Summary: What do we do in the face of persecution? We endure; we keep the faith. This is the message of Revelation. Whatever comes – and every type of persecution and deception will come – remain faithful to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Rev 12:1-13:18 A Call for Endurance
5/21/17 D. Marion Clark
When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:15-17).
John is opening our eyes in these chapters for us to see the real battle, the real armies at war over the church of Christ and over our souls.
The Real War
The outline of Revelation that we have been following runs like this: Chapters 1-3 present the introduction and letters to the churches. They are being warned of the persecutions to come and called to stay the course, to overcome attacks without and pressures within. Chapters 4-7 present the seven seals, six of which are broken by the Lamb who alone is worthy. We see all types of disasters unleased on the earth with the overall message that they are under the control of God who uses them as judgment and yet restrains them so that people will repent and for the sake of his covenant people whom he preserves. Chapters 8-11 depict the results of breaking the seventh seal, which leads to the seven trumpets, again presenting scenes of judgment.
We begin a new section that covers chapters 12-14. This section unveils for us the real war that is taking place – the battle for supremacy over God’s creation, specifically over us. It is a conflict begun with our very creation, the first battle waged in Eden and that resulted in our Fall. It is depicted in Genesis 3:15:
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.
Our opening verses portray that enmity.
12:1-6 The Dragon’s Intent
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
The woman is Eve whose offspring will be at enmity with the serpent. She is Mother Israel or Mother Jerusalem who through generations of labor gives birth to the Lord’s Anointed of Psalm 2, the begotten of the Lord who bears the “rod of iron.” She is Mother Church, for true Israel is the church and the true church is the continuing covenant community of God.
The dragon seeks to devour the child who is his great enemy, the Promised One destined to crush his head. He has tried again and again to destroy this child’s seed line, and now he is desperate to devour him before the child fulfills his calling to take the government of God’s kingdom upon his shoulder and rule on the throne of David forever (cf. Isa. 9:6-7).
But the dragon fails, for the child completes his mission on the cross and through the resurrection ascends on high to God’s right hand in heaven. We have seen this Lamb who was slain in the throne room of heaven in chapter 5. The church, however, must remain upon this wilderness earth.
12:7-17 The Dragon’s Wrath
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”