19 December 2019

Revelation 12

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who ‘will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.’[a] And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient snake called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

‘Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
    who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him
    by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death.
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens
    and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
    because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
    because he knows that his time is short.’

13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the snake’s reach. 15 Then from his mouth the snake spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring – those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

This is one of many passages in Revelation, with graphic apocalyptic imagery, where the detail is enigmatic! 

Briefly though, Revelation 12 is a description of the Church, represented by a woman, and a description of Satan, represented by an enormous red dragon. Michael and his angels fight against the devil and his aids and defeats them. Verses 14–17 speak of how Satan persecutes the Church and tries, in vain, to destroy her. 

There is now, and there will be in the future, persecution for the Church. We have been in the ‘end times’ since Christ ascended into heaven and much of those times have been characterised by persecution of Christians. We may not have experienced persecution but down through the centuries and still today believers in many parts of the world, have been/and are, tortured and martyred for their faith in Jesus.  

This pattern of persecution will continue and intensify until the Lord returns. But, despite the difficulties and trials, the Church will never be destroyed. Is not that wonderfully reassuring? The Lord Jesus defeated Satan at the Cross and despite the devil’s considerable powers, we are safe when we take refuge in Christ. This does not mean that we will not face trouble. It does mean that we have complete assurance that we will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus and that He will be with us in all circumstances. 

Take confidence in the fact that Jesus has had the ultimate victory and nothing can displace Him from the throne. Our sins are forgiven. We have been made white as snow. Let us hold fast to our faith in Jesus, until He calls us home to be with Him for ever.  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that when we have faith in Jesus, we can be utterly secure in our future. Satan may cause difficulty and hardship but nothing can take away the salvation that You have given to us. Help us to persevere where we may be ridiculed for our faith, knowing that You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. We pray for those who are being persecuted for their faith today, especially in North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan and Sudan. Lord Jesus, please strengthen and encourage the believers with Your presence. Keep them faithful in the midst of hardship. May their witness be a great light in a dark world. We pray this in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.