Text: Revelation 12:6-17
Although the Dragon is in constant pursuit of the people of God, they conquer the Devil by the blood of the Lamb and show that they are the people of God by keeping his commandments.
As we saw in the last sermon, the book of Revelation is a book full of symbolism that we must interpret. We will see that again and again in Revelation 12:6-17. Revelation is not just about future events. It also contains a lot of information that is relevant for the Christian’s view of the world in the present and for the Christian life.
II. The Woman in the Wilderness (Rev 12:5-6)
A. Read Rev 12:5-6. Notice that there is no apparent gap in time between Rev 12:5 and 12:6. Remember that the woman represents faithful Israel, the people of God, who receive the Messiah, Jesus, when he comes. She gives birth to her son (the Messiah), who is exalted to God’s throne and then she flees into the wilderness, where God protects her from the attacks of the Dragon (see 12:13-17). This chapter is full of Exodus typology. When did God provide for Israel in the wilderness?
B. The woman (the people of God) is in the wilderness for 1,260 days or 3½ years. We will take a closer look at the 3½ years later, but notice that it starts right after the exaltation of Jesus, the Messiah, to God’s throne and it continues until Jesus’ second coming. So, John and the early church were already living in the 3½ years of tribulation, which turns out to be a symbolic time period and not a literal one.
III. The War in Heaven (Rev 12:7-9)
A. We are about to learn the consequences of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and exaltation for the Dragon and his kingdom.
B. Those consequences are first portrayed as a battle that the Dragon and his angels lose to Michael and the angels of God. The Dragon and his angels are cast out of heaven, just as Jesus predicted in John 12:31.
C. Notice Revelation 12:9. John tells us here who the Dragon is. He calls the Dragon “the ancient serpent” who “deceived the whole world”? Where in the Bible have we seen a serpent who deceives someone? Think back to the Garden of Eden. The Devil has been a deceiver throughout history. But that is not all.
IV. The Victory of Jesus and the People of God (Rev 12:10-12)
A. Jesus’ death on the cross and his exaltation are the climax of salvation history. Because Jesus the Messiah has come and conquered the Devil by dying on the cross, salvation and God’s kingdom have come in significant ways now. A common term for this is “realized eschatology.” Fulfillment has taken place and so has the beginning of the end for the Dragon (Devil) and his kingdom.
B. Devil as the accuser. In light of Job 1-2, the casting down of Satan from heaven means that he cannot bring accusations to God against believers any longer. Satan’s access to heaven has been closed. Satan’s accusations against them are no longer welcome or effective, because the blood of the Lamb has decisively cleansed believers from sin (Rev. 1:5; 7:14; 1 John 1:7).
C. Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. The people of Christ become victorious over Satan, their accuser, due to his defeat and loss of power. They owe their victory over him to the blood of the Lamb, which makes atonement and cleanses them from sin. Their victory is also “because of the word of their testimony” (12:11). This phrase is more difficult to understand. It essentially means that the people of Christ conquer Satan by being faithful witnesses who proclaim the “testimony of Jesus Christ.” The “testimony of Jesus Christ” refers to the teaching of Jesus (1:9) and includes the book of Revelation (1:2). It is “the word of their testimony,” because the people of Jesus are his witnesses who proclaim the testimony that he gave them to proclaim to the world. As the result of their testimony, Jesus’ witnesses will suffer and even die, because “they did not love their life even to the point of death” (Rev. 12:11). The conquerors are faithful witnesses, like John himself. John is in exile due to his proclamation of the “word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9). Even though he is in exile, he has conquered the Devil because of the Lamb’s blood and his proclamation of the testimony of Jesus.
D. The results (Devil has come down and his time is short—3 ½ years). The Devil’s fall from heaven means rejoicing for those in heaven, where there is freedom from his power. It brings a time of woe for the earth and the sea. The Devil is full of wrath and means to pour it out in the short time that he has left. The Devil’s wrath is especially felt by the people of God, as Revelation 12:13-17 shows.
