I had a conversation with David Castles this week and he sends his love and regards to the Beacon Saints and his appreciation for your remembrance of he and Isabelle and for our support as we support them through our missions program.
They're doing well, their health is well, and I wanted to share that greeting with you. Well, you know and I know that the New Testament characterizes the Christian life as warfare and unwise is the person, the professing believer, who does not understand that. The Christian life is a warfare. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities, against spiritual forces in high places. And as we begin our study here in Revelation chapter 12, we're beginning the second half of the book.
And you've heard the expression, not being able to see the forest for the trees. When we come to chapter 12, we're going to look at this world and its conflicts and the opposition the church faces and we're going to look at it through a wide lens. So we're going to back up and we're going to not focus on trees but we're going to try and see the forest and get the big picture and that's what John is doing. There's a change in his writing style and it's helpful to know that as we begin to try and understand accurately what he is conveying to us. Chapters 12 through 22 basically tell the same story as chapters 1 through 11 but explain it in greater detail.
What the first half of the book introduce and imply, chapters 12 through 22 will expand upon and broaden. Now long before there was a conflict on this earth, long before the church faced persecution and the Lord Jesus dealt with spiritual opposition, long before that happened there was conflict in heaven. And John begins chapter 12 by introducing us to a great sign in heaven.
Notice with me verse 1. 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 12 stars. A woman, a woman of glorious splendor, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and her head a garland of 12 stars. Speaks of glory and beauty and under the feet speaks of dominion and a garland of 12 stars is a reference to the redeemed.
Now this woman is with child. Notice verse 2. Then being with child she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. That sign in heaven is in contrast to another sign. Now I want you to note John says, Now a great sign, verse 1, appeared in heaven, a woman. Verse 3 says, And another sign appeared in heaven.
Behold, a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems on his head. So there's a contrast being drawn here between two signs. A great sign, verse 1, and another sign in verse 3. And obviously the question is, what is the identity of these two signs?
Well, let's deal with the easiest one first, which is the second. Verse 3, And another sign appeared in heaven. Behold, a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems on his head.
Well, let's skip the suspense and the wonder and the speculation. And now let's go directly to verse 9 because John, without question, identifies this personage for us. Verse 9, 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. John clearly identifies him as the devil, Satan. He is, according to verse 3, notice, a dragon, a great fiery red dragon. Why those explanatory words?
What's the point of that? Well, he is a fiery red dragon. He's fiery in color, just drawing attention to the color of blood and of war and of destruction.
He is a bloodthirsty, destructive person in nature. Verse 4 tells us that with his tail, he drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Now, Job called the angels the morning stars. So the stars of heaven are angels. And if you're familiar with your Bible, you are aware that this is a reference to the devil and his attempt at coup to overthrow the government of God and challenge God's authority.
And he convinced one third of the angelic coast to join him in his rebellion. Now, John further describes this attempted overthrow as war. Look with me at verse 7. Verses 7 through 12 is just him revisiting what he's said in verse 1 through 6. So it's not something new.
It's something that's adding more detail. He says in verse 7, and war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought with the dragon and the dragon and his angels fought. How many angels?
A third of the angelic coast, we're told. But they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out. That serpent of old called the devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, he was cast to the earth and his angels were cast with him. A battle in heaven. But the battle shifts from heaven to the earth.
That takes us back to verse 4 and verse 5. Let's stop and think for a moment about what position, what stance the devil, Satan, has in this world. He has a delegated authority. He's a usurper of authority. He has power. He's to be feared. He's to be acknowledged.
He's not someone to trifle with. John chapter 12 and verse 31, John 14 and verse 30, John 16 and verse 11, John over there calls him the prince of this world. The prince of this world. Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 2.
He's the prince of the power of the air. 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 4, he is the god, little g, of this world. So in this cosmic war, in this spiritual conflict, on the one side we have the devil, Satan. Now, let's go back and identify the woman of the great sign in heaven from verse 1. Again, verse 1, 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 12 stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
Interesting descriptive language. The woman's child becomes the target of the devil from his birth. Notice verse 4, talking about this second sign. Again, the devil, verse 4, his tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth to devour her child as soon as it was born.
She bore 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. It's very important that you, in interpreting scripture, that you take your cue from the divine author. The divine author is telling us that this is a sign. And when he says it's a sign, John, that means we're not to take it literally.
This is symbolic language. Now if the Roman Catholic Church would take that cue, then they would abandon the notion that this woman that's being referred to here is Mary. This is not Mary.
So let's set that aside right now. This is not Mary. The dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth to devour her child as soon as it was born. Do you remember in Matthew chapter 2, I think verse maybe 16, where Herod murders all the male children in Bethlehem who are two years and under. Herod did that. But who's behind what Herod did? The devil.
The devil. There was the plot of the Jewish leaders recorded in Mark chapter 3 and verse 6 where they sought to arrest him and to kill him. Also in John chapter 7 and verse 30, John 7, 44 through 48, John 8, 58 to 59, where there were attempts to arrest and to kill Jesus.
