There is no doubt in my mind that we have really been on an adventure in the book of Revelation. We have looked at some of the biggest mysteries in the Bible. We looked at the four beasts, and talked about what they could possibly represent. We talked about the four horsemen, and what they could mean. We’ve looked at seven angels, seven seals, and seven trumpets. We’ve seen earthquakes, fires, wars, droughts, and persecution. And out of the entire book of Revelation, there is one chapter that has always been the most difficult for me to understand. And of course, that chapter is tonight’s chapter, Revelation chapter twelve. On Sunday I announced that we were going to tackle the entire chapter in one sitting, but after pouring over the chapter, and looking at commentaries, I realized that if we really looked at this chapter like we should in one sitting, we’d be here for quite a while. So, we’re going to have to split it in half. Tonight we’re going to study verses one through six, and next week we’ll study verses seven through seventeen. So if you’re not already there, please turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter twelve.
“And there appeared a great wonder in Heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in Heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of Heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne. 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.”
Wow! Let’s pray.
As you probably noticed, there are three main characters in tonight’s passage. The first character is the woman, and then we see the dragon, and finally we see the Child. And as you’re going to see, there are two main reasons that this passage is so hard to understand. The first reason is the huge amount of symbolism. It seems as if every phrase is jam-packed with symbols. The second reason this passage is so difficult to understand is because it is hard to understand when this all takes place. Because the trouble is, one of the events mentioned in these verses seems to have taken place before Genesis 3, one of them seems to have taken place before Matthew 1, and one of them doesn’t seem to take place until the Tribulation. So how on earth can we make sense of all of this? How can we understand this passage?
And you all know that I try to take the book of Revelation as literally as possible, and I try to take it as chronologically as possible. But I think in this difficult chapter we have something different. You see, my theory about Revelation chapter twelve is that it is a spiritual look at the physical events that take place in the Bible. Let me explain what I mean by that. In these six short verses, I believe that God peels back the physical aspect of what we see in the Old Testament, and allows us to see the spiritual battle going on behind the scenes. It is a rare behind-the-scenes look at the making of human history. So with that understanding in mind, let’s look at these verses.
Verse one introduces the woman to us. Look at what this verse says. “And there appeared a great wonder in Heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” All right, so this verse introduced to us a woman. Now, the question is, “Who is this woman?” And while the text does not come out and say it, I believe there is overwhelming evidence that the woman is the nation of Israel. We’ll see why in a minute, but for now look at what the Bible says about Israel. It says that she is clothed with the sun, and the moon is under her feet. As we’ve seen throughout the book of Revelation, being associated with heavenly bodies is a sign of majesty and splendor. In this case, it is not splendor that the woman has earned for herself, but is splendor and majesty that God has given her. When we view this as Israel, it shows how the Old Testament nation of Israel was the precious apple of God’s eye. They constantly rebelled against Him and just plain ignored Him, but He always loved them. I believe that this description is how God saw Israel. The verse also says that she wore a crown of twelve stars. The stars add even more to this idea of splendor, and the number twelve has the added significance of the twelve tribes.
Verse two tells us that the woman was having birth pangs. Throughout the Bible, labor pains are symbolic associated with a difficult trial preceding a wonderful blessing. Just as a woman goes through considerable pain to have a wonderful baby, so to this woman would go through terrible trials before a wonderful Baby was brought into the world.
And verse three tells us who will be responsible for these terrible trials. Look at what verse three tells us. “And there appeared another wonder in Heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.” And while the identity of the dragon is not officially revealed until verse nine, I think that you can probably imagine who this dragon is. Anybody have a guess? Yeah, it’s Satan! And this verse says that he is a red dragon, he has seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns. Pretty confusing stuff, huh? Well, let’s start out with an easy one. He’s red. The color red is almost always symbolic of fury. Jesus told us that the devil is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Now, it’s a little bit harder to understand why the Bible says he has seven heads and ten horns. And this is one of those times where John pulls a reference from the Old Testament book of Daniel. In Daniel chapter seven, the prophet Daniel tells about four different beasts that will have temporary dominion over mankind. One of the beasts has four heads, and another one of the beasts has ten horns. So, considering that one of the beasts has four heads and the others have one a piece, and one of them has ten horns, a little math tells you that the four beasts combined have seven heads and ten horns. So what does that mean? Well, I think the idea is that John is telling us that the dragon will be the same beasts mentioned in the book of Daniel, chiefly that he will be horrible while he reigns, but that his reign will be temporary because he will be unseated by who Daniel calls the “Ancient of Days.” That’s Jesus! But that doesn’t answer the question of what the ten horns mean. We know that Daniel and John both said he would have ten horns, but frankly, I don’t know what that means. One theory is that the one world kingdom will be divided into ten sub-kingdoms, but that’s just a theory. We really don’t know.
