Tuesday, December 16, 2014

THE LONG WAR AGAINST GOD (Revelation Chapter 12)

Revelation 12:1-5, “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.”

Though human history there have been countless wars that have led to the deaths of millions of people.  Our country has currently been at war in Afghanistan for a decade. The “hundred years’ war” (it was actually 116 years long) began when King Edward III of England invaded France.   But no battle on earth can compare in longevity or import to the war spoken of in this passage.  The scene in heaven speaks to events ranging back to the Fall of Man and the subsequent promise of Redeemer to come.  Various personages are involved: 1) a woman, representing Israel; 2) the dragon, representing Satan; 3) the male child, representing Christ; 4) the stars in heaven, representing angels.

The “great red dragon” (Revelation 12:3) is Satan.  His color speaks to death and destruction.  He is elsewhere identified in this chapter to be “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).  He is referred to by five names/titles: 1) as the “great dragon,” he is fierce and fearsome; 2) as the ancient serpent, he is the One who “tempted Eve by his cunning” (2 Corinthians 11:3); 3) as the devil (diabolos), he is an accuser and slanderer; 4) as Satan, he is the adversary to God and His purposes; and 5) as the deceiver, he is the “father of lies” and the great master of deception (Cf. John 8:44).

The long war against God began when the tail of the dragon “swept a down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them down to the earth” (Revelation 12:4).  The stars refer to angels.  Sometime prior to Eve’s temptation the devil rebelled against God (Cf. Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:15).  A third of the angels (a vast number) followed him.  These fallen angels (demons) are referred to in this chapter as “his angels” (Revelation 12:7, 9).  Together with Satan they represent the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” spoken of by the Apostle Paul (Cf. Ephesians 6:12).

The devil won a battle in his temptation of Eve (Cf. Genesis 3:1-7).  But in response God made promise of a future victory through a coming redeemer, as he spoke to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).  Whereas the devil would inflict a wound, the Redeemer would cause a fatal one.  This promise, of a future triumphant Redeemer coming from the seed of the woman, relates to all that henceforth transpires in the Biblical narrative.

The “woman clothed with the sun” refers to Israel (Cf. Revelation 12:1).  It is through Israel that the promised Redeemer was born (Cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; Micah 5:2; Romans 9:5).  The sign, “she was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth,” had a partial fulfilled in Christ’s incarnation by virgin birth to Mary (Cf. Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:25; Luke 1:34).  It will have its ultimate fulfillment in Christ’s second coming when He comes to rule over His kingdom (Cf. Revelation 12:5).

As God had promised, there has been ongoing enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Cf. Genesis 3:15).  Pharaoh attempted to kill all the male sons of Israel (Exodus 1:16).  Haman sought to eliminate all of the Jews (Cf. Esther 3:6).  Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, attempted to wipe out all of the male heirs of the tribe of Judah, the tribe through which the Messiah would come (Cf. 2 Chronicles 22:10).  Herod sought to murder Jesus by killing all of the male children in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16).  These devil-led attempts all failed as did the most dramatic example of them all—the crucifixion of Christ.  Christ died, but the promised child born to the woman rose again and was subsequently “caught up to God and to his throne” (Revelation 12:5; Cf. Acts 1:9-11).

The bad news is that there is a horrific war, a battle for the souls of men, going on—there have already been innumerable causalities.  The good news is that God sent His Son, who died on a cross and rose from the dead, so that men might be turned “from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Cf. Acts 26:18).  The good news is that in the long war against God, God wins.  So do those who believe in Christ for salvation (Cf. Romans 8:37).

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