Revelation 12: The Woman and the Dragon
December 15, 2019
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
At this point, it is worth reviewing what we have learnt so from from the book of Revelation. Remember it is the book of Revelation (not revelations), referring to a type of literature that was present in some of the Old Testament and popular at the time of John’s writing. Its purpose was to reveal the heavenly purpose behind events from the point of view of the future to give instruction in how to live in the present. The imagery is not a secret code that we must decipher, but images drawn from the Old Testament that we are meant to look up so that we can understand what is being said. The book of Revelation is also, John tells us, a prophecy: it is a word from God telling us how to live in difficult times in order to be faithful to God and his Word. Finally, it is a letter. It is written to the seven churches of Asia, instructing them to be faithful to God in the midst of persecution (probably from the Emperor Domitian).
After those seven letters to the seven churches of Asia, John is shown the throne room of heaven where, to his great wonder and surprise, the lion of the tribe of Judah who conquers is none other than the sacrificed Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The conquering of God comes about through the love and sacrifice of Jesus. Then John is shown a series of “sevens” (symbolic of the pattern of the Sabbath of seven and representative of completion), each within one another like nesting dolls and each describing the judgment of God – the plagues and warfare that go up to make the common experience of humanity – and yet the continued hardness of the world and refusal to repent. In the mist of this, John is also shown these witnesses, described as lampstands (like the churches are also described as lampstands) to represent the witness of God’s people. It is through the sacrificial, loving, merciful witness of God’s people that the kingdom of God advances, not through warfare and hate, but love and mercy and grace, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That is all the story so far! Now we advance into the next part of the book of Revelation, beginning with chapter 12. Now John stops the description of the sevens, to describe signs in chapters 12 to 14.
The first sign in chapter 12 describes the cosmic battle that lies behind the opposition that the seven churches were facing from Rome. The serpent, or the devil, attacks a woman and her child, representing the Messiah and his people. But the child, that is the Christ, defeated the devil through his death and resurrection and ascension to heaven, and the devil is thrown to the earth in anger, and in response to his defeat then goes to war with Christ’s people. This is the situation in which we live: Christ has defeated the devil, but the devil is at war with Christ’s people in anger and anguish. Behind the human attacks against the church there is the real enemy, namely the serpent or the devil.
God’s people, John tells us through his first sign in chapter 12, conquer the devil through their imitation of Christ and their lives of love and their message of the gospel:
“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.”
So then the message of chapter 12 to us is first to rejoice that the Christ has defeated the devil and all his powers. And then second to receive the encouragement to be faithful ourselves to witness to that Christ, even though it cost opposition and persecution, and in some cases even death for Jesus. It is through this sacrificial witness that the kingdom of God advances, and it is to this faithfulness that John through his revelation is calling us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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