Friday, June 4, 2010

Revelation 12

Satan’s first attempt: devour the male child (vs. 1-6)—Satan will make three attempts in this chapter to destroy God’s people/interfere with His plan for man’s salvation. When those three attempts fail, he will call up some pretty frightening helpers in chapter 13. Chapter 12 starts another major division of the book, which goes through the final chapter and ultimate victory for the saints. The action here is fast and furious; Satan and his host will win some battles but the war is the Lord’s. Again, very comforting to the Christians of John’s day. Since the enemy is so vicious and terrifying in this part of the Revelation, the end of chapter 11—which prefigures eventual triumph—was very helpful and encouraging. At least we know the end result.

In verses 1-6 we see a woman gloriously arrayed (v. 1). She is with child and about to give birth (v. 2). But then “a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads” appears (v. 3); what a horrifying creature! The seven heads represent great wisdom (evil wisdom). The ten horns represent the total power he possesses in the world (to do evil). The seven diadems indicate his perfect reign over the lives of many. Even though it is a vision of Satan, it’s also a pretty good representation of the Roman empire; at least the Christians of John’s day would no doubt think so. He’s a very powerful creature, able to wipe out a third of the stars of heaven with his tail and cast them to the earth (v. 4). He tries to devour the child of the woman at birth, but is unsuccessful. The child was “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” (v. 5). This is obviously Christ and if Satan had been able to destroy Him, such would have ended Christianity then and there. But the devil fails. The woman flees into the wilderness, to a place prepared for her by God, where she stays for an indefinite period of time.

The identity of the woman has long been debated. Some think she represents Judaism, out of whom the Christ was born; others think she is the Christian church because of matters later in the chapter. Frankly, I don’t know and won’t attempt a guess. Such is not the point of the chapter anyway. John is warning his readers here of the relentlessness of Satan, that he just won’t give up.

The second attempt: war in heaven (v. 7-12)—If people think Satan is a spineless coward, all they need to do is read this section. He goes right up into heaven, into the very presence of God to make war against Him. Now, obviously, this is figurative, but it does picture to us a bold, belligerent being who is not afraid of anything. Michael, the archangel, and his host wage war against “the dragon and his angels” (v. 7). The good guys won and Satan was “cast, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan” (v. 9). This is actually the first time in the chapter that the dragon is specifically identified. With Satan booted out of heaven, salvation is announced and assured: “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down" (v. 10). Verse 11 is significant. Who is it whom Satan accuses and how do they become part of the redeemed? “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Jesus’ blood provides us forgiveness, His word gives us guidance, and our willingness to die for His cause means allegiance to Him above all. Those who dwell in heaven may rejoice, but those still on earth are faced with a woe: “the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time" (v. 12). This, of course, especially means the beleaguered saints John was writing to. They will have to deal with the devil, but only for “a short time.” And, again, the route to victory has been given to them (v. 11).

The third attempt: waging war against the woman (vs. 13-17)—Whoever this woman is, she’s obviously important to God’s cause, having given birth to the Christ. The devil, now on earth, “persecuted” her (v. 13). This would lead us to believe that the woman symbolizes the church; but the church didn’t give birth to Jesus, of course. It doesn’t matter; she’s important, Satan hates her, and he’s after her. But she was given “two wings of a great eagle” where she was transported to safety in the wilderness. Well, almost safety. “The serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood” (v. 15). He just won’t quit. But the earth protected the woman, swallowing the flood (v. 16). What the specifics of this might mean, I do not know; all I know is that Satan fails in his endeavor to destroy that which is precious to God. Well, since Satan was unable to destroy the woman, he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (v. 17). That’s not good news for John’s readers, and indeed, in chapter 13, more horror is introduced.