Angels, Part 5
Revelation Chapter 12
12:1 "And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars": Here John sees a woman gloriously arrayed: the sun is her garment, the moon her footstool, and a wreath of twelve stars her crown.
12:2 "and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth": The child that this woman delivers is Jesus (12:5). The woman isn’t the Mary, for she never was persecuted like this woman (12:6,13). The woman isn’t exclusively the church, for the church didn’t exist until after Jesus died, but neither is the woman exclusively the faithful remnant in the Old Testament, for this woman continues to exist after Jesus died on the cross (12:5-6). "She can’t be simply Old Testament believers for we read of her being persecuted by the Dragon after she has brought forth the Messiah. And the ‘rest of her seed’ (12:17, individual believers) hold to the ‘testimony of Jesus’ (therefore they are Christians)" (McGuiggan p. 171). Therefore, the woman represents all of God’s faithful people, both in the Old and New Testament. Mary and Joseph were part of that faithful remnant that was crying out to be delivered by the Messiah. This woman is clothed in splendor, because the remnant has always been a light to the nations (Matthew 5:13-16). She wears the crown of victory, the stephanos crown, because she is composed of those who have overcome (2 Timothy 4:8). The number 12appears to represent the number of God’s people as a whole, i.e., the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles. The believers in the Old Testament had produced the Messiah in the sense that Jesus was descended from believers, and such believers had kept the nation morally and spiritually afloat until Jesus came (Romans 9:5). "On earth this Church may appear very insignificant and open to scorn and ridicule; but from the aspect of heaven this same Church is all-glorious" (Hendriksen p. 136).
12:3 "And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child": Obviously, the dragon is Satan (12:9). He is "red", because he is bloodthirsty and cruel (John 8:44). "His seven heads indicated fullness of intelligence and infernal wisdom, the master mind of craftiness and cunning which operates through lying and deceit (2 Corinthians 11:3). His ten horns symbolize fullness of power within his realm of operation. The picture is one of complete diabolical power, wisdom, and cunning against which the church might fight for its survival" (Hailey p. 270). Note that Satan doesn’t wear the stephanos, or victor’s crown; he only wears the diadem, for he wins no permanent victories. Satan does rule in the realm that is in opposition to God, but Satan also wears such crowns because he is often the evil influence behind corrupt world empires (1 John 5:19). "These crowns, however, are not wreaths of victory but merely crowns of arrogated authority" (Hendriksen p. 136). "Think of a winged serpent with crested head and destructive claws, cruel, savage, malignant, vicious…So immense in size is this dragon that its mammoth tail furiously lashing across the sky sweeps away one-third of the stars of heaven and flings them to earth!" (Hendriksen p. 135). Point to Note: Some commentator’s feel that this scene points to Satan’s rebellion against God when he led one third of the angels astray. Yet, the timing of the passage points to a time surrounding the birth of Jesus, and not some remote time in the past. This image may merely stress the power of Satan or the stars may represent not the angels, but either Satan’s persecution of God’s people or leading some of the faithful astray. Daniel spoke of the coming of Antiochus Epiphanes, who is described as waxing exceeding great, "even to the host of heaven: and some of the host and of the stars (he) cast down to the ground, and trampled upon them" (Daniel 8:10); "and he shall destroy the mighty ones of the holy people" (8:24).While Antiochus never led angels astray, he did persecute and corrupt some of God’s people. The point in this vision is that the devil is eager and ready to destroy Jesus when he is born. From the Garden of Eden, to this point in the conflict, the devil has stood ready to destroy the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15; Matthew 2:12,22). We see this battle to destroy the seed of the woman played out in the Old Testament. The serpent corrupts Adam and Eve, Cain kills Abel, then Seth is born, but the line of Seth and Cain intermarry (Genesis 6), God preserves Noah and his family, but the earth soon becomes corrupt again (Genesis 11). God calls Abraham, and Sarah tries to fulfill God’s promise through Ishmael, Jacob will deceive Esau, and Esau will try to kill Jacob. The sons of Jacob will sell Joseph, but God will keep the family of Jacob from starving. The Egyptians will deal cruelly and deceitfully with Israel, but God will deliver the nation, yet the most of the nation will perish in the wilderness due to unbelief. God will bring them into the Promised Land, but they will be influenced by the Canaanites. David is selected as King, but Saul tries to kill him. Queen Athaliah, the wicked daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, seeks to destroy all the descendants of David, thus ending the Messianic line, but this plan is frustrated (2 Kings 11:1,2ff). Years later, wicked Haman seeks to destroy all the Jews in the Persian Empire, yet God once again frustrates this plan. Throughout the Old Testament period the devil is trying to keep the Messiah from being born, by trying to either destroy Israel or the line of David.
