“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. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.”
We got a glimpse into Heaven last week. We saw the Temple and the Holy of Holies. We saw the 24 elders worshipping the Lord once again. I hope that you are energetic when you worship. We can get so excited about earthly celebrities, people try to see them and get a picture with them. But somehow we come to worship the Lord and we have no energy, no zeