The Woman in the Wilderness

Rev. 12:12-17

Don’t like living in tension, can give a headache! Yet this age – cross to consummation – marked by tension. Right now in the already / not yet portion of history. Already saved but salvation not yet complete. Already in Christ’s kingdom but is not yet present in fullness. Satan already defeated but not yet locked away for eternity. Meanwhile what we know and experience a tantalizing taste of all that is yet to come. Is true for us individually, also true corporately – for Christ’s church, body of believers.

And… since we’re in a war, as time goes by things do change a little. Enemy adapts his tactics, soldiers get tired and discouraged, wonder if it will ever end? Maybe wonder if victory is really all that certain! That’s when we need to re-group: remember who our Commander is, what he said. King Jesus has made it clear what we should expect and how it all turns out.

Saw last week Satan’s defeat – unable to prevail against Michael and his angels, unceremoniously thrown out of heaven and forbidden to return. Then what? Got really ugly, has stayed ugly ever since. Will probably get more intensely ugly when end is finally in sight. Lord Jesus gives important strategy insight – what Satan is up to, who his targets are, what our allies are doing to help.

A. Satan’s time is short v.12

has come down – that’s an understatement!

forcibly thrown down to the earth – Satan’s overthrow both complete and convincing, no hope even for him of a rematch

not good news for those on planet Earth – woe a strong expression: “deep distress or misery, as from grief; wretchedness”

not only that we live in broken world, now also have adversary determined to break and destroy all that he can in the world

having great wrath

even most evil person imaginable has some glimmer left of good – nothing that will lead to repentance/conversion apart from God’s grace, but still appreciation of good on some level

not so with Satan – recognizes what is good and despises it, attempts to pervert it, distort it, destroy it, rejoices in evil he achieves

fueled by intense fury that continually boils over, increased by every frustration, every time God thwarts his purpose

he knows

during Jesus’ ministry, man possessed by many demons – asked Jesus “Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matt. 8:29)

knew the end had not come, knew also what awaited them – “they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss” (Luke 8:31)

if rank-and-file demons know what God has prepared for them, their leader knows at least that much and possibly more

Satan not ignorant of Scripture – knows God’s word well enough to misuse it convincingly; is well aware of truth declared by Paul:

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31

probably does not know how much time left on countdown clock; is convinced it is ticking, inevitably approaching zero moment

growing shortness of his time increases his determination to prevail in spite of what he knows to be true

may even be element of childish temper – if I can’t have it, enjoy it, I’ll break it so you can’t enjoy it either

B. the woman is his target v.13, 15-16

because primary target is now off-limits

lashes out at next closest target – in this case, the one who gave birth to his nemesis, Lord Jesus who is resident and ruling from his throne in heaven

remember: the woman 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

comprehensively: the church, both Old and New Testament; true Israel, which gave birth to both Lord Jesus and NT saints

goes after the church (in general)

church one of those words – precise meaning determined by context: building, body of believers, all the saints, activities

Satan’s first target – the church organization: what we think of when talk about matters of church and state or evangelical church

Satan does know that sheep by themselves are unbelievably vulnerable – picking off stragglers from the flock much easier than taking on entire flock

if he can damage or cripple the body, keep it from functioning as a body, separate members from the body, he can gain advantage

impersonating God, so #1 weapon parallels that of God – his word

Satan spews forth multitude of words intended to discredit and deceive – discredit the church before the world, deceive the church about the world

convinces world that – moral truth from God’s word is hate speech; those who stand against immorality are intolerant; say that God has opinion about gender roles, are homophobes; refer to God as “he” is sexist

if that is what church believes, teaches, stands for, then should have no place in 21st century pluralistic society

convinces the church that – world isn’t so bad after all; people’s greatest need is for clean water, dependable food, sustainable energy; Paul exaggerated when he said “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

see how that works? when focus of church changes so that lesser authorities than God and his word take precedence, other than Gospel is man’s greatest need, Satan has gained ground

C. Satan’s war broadens v.17

targets the rest of her offspring

earth not ruled by Satan, instead follows direction of God to resist Satan’s attack and help keep church from being overcome

frustrated, Satan now enraged with the church, turns his attention to individual believers – the rest of her offspring

not playing games, is furiously making war against anything that belongs to Christ – if he cannot overcome church as an institution, attempts war of attrition, hoping little by little to make gains against Christ

makes war with

those who obey

what first chapter of James is about: tempting that tests our faith – Satan works to make obedience look too hard, disobedience too desirable

he encourages settling for less than what God expects, obeying for wrong reasons/motivation, redefining what God really said into something more doable

those who hold to Christ

settle for a Jesus other than one revealed in God’s word – one who can be your Savior but not necessarily Lord of your life

a Jesus who is content to take you just as you are, leave you that way until heaven

a Jesus who would be really happy if you were different, if more people trusted him, but is powerless to make it happen

only a few of ways Satan will use to attack the church, make believers ineffective in their opposition to him

D. the woman is homeless v.14

her place… in the wilderness

sure, had initial bad spell of idolatry with golden calf, a few times of whining discontent, but 40 years in wilderness by no means all bad

had it pretty good – few enemies, all they could eat (just had to pick it up), no need to go shopping for clothes… why?

God provided in every way – led them in right way at right time, protected from their enemies, abundantly supplied all material and spiritual needs

same Provider watches over his church… when she is in place of His choosing – may look like wilderness, but… place of abundance when God is one supplying

she is nourished, does not put down roots

cared for by God, nourished, sheltered for entire duration of age from Ascension to Second Coming, no gaps or shortages

were absolutely dependent, and did depend on God for everything – is what God expects of his church, his people

didn’t try to build cities, get comfortable in wilderness; held out for promise of what awaited in Canaan when God’s time was right

don’t forget: Rev. 1:12ff

Lord of the Church is present in his church, supporting and sustaining his church… in the wilderness

matters not our circumstances, what matters is we have the right provider – who can and will supply all our need perfectly

means should hold whatever belongs to this world loosely – ready to give it up / give it away for sake of Christ’s kingdom

We live in the wilderness, destination is Canaan… the real one. All that looks good in the desert is a mirage; mirages can be profoundly convincing, luring smart people to their deaths. Genuine protection and provision for God’s people found where God alone can supply.

Don’t count on leaders chosen in next election to fix America’s problems. Don’t expect next visit to counselor or doctor to end your suffering. Don’t trust unbelievers to give good moral or ethical advice. Don’t be surprised when world leaders fail to achieve peace. Whatever you do, do not think that since you can’t do anything else, you will just pray. You should not try to do anything else until you have prayed. Then continue to cry out to God, depend on him for all things. Is just as faithful and trustworthy today as he always has been.

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