Monday, September 24, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 33 - Revelation 12:6-17

And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "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 brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time."

And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. And the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, in order that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (NASB)

Fled Into the Desert

What does the woman’s flight into the wilderness for 1,260 days mean and where in history does it fit? 

We’ve already discussed the option that the woman is Mary and that the 1,260 days is the time that Mary and Joseph went to Egypt. However, this doesn’t fit the context. The child has already been born and snatched up to God before the woman flees to the desert. Egypt isn’t the wilderness either. This has to come after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Even though several thousand years have been condensed into a few verses and some parts appear to be flashbacks in history, each section still proceeds in a normal historical order.

Ruling out the application to Mary leaves the possibility that the time is symbolic of God protecting the remnant of Israel until His promises will be fulfilled to the nation. Those who believe that all mention of Israel pertains to the Church would mean that the Church is protected for a symbolic amount of time. They can’t believe the 1,260 is the second half of the tribulation because everything is symbolic, besides giving credibility to the rapture.

Another option is that this occurs during the time of the tribulation and it is as simple as what is stated. We have provided argument that the woman is Israel; therefore this would mean that many Jews will flee to a place in the desert and will be protected during the last half of the tribulation.

Hal Lindsey is one of many scholars who agree with the last premise and think that this is an actual time when the Jews will undergo exceptional persecution at the end. They will flee from Jerusalem to the natural fortress of Petra, the ancient “City of Rock.”[1] 

What verses can you find that would substantiate this theory?

He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. (Dan 9:27 NIV)

These are the angel Gabriel’s words explaining Daniel’s vision. We start with this verse because it contains references to the middle of the “seven” that we have identified as the tribulation. A key event takes place where the Anti-Christ sets up an abomination in the temple. This is a sign for the Jews to take flight.

So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Matt 24:15-16 ESV) 

Jesus speaks of the abomination that causes desolation that was described in Daniel. This is a clear milestone in the path of history. It marks the center of the tribulation and the beginning of an unprecedented time of persecution for God’s people. It appears to take people by surprise in the way Jesus describes it. They are about their normal business when the abomination is announced. Their response must be immediate if they are to be saved. They must flee making absolutely no provision for worldly possessions. Those who have read Jesus’ words and believe Him will know to flee into the mountains when they see it. This is one of the reasons that lends credibility to the physical fulfillment of this symbolic prophecy. That is also why the city of Petra seems to fit. This will be a time like the destruction of Sodom in that there will not be time to look back.  

How can we apply this to our own lives even now? 

Both physically and spiritually, anyone who wants to be saved must make a commitment and keep it without looking back. We can make a note for our own lives from this. If we were as conscientious about sin in our own lives, we would immediately reject it and flee from it. We shouldn’t take a second glance at worldly possessions, fame, peer pressure, creature comfort, or anything else when ridding the sin from our lives. Instead we must flee in order to be saved from the consequence of duplicity in our lives. If anyone doesn’t know Jesus as Savior, he or she must make a commitment in order to be saved. 

See Daniel 11:31-35 below. Who will resist the Anti-Christ at this time and what will be the results?  

Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation. By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days. Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. Some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time. (Dan 11:31-35 NASU) 

The abomination will be established with force. This has occurred once before in history and many think that this prophecy has already been fulfilled. However, the prophecy continues and speaks of the end times. Before the end occurs, we can see an interesting insight into the last three and a half years. God’s people will resist the Anti-Christ. They will instruct as many as possible but they will not be spared from the tribulation. Among those who resist will be unbelievers – those who are not sincere. They may not like the evil of the Anti-Christ, but they are not committed to Christ either. Even some Christians will stumble during that time, but God will use it for their purification. Some of the books in the Left Behind series has demonstrated this very thing in the lives of the characters.

Those who flee to the mountains will most likely be Christian Jews since most Jews have not read Jesus’ words and will not know to flee. Hopefully, many in Judea will have an opportunity to hear the truth of His prophecy and believe when they see the abomination. Many may flee when they see their Christian brothers fleeing. 

What are the wings of an eagle given to the woman so that she may fly to the wilderness?

Some have been very adamant about the wings of an eagle that are given to the woman. They assure us that this is the symbol for the United States (because a symbol for our nation is the eagle) and that we will provide the airlift for them to escape. This is delusional thinking. Those that purport this are trying to sensationalize the situation in order to sell books or get on talk shows. Let’s look at the Bible to see how it uses eagles symbolically.   

