The seventh trumpet having brought us again to the Second Coming, we begin a new vision/section. It presents in great detail the nature of spiritual conflict of which we are a part. You will remember the seal judgments and trumpet judgments both covered the full scope of this present age ending with the return of Christ. Between the sixth and seventh judgment in each cycle was an interlude, an opportunity for John to offer hope to the persecuted church of his day. It also serves to inform us about the work of the church in this age and the kind of opposition she will face.
John discusses seven main characters–in symbolic form, of course–who are the primary combatants in the cosmic war between Christ and Satan during this present age: the history of the Dragon (12:7-12), the history of the woman (12:13-17), the history of the Beast (13:1-10), the history of the False Prophet (13:11-18), the history of the 144,000 (14:1-5), the history of the angelic proclaimers (14:6-11), and the history of the coming of the Son of Man (14:14-20). The antagonists in the story are the dragon (who is Satan), and his primary henchmen, the beast and the false prophet. Together, these three enemies of God form a counterfeit “trinity” of sorts, and attempt to lead the world away from Jesus Christ.
Like the previous two cycles, this one also covers the period “spoken of by John as the “last days,” “the great tribulation,” “the thousand years,” “the forty-two months,” and the “1260 days.”” We are given this insight into the nature of the present conflict so we will recognize our enemy, be able to resist his attacks, and not lose heart.
“The reader who is too rigid and unimaginative may have severe problems dealing with this text. …John is not starting from scratch, but he is “Christianizing” ancient pagan myths in order to tell the story of God’s triumph over evil. As John stretches the Christian story over the frame of the pagan myth, the fit will not be exact. Furthermore, this chapter uses the language of mythology, not the language of a historical narrative.” Smyth & Helwys
“The abrupt transition to ‘another sign in heaven’, the Woman Clothed with the Sun pursued by the dragon, followed by war in heaven between the archangel Michael and Satan, introduces a complex of visions that has affinities with ancient popular culture and roots in earliest Christian mythology. Similarities between the Woman Clothed with the Sun and various figures, including Isis and Leto, the mother of Apollo, suggest that this image would have resonated with John’s readers and hearers.” Revelation, Kovacs & Rowland
Highlights foundational problem within Christian church today: what do you believe about the Bible? and which way does influence and authority go? These two examples absolutely upside-down – “ancient pagan myths”, “ancient popular culture”, “Christian mythology” influence how God’s Word is understood, interpreted, applied.
Is contrary to examples given in Bible itself how should be interpreted – Bible is its own interpreter. God’s Word is the standard, all other words must yield to its authority. If that is being “too rigid and unimaginative”, so be it – Revelation had source in God, intended to be part of canon of Scripture. Basis of interpretation must be Scripture, not folk tales that bear some resemblance.
A. the woman v.1-2
a composite figure, not single individual (NOT mother of God, Queen of heaven as Roman Catholics teach); also not limited to Israel as some would say
striking resemblance to Joseph’s dream – Gen. 37:9-10 – this not the first “sign” from God, was one in long line
earlier basis – Gen 13:16; Gen. 15:5; Gen. 22:17 – why wasn’t numbering the dust enough of description? important they be recognized as a people with heavenly identity in addition to earthly roots
see both connections in woman adorned with sun, moon, stars – the one the woman represents clearly has spiritual significance
need to go back further than to Abraham… all the way to Eden – Gen. 3:15-16
her Seed – is her seed that will change course of history, result of conflict with the serpent; quickly see this more than comic book warfare – is real war with real consequences
in pain – “cried out in labor and agony to give birth” HCSB – why such incredible pain? remember curse – “multiply pain”… because of sin
parallels with Eden
1. A woman and the serpent – deception no longer, is flat-out war, but remember… is primarily spiritual yet with physical consequences
2. Enmity between the woman and the serpent – several thousand years of festering frustration; will only grow stronger
3. Conflict between her offspring and the serpent – described more fully in v.17
4. Childbirth (first mention in Genesis, last mention v.13)
5.The woman will experience labor pains – as promised, even Messiah didn’t enter world without painful labor
makes perfect sense: Bible opens with creation of perfect place with perfect people intended to worship God in his presence
sin broke all that, yet story has happy ending: perfect place re-created with redeemed and restored people able to worship God without hindrance forever
includes Mary, mother of Jesus, and child she delivers refers of course to Jesus; but same woman also brought forth other offspring (v.17) who are target of Satan’s assaults
comprehensively: the church, both Old and New Testament; true Israel, which gave birth to both Lord Jesus and NT saints
B. the dragon v.3-4
“pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” – Wizard pretty much harmless, not the fearsome character he tried to project
just opposite for dragon – far more fearsome and destructive than appears, strives to keep true identity hidden so deception continues to be effective
Satan with his various “disguises” removed (know from v.9); not to imply that in reality Satan appears as a 7-headed monster.
