Revelation 12 “The Beast, The Woman and the Baby”
Review: Not chronological – Today is past, present and future.
This morning we are going to look at the first of seven visions. Revelation 12:1 starts with the appearance of a great sign, so you might underline, “A great sign appeared in heaven…”
So we’ve got seven visions or signs that John saw in this interlude, SEALS, TRUMPETS and BOWLS TO COME—starting in 12:1, 13:1, 13:11, 14:1, 14:6, 14:14, and 15:2—that frame this section. What I want to do is simply walk through each of these visions over the next few weeks collectively to see how John brings them together to illustrate the spiritual battle that has been waged, is being waged, and will continue to be waged in this world.
I want you to see that everything that happens on earth is part of a cosmic war being waged in the heavenlies. All of earthly mankind is caught up in a heavenly war between Christ and Satan. What we see day today in this world is part of a larger picture that extends to heaven and hell. Nothing in our lives is ultimately natural. It’s all ultimately tied to the supernatural. Your battles with sin, your struggles in marriage, your fears, your frustrations, your worries, your temptations, everything in your day-to-day physical, emotional, relational life is a part of a spiritual war being waged in the heavenlies.
We in the West have such a hard time even imagining this. In our rationalism, we virtually ignore the supernatural, but it is there, and we need to see it. We need to understand that we have a spiritual enemy called Satan who leads legions of demons in the spiritual realm, and they are opposed by God and heavenly hosts who do his bidding. And everything that happens on earth is tied to things going on in the heavenlies. So that’s what I want you to see in these visions.
Again, they’re not chronological, as if John is saying, “Well, this is going to happen, and then this is going to happen, and then this is going to happen.” Instead, these visions are collectively giving us symbols and signs and pictures that point us to the supernatural, and that encourage us amidst our fears and frustrations, worries and temptations, struggles in marriage and battles with sin on a day-to-day basis. It’s like these visions are pulling back the curtains of life in this world to see the battle that is raging behind the scenes. So with that image in your mind, let’s pull back the curtain with John and see what he sees.
God shows John and us that Satan has been conquered by Christ the Savior and is being conquered by Christians as they suffer. This is the first vision—Revelation 12. If you were to ask me to sum up this chapter in one sentence, this would be it: Satan has been conquered by Christ the Savior and is being conquered by Christians as they suffer.
Now, in order to understand this chapter, we’ve got to understand the characters that are involved. We have a woman, a dragon, and a child here. So who do they stand for? Well, let’s think about them in the order they appear.
First, the woman. This is not just a woman. As much as the Catholic church throughout history has tried to say that this is only Mary, the mother of Jesus, clearly that’s not all that’s being portrayed here. This woman is described with imagery that’s used all over the Old Testament to depict the twelve tribes of Israel, the old covenant people of God. Then, even after this woman gives birth to her child and he is taken up to heaven, the woman flees into the wilderness, where she is nourished for 1,260 days, or three and a half years, which is the time of tribulation and affliction that we’ve seen ascribed to the church, God’s new covenant people.
So it makes sense to equate the woman here with the entire people of God spanning from Old Testament Israel to the New Testament church, and at the center of this people is her child. She is pregnant, verse 2, and her child is described in verse 5 as “the one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron,” one who “was caught up to God and his throne.” These are clearly references to Christ. Now obviously, Mary gave birth to Christ, but this woman symbolically stands here as the entire Old Testament people of God from whom Christ came, and the entire New Testament people of God who follow after Christ today.
Attacking them both is this “great red dragon,” verse 3, “with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.” John tells us in verse 9 that this great dragon is “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” He comes forth from the sea, the abyss of evil, and he’s described in vivid detail through various images and titles. He’s a dragon who seeks to devour the child. He’s the ancient serpent, taking us back in our minds to the snake of Genesis 3 where sin entered into the world. He’s the accuser of our brothers, and the deceiver of the whole world and death. (We’ll look at those in a minute)
Revelation 12 consists of three different sections: verses 1-6, verses 7-12, and verses 13- 17. Together they combine to depict how Satan has been battling the people of God all throughout the Old Testament leading up to the coming of Christ, how he sought to defeat Christ himself, the promised Messiah of Israel, and how he seeks to defeat the church today. The imagery Revelation uses is of a heavenly war between Michael and the angels of God and Satan and the demons of hell.
And the overall picture of this war is clear. (I put it all here in one line, but I want us to think about them one by one.) First, the birth of Christ declared the death of the ancient serpent. This picture of a pregnant woman crying out in birth pains with a dragon standing before her, ready to devour her child, explains everything we read in the Old Testament. Everything.
In Genesis 3, when sin entered the world, God promised to send a son, born from the seed of a woman, to crush and destroy the serpent, and from that point on, Satan fought to prevent the coming of that Son. Immediately in Genesis 4, murder was introduced into the world, which spiraled out of control by Genesis 8, where it seemed that all men were evil and deserving of God’s wrath. But there was one, Noah, whom God raised up to preserve mankind.
After that, man drifted back into idolatry, and God mercifully saved an idolater named Abraham and promised to bless his seed. It was through his line that all the nations of the earth would be blessed. And in the pages to come, time and time again, we see barrenness and infertility, first with Abraham’s own wife Sarah and with subsequent women after that, each circumstance threatening the continuation of the family line. Yet time and time again, in miraculous ways, the line continued.
