Dr. Richard L. Strauss
March 18, 1979
When God chooses someone through whom to accomplish His eternal purposes, that individual immediately becomes the object of Satan's unceasing attacks. In Genesis 12, God chose a man through whom He planned to bring blessing to the whole earth. He told that man, Abraham, that the blessing would come through his son, Isaac, and later made it plain that it would be through Isaac's son, Jacob whose name God later changed to Israel. As we would expect from that time on, the nation Israel became a primary target for Satan's assaults. He used the Pharaoh of Egypt in his attempt to destroy God's chosen people by instructing the Egyptian midwives to kill every male child that was born (Exodus 1:16).
Throughout their history in the promised land, Satan aroused Israel's neighbors to fight against her. He continually tempted her to sin, hoping to arouse the righteous indignation of God Himself to destroy her for her rebelliousness. God finally did permit her to be taken into captivity as discipline for her sins, and it was during that captivity that Satan almost succeeded in wiping the whole nation Israel from the face of the earth through the efforts of a Persian official named Haman, as narrated in the book of Esther.
It was into this nation restored in her land after that captivity, that God sent His Son, the One through whom His blessing should come. But even after Christ's substitutionary sacrifice for sin and victorious resurrection from the grave through which mankind can enjoy release from Satan's bondage, Satan has not relaxed his attacks upon the nation Israel. For, you see, God made it clear through the Old Testament prophets that the nation Israel was to be exalted above all nations in the Millennial age, and would be the vehicle through which His knowledge would cover the earth.
So Satan continues to persecute her. Witness the invasion of the Roman prince Titus in 70 A.D. that scattered her among the nations once more. Witness her perpetual persecutions in exile such as the 6 million Jews murdered in the gas chambers of Germany in World War II and the relentless pressure against her in Communist countries. And now that a new nation of Israel has been established in Palestine, witness the Satanic threat of the Arabs to push her into the sea. And Israel has not seen the end yet. Satan's most ferocious attacks against her are yet future, and are described for us in Revelation chapter 12.
It is encouraging to know as we approach this chapter that in spite of the persecution we are going to observe, God has not forsaken His ancient people. Is not this the reason for John's vision of the temple of God opened in heaven in Revelation 11:19 that we mentioned in the last message?
"Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail" (Revelation 11:19).
For there in plain view is the ark of His covenant, the symbol of His presence with His people Israel. Judgment is imminent, as indicated by the lightnings, voices, thunderclaps, earthquake, and hail. But God's faithfulness to Israel is unchanging. Let us turn to Revelation 12, where we see a woman with child.
a. Her Identity
John sees what he calls a great wonder (KJV) or a sign (NKJV) in heaven.
"Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth" (Revelation 12:1-2).
The word wonder is the same word that occurs in the Gospel of John where it is translated "miracle." It means literally a "sign." This woman is a sign, or a symbol. She is representative of something else. Whom does she represent?
Let me first point out that while John sees the sign in heaven, it evidently pictures something that happens on earth, for later in the chapter the woman is seen persecuted by Satan on earth during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 12:6, 13-17). She represents somebody on earth.
Now look at her description. She is clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The best was to understand these symbols is to let Scripture itself explain them. In Genesis 37, young Joseph dreamed that the sun and the moon and the eleven stars bowed to him. When he told his dream to Jacob, Jacob understood the sun and the moon to be he and his wife, and the stars to be his sons. In other words, this symbol pictured the whole house of Israel (Genesis 37:9-11).
In verse 2, the woman is seen as travailing in birth, waiting to be delivered of a child. A knowledge of who the child is might help us understand who the mother is also. In verse 5 he is described as a male child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. Could this be any other than the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom the Psalmist described as breaking the nations of the earth with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9), fulfilled in Revelation 19:15, where He returns to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Some expositors maintain that this woman is the church, but there is no sense in which it could be said that the church brought forth Christ. The very opposite is true. Who did bear the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, in one sense you could say it was the virgin Mary. The Roman Catholic church claims that this is Mary here in Revelation 12. But there is no parallel at all to Mary in the rest of the chapter. In Isaiah 66:7-8, the nation Israel is seen in travail, in order that she might bring forth a man-child through whom the Gentiles would be blessed. The Apostle Paul is speaking about the nation Israel in Romans 9:5 when he says, "as concerning the flesh Christ came." The writer to the Hebrews adds, "For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham" (Hebrews 2:16). The woman before us in this chapter represents the nation Israel. Now having seen her identity, let us look at her oppressor.
b. Her Oppressor
"And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads" (Revelation 12:3).