E. Exodus Typology. The connection between conquering the Devil and the blood of the Lamb is probably another aspect of Exodus typology, specifically of the fulfillment of the Passover. Recall that the Passover is the culminating point of the Exodus, the great saving event of the Old Testament. Now, if the Dragon is like Pharaoh, then conquering him by the blood of the Lamb is surely like the people of God’s deliverance from Pharaoh’s power through the blood of the Passover lamb. The blood of the Lamb brings God’s judgment upon the Devil (12:7-9) and frees his people from the Devil’s power (12:11).
V. The Dragon Pursues the Woman (Rev 12:13-17)
A. Dragon’s pursuit. To aid her in her flight from the Dragon, she receives “two wings of a great eagle” (12:14). The gift of eagle’s wings connects her flight from the Dragon to Exodus 19:4. In Exodus 19:4, God says that he carried his people to himself on the wings of eagles. He is speaking about his deliverance of Israel from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Just as Israel fled from Pharaoh into the wilderness, so also the woman flees from the Dragon into the wilderness.
B. God’s protection.
- Unlike Israel, the woman’s stay in the wilderness is not for forty years, but for “time, times, and half a time” (Rev. 12:14). Like the 1,260 days of Revelation 12:6, this is another way of referring to the 3½ year persecution of God’s people by the Dragon and the Beast. The only difference is that “time, times, and half a time” is a clearer allusion to Daniel, where this time period denotes the three plus years when a pagan king oppresses God’s people (Dan. 7:25; 12:7). The Dragon’s and Beast’s persecution of God’s people provides the antitype to the earlier persecution by the pagan king. It appears from Revelation 12 that the 3½ years begins with the exaltation of Jesus (12:5) and continues until his second coming, when he comes back to deliver his people from the Dragon and the Beast.
- While the woman is on her way to her place of refuge in the wilderness, the Dragon tries to drown her with water from his mouth. The Dragon’s attack on the fleeing woman is like Pharaoh’s pursuit of the Israelites on their way out of Egypt. In addition, the Dragon is trying to destroy God’s people using the same means that God used to destroy Pharaoh’s armies. God swept them away in the waters of the Red Sea. The Dragon often tries to imitate God in the book of Revelation. According to Revelation 12:16, the earth rescues the woman; surely God is behind this.
- The deliverance of the woman from the Dragon represents the deliverance of the first Christians. They were primarily Jews who received God’s Messiah, Jesus. God’s deliverance of his people from the Dragon is good news for the children of the woman. It gives them hope that God and his Christ will deliver them as well. They are going to need deliverance as Revelation 12:17 shows.
C. Children of the woman (Rev 12:17). Notice what characterizes the seed of the woman, the people of God, in Revelation 12:17. They show that they are God’s people because they keep God’s commandments and hold on to the testimony of Jesus (that is, the teaching of Jesus), and proclaim it (see Rev 1:9 and ch. 11).
Let’s review what we have learned about our world and about life as believers in our world. There are certain solid, dependable truths that we can rely on in the midst of an every changing world. First, our salvation has come due to the sacrificial death and exaltation of Jesus, the Lamb. The Devil, our accuser, has no more accusations to bring against us, because we conquer the Devil through the blood of the Lamb and through the testimony of Jesus. But that does not mean that life in this world will be without challenges for believers. The Devil knows that he has a limited amount of time to try to defeat the woman and destroy her children. He will fail, just as surely as he failed to kill the Messiah. But life in this world will not be without opposition and pain. But God is faithful to his people. He is still at work in our world to rescue his people from the schemes of the Devil. Even if we die, our life is secure with God. So what ought we to do? We should be those who “those who are keeping the commandments of God and holding fast to the testimony of Jesus” (12:17). Look back at the seven letters to the seven churches. Notice their struggles to be obedient to God’s commandments. Sin and the Devil are constantly enticing us to compromise with the world and to become less effective servants of God and witnesses for Jesus. Jesus is calling us to be faithful to the end and to receive the crown of life.