was created as angel and would have angelic appearance; description here given to indicate his character and actions
identified v.9, shown here to have immense influence
heads and horns – extensive power manifested in many ways throughout the age – at least pretending to have complete power
diadems – blasphemously pretending to mimic God’s completeness, power and authority, rivaling the king about to be born
tail – attacks God and his ordained order throughout the universe, showing his power is not limited to planet earth
indication even here of deception – trying to evidence own heavenly connection
woman has stars in her garland, Satan can exert power over stars himself, maybe even take the twelve away from the woman
purpose consistent with character – destruction
declared intent: devour/destroy the Child before he has opportunity to accomplish anything – remove #1 threat to existence and effictiveness when “Child” is most vulnerable
as with the woman, a composite figure – primarily (as identified) the serpent, the devil, Satan
also included, those entities under his direct influence and control – demons, political powers, forces of evil and chaos in general (throughout humanity and nature)
Satan the individual evil behind evil in all its forms, evil personified, in its ultimate form
C. her son v.5
no composite here – male child… a Son – see Ps. 2:7-9
a male child, a son, God’s son who would rule the nations: indisputably the Lord Jesus
“to devour” – angelic army at birth; King Herod; temptation; storm; demonic activity; Judas and company
Satan behaves foolishly but is not stupid – knows he cannot go head-to-head with God and win, so doesn’t try… yet
Satan was counting on limitations of Incarnation – God “confined” in human body – to give him adequate advantage
endpoints of Jesus’ earthly life identified – birth, Ascension; intervening details assumed
apocalyptic understatement: birth, ascension, everything in between implied and understood – escape to Egypt (from Satan’s tool, Herod) and return to Nazareth, childhood, preparation, temptation, ministry, death, resurrection
D. the woman again v.6
frustrated revenge – the Child escaped, focus on next in line
another source of frustration for the dragon: his enemy was snatched away out of his almost grasp, unable after numerous Satanically engineered attempts to kill the Redeemer.
Herod, temptation, attempted stoning at Nazareth, storm on Sea of Gallilee, various encounters with demons, Garden of Gethsemane, Calvary
Satan’s rage and enmity building with each failed attempt – will not be contained, he takes on whatever comes within reach
God’s protection and provision
yes, is the woman, but now she is NT church and probably most important line relative to us, God’s people, right now: “she has a place prepared by God”
yes, can be touched… but not overcome – Jesus’ words Matt. 16:18 “on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it“
extent – 1260 days, not 1259 or some other number
at no time during her existence is Christ’s church left on her own, unprotected and unprovided for; and… at no time in this age is earth left without witness to Christ’s truth
“The major point that God is going to make to His followers through John in this text, is that their lives are not being driven by the fickle winds of fate. It is not the capricious whims of chance that make life difficult for God‘s people. It is not some unknowing, unseeing force that confronts Christ-followers. Behind the evil of this world is a person and John describes him as a dragon.” Jerry Nelson
Absolutely nothing relates to life of Christian that occurs outside God’s purpose – for God’s glory and for good of his people. But remember – are in a war, war for eternal souls of men women boys girls. Our weapon the word of God. Our path the one Christ our forerunner has already traveled. Our goal to overcome evil, the wicked one, the world.
1 John 5:4-5 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world; our faith.Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Let us move on to victory, confident and unafraid as we follow the Lamb who subdues and conquers all who oppose him.