture, chapters 12-22 are a unit, the second half of the book. It shows the characters against Christ & what happens to them.


This deeper vision begins with the appearance of two signs in heaven, told to us in chapter 12.

John tells us that these visions are “signs” in verses 1 and 3. The two visions revealed in the chapter tell the same story, the conflict between the woman and the dragon. The first vision is organized in the following way:
1-4 description of the protagonists (or characters);
5     earthly description of the battle; and
6     the finale, the woman’s flight to the wilderness for protection for 1,260 days.

The structure of the second vision is:
7-9     heavenly perspective of the battle;
10-12  heavenly commentary on the significance of the battle; and
13-17  woman’s flight for protection for 3.5 years.

Both visions show the dragon’s defeat in battle and his taking out his frustration at losing by attempting to destroy the woman.

The Woman and the Dragon
12:1-6
So, who are these characters. First, we see that the child is Jesus, the Messiah, Christ. (5) We know this because he “is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”. These words are from Psalm 2, the Messianic Psalm we looked at last week and other times. Psalm 2:2 speak of the kings of earth opposing God’s “Anointed”. The Hebrew word “M’shiach is transliterated into English as “Messiah”. The Greek word is “Christos” which we transliterate as “Christ”.  In Psalm 2:9, God says to his Son, the Anointed or Messiah,  “You shall break them (the nations raging against him) with a rod of iron…” Revelation 11 ended with the fulfillment of Psalm 2 as the elders said the nations raged, but the time for judgment had come. (11:16) Loud voices in heaven said God’s Anointed, his Christ, shall reign forever. (11:15)

If the child is Christ\Messiah, then the woman is the mother of Messiah, for she gives birth to him symbolically. She is portrayed gloriously: clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, wearing a crown of 12 stars. There is imagery here from the dream of Joseph when, as a type of the Messiah, he said the sun and moon would bow to him, meaning his father and mother.

She, then, is Israel. But she is Israel in the sense of the believing people of all times, beginning with Old Testament Israel and continuing through the church age. Her crown of 12 stars identify her with God’s covenant people, 12 tribes of ethnic Israel and 12 apostles whose names will appear on the wall of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, that will descend from heaven to the New Earth. (Rev. 21:14)

But there is also a reference to the original mother, Eve. For Eve was deceived by the Serpent, beginning a battle between her seed and the seed of the serpent. That battle was part of God’s curse of the serpent. God said ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel”. (Gen. 3:15) The battle begins before Israel came into being. It is the battle between God’s people and Satan’s people. Satan initiated the battle, trying to destroy the line of Jesus before he became flesh. The battle between the seeds is Cain vs. Abel, Esau vs. Jacob; Edom vs. Israel, Saul vs. David.

God’s people from the time of the fall have been an expectant mother, waiting for the seed to be born who would defeat Satan and restore God’s followers to Eden.

The red dragon is Satan. As the serpent, he was the deceiver. But here he is envisioned as having 7 heads of cunning wisdom, 12 horns showing great power, and 7 diadems to show authority to influence and deceive. A diadem is a jeweled headband worn to show authority. He is so powerful he swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to earth. (4) This image may refer to Daniel’s vision of a goat with a great horn in Daniel (8:10). It grew so powerful and large it threw down some of the stars of heaven. There it symbolized Antiochus Epiphanies of Syria. But the power of Antiochus was the power of Satan.

In John’s vision, the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth so he could destroy the child, the Messiah. (4) What more could Satan want than to destroy Jesus before he ever was able to fulfill his mission of salvation? Satan tried hard. He motivated Herod to try and kill the Messiah. He killed all the male children under the age of two in Bethlehem and the region around it trying to kill the Messiah. (Matthew 2:16) But God had already sent the baby and his parents to Egypt for protection.

Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, but Jesus prevailed against him. (Matthew 4) Satan motivated the Jewish leaders to oppose Jesus, arrest him and kill him. But God intended all along to use the suffering and death of Jesus to accomplish atonement for believers.