Now, this verse also says that the devil has seven crowns. This is most likely a way of saying that while he rules, he will be the absolute ruler. He doesn’t just get one kingly crown, he gets seven! Verse four is a very famous verse in the Bible. Notice that this verse tells us that the devil will knock down one third of the stars from the sky. Very often in the Bible stars refer to angelic beings, and I think that this is what we have here. I believe that this is an account of when the devil rebelled against God, and one third of the angels “fell” with him. But remember, the events in this passage are spiritual, not chronological. I personally believe that Satan rebelled against God sometime after creation and before Adam and Eve sinned. I think that because God said that all of creation was “good.” But by Genesis three, the devil was trying to convince Adam and Eve to sin against God.
Verse four also tells us what the devil’s plan was for the woman. The devil knew that Israel had a very important Child that was going to be born, and his plan was to devour the Child as soon as it was born. The past two Sundays we’ve seen how the entire Old Testament revolves around the coming of Christ. Well guess what, the devil knew that too! It seems that Satan’s master plan in the Old Testament days was to thwart God bring Christ into the world. I think the devil tried to do that by ruining the nation of Israel both spiritually and physically. And while he was largely successful, there was always a remnant. When King David’s royal bloodline was almost wiped out by the devil’s plans, there was always at least one living heir. One time, it was just a seven-year old boy. But the bloodline always lived. God thwarted the devil’s plan. And then finally, at the perfect moment, God brought Christ into the world. The devil tried to devour Christ by having Herod kill all of the baby boys in Bethlehem. But he failed. The devil tried to devour Christ in the wilderness by convincing Him to sin. But he failed. The devil tried to devour Christ by killing Him on the cross. But church, he failed there, too!
So church, I believe that these four verses are a spiritual look at what happened behind the scenes in the Old Testament. While we see kings, judges, prophets, and plagues, behind the scenes there was this constant struggle of a devil trying to stop the Savior of the world from coming. But look at what verse five tells us. “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne.” He failed! The child was born! While some things in these verses are difficult, this part is easy. It’s Jesus! Jesus came, and He conquered. And while He spiritually conquered the devil on the cross, Jesus will not completely conquer the devil until the end of time. The end of this verse tells how Jesus went back to Heaven to be with the Father. And that essentially is where we are now. Satan’s fate has been sealed, but he is still a furious dragon that is ruling for as long as God will let him.
Finally, let’s look at what verse six tells us. “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.” Ok, now, I know that so far we’ve been looking at the what happened in the Old and New Testaments, but I think that this verse tells about something that is still yet to pass. Because like I said, the devil is still warring against the woman. The Child has been born, and the Child has conquered, and so all the devil can do is make war against the woman that gave birth to the Child. I firmly believe that this is the reason that Israel has so many enemies today. While the devil hates each and every one of us Christians, I believe that he has a special hatred for the people that God chose to bring the Messiah into the world through. The devil is working behind the scenes to create as much trouble for Israel as possible. That’s why I believe that anything we do against Israel is playing right into the devil’s hands.
But during the Tribulation, God is going to give a remnant of Israel a rest from the dragon’s attacks. God is going to provide a safe place for them that the devil can’t touch. God is going to protect the woman for 1,260 days. That comes up to approximately three and a half years.
And that, church, is my thoughts about this difficult passage. I know that it is complicated, but I have a great peace within me that what I have told you is what I believe to be true. So what can we learn from this passage? Well, the main thing I want you to learn is that the devil is truly the hater of our souls. His entire existence revolves around destroying people like you and I. He wants nothing more than to see you fail and to see our church fail. And anything we do to thwart his plan brings us closer to God. So I want you to be aware that our enemy is extremely active. Never let your guard down, because as soon as you do he will convince you to sin. But also, I want you to be aware that the devil’s days are numbered. While he might be wearing seven crowns right now, one of these days Jesus Christ is going to yank those crowns off of his head and throw him into the lake of fire! And that, is something we can truly praise God about!
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