Welcome to the Revelation of Jesus. In this video we are going to begin our study of Revelation chapter 12, which pulls back the curtain to show how the cosmic conflict has been playing out in New Testament times.
“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” (Revelation 12:1,2).
Women in the Bible often symbolize the people God has chosen to represent Him. If they have been faithful they are pictured as pure and holy, but if they have misrepresented Him they are pictured as corrupt and wicked. For example, in Jeremiah God says of His Old Testament people, “I have likened the daughter of Zion to a lovely and delicate woman” (Jeremiah 6:2). Apostate Babylon who claims to be Christ’s representative on earth is pictured in Revelation 17 as a prostitute riding on a scarlet beast.
The woman of Revelation 12 is surrounded by the sun, the moon, and twelve stars
The only other Bible passage in which the sun, the moon, and the twelve stars are all mentioned is in Genesis 37. There Joseph told his father and brothers about his dream of the sun, moon, and stars, in which the sun symbolized his father Jacob, the moon his mother Rachel, and the twelve stars the twelve sons of Jacob. These individuals, along with Abraham and Isaac, were the patriarchs and forefathers of the nation of Israel. Thus the woman surrounded by the sun, moon, and twelve stars, symbolizes God’s chosen people, the Hebrew nation, consisting of the descendants of the twelve tribes of Israel.
“She cried out in labor and in pain to give birth” (Revelation 12:2). The woman is pregnant, and about to bear a child. God’s purpose in setting apart a unique, chosen people for Himself is about to be fulfilled—Israel will bring forth the Messiah.
Suddenly, however, a new and ominous element is introduced into the vision: “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns… His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.” (Revelation 12:3,4).
Here we see the adversary of God and the bane of the universe. In verse 9 the dragon is identified as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).
In video 17 we studied the origins of Satan, and it might be helpful to review that video to get the backstory on who Satan is and why he is intent on attacking the woman. I will also put a link in the description to the section of the book “A Revelation of Jesus” that examines the origin of evil and Satan. One important conclusion is that God did not create evil or an evil adversary. Lucifer, the firstborn of the angels, chose to focus on himself and eventually aspired to take God’s place as ruler of the universe.
And he wasn’t alone in his rebellion against God. “[The dragon’s] tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (Revelation 12:4). A third of the angels bought into Satan’s lies and joined him in his insurrection.
Clear back in the garden of Eden, after the fall of Adam and Eve, God promised a Messiah who would crush the serpent’s head. In Revelation 12 Satan is determined to prevent this by destroying the Messiah as soon as he is born: “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” (Revelation 12:4,5).
The reference to a newly begotten child who would rule with a rod of iron comes straight from Psalm 2: “Why do the nations rage?… The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed… The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You… You shall break [the nations] with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:1-9).
We find the same language about ruling with a rod of iron in Revelation 19, which depicts the second coming of Christ. Thus the “male child” who “rules… with a rod of iron” is Jesus Christ, portrayed not as “meek and lowly in heart” or as “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Matthew 11:29, Isaiah 53:3), but as Ruler of the nations, bringing an end to every power that sets itself against God. This passage helps us to keep in perspective the next two chapters of Revelation, which show the success of the nations under Satan’s leadership in persecuting God’s people. Their ultimate end will be destruction.
The symbolic depictions of Revelation 12 were fulfilled in real events recorded in the scriptures. “The woman who was ready to give birth” symbolizes Israel, but Israel was represented by Mary the mother of Jesus. Satan the dragon “stood before the woman… to devour her Child” in the person of wicked king Herod. By inciting Herod to kill “all the male children who were in Bethlehem from two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16) Satan showed the fiendish and desperate lengths he is willing to go to in order to prevent the destruction of his kingdom.
But Satan the dragon was unsuccessful in his attempts to destroy the Male Child. “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” (Revelation 12:5). As the apostle Paul put it, “Christ died and rose again from the dead… then He ascended to the heights, leading a crowd of captives… and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Romans 14:9, Ephesians 4:8).