And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel; And say, Thus saith the Lord God; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar: He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffick; he set it in a city of merchants. (Ezek 17:1-4 KJV)

This is an interesting chapter using symbolic eagles. Two eagles are mentioned. Both turn out to be kings. The first was directed by God to take captives from Israel to Babylon. The second is the pharaoh of Egypt. Using this as an example to interpret the wings of an eagle in Revelation, there is no need to think that this is the United States. It could be any nation. 

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. (Ex 19:4 NKJV) 

It could simply mean that the escape was swift. However if we relate this to Israel’s exodus from Egypt, we really should conclude that it is God who will deliver them. As we’ll see a bit later, the help that comes is supernatural.

War in Heaven

When did this war in heaven start and how long has it been going on? 

And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you.” (Luke 10:18-19 NASB)

Depending on what version you read, it would appear that the battle starts when the abomination is set up in the temple. However, when we read what Jesus said, this battle has been going on for quite some time. As the NASB indicates, Jesus was watching while seventy-two disciples were on an evangelistic road trip. While it is still in the past tense it conveys the idea of an ongoing action.

The fall and the battle described in Rev 12:7 has been going on since Satan’s rebellion and because of Jesus’ eternal perspective, He could see Satan’s fall even at that time. To Jesus, the fall is lightening fast, but to us it seems slow. What we see in Revelation 12 is when Satan and his demons lose the battle and are thrown down to the earth. It is when Satan finally hits the ground.

Who partakes in this battle, what part do we play?  

If you look only at Rev 12:7 Michael and his angels do the actual fighting but Rev 12:11 speaks about our part in the battle. Jesus saw Satan’s defeat as the disciples learned to use the power and authority that Jesus gave them.

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. (Luke 10:17 KJV)  

This part of the battle has been going on ever since. In Revelation, it is as though more saints enter the kingdom of heaven and more power is given to the angels to fight Satan. Of course, any time we overcome, it occurs not in our own strength but is done by the blood of the Lamb. The word of our testimony is also used, which is to give all glory to Jesus Christ because of the salvation that He has purchased for us.

Accuser of Our Brothers

It’s now time to take another side trip to study Satan. You may wonder why; it’s because we need to know our enemy and his tactics so that we can be ready when he tries to harm us. If it weren’t so, this information wouldn’t be provided for us. We have already seen that Jesus has victory over him. We have seen that Satan has authority over the world. Now we’ll look at his role as accuser.

Where in the Old Testament does Satan show up as our accuser?

Satan replied to the Lord, "Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!" (Job 1:9-11 NLT)
Then the angel showed me Jeshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord. The Accuser, Satan, was there at the angel's right hand, making accusations against Jeshua. (Zech 3:1 NLT) 

Chronologically, Job is the first time in the Bible that the name of Satan is used. As Satan approaches God, he accuses Job of only being loyal to God because of His physical blessings in Job’s life. That’s a pretty good accusation. While it wasn’t true in Job’s life, there are many who only serve the Lord because of the blessings. When adversity comes, their faith is shown not to be genuine as they fall away. It should give us something to think about.

We are a lot more like Joshua who was dressed in filthy clothes, representing his sins. Satan was ready to let God know that he had no right to stand before a Holy God. And this is what we now learn in Revelation, that Satan has been accusing all of us before God. 

Since Satan is capable to accuse us before God, what do you think he is doing to us at the same time? 

He is also accusing us every time we sin. He’s not only trying to get God to whack us, but he is trying to mess with our minds telling us we are not saved; we don’t have any right to be a child of God. When he does this, we take our eyes off Jesus and His power that is available to us. Instead we focus on ourselves and how lousy and rotten we are.

While Michael and his angels are fighting in the spiritual realm, where is our battle? 

The battle starts even before we come to Christ. 2 Cor 4:4 says that Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers, establishing the battleground of our minds. It appears to me that Satan can drop his accusations directly in our minds.

