This week, we finish up the third message in Revelation 12, "The Woman, The Child and The Dragon. So far, have identified the Woman as Israel, as seen in the imagery of the Woman clothed with the sun, moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars being identified with the dream of Joseph in Genesis 37:9-10, and other factors. The Dragon is unilaterally recognized as Satan, and is fiery red to vividly describe his murderous, bloodthirsty intent upon mankind, specifically Israel and the church.
I remember a few years back, late one night, I watched a science fiction TV show about an alien spaceship headed for earth. The question that arose was "are they coming in peace, or coming to destroy us?" The spaceship sent a message that could not be identified, and the Pentagon determined that the ship was so large that it was obviously powerful enough to cause great destruction to the earth. The debate raged back and forth between scientists and the military; if they come in peace, and we fire upon them what would their response be? If we do not fire upon them while we have the chance, and they come with evil intent, would they destroy us or perhaps even enslave us?
In the end, with a short period of time left, the Pentagon responded with missiles flying, and shortly after the launch the message was decoded: we come in peace, if you do not try to destroy us. The missiles were ineffective, and the show closed with a huge bolt of energy being sent down upon the earth; the earth was destroyed by an alien race that sought peace, but defended themselves.
Of course, as we have discussed in the past, aliens to not exist. They are a mere figment of the imagination at best, and a Satanic deception at worst. But such stories as above, and often found in science fiction works, provide a great morality play; the Star Trek TV shows of the 1960's often addressed political and social issues through that forum. What we see in the story above is the catastrophic result of the wrong choice. We will see a similar thing this week as we discover two specific topics in God's Word: the Rod and the Retreat.
The Child and the Rod of Iron
She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Revelation 12:5 (NKJV)
As we have discussed prior, the Woman is the nation of Israel; the Jewish nature of Jesus Christ is plain and obvious. We can see that His lineage, his keeping of the Law, his coming for His people then for the Gentiles and the overwhelming amount of Jewish imagery in the gospels all point to this fact. In verse five, we see three particular facts: the delivery, the dominion, and the dynasty of Jesus.
Delivery: We can see in verse five that the Woman bore a male Child. No matter how much Satan tried in murderous fashion--from Cain and Abel to the murder of infants at the birth of Moses to the murder of infant boys by Herod-- Satan failed to stop God from His plan of redemption in Jesus. The birth of Jesus Christ is a unique event, unparalleled in human history. His birth was prophetic in nature (Isaiah 7:14), and a thread which connects Jesus to both Abraham (Matthew 1:1-16) and Adam (Luke 3:23-38) reflecting His Jewish heritage.
Dynasty: Jesus will one day rule the nations from the throne of David, and when He does, he will rule with a rod of iron. This is a reference to the return of Jesus Christ and the subsequent Millennial Kingdom. We will touch on this topic today, but cover this doctrine in full when we get to Revelation 20 in our study.
The idea that there is either no Millennial Kingdom or that we are currently in the Millennium as some believe takes much liberty with the Word of God. The belief with some is that the number one thousand is used in a figurative sense in Revelation 20, but that is hardly the case; a mere reading without presuppositions would lead one to believe that the thousand year reign is literal.
The number thousand in Koine Greek is the term chilioi, which means "thousand". Those that hold a symbolic view point to only Old Testament passages (Psalms, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, etc.) but is used in a figurative sense of (thousand vines, thousand generations, thousand pieces of silver); the only use of the term chilioi in the New Testament is in Revelation and in this passage: But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8, NKJV). The Old Testament passages are hyperbolic in nature; a large number of vines and pieces of silver (indicating prosperity) or the permanent nature of the commands of God (thousand generations). However, 2 Peter 3:8 refers to the omnipresence of God and that time does not constrain Him. The term is used six times in Revelation 20 (v 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7); it appears to emphasize that this is a literal thousand years. There is a beginning of the thousand years when Satan is bound and thrown into the bottomless pit (v 3) , and it ends upon his release (v 7). So then the text itself, taken at face value, appears to be literal.
Dynasty:Two Descriptive Terms
First is the word rule, which is translated from the Greek poimaino. The verb literally means "to shepherd". Often times, people--saved and unsaved--envision Jesus as a kind, loving, gentle Shepherd. While Jesus is just that in our salvation, during the Millennial Kingdom He will rule as King; He will "act as a shepherd, (and) tend flocks," but is translated "to rule" in Rev 2:27; 12:5; 19:15, all indicating that the governing power exercised by the Shepherd is to be of a firm character (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words). Psalm 23, known as the Shepherd's Psalm, we see that "Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me" (v 4b). The shepherd's rod was to guide and direct the sheep, and the staff or shepherd's crook was to catch the sheep by either the neck or even to sweep the feet to keep the sheep from getting away. In short, the Great Shepherd is not a "nice" Shepherd but is a loving, guiding but firm Shepherd and that is the sense we see here in His role as Sovereign in the Millennial Kingdom.