This too is called a sign in heaven. John sees a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his head. There is no doubt in our minds as to who this dragon symbolizes. In verse 9 he is called the devil and Satan.
Now we know that there has never been any such thing as a dragon. But God is trying to communicate truth to us in graphic terms, and He chooses this symbol to characterize Satan. He is a ferocious and murderous creature. The red color probably indicates his bloody, war-like aims. His seven heads picture his unusual wisdom. Listen to God's description of him in Ezekiel 28:12, "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty." He is smart, let me tell you. God says so. He knows a whole lot more than we know. He's not omniscient, but he has all of history in his mind, and he has all of the Scripture in his mind. He has experience after experience to make him wise. The ten horns probably indicate his superhuman power, and his seven crowns the authority he possesses. Jesus called him the prince of this world. Paul called him the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). John said the whole world lies in his power.
I think many Christians need to wake up to the fact that Satan is a real, personal being, that he has great wisdom and power. He is actively opposing the work of the Lord, continually endeavoring to destroy the effectiveness of the Lord's people. Peter reminds us that he stalks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He's already devoured the testimony of some believers who have not been aware of his devices.
This dragon is further identified in verse 4 as the one who drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth. Stars are sometimes used figuratively of angels, as we know (Job 38:7; Revelation 9:1), and it seems here that the writer of Revelation is telling us that when Satan fell, he took with him one third of the angelic hosts. We know that other angels joined him in his rebellion against God. Jude speaks of the angels who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation (Jude 6). Now we know exactly what percentage of the angels were so involved. John is seeing in his vision a symbolic, pictorial characterization of the nature and purposes of Satan.
Notice next that the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born.
"And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born" (Revelation 12:4b).
Not only has Satan persecuted the entire nation Israel through its history, he has particularly directed his attention to the Godly line through whom Messiah would come. He inspired Cain to kill Abel--because Abel was originally the Ggodly line through whom the Messiah would come--only to have God initiate a new Godly line through Seth. He motivated Saul to try to kill David, through whom God promised that Messiah would come. And when Christ was born, there was King Herod motivated by Satan to kill all the male children under two in the environs of Bethlehem. Then when Christ began his earthly ministry, Satan was there to tempt Him to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple (Matthew 6:6), and enraging a mob to throw Him over a cliff (Luke 4:28-29). Satan has always wanted to destroy the Savior. This, I believe, is what is meant when John saw the dragon standing before the woman to devour her child as soon as it was born.
c. Her Offspring
"And she bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne" (Revelation 12:5).
In one verse, John sums up the 33 years of Christ's life on earth. After He died for our sins, and rose from the grave, He ascended to the presence of God. This One who was born to rule all nations could not be touched by Satan's power. It is encouraging to know that Satan's power is limited by the sovereignty of God. He can do nothing except what God permits him to do. And while God permits him to test us, as he did Job, there is a limit to how far he can go.
There are 33 years--the life of Christ--summed up in verse 5, and then a gap of nearly 2000 years or more between verses 5 and 6.
"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" (Revelation 12:6).
The first five verses of Revelation 12 are all past. They describe past events to us in order to identify the personages involved in this prophecy. But suddenly we are brought chronologically to the middle of Daniel's Seventieth Week, the Great Tribulation, the period of time that has been occupying our attention since chapter 6.
Keep in mind that what we are about to see in this chapter is not chronologically after the seventh trumpet. We have seen the chronological progression of the book interrupted previously in order that we might be informed about some details of this period generally. This particular parenthetical remark goes all the way through chapter 14. The chronology of the book does not resume until chapter 15.
The point of Revelation 12:6 is to bring us from our reflection on the past, to the subject at hand: the Great Tribulation. The woman, that is the nation Israel, will flee in to the wilderness. And God is going to prepare a place for her, where she shall be sustained 1260 days, the exact period of time we have noted in both the prophet Daniel, and in this book of Revelation: three and a half years, the last half of the tribulation. This is the exact flight the Lord Jesus Himself predicted in Matthew 24:16-21. He said it would be a time of Great Tribulation.
"Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains....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" (Revelation 12:16, 21).
2. The War in Heaven
a. The Opponents
The next six verses of the book of Revelation 12 are extremely enlightening. They are astounding. God gives us a behind-the-scenes analysis of why Satan is going to so terrorize the earth during the Great Tribulation, and particularly why he will direct his attack against the nation Israel. What we have before us here seems almost inconceivable, yet we cannot misunderstand it.
"And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought" (Revelation 12:7).
War in the very presence of God? How can this be? I cannot explain why, but I know according to the Scripture, that ever since Lucifer sinned and was cast out of heaven, God has permitted him periodic access to heaven. He goes there primarily to accuse believers. He was there accusing Job (Job 1:6; 2:1). He was there accusing and resisting the High Priest of the restoration named Joshua (Zechariah 3:1). In Revelation 12:10, he is called the accuser of the brethren who accused them before our God day and night. Satan has access to God in heaven to accuse you and me before God.
Not only does he have access to the presence of God, he actually controls the stellar and the atmospheric heavens. God has permitted him to usurp authority over this sphere, for Satan is called the prince of the power of the air. But the day is coming when God is going to put a stop to this unlawful activity of Satan. That's going to happen in a war. God is going to do it through His own faithful angelic host lead by Michael the archangel. The opponents in this battle are going to be Michael and his angels verses Satan and his angels. The outcome of the war is described for us in Revelation 12:8 when we read that Satan was not able to prevail and neither was there found a place for him in heaven any more.
b. The Outcome
The consequences of the battle are amplified for us in the next three verses.
"So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9).
All the heavenly places will be forever cleansed of Satan's presence and Satan's influence. Not one of his miseries will ever make his power felt in heavenly places again. This is the first step in Satan's ultimate defeat--a defeat that was assured when Christ died to redeem men from bondage to sin and death.
Note what Satan is called in this verse. First that ancient serpent, an obvious reference to his activity in the garden of Eden when he tempted Eve. Secondly, the Devil, the Greek word that means "slanderer, accuser." Thirdly, Satan, a name that comes from the Hebrew and means "the adversary." He is further identified as the one who deceives the whole world. Oh, how much more obvious it is becoming every day that Satan is deceiving the whole world. He's got most of them completely deceived today. It doesn't seem like it will be long before the world will be ready to receive his Antichrist with open arms.
Now listen to the voice John heard announcing the defeat of Satan. "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down" (Revelation 12:10).
Now has come salvation. Not salvation from sin, but deliverance of men from Satan's authority. Now has come strength, the irresistible might of the Holy Spirit that shall eventually completely crush Satan. Now has come the kingdom of God, that which shall shortly be established because Satan shall be bound. And now has come the power of His Christ, the authority by which Jesus Christ shall bind Satan and set up His kingdom.
"And 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" (Revelation 12:11).
There is some question as to whom the word "they" in verse 11 refers. From the context, it seems like it would refer to Michael and his angels. But the phrase "they loved not their lives unto the death" would hardly refer to angels. The other alternative seems to be the people on earth who have trusted Christ as Savior and who are now faced with Satan being cast out to the earth, rising up in wrath and anger, and pouring out his fury against them.
How did they overcome him? To answer that is to learn of our resources for victory over Satan in our lives. If they overcame him by this means, then we can overcome him by this means. Their first weapon is the blood of the Lamb. Satan hates that blood. It was that blood that sealed his doom. His only hope of ultimate victory was to chain men in the bondage of sin and death. When Christ shed His blood and provided redemption for man's sin, Satan knew he was doomed. He struggles desperately, but he knows it as a losing cause, and he has no ability to oppose the efficacy of Christ's blood.
Their second weapon is the word of their testimony. This may be the Word of God, or their spoken word of personal testimony. I rather think it was the latter, which included the former. And Satan has no answer to a life transformed by the power of God's Word.