For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5 RSV)

Much of the battle between good and evil is waged in our minds with words, knowledge, and arguments. Many think that the battles are in picket lines and elsewhere, but the first and foremost battle is for the minds of people. When we make up our minds to follow Jesus we have shifted sides but the battle isn’t over. We need to look at our whole belief structure to make sure it has been taken captive and made obedient to Jesus. If we don’t, the accuser will be able to thwart our efforts for godly living.

The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. (Matt 13:38-39 KJV)

At the same time the Lord is using His Word to enrich our lives; Satan is busy sowing seeds of discontent, jealousy, bitterness, fear, rejection, and whatever else you can name.

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. (Acts 5:3, 9 KJV)  

This clearly demonstrates that a believer is not immune to Satan’s suggestions. It was not as though Ananias and his wife had no choice in the matter. Peter clearly shows that they were in agreement. They make a thoughtful decision to lie to the Holy Spirit. Satan is the father of lies.

So if all this is true, and Satan accuses us, then we generally feel guilty and afraid, especially when we know that there is truth in what he says. After all, we are all sinners. Ever since the beginning, when he deceived Eve, he has used the truth and twisted it. If we do not rely on the blood of the Lamb, we will not overcome. 

What are some other battlefields where Satan can besiege us? 

So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. (Job 2:7 KJV)  

Satan can also cause us physical trouble. He can afflict us with anything from illness to constant suggestions that we should disobey. Not to mention that he piles on guilt when we do fail and sin. Satan is waging a battle against people. Even though he physically afflicts us, the battle is not in the physical realm as Eph 6:10-12 and 2 Cor 10:3-5 indicate. It bears repeating: the mind is a battleground, for it is our contact with spiritual things. If Satan can keep our thoughts off Jesus and the awareness that we can overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and even take the offensive with our testimony, he has a chance. But as Paul says: 

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Rom 7:24-25 KJV)  

The key to mental health is the blood of the Lamb and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. 

How does the blood of the Lamb overcome Satan in our lives? 

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25 ESV)  

Jesus says that we will overcome because we do not love our lives. He shed His blood on the cross so that we don’t have to love this life more than we do eternal life. We should not shrink from death and fear it. If we are not concerned with death, then we should not be concerned with anything else life has to offer. We go over and over this, yet we need to be constantly reminded of it.  

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt 16:24-26 KJV)

We apply the blood of the Lamb to our lives when we do just the opposite of what the world wants. We hear it all the time. Do what feels good. Plan your goals and objectives to become the most you can be by worldly standards. You will then gain the whole world.

Satan promises us the world and the pleasures of “now.” Jesus promises us the pleasures of His rewards later. When the pleasures of “now” offered by Satan are denied, Jesus gives us His peace that provides a far better “now” than the temporal pleasures of sin.

How does the power of the Holy Spirit overcome Satan in our lives?

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know … his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead … Eph 1:18, 19-20 NIV

These verses came alive for me when I was facing constant temptations from my previous life of sin. It seemed like my body was stronger than my will to do the right thing. I then realized that the Holy Spirit is the power of God who raised Jesus from the dead. His Holy Spirit is in everyone who is in Christ. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to all of us to overcome whatever sin we have been trying to defeat in our own will power. I prayed and asked God for that same power to work in me. I acknowledged that I had been trying to do it on my own and failed. I could only do it because of the infinite power of the Holy Spirit.  

What do we do if we yield to sin? 

The battle starts in the mind but it doesn’t stay there. When we lose the battle in our mind it goes into our actions. That’s when the Accuser really gets busy. He wants to rub our faces in our failure and keep us inactive as long as possible. But the battle is still in our minds. The Word of God and our testimony of faith in that Word will overcome.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 KJV)

Sure we sin; it happens every day and sometimes we even recognize it. As soon as we do, we need to confess our sin and get right with God – immediately. Once we’ve done that, Satan will still try to accuse us. Either that’s when we re-enter the battle or we get into a pity party about how rotten we are and lose another round. It doesn’t matter how many times we fail. We know that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us and we know we can go back and ask for forgiveness again. So – instead of taking on the guilt trip – admit our failure but remind Satan that the blood of Jesus has cleansed us from our sins. That guarantees our future in heaven forever. It also guarantees his future in hell.

We will rejoice when we see the day that Satan is cast out of the spiritual realm and is restricted to earth. Even if we are still here on earth when that occurs, we too, will rejoice because we will also know that the time is short. In this case, I am sure that the rapture will be very soon if it hasn’t already occurred. When Satan is on the earth, we will see unprecedented demon power. He will be full of fury and will be taking that out on any Christians that are left. This is the meaning of verse 17.