Second, we see that Jesus will rule all nations with a rod of iron. A rod or scepter of iron is a symbol of the firmness and strength of the rule of Christ. When Jesus returns at the end of the seven year Tribulation Period, ... the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. (Rev 19:14-15, NKJV).
John MacArthur notes in his Revelation commentary:
The stern, swift judgment that marks the onset of Christ's kingdom will be the pattern of His rule throughout the Millennium. During His thousand-year reign, He will rule the nations with a rod of iron (cf. 12:5; Ps. 2:8-9); He will swiftly judge all sin and instantly put down any rebellion. All people will be required to conform to His law or face immediate judgment. Using the same imagery of ruling with a rod of iron, Jesus promised that believers would rule under Him in the kingdom: "He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father" (2:26-27).
There are many features of the Millennial Kingdom, but one is that it will be a time of perfect justice and rule. While some may cringe at the thought of an "iron rod rule", as visions of tyrants and dictators may come to mind, it will be a time of peace and righteousness. No one will "get away" with crime or malevolent action. Satan's influence and temptation will be gone for a thousand years; government will be according not to man's law but to God's Law however sin (the breaking of God's Law) will still occur. Why? Sin will still be in the hearts of men born in that day. World government and world system will be perfect, but not self.
Lastly we see the Dominion of Jesus: Jesus was caught up to God and His throne. The Koine Greek word for caught up is harpazo, meaning "to snatch or catch away," is said of the act of the Spirit of the Lord in regard to Philip in Acts 8:39; of Paul in being "caught" up to paradise, 2 Cor 12:2,4; of the rapture of the saints at the return of the Lord, 1 Thess 4:17; of the rapture of the man child in the vision of Rev 12:5" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words).
As mentioned in the preceding reference, this same word is used by the Apostle Paul in referring to the Rapture of the church:
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:17, NKJ)
Jesus ascended into Heaven; He was "caught up" in a similar fashion: Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. (Acts 1:9, NKJV). The main difference between the ascension of Jesus and the Rapture of the church is that Jesus knew He was going--and even gave instruction to the disciples-and we will have no warning; for us it will happen "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" (1 Cor 15:52). This is an act of God, as we can see above in the definition by Vine.
Jesus was caught up to God and His throne. In addition to this verse, we see in other passages in the NT that Jesus sits at the right hand of the throne of God (Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; Heb 1:13; Heb 10:12; Heb 12:2; Rev 3:21). Upon Jesus' ascension into Heaven, He sat at the right hand of the throne of God, in other words, Jesus is God's "right hand Man". The right hand is a a euphemism for a position of favor and power.
While Jesus reigns at the right hand in Heaven and in the hearts of Christians since the ascension, He has yet to sit on the throne of David; that He will do during the Millennial Kingdom. His dominion is from a heavenly throne now, but His dynasty will be from an earthly one.
The Retreat of the Woman
Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days. Rev 12:6
You most likely have heard the old Kenny Rogers song "The Gambler". The lyrics to the first part of the chorus are "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run". While I do not endorse gambling in any way, shape or form, there are great truths to life about these lyrics. You really do need to know "when to fold 'em...and when to run".
Remember that the Woman is Israel. This event would be at the midpoint of the Tribulation period, when Antichrist marches into the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, performs the "abomination of desolation" (Daniel 12:11) and declares that he is god. At that point, many Jews will realize that Jesus really was and is the Messiah, will proclaim such, and the wrath of Satan and Antichrist will be unleashed upon them.
At that point, the majority of Israel will then flee "into the wilderness" to a place prepared by God. In short, Israel will retreat, they will flee, they will run. It will be a time the greatest persecution of all time, all at the hand of Antichrist and his forces. We see this detailed in what is called "The Olivet Discourse" in Matthew:
"Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened." Matthew 24:15-22 (NKJV)
While the destination of Israel is not specifically stated in the text, there are many that believe--for a number of reasons--that this destination will be the ancient rock city of Petra, will reside under protection of God and be safe from Antichrist.
What can we learn from these two verses in God's Word? If you remember the story from Monday's devotional, the planet of earth acted out in hostility and the aliens destroyed them in that work of fiction. What we can learn here is this: Jesus came the first time as a Savior, to save lost and sinful mankind. However, even with this plan in place, people reject God's plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. And during the Tribulation, they will grow even more hostile and Jesus will come back, destroy the rebellion of the nations and smash the nations of the world into pieces.
People have a choice both in that awful day and today as well. Be hostile, be destroyed. Come to Jesus and make peace with God, and live.