So is the hatred of the evil one for the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice this child clearly is the Christ child who was to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. And then John says, very interestingly at the end of verse 5, and her child was caught up to God and his throne. He was, her child was caught up to God and his throne. Again, he's referring to Christ, but John omits all the details of Christ's life and his ministry and his death, and he moves directly from his birth to his ascension. Again, her child was caught up to God and his throne. And the question is, why would, why is John being directed to write and communicate this way? Well, I believe the reason is that it is from the ascension of Christ and the exaltation of Christ that he exercises his rule and authority.
And don't miss this detail. The text adds that the child was caught up to God and what? His throne. Caught up to God and his throne from which he will rule. So we're still trying to answer the question, the who is, what is the identity of the woman here?
And let me try and help you. Look at verse 17 of the chapter. I think we'll get a huge clue here. And the dragon, the devil, was enraged with the woman and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. So what are we told about the offspring of the woman?
They are those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. What is the identity of the woman? The woman is the church of the living God.
She is the new Israel made up of both Jew and Greek. The church appears throughout the New Testament as a woman, as a bride adorned for her husband. So that is the conflict is between the devil and God and his church.
His church is the object of the wrath of the adversary. Now, God not only delivered the child, says, and her child was caught up to God and his throne. But back to verse six, some more information about the woman, which we've identified as the church. And the woman fled into the wilderness where she has a place prepared by God that they should feed her there 1,260 days.
What do we take from that? Well, God is committed to deliver, protect his church from the evil, murderous intentions of the devil. And as the dragon pursues those of Christ's church, they flee to a place prepared by God.
Notice that? Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she has a place prepared by God that they should feed her there 1,260 days. Now, here's a present tense verb. God has prepared.
Present tense verb, which means and stresses God's continual care and nourishment during periods of spiritual warfare. As I prepared this message, there's a verse from Psalm 23 that jumped out at me. I hadn't really ever thought about it in this way. But think about what we just looked at. Psalm 23, thou preparest a table before me, where?
In the presence of mine enemies. Interesting. So God is making provision for those that he has redeemed.
A place prepared by God that they should feed her there 1,260 days. Now, I'm not going to get into the numerical reference there. We'll do that at another time because that's repeated in this chapter. But the devil, the devil ultimately is a defeated foe. His defeat is certain. How do we know that? Well, the church has already celebrated at the end of chapter 11 and said with loud voices, the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.
So it's wonderful to be in a place where we know the whole story. We know that victory has already been secured. But again, here's another one of those already not yet. The devil's already defeated. He was defeated at the cross of Calvary.
His purposes, his plan was thwarted. And yet he's still creating havoc in this world. And there is yet a time awaiting when he will be cast into the lake of fire forever and ever. So the devil is a defeated foe already, and there is yet a final dealing with him that yet awaits in the consummation. The devil knows two things. Well, he may know more than two things, but there's two things I want to speak to you right now about the devil. The devil knows of his ultimate doom. He knows of his ultimate doom. And he knows one other thing. And knowing this is a cause for his inflamed rage. Notice verse 12.
John's writing, Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them. 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. He knows that his time is short. How short?
I don't know. But his time is short. He doesn't have as much time as he would like. His time is short. So God is restraining him in terms of the duration of his activity. And God is restraining him in a number of other ways that we'll look at as we move further on through this study.
Now, I wasn't sure where I'd be at this point, so look at something with me. We see five times that the devil is cast down. Notice with me verse nine.
Let's count them. 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 with him. He's defeated. His attempt to overthrow God in heaven was unsuccessful. He was defeated.
And three times reference to him and his angels. They're cast out. Notice, then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, now salvation and strength in 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 what? Has been cast down. 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. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. 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. So he's been cast down. He's been defeated.
And that has enraged him. Listen to the words of Martin Luther's famous hymn, A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our helper, he amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us. Woe, his craft and power are great and armed with cruel hate on earth is not his equal.
Stands at three. And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure.
And lo, his doom is sure, one little word shall fail him. Saints of God, we are living in perilous times. The nature of the Christian life is conflict, opposition. We wrestle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. And at any particular time, it's hard to sort out and discern whether the conflict and the difficulties we're having is that the flesh, is that the world, is that the devil?
Well, the devil is in it more often than probably we realize. He's against us. He's opposed to us. He's seeking to attack us. He's seeking to undermine us. So let's not be ignorant of his devices. Let's gird up the loins of our mind. Let's be alert.
Let's be aware we're living in lion country. He's roaming about seeking whom he may devour. But if we're in Christ, if we're in Christ, we're kept by him. And though we lose our life, though we die, though they kill us, they cannot kill our soul.
And that's the glorious truth about it, isn't it? Let us pray. Father, thank you for your word.
Thank you for alerting us and bringing this sober reminder that there is an adversary. And he is the accuser of the brethren. He's a hater of God. He's a hater of you, Lord Jesus. He's a hater of the church.
He's a hater of the redeemed. But greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. So strengthen us and fortify us and encourage us in this fight that we might represent the Lord Jesus well and not be cowards in the day of battle. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-22 08:04:18 / 2023-03-22 08:11:58 / 8