12:5 "And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne": The whole experience from Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven is contemplated in these few verses. He is identified as the Son whom God would raise to sit as King, and to whom He would give the nations for an inheritance (Psalm 2:6-9). Over the Church, His spiritual kingdom, He rules with a scepter of righteousness (Hebrews 1:8),but over the kingdoms of this world, he rules with a rod of iron, smashing to pieces and bringing them to an end as He deems fit (Psalm 110:5; Revelation 19:15). Since the resurrection, Jesus has been reigning as King (Acts 2:29-31; Daniel 7:13-14; Ephesians 1:19-23).
12:6 "And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days": The woman is now the Church, God’s spiritual Israel, for Jesus had already ascended back to heaven. Apparently, this is referring to the persecution that hit the Church (Acts 8:1-4). The Church flees for safety, just like Moses had fled from Pharaoh, and Elijah had fled from the wrath of Jezebel. The "wilderness" symbolizes a time when God’s people are on the run and are cared for by God. "1260 days is the same time period as 42 months, which is a period of persecution (Revelation 13:5; 11:2; Daniel 7:21, 25). This would appear to refer to the persecution of the early Church by the Roman Empire.
12:7 "And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war": Some have thought that this scene looks back to a primeval war in which Satan and his angels were cast out of heaven and imprisoned in dungeons of darkness. But this doesn’t agree with the context, for this war happens, not at the beginning of time, but after the Church has been persecuted. Some feel that there was an actual war in which Satan attempted to invade heaven. Yet, many feel that since Revelation is a book of signs and symbols, we need to be careful about interpreting this as being a literal war in heaven. In the Old Testament, Michael is viewed as the protector of God’s people (Daniel 10:13,21; 12:1 "Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people"). What we are being told is that as Michael had protected Israel against the persecution and ungodly plans of heathen nations, so Michael would protect the Church against Roman persecution. The devil tried to use the Roman Empire to destroy not only Jesus, but also the Church, and Michael and his angels destroyed the persecuting power. Notice, it is Michael and his army that does the attacking.
12:8 "and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven": This speaks of the decisiveness of the defeat. This doesn’t mean that the devil had a place prior to this battle in heaven, for this battle is fought after the resurrection. The devil didn’t have a place in heaven during the ministry of Jesus. The "place" under consideration might refer to an usurped placed, that is, in this conflict Satan is defeated and cast down from his high-handed control over men, specifically, over men who desire salvation (Hebrews 2:14-15; Colossians 2:15; Matthew 12:29; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).
12:9 "And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10And 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 brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night’": From this verse, "Now", indicates that the battle in verse 7 included the time period of Jesus’ ministry, His death, burial, and resurrection, for this defeat of Satan brings salvation, the kingdom of God, and Jesus’ full authority (Matthew 28:18; 1 Peter 3:21f). Satan is called the "accuser of our brethren", in the sense that he had accused even the most faithful person of being a sinner and therefore unfair for God to save them. "Whereas Christ was born and rendered satisfaction for sin, Satan has lost every semblance of justice for his accusations against believers" (Hendriksen p. 141).
12:11-12 "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death. 12 ‘For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time’": Here is what enabled Christians to overcome persecution which had been caused by Satan: 1. The blood of Jesus. 2. Their dedication to the word of God, their dedication to Christ and their dedication to spreading the Gospel (Hebrews 3:14; 10:23). 3. They loved Jesus, even more than their own physical comfort and life (Luke 14:26). Those dwelling in the heavens, include Christians, who have been raised following baptism to dwell with Christ in a spiritual place (Ephesians 2:5). The "earth" stands for the "world" (not necessarily the planet), the world of the unsaved or secular society. Satan is enraged at his defeat, for he knows that he has but a short time before the final judgment (Revelation 20:10). Here is a warning to the world. If one doesn’t follow Christ, then he or she is saying that Satan can use them as a punching bag. The only escape from the schemes of the devil is found in Christ. You will further the devil’s purpose, in some way or another and you will end up deceived in some manner, if you don’t follow Jesus. Until the end of time, secular society, even a prosperous secular society will be doing the will of the devil. In addition, since the resurrection, the devil is trying to inflict as much suffering upon the human race, and drag as many people to hell with him as possible. After an interruption to reveal the war and Satan’s defeat (vv. 6-9), the description of the plight of the Church is now resumed. Since Jesus is beyond Satan’s power to hurt, Satan now takes out his anger on Christians. However God has the power to frustrate the plans of the devil and protect His people. To this day, the Satan continues this battle against Christians(12:17; Ephesians 6:10-18).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017/www.ch-of-christ.beaverton.or.us