Just before Jesus went to the Cross, He said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31). Comparing this verse with Revelation 12, we see that one of Jesus’ first actions after the resurrection and ascension was to cast Satan out of heaven. “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7-9).
At first glance, it seems like the focus has shifted from Jesus to the archangel Michael and a fierce angelic battle taking place in heaven. But it turns out that Michael is another name for the Son of God. Jesus has many names and titles in Revelation; He is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Revelation 5:5), “a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6), the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16), and many more. When He contends with Satan He is called Michael, the Lord of hosts, the leader of the angelic armies.
There is extensive church tradition with many stories about archangels, including Michael, that are not based upon the Bible. A careful study of the scriptures that mention Michael shows that He is the second person of the Godhead. This may be a new concept, so I will put a link in the description to the scriptural support for the position that Michael is another name for Christ.
Obviously, God versus Satan is no contest in terms of raw power; God has omnipotence on His side. But the cosmic conflict is a battle of ideas, loyalties, and affections. In the article about the origin of sin and Satan that I mentioned earlier, I show that the issues of the controversy are laid out in the interaction between Satan and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and in Satan’s temptation of Christ in the wilderness.
Satan claims that God is restrictive, that He is a liar, that He has a high position that he wants to selfishly retain exclusively for Himself, and that He doesn’t have the best interests of His creatures at heart. He asserts that we don’t need God to tell us what is good, but we can judge for ourselves. He claims that we can have a better life independent from God and that through disobedience God’s creatures can elevate themselves to the exalted position of being “like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14).
And in his final temptation in the wilderness, he made it clear that his ultimate desire is to have worship directed to himself.
In the cosmic controversy, Satan uses what God would never use—lies, sophistry, accusations, threats, and persecution. God on the other hand uses love and self-sacrifice to demonstrate His beautiful character. And although Satan has been successful in seducing a third of the angels and the majority of humans to follow him, the Bible makes it clear that he ultimately will be defeated. And in fact, the verses we have been studying show that he has already lost much of his position, power, and authority. “The dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer… The great dragon was cast out… he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7-9).
Satan and his angels were actually cast out twice. Jesus said in Luke 10:18, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”, showing that during His earthly ministry Satan had already fallen. This was Satan’s fall from his honorable position in the courts of heaven. In video 17 we studied Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 and saw that “Lucifer, the son of the morning” (Isaiah 14:12) was “the anointed cherub who covers… on the holy mountain of God” but when “[he] sinned… God cast [him] as a profane thing out of the mountain of God” (Ezekiel 28:14-16). When Lucifer fell his angel followers also fell from their honorable positions as “ministering spirits”—“His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (Revelation 12:4).
But Satan still had access to heaven. The book of Job pulls back the curtain on the dynamics in the heavenly courts. “There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan also came among them” (Job 1:6).
When God asked him what he was doing there, he said he had been “walking back and forth” on the earth, a comment that is essentially a claim of ownership. He disputed God’s wisdom and judgment and accused Job of superficial loyalty to God. In another scene, in Zechariah Joshua the high priest is pictured “standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan was standing at his right hand to oppose him” (Zechariah 3:1-5). From these scenes we see that Satan was able to appear in heaven where he opposed God and accused His followers.
But when Jesus returned to heaven after His life, death, and resurrection Satan lost the right to appear before the heavenly courts. We looked at this in-depth in video 17. Jesus’ self-sacrifice paid the price for human sin and bought the right to open the Book of Life and confirm to the universe that the people who have believed in Him should be granted eternal life. But Satan, the “strong angel”, stood up to contest the opening of the Book of Life, “proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘who is worthy to open the book and to loose its seals?”
John wept bitterly when “no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look at it” (Revelation 5:3). But then Jesus prevailed, not as “the lion of the tribe of Judah” or as “the Root of David” but as “a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:5,6).
