Revelation 12

Revelation

Revelation 12

1 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. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 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. 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, 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. Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 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!” 13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

William Blake’s paintings “The Great Red Dragon” and “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun” were painted from 1803 to 1805. They remain some of the most terrifying images of Satan ever produced. They are taken, largely, from Revelation 12, and from other images in the book of Revelation.

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Interestingly, Thomas Harris, the author of the terrifying novel, Silence of the Lambs, used Blake’s images of Satan as both the title of his first Hannibal Lecter book, Red Dragon, and as a key aspect of the plot of that novel.

In the novel, a killer named Francis Dolarhyde draws sadistic inspiration and power from Blake’s painting. He has the red dragon tattooed across his entire back. He seeks to become the red dragon in the story and to break free of his own terrible life. Most frightening of all, he seeks to live the life of the red dragon by murdering and inflicting pain on others. In a pivotal scene in the novel Red Dragon, Dolarhyde gets access to the painting in a museum and eats it. It is his ultimate act of identification with the dragon.

All of this is frightening and disturbing stuff. The images of Revelation 12 inspire the artist William Blake whose paintings in turn inspire, in Harris’ novel, the killer Francis Dolarhyde.

But can the inspiration go the other way? Can the images of Revelation 12 inspire us toward Jesus and away from the red dragon? Indeed they can. They must! And, if read properly, this is precisely what Revelation 12 will do!

Satan wars against the people of God.

We now have another interlude. In this scene the camera pulls back further and we can see the cosmic scope of what is happening behind the scenes of the world’s unfolding story.

1 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. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.

Immediately we can tell that something different is happening here. Where are we now? We are being given a view of spiritual dynamics and realities that are above and beyond us. These realities break into time in the story of Israel and of the church and of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. These are big realities!

First, who is the woman of verse 1 and 2?

1 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. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.

Some argue that the “woman clothed with the sun”:

  • is a picture of Mary and Jesus[1];
  • is a picture Israel (due to the parallel imagery with Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9).

We should be humble in our efforts to identify the woman, though I do believe there are good reasons to see her as a picture of Israel (which would, of course, in time, include Mary). Consider the imagery of Genesis 37. In Genesis 37 we read of Joseph’s dream of his brothers and his father, Jacob, and his mother.

Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?”11 And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.

Here we see parallel imagery: sun, moon, stars. These images would seem to link the woman of Revelation 12 with Israel. But what of the pregnancy and birth pangs? Those too are used of Israel many times in scripture. Two examples will suffice. In Isaiah 26 we read this of God’s people:

17 Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O Lord

And in Isaiah 54 we read something similar:

1 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.

The woman is therefore likely Israel. The baby to come is quite clearly Jesus the Messiah. But there is another character:

And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 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.

We will be told a little later that the great red dragon is none other than Satan. Danny Akin notes that “[t]hirteen times in Revelation Satan is described as a dragon.”[2] And notice his destructive power:

  • He has a kind of power as depicted by the heads, horns, and diadems.
  • He has wrought cosmic upheaval as depicted by his sweeping and casting down “a third of the stars of heaven” to the earth. (This is quite likely a reference to fallen angels who are under Satan’s control.)
  • He stands before the woman with the hopes of eating the child.

The great red dragon is indeed a terrifying figure! He detests God and His people and wants to destroy them. In fact, he wants to tear everything down to the ground! Beware of making light of Satan. Beware of joking and winking about him. He is dangerous and deadly and is not to be overlooked. And yet…

Satan’s doom is sealed.

And yet try as he might the Lord God frustrates the devil at every turn! In fact, the devil is a defeated foe whose doom is sealed and certain.

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, 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. Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 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.”

First, we see that Satan wanted to destroy Jesus but could not. Christ is crucified, it is true, but he is “caught up to God and to his throne.” He is, in other words, resurrected and ascends to the right hand of the Father. I have seen pictures of the tailgate of a pickup truck that has Satan and Jesus dramatically arm wrestling.

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I don’t like this. In the painting, they look almost equal. This is an unfortunate idea to communicate. They are not equal! Satan is defeated and cannot square up with Jesus at all!