Their third weapon is their wholehearted yieldedness to the will of God. Not even the danger of death turned them from their dedication to the will of the Lord. Do you want victory over Satan in your life? Try the weapons the tribulation saints will find so effective.
c. The Ominous Warning
This section ends with a word of rejoicing for Satan's expulsion from heaven, but a word of warning for the inhabitants of the earth. The woe here is not a denunciation but a warning, an announcement of what to expect next.
"Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time" (Revelation 12:12b).
Satan is now confined to the earth, and he isn't too happy about it. He is full of wrath (thymos), a word that implies blind passion. He knows his days are numbered, and he intends to use them to his greatest advantage. The woe that is announced in verse 12 is amplified in verses 13-17.
3. The Woe on Earth
a. Persecution of the Woman
When Satan is expelled to the earth, and wrath rages in him, he will turn that wrath to the people whom he considers primarily responsible for his downfall: the nation Israel. She's the woman who brought forth the male Child who sealed his doom. Israel gave birth to the Savior, who shed His blood on the cross, which settled Satan's destruction. And so he will begin to persecute Israel. God warned of these days through the Old Testament prophets. The Lord Jesus Himself spoke of them in Matthew 24. And now they are here. The prophet Zechariah predicted that two thirds of the Jews will be killed in these days. "And it shall come to pass that in all the land, says the Lord, two parts in it shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left in it." Surely it is the time of Jacob's trouble.
b. Protection of the Woman
But some will be spared. Zechariah goes on to say, "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will test them as gold is tested; they shall call on My name, and I will hear them, I will say, 'It is My people' and they shall say, 'The Lord is my God.'"
That one-third which is spared is evidently the object of verses Revelation 12:14-16. God provides supernatural locomotion, like wings of an eagle, to the place of safety he had already mentioned in verse 6, and there cares for them these 3-1/2 years of Great Tribulation. Satan tries everything in his power to destroy them. In verse 15 he casts water out of his mouth like a flood, but God intervenes, and the earth opens and swallows up the flood. Do you remember God's precious promise to Israel in Isaiah 59:19? "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." That promise shall take on new meaning for those Jews of the Tribulation.
c. Pursuit of the Remnant
While Satan hates Israel, there will be a particular portion of the nation that he will hate in that day even more than the rest. Satan has always hated one part of Israel even more than the rest: the remnant of Israel. Throughout Israel's history there has been a godly remnant, a believing minority. Today that remnant consist of Jewish Christians--Jews who have come to know Christ as the Messiah. The same will be true in the Great Tribulation, and so Satan will go to make war with the remnant--those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ, probably through the testimony of those 144,000 witnesses who are sealed.
Knowing Christ will not exclude them from attack. Knowing Christ doesn't exclude us from Satan's attacks. But knowing Christ does guarantee that everything that happens to them will be within the perfect plan of God. And knowing Christ guarantees that everything that happens to us shall be within the perfect plan of God. His permissive will for our lives--and everything that happens to us--He will work together for good. He does promise that. No, it doesn't mean that Satan will never attack us. But what a wonderful thing it is to know that we are not any longer in bondage to Satan; we've been delivered from his power by the cross of Jesus Christ. What a wonderful thing to know that Satan can only do what God allows him to do. And what a tremendous thing to have a divinely revealed strategy for defeating Satan. The equipment is ours: "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony and they loved not their lives unto death."
Friend, if you don't know the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior--these days could be right around the corner--I wouldn't wait any longer. I'd trust Him.
And if you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and you haven't yet yielded your life to him fully, I wouldn't put that off. I'd yield to him. And I'd put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). And I'd resist the devil, as the Apostle James told us to do. He promised that if we resist him he will flee from us (James 4:7). Dear friend, we're in a life or death struggle. This is the struggle of the ages between God and Satan. This is no time for careless indifference. Christ's coming could be soon. These events could be near.
Let the Spirit of God have control of your life. He has the power to defeat Satan. He has the power to make your testimony effective. He has the power to give you victory over sin. He has the power to give you peace, and meaning, and purpose. Why not yield your life to Him?
Continue to RV-10A: The Diabolical Trinity