And when it truly appeared that Satan had won and all was lost as Jesus was killed and buried, God raised him from the dead and Jesus ascended to heaven. That is the picture of verse 5, “her child was caught up to God and to his throne”.

In the aftermath of the ascension of Christ, Satan knows he has failed to destroy him. The only thing left to him is to fight against the church. But God protects the church. Those who believe in Jesus cannot be taken from the Savior’s hand. Their salvation cannot be taken away. This same John recorded Jesus saying “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-29) Jesus is greater than all, including Satan, and holds us and our salvation in his mighty hand.

And so the woman fled into the wilderness where she was nourished for 1,260 days. (6) The is the same time period as 3.5 years or 42 months. It is the limited time of persecution of the church. It is the church age.

Why did she go to the wilderness? Because in the wilderness she is totally dependent on God. Remember Elijah going to the wilderness and God feeding him, nourishing him, through ravens? (1 Kings 17:1-6) The wording there is interesting. Elijah went and did “according to the word of the Lord”. Jesus also went into the wilderness. He needed nourishment as he did not eat for 40 days. When Satan tempted him to create food, Jesus said man must live by the word of God. It is the bread that ultimately sustained him. So, the church, symbolized by the woman, is dependent on God for nourishment. He nourishes us in many ways, but primarily through his Word. God’s Word sustains us in trial, builds us up to resist temptation and gives us discernment to avoid deception.

Michael and the Dragon
12:7-12

This vision shows us the same conflict, but from a different perspective. Michael and his angels attack Satan and his angels and cast them out of heaven. Daniel referred to Michael as a great prince and guardian of God’s people. Jude 9 calls him an archangel.

Verse 10 tells us the meaning of this as a loud voice declares that the kingdom and authority of Christ has come and the accuser has been thrown down. It is the picture of Satan losing the power to accuse God’s people. Remember the story of Job? Satan appeared before God and accused Job of not being a real follower of God. Satan also later appeared and accused Joshua the priest in Zechariah 3. Interestingly, in contrast to Job, Joshua was shown as guilty. He wore filthy garments. But God removed them and gave him pure garments while the angel of the Lord stood by. It is a picture of redemption to come in Christ.

And that is why Satan can no longer accuse us. Jesus has taken away our sins. In him, we stand before God. We stand in his righteousness imputed to us. Satan’s power to accuse is forever removed. Hallelujah!

The coming of Christ’s kingdom is tied to the casting down of Satan. This caused rejoicing in heaven. Jesus referred to this with his disciples. They returned from their fist mission trip saying that demons were subject to them. Jesus said “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven”. (Luke 10:18)

It is not all good news, however. Verse 12 shows us that Satan in defeat is on earth in “great wrath” knowing his time is short. He expresses his wrath in persecution of the church. This is the consequence of his fall. It is parallel to verse 6, a much shorter description.

The Continuing Battle: Woman and Dragon
12:13-17

Having lost his chance to destroy the child (Messiah), Satan pursued the woman (the church). She was delivered by a great eagle. This reminds us of God’s description of his redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt. He said “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself”. (Exodus 19:4)

Since Satan cannot destroy the church and take away salvation by accusation, he resorts to his oldest weapon, deception. The flood from his mouth is a symbol of deceiving words pouring out like a river. (15) Just as he deceived Eve, he will deceive many with a torrent of lies and deception.

The early church saw part of that river. Jesus warned the churches of Asia against the Nicolaitans. He warned them against a Jezebel who promised deep knowledge of secret things. John, in 1 John 4:1-6, warned of false prophets. Paul warned of false teachers.

We see part of that river today. There is a flood of false teaching today in print, television, Internet, and preaching. We are constantly bombarded with religions from the east and Middle East. We are told to let go of important teachings of Jesus. We are told we all worship the same God. It goes on and on.

As Satan fails, he become even more furious. (17) He makes war on those who hold to Jesus and his teaching. And, from here, we transition to looking at the Beast who comes from the sea. 
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