With this, the leading representatives of the angels and of the human race fell down before the Lamb and proclaimed, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood” (Revelation 5:8,9). Then the whole universe erupted in praise for the Lamb. And now there was no longer a place in the hearts of the heavenly beings for Satan. “The dragon… and his angels did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer… Satan, who deceives the whole world, was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:8,9)
This was good news for the inhabitants of heaven. “Then [John] heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they [that is, our brethren] overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:10, 11).
This important verse shows us that God’s faithful followers have an essential part to play in the cosmic conflict that is now taking place on earth. They overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and this is a rebuke to Satan’s claim that he is the ruler of the whole world and thus has a right to appear in the heavenly councils.
Overcoming is a recurrent theme in the Book of Revelation. When we studied the seven churches, we saw the rich blessings of eternal value that were promised: “to those who overcome”. The last two chapters of Revelation portray the beauty of New Jerusalem and the blessed inheritance of those who will live there. But not everyone will be able to enjoy this eternal glory—“Those who overcome shall inherit all things, and I will be their God, and they shall be my children” (Revelation 21:7).
Revelation 12:11 shows two crucial factors that allow us to overcome sin and Satan: “The blood of the lamb” and “the word of [our] testimony”.
“The blood of the Lamb,” in other words, the death of Jesus on the Cross, is a theme that dominates Christian literature, music, and sermons. Most of these have to do with the forgiveness of our sins. And it is true that the central tenet of the gospel is that we are saved from eternal death by the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins we have confessed to Him.
But without minimizing the importance of the blood of the Lamb for our forgiveness, this passage in Revelation 12:11 shows that Christ’s sacrifice is also crucial in our struggle to overcome sin, Satan, and the world.
Jesus does not grant us forgiveness through His blood and then leave us to struggle with sin and temptation on our own; His blood also provides for us a life of victory. Many Christians are defeated on this very point. Some are sorry that they have failed, but are happy that at least they are forgiven. Others who have sinned focus on their failure and feel that they do not deserve to come to Jesus. Some give up and plunge more deeply into sin. Others try to be good until the hot shame has worn off a bit and then come back to God. And some go to a priest, confess to him, and perform penance for their sins, and never do come directly to Jesus.
In Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, we see how God really feels about us.
Even those who condemned Him to death and pounded the nails were included in the mercy that He extended there—Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). In the sacrifice on the Cross, we see the depth of God’s love for us, and this is how His blood empowers us to overcome. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
It is love for Him that breaks our hearts and causes us to hate and turn away from the sin that nailed Him there. The more we focus on the blood of the lamb, the more we want to please Him who gave His all for us.
God’s followers also overcome by “the word of their testimony”. Most Christians rarely say anything about the Lord; they feel that their relationship with Him is a private matter that should not be discussed. It is true that many people do not want to hear what we have to say about God. But the Lord Himself commands His people not to be silent. “You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent” (Isaiah 62:6).
Throughout the history of the Christian church thousands have testified that Jesus is Lord of their lives, even if it led to persecution and death. Jesus predicted this in Revelation 12: “They overcame by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives, even to death” (Revelation 12:11).
Jesus actually prophesied that “they will lay their hands on you and persecute you… You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. So do not worry in advance about what you will answer… For it will be given you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Luke 21:12-15, Matthew 10:19-22).
In giving our testimony we open the door for the Holy Spirit to give our words supernatural force because He wants to use our words to reach the ones we are speaking to. But when our testimony is accompanied by the power of the Spirit, we are the ones who are most in awe, because we know how weak and helpless we really are, and we know that the words we have spoken have a source much greater than ourselves. And ultimately it is the power of the Holy Spirit empowering “the word of our testimony” that enables us to overcome sin and Satan.
There are many things we can focus on in our religious life, including prophecy, biblical and doctrinal understanding, spiritual gifts, personal devotions, and spiritual disciplines. We can focus on the history of the church or the glories of the future heavenly kingdom, on the needs of people in the world, or on the church and its activities. These themes all deserve our attention, but if we find that we are being defeated by sin, Satan, and sinful society, it is a signal to us that our focus has drifted away from the essential core: “the blood of the Lamb,” Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, and “the word of our testimony,” the privilege we have of telling others about Him.
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