“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who ‘will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.’ [Ps. 2:9] And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
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Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.’” (Revelation 12:1-12, NIV)
Here begins the fourth parallel section of the Apocalypse, chapters 12-14, “The Christ versus the Dragon and his Allies.” [William Hendriksen] This section, as in all of the seven sections, covers the period from Christ’s resurrection and ascension to His second advent and the final judgement. This fourth section, like all the others, gives a different perspective of the age of the church between the first and second advents. And this fourth section is also the beginning of the second major division of the Apocalypse.
Hendriksen proposes; “The seven sections may be grouped into two major divisions. The first major division (chapters 1-11) consists of three sections. The second major division (chapters 12-22) consists of four sections. These two major divisions reveal a progress in depth or intensity of spiritual conflict. The first major division …reveals the Church, indwelt by Christ, persecuted by the world. But the Church is avenged, protected and victorious. The second major division …reveals the deeper spiritual background of this struggle. It is a conflict between the Christ and the dragon in which the Christ, and therefore His Church, is victorious.” [Hendriksen, “More Than Conquerors”, p. 23]
As the curtain is peeled back in this second division we will see; “The dragon, the beasts and the harlot (note the order) assail the Church. The harlot, the beasts, the dragon (again, note the order) are overthrown.” [Hendriksen] Even as we begin this second major division with the opening verses of the fourth parallel section, we see the overall theme of the Apocalypse synopsized in the Gospel.
In the first six verses we see what John saw regarding a woman, a dragon and a child. The symbols found here depict the threats that have always faced the people of God; Old Testament Israel and the New Covenant Church. These threats continue even today and will continue until the end. Nevertheless, God continues to nourish and protect His people in the face of opposition from Satan, whom John saw as the great red dragon.
“The woman clothed with the sun represents the people of God. She has traits that come from many different times and places. Like Eve, she has pain in giving birth and is confronted by a serpent (Genesis 3). Like Israel, she is initially pictured as a woman in labor and later as one who is carried on eagle's wings to a place of refuge in the wilderness (Isaiah 26:17; Exodus 19:4). Like Mary, she gives birth to the Messiah, yet she also symbolizes the whole Christian church (Revelation 12:5, 17). The story begins in heaven, where the woman appears with a crown of stars on her head, yet it leads into the wilderness as she is persecuted by Satan. Nevertheless, the woman experiences the saving power of God in the wilderness. Since the woman symbolizes the whole people of God, her story offers assurance that God can also meet others who suffer threats from evil in the same way.” [https://www.enterthebible.org/newtestament.aspx?rid=66]
These first six verses give us a nutshell synopsis of the history of revealed redemption. From the time of God’s first promise that “the seed of the woman would crush the seed of the serpent’s head”, throughout the Old Testament unto the end of time God’s promised redemption is protected.
The next six verses show us what John saw regarding the deeper conflict we are all involved in all the time; spiritual warfare in the heavens and on earth. John saw an angelic army, led by Michael, fighting a satanic one, led by Satan the great dragon. Satan's defeat explains his fury and confirms God's power over him.
War breaks out in heaven, and Satan is thrown down by the archangel Michael and his allies. This great conflict began in the heavenly realm, most likely before the Garden of Eden scene of temptation. It comes to a climax in Christ’s death, but the fury of the dragon intensifies against the Church after the Messiah is taken up to God's throne. “It was understood that Satan once was able to make accusations against people before God (Job 1:6-12), but after Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension, Satan has been barred from the heavenly throne room. Moreover, the vision shows that Satan lashes out on the earth because he is angry at having lost out in heaven. Satan is like a caged animal who tries to do as much damage as possible in the space he has available. Evil is present and active on earth, but it is not all-powerful.” [https://www.enterthebible.org/newtestament.aspx?rid=66]
When we see and hear what John saw and heard next, we have glorious reasons to reflect upon the redemptive work of Christ. John testifies; “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.’”
Here we focus, not on the trials and tribulations of the conflicted world in which we live. We focus rather on the fundamental message of the Apocalypse, told over and over throughout this book; Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. No matter what happens, we will triumph over the devil and his agents “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony.”
The blood of the Lamb is objective; Jesus Christ atoned for our sin and is for all who believe and follow Him, our mercy seat.
The word of our testimony is subjective; Jesus calls us to trust Him and obey Him. No matter what happens in our lives, our words of faith are proven, or not, by the way we walk in service to Christ. Even if we face the death of martyrdom, we triumph in Christ in the end.
When we take the bread and juice of Communion, we profess our faith in the death of Christ for our sins. When we live day by day, walking in His Spirit, we show our hope in the resurrection. Take and eat, take and drink today. Trust and obey every day.