Satan’s Pursuit

How does Satan pursuit of the woman show that God isn’t finished with the nation of Israel, that He still has promises to them that He will fulfill? 

The obvious answer is to read the text. We have already established that the woman is Israel and not the Church, but there are still some who are not convinced and believe that the promises to Israel are fulfilled in the Church.

In Luke 21:24, Jesus said that Jerusalem would be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. In Rev 11:2, we saw that the outer court of the temple would be given to the nations (Gentiles) for three and a half years. We have to deal with another three and a half years before the end times are over. However, I think that the time of the Gentiles is almost over when the symbol of the fleeing woman occurs.

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery — so that you will not be wise in your own estimation — that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; … (Rom 11:25-26 NASU)

Paul said it was a mystery – but one that is now revealed. Once the fullness of the Gentiles has been finished, all Israel will be saved. We can’t attribute this partial hardening to the Church. Neither can we attribute all Israel being saved to the Church – people who are already saved. It is obvious that God isn’t finished with Israel.

The symbol of Satan pursuing the woman is a demonstration of his hatred for the Jews. As mentioned before, from before Christ even to this day, he hates them. God gave them specific promises that He will fulfill. Maybe Satan is jealous of these promises, maybe he thinks that by destroying the Jews before God fulfills the promises, he will be able to change the future and finally usurp God.

When he starts pursuing the woman the covenant is broken. The Anti-Christ under the power and leading of the devil turns on Israel. 

What is the meaning of the river of water that Satan sends from his mouth to destroy the woman? 

As the woman tries to escape, Satan tries to prevent it with a torrent of water from his mouth. Some say that this is an army under the Anti-Christ’s orders. That is a good possibility; however, it is very possible that the water is water. In Matt 24:20, Jesus says to pray that it isn’t in winter. This indicates that Satan may try to use nature to accomplish his purpose. Satan is powerful and the Lord has let him use that power during the end times to bring down fire from heaven. It is very possible that he uses a massive storm to create a great flash flood to wipe out the fleeing people.

Recent events in the world also show how words can stir up untold destruction against people. Muslims have rioted and killed people in many countries when individuals or groups have been accused of burning the Koran or maligning Muhammad. This isn’t new and it isn’t only Muslims. Hitler nearly wiped out all the Jews in Germany and surrounding nations by falsely accusing them. Perhaps the river from Satan’s mouth is a river of words.

While the river being a symbol of words makes sense, it doesn’t fit with God’s intervention to save the woman. There isn’t a correlation between the earth opening to swallow words as it is with swallowing the river.

People also believe that an earthquake or some disaster like it occurs and saves those who flee. Whether it is an army that is swallowed or a flash flood, the earthquake seems to be a good fit.

What are some reason that people are so quick to hate Jews and Christians? See Est 3:8-9 for a start.

Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people's, and they do not keep the king's laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain. If it pleases the king, let a decree be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who do the work, to bring it into the king's treasuries." (Est 3:8-9 NKJV) 

These verses point out how those who hate Jews will deceive people and use governments to persecute them. The same reason that people hate Jews is also the reason they hate Christians. Their customs are different and they do not obey the king’s laws when those laws are opposed to God’s. One of the main things about Israel was their separation from the world. The example that they gave us as Christians is to keep ourselves separate from the immoral practices of unbelievers. This irritates people because it exposes their sins. Hitler used the same tactics as Haman. The only difference is that when the tactics of calling them different worked, he went on to the next step. He eased into it rather than taking one huge leap like Haman. Est 3:15 says the city was bewildered because the decree to eliminate the Jews came so suddenly. After World War II, people were bewildered because it came so slowly that they didn’t notice what was happening, even though it only took a few years for Hitler to turn his nation against Jews. The dragon will be much more effective, and he has had several thousand years to correct his mistakes and perfect his techniques. He will use that against the rest of the offspring of Israel – believers.

There are many today who believe that Christians are the most evil and vile people around. They believe that Christians are out to destroy their way of life and take over the world. When the time is right, they will be right there along with the dragon, ready to persecute Christians.