And we are told that God nourishes His people for 1,260 days, or three-and-one-half years, the time of the Great Tribulation. There, too, Satan may strike at the people of God and wound us but he will not overcome us!

Then we see that Satan’s efforts in Heaven are likewise thwarted. He dares, in verses 7 and 8, to fight against Michael the angel and his angels. This is most unwise! The key phrase of verse 8 is “but he was defeated.” Notice that Satan does not fight Jesus. He fights Michael, another angel. Again: Satan dare not step into the ring with the ascended Christ.

Verse 9 depicts Satan being cast down: either in his original expulsion from heaven or in another effort to storm heaven in the time of Great Tribulation. It does not much matter. The result is the same. He is cast out and down!

Verse 9 gives us many titles for the devil. Danny Akin observes:

Revelation 12:9 contains a mini seminar in Satanology by means of four instructive titles of our archenemy: (1) “The great dragon” emphasizes his ferocity and terror. (2) That “ancient serpent” identifies him with the beguiling snake of Genesis 3 who seduced Adam and Eve into committing sin. (3) “The Devil,” literally diabolos, means “the accuser” or “the slanderer.” And (4) “Satan” is a proper name that means “the adversary” or “the enemy.”[3]

There is another title we should give the devil: the defeated one! He is cast down and defeated! The blood of the Lamb is stronger than the rage of the dragon! The love of the Lamb is stronger than the hate of the dragon! The nail-pierced hands of Jesus are stronger than the swooping sweeping tail of the dragon, Satan! Take heart! The devil is defeated.

Satan, enraged, seeks to destroy what he can before his final destruction.

Take heart…be beware! For the defeated devil has not yet been destroyed. As such, he is like a wounded and enraged animal. Listen:

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!” 13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

See what we are told about the devil:

  • He is angry.
  • His time is short.
  • Knowing he cannot conquer God’s people, he still hopes to hurt us.

Ah! See? He knows he cannot win but he knows he can wound…and he often does.

If we fail to understand this—that the defeated devil can still wound—we are setting ourselves up for great calamity and pain.

We must be aware of this. So consider:

Since the devil cannot keep you from your heavenly home he will try to destroy your earthly home.

Since the devil cannot make the promises of the Bible untrue he will try to keep you ignorant of them.

Since the devil cannot make you not the church he will try to hurt you in the church.

Since the devil cannot steal your salvation he will try to steal your peace.

Since the devil cannot keep Jesus from forgiving you he will he will try to get you to forget that you have been forgiven.

Since the devil cannot negate the cross he will try to get you to misunderstand the cross.

Since the devil cannot undo your future he will try to get you to live in the past.

Since the devil cannot get God not to love you he will try to use your troubles and pain to get you to think He does not.

Since the devil cannot take your soul he will try to destroy your body.

Since the devil cannot take your soul he will try to destroy your mind.

Since the devil cannot keep you from the joy Christ is offering he will try to keep you perpetually unhappy about trifles.

Since the devil cannot stop the mission and ultimate victory of the church he will try to keep you from being a part of it.

Since the devil cannot stop praise and worship he will try to drown it out with conflict and strife.

Since the devil cannot conquer Jesus he will try to hurt Jesus’ bride.

But here is the thing: he is a defeated foe, a cast down foe, and a foe whose destruction is certain!

So beware…but take heart! You have conquered through the Lamb! Take heart! The Groom, Jesus, loves His bride!

Take heart church! Take heart! We are the purchased and loved people of God!

 

[1] https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/09/unmasking-monsters

[2] Daniel Akin. Exalting Jesus in Revelation (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 235). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Daniel Akin, 238.

 

One thought on “Revelation 12

  1. Whoa cowboy!!!!!!!!!!, what a great reminder, the images from Blake almost become real nightmares for some of us. We all now should avoid social platforms for a long time lest an uprising and crowd sourcing movement begins to launch a law suit from “The Tailgate Deformation League”………..tail gates like tail gate parties are sacred you know, just ask a tail gate……. just kidding, its a yoke. If a tailgate war broke out here among all these here “corn huskers”, then little would survive but a few wild critters, some turkey buzzards and a few spiders & ticks. Clear, stunningly clear message and so very, very much hopeful. Thank you so much…… have you ever considered preaching full time? :-) El Roi

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