All the way to the birth of King David through miraculous stories that include Moabites like Ruth. God spared David from the hand of Saul, and raised him up as the King of Israel; the line was preserved. But soon after that, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had a daughter, a queen, who decided in her heart to destroy the entire line of King David. She carried out her wrath, but unbeknownst to her, Joash, one of David’s descendants, was hidden and lived. The line was once again preserved.
Years later, foreign armies assembled against Judah, and the line was threatened again, but God promised His people through the prophet Isaiah, “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear and son, and shall call his name Immanuel”(Isaiah 7:14). “…The government shall be upon his shoulder … Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to up hold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6-7). After this, the book of Esther tells us how at one point every single Jewish man, woman, and child was decreed to die, and it looked like that was going to happen until God raised up a woman for such a time as that to save His people from extinction.
All of that then led to the day when a The Child—was finally born in Bethlehem, and the king declared that all children his age should be slaughtered. And God provided a way for this child and his family to escape to Egypt in time to be saved.
See the Old Testament from the perspective of this war. Over and over and over again, this dragon (Satan) worked to keep Christ from coming onto the scene, but he could not stop Him. And the birth of Christ on that day in Bethlehem inaugurated the death of this ancient serpent, just as it had been promised back in Genesis 3.
The birth of Christ declared the death of the ancient serpent; the death of Christ defanged the adversary. Satan, of course, did not give up once the child was born, and he fought against the Son throughout his life and ministry, tempting him to not carry out the mission the Father had given him. But what happened, Jesus faithfully set His face toward the cross, where he decisively and decidedly took down the devil and all his demons.
Paul says, “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, Jesus made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). At the cross, Jesus defeated sin through sacrificial obedience, and the blood of the Lamb, Revelation 12:11 says, became the basis by which Satan was ultimately conquered.
The birth of Christ declared the death of the ancient serpent; the death of Christ defanged the adversary; and the resurrection of Christ demolished all his accusations against the church. In the end, death could not hold down this King. He was brought up to God (verse 5), and in return, the accuser was thrown down (verse 10).
Now, what does all this mean? Let me summarize very simply. From the very entrance of sin into the world, God promised to send His Son in the form of a man, born from woman, to defeat the devil. This God did in the person of Jesus, who was born, just as He had been prophesied for centuries.
Jesus did what no one has ever done or will ever do on the pages of human history: He lived a perfect life, free from sin, never once giving in to the temptations of evil. And then He died on a cross to pay the price for sin once and for all. And then, three days later, He rose from the grave in victory over sin and death and the devil himself so that all who believe in Him, all who trust in Him will be saved from their sin.
But notice in verse 11 that those who conquer Satan conquer “him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they love not their lives even unto death.” Now what does that mean?
See it in the context of Revelation 12. Once Satan figures out here that he cannot stop the Christ, he turns to attack the church—the woman—the people of God who believe in Jesus. It says in verse 13 that he pursues them. The word John uses there is used for persecution and opposition in other places in Scripture. Verse 15 says that he pours out water like a river from his mouth to try to sweep her away with a flood. The imagery is Satan going after God’s people, working, fighting to strike them down. It’s what was going on in the first century; it’s what’s going on now! The adversary, the devil, that ancient serpent is still fighting Christ by opposing and persecuting the church, making war against her offspring, verse 17 says.
How Satan Makes War Today, Even Though He is Defeated:
(V 10) “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.
This is the full frontal attack of the enemy – to get you to agree with him! He wants to take you out of the fight!
-Accusation gets its power from agreement
Battle accusations with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Eph 6:17)
Who does God’s Word say you are? Remember the Accuser is defeated!
Leads us to believe accusation about us and others in the Church! Lies people have believed in the church that has torn down the church (local)
(V9) And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world
He is the “Father of Lies” – not just bad information, he makes you feel like something is wrong!
False Doctrine: Believing things about God that aren’t true
Deconstruction: Not believing what is true
Thomas Jefferson: Deist (Jefferson Bible)
Satan deceives you into making a god, or the Bible, what you want them to be!
EX. Sexuality and gender, exclusively of Christ, The resurrection (our families are being Discipled on social media!)
“Now, what happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, how will you ever have a God who can contradict you? You won’t! You’ll have …A God, essentially, of your own making, and not a God with whom you can have a relationship and genuine interaction. Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination. So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it.” –Tim Keller
Satan is deceiving on so many fronts because we have not been serious about the Word of God!
(V3) “Red Dragon” – Death (John 10:10 – steal, kill and destroy)
You have a real enemy. Bible Belt, when this convenient, Sunday morning attendance isn’t enough for the fight we are in! Belief without transformation isn’t going to work!
Expect the enemy to harass and fight!
But don’t miss the point of Revelation 12. He is a defeated foe!
The battle that is being waged today in the world is a battle that’s already been won.Did you hear that? Let me say that one more time: the spiritual battle that is being waged today in the world is a battle that’s already been won. This is life-changing, testimony-emboldening news for every Christian to hear.
It’s why John is urging persecuted Christians in the first century not to give up, to hold fast to their faith, and to proclaim the gospel. And it’s why I’m urging Mission City Church never to give up, to hold fast to your faith amidst suffering, to proclaim the gospel. Because in the midst of all the different battles we face, we know that Christ has won the war!
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