We are fortunate to be living before the tribulation starts. Providing the rapture occurs before the tribulation or Jesus delays His return, we won’t have to go through the time when Satan’s fury is unleashed. However, we also know that he and his demons are already busy trying to thwart our testimony of Jesus.

Let’s not wait until Satan’s plan has become so obvious that he is kicked out of heaven. Let’s become aware of his schemes now and become his biggest enemy by overcoming him by the blood of the Lamb and our testimony of how Jesus has saved us and is enabling us to live victorious lives in Him.

[1] Hal Lindsey, There’s A New World Coming  (Santa Ana: Vision House, 1973) page 179

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 32 - Revelation 12:1-5

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. (NKJV) 

What is the first clue that we have to help us properly interpret this chapter?

We are immediately told that most of this chapter is dealing with symbols since John says he saw a great sign in heaven. What follows is used to explain the truth of history from a Heavenly perspective. If the Bible tells us that the passage is a parable or that signs appear, then we must not try to take them literally. The Left Behind series was so intent at making things literal that they had to take these signs and present them in a vision to one of the characters. In effect they were saying that these signs literally had to appear in the sky. However it is obvious that these signs were given to John. They don’t have to reappear to anyone any more than Daniel’s visions have to reappear. 

How are these signs both similar and different from Daniel’s? 

We’ve seen a few glimpses of signs in Daniel’s visions that fit into this category. They appear very real to the person that is receiving the vision but they can’t make sense of them. In Daniel, an angel must tell him what these things mean because they are so obscure and deal with the future. Daniel’s visions deal with a long time span covering many centuries. The vision of the woman and the dragon is the same in that it refers to things that have taken place as well as the future. Because we should be able to figure out what these symbols mean, they aren’t explained in the context as were Daniel’s.

The Woman

What are some of the things that the woman could represent? Explain how you determine this.

The most evident answer is that this woman is a symbol for the nation of Israel. This is based on the similarities between this vision and Joseph’s dream.

Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, "Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?" (Gen 37:9-10 NASU)  

When Joseph related his dream to his father, Jacob immediately related the sun to the father of the family and the moon to the mother and the stars to the children. God later renamed Jacob Israel from whom came the nation of Israel and eventually, Jesus. The child is obviously Jesus, as we’ll discuss later. 

Why would or wouldn’t Jesus’ mother, Mary, be a good fit for the woman in the vision?

Some say that the woman is a symbol of Mary because she gave birth to Jesus. But we need to remember that this is symbolic and the description of the child being caught up to heaven is not the way it happened but is symbolic of the whole life of Jesus on earth. Likewise, we wouldn’t therefore expect the woman to be the actual person who gave birth to Jesus.

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days [1260]. (Rev 12:6 KJV)  

The woman is taken to a desert area to be protected for three and a half years. Mary went to Egypt but it was an unspecified time and it was before Jesus was “caught up to heaven. 

Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. (Rev 12:17 RSV)
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants - not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all, (Rom 4:16 RSV) 

Revelation 12:17 enlightens us that the Savior is not her only child but all who are obedient to God. In the same way that all people who have faith are considered Abraham’s children, all people who hold to the testimony of Jesus (Christians) are the children of the woman.

There are more biblical references to eliminate Mary as the woman than there are to consider seriously that this is Mary. 

Why would or wouldn’t the Church be a good fit for the woman in the vision?

Some would say that she is a symbol of the church because of the persecution in verse 17. This is most likely the view of some that hold that all the promises of Israel are fulfilled in the Church. The reasoning is that the Church was Israel before Jesus was born. Therefore all the discussion about the woman being Israel would apply to the Church before Christ.

This approach would mean that the Church gave birth to Jesus rather than Jesus giving birth to the Church. It would also mean that many of the physical promises given to Israel would have to be spiritualized to be fulfilled by the Church. This theory presents more problems than it solves when we try to understand the book of Revelation. It is too much to discuss here and could be a topic for another book.

The symbol of the pregnancy is a vivid description of the painful and violent events that led up to the time of Jesus. Israel’s history from the writing of the last book of the Old Testament is one of turmoil. They were conquered by Greece, then Rome. During the time of the Maccabees, there was constant war and persecution in which hundreds of thousands were killed. Israel was not exactly considered to be any Roman’s first choice for overseas duty and the soldiers took it out on the inhabitants of the land. Spiritually, they had been almost totally taken over by a religious system that kept the people in bondage to performance and their position in society.

The Dragon

Who is the dragon and how do you know? 

And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Rev 12:9 NASB)  

Fortunately there isn’t any argument over the identity of the dragon. He is clearly identified as Satan. He is identified with the serpent in the Garden of Eden and the generic name of devil. The Bible states that the devil tempted Jesus and Jesus responded by calling him Satan. It also says that the devil put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus and later it says that Satan entered into Judas. If you missed the correlation between the devil and Satan because they weren’t in the same verse, there is now no doubt that all three are one and the same. This verse and Rev 20:2 are the only two verses in the Bible that tie together the serpent, the devil, and the name Satan.

His Horns

After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast — terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully. (Dan 7:7-8 NIV)
He gave me this explanation: “The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.” (Dan 7:24-25 NIV)
The dragon is described using some of the same language that describes the fourth beast in Daniel. The final king will also oppress the saints for three and half years. The parallel is significant enough to presume that we can expect to see a unified nation that takes over the whole earth and then collapses into ten nations. Or, it could be a confederacy made up of ten kingdoms under the influence and power of Satan.

When the European common market was formed, many thought that this prophecy was fulfilled. History has proved this speculation wrong as more and more nations have been added.

Some have thought that the beast was the Roman Empire because it conquered what many believed to be the whole earth. These believe that from the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire until the fulfillment of the prophecy with the then kings, many centuries will have elapsed. Since the Roman Empire excluded a significant portion of the earth, it doesn’t seem to fit the vision and the elapsed time for the ten kings to become visible is not a good argument to support the fourth beast being the Roman Empire.

Since this dragon exists from before Christ’s birth and until the end described in the vision, it would be hard to say that the fourth beast represent any specific nation in history. It is most likely a nation that is in our future as well as John’s.

The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. (Rev 17:12 NASU)

Since John is looking into the future, the horns are ten future kingdoms that will form an alliance and support the Antichrist. Since they receive authority for only an hour, it appears that their reign will be very short in comparison with the rest of history and most likely at the very end. It gets confusing, but the heads and horns represent different kingdoms, not different views of the same kingdoms.

His Heads

What do the dragon’s seven heads represent and where do find the answer?

This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. (Rev 17:9-11 ESV)

Again the Bible gives us some more information about the symbols we see. The first description is seven hills. This is not a big help! Speculation runs wild about the meaning of the hills. Some have said that they represent the city of Rome, which was built on seven hills. From this they have deduced that the woman in chapter 17 is the Catholic Church since it is headquartered in Rome. I’ll go into that in more detail when we get to chapter 17, but I don’t agree with this simply because there are other cities that have been built on seven hills. The hills could easily represent individual cities or nations.

The description of seven kings is much clearer. At the time John wrote this, five had already passed and one was currently reigning. One will appear in John’s future and then an eighth is introduced as being from the same line of kings. This eighth is the dragon. Above, we looked at Dan 7:20, which identified the horns as ten kingdoms. The description is similar to the seven heads; however, John is looking at his history and his future, but from Daniel’s perspective it was all in the future. It is possible that the seventh head is the fourth beast from Daniel’s vision. Revelation 17:12 would appear to confirm this.

His Mission

What is the dragon’s ultimate mission? 

The desire of Satan has always been to subvert the authority of God and establish himself in His place. Dan 7:7, quoted above, says that he will try to change the set times. 

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: (Isa 14:13 KJV)

How did Satan first attempt to do this? 

And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them. (Dan 8:10 NKJV)  

Satan had so much greed in himself that he used his power to reach heaven, and throw some of the starry host to the earth, and trampled on them. This is similar to the description in Revelation 12: 4. It is very possible that this is a description of a rebellion of a third of the angels who have followed Satan. While Jude 6 says that these have been securely bound until judgment, it appears that not all have been bound, but some have been allowed to operate on earth as demons. Whatever the situation may be; they have lost their position in heaven as a result. 

How does Satan standing in front of the woman to devour her child reveal his mission? 

Satan continued to try to thwart God’s authority in the Garden of Eden when he led Adam and Eve astray. Since that time he has been trying to annihilate the Jews because he knew that the Savior would come from the Jews. By eliminating the Jews, he would therefore also prevent the birth of Jesus before He came. He turned Israel to idol worship and because of that, they were scattered. I’m sure Satan though he had accomplished his purpose at that time. However, God brought the nation back afterwards.

Since this failed, he turns his attention to trying to change any of God’s prophecies. I believe his hope is to prove God wrong at some point and to thereby justify himself and escape his eternal punishment. If he can somehow show that there is any flaw in God, then he will be able to stand before God and say, “You aren’t perfect so what right do You have to judge me?” 

How do we demonstrate the same attitude as Satan? 

In a way we are doing the same thing as Satan when we try to make God out to be the same as us. One way we do that is to say that we would never believe God would send people to hell because that is not love. In other ways, we also try to find fault with God in the hope that somehow that will keep Him from judging us.  

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30 KJV)  

The bad news for anyone who uses this kind of logic to keep from surrendering himself to Christ is that Jesus is going to be the Judge and He will be judging based on the facts and not what we think they are. He will be pleasing God and not us or our desires. Since God is perfect and no flaw can or ever will be found in Him, any who don’t submit to Jesus will end up the same as Satan. 

How can Satan use us to further his mission, with or without our knowledge? 

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, (Matt 2:3-5 KJV)  

The Magi unwittingly helped Herod find out that Jesus had been born. We aren’t told why they went to Herod instead of following the star to Bethlehem. It is as if they stopped looking to the Lord for guidance (the star) and using worldly wisdom, went to Jerusalem and the king as that is where we would logically find the next king to be born. We do the same when we look to our own wisdom to solve our problems instead of letting the Word guide us. When we do that, we can inadvertently fall into Satan’s traps and aid the enemy.

The Child

We have already decided that the child is Jesus. How should His mission to rule the nations with a rod of iron to be interpreted? 

There are many who would deny that Jesus would physically conquer nations. They quote verses like Matt 11:28-29 where He says that we can come to Him with our burdens because He is humble and gentle. They quote 1 John 4:16 and say that God is love. He would never do the things described in Revelation. When they come to the book of Revelation, they must spiritualize the interpretation of these verses because it doesn’t fit with their theology.

The problem with this is that it doesn’t look at the whole picture of who God is. They ignore the passages where Jesus revealed that there will be physical punishment for those who reject Him as Savior. Matt 25:41-46 speaks of the eternal punishment that will come upon those who thought they were doing His will but failed. Jesus’ teaching in the parable of tenants who refused to acknowledge the king’s son but killed him (Jesus) revealed that the king (God) would put the tenants to a miserable death (Matt 21:33-44).

There are also some who believe that the 1,000-year reign of Christ described in Revelation 20:1-6 is the symbolic time that Christ will reign with a symbolic rod of iron. They believe that through the Church’s influence in the world, that sin and Satan will be subdued. The rod of iron is then a symbol of the power of the Holy Spirit working and eventually bringing about Christ’s righteous rule. At that time, He will physically return. I’m sure there are variations of this but this is just a quick overview of this theory.

The problem with this theory is that for nearly 2,000 years, the Church has not been able to subdue the nations. There are many verses that indicate that evil will prevail in the world until Christ returns (2 Thess 2:1-3 and 2 Tim 3:1-5). 

The king proclaims the Lord's decree: "The Lord said to me, 'You are my son. Today I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. You will break them with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.'" (Ps 2:7-9 NLT)
To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. (Rev 2:26-28 RSV)
 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years. (Rev 20:6 NLT) 

The symbol of ruling with a rod of iron has been around since Psalm 2. It is first used to describe Jesus conquering the nations. As we look through the book of Revelation, we see that it is not a pretty sight. However, it goes beyond the physical subjection of the nations to describe Jesus’ rule during the millennium. It means that Jesus will be in firm control of all the nations. He will use His people who have been victorious to the end, but it will be after the first resurrection. I’m looking forward to that world where righteousness will reign, subdue evil, and prevent the evils that we see in the world today. Even as good as this will be, it isn’t the ultimate home of righteousness that will be eternity in heaven.

Submit to God's royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him! (Ps 2:12 NLT) 

Psalm 2 also tells the only way that we will be able to enjoy that 1,000 years and beyond. We must submit to Jesus as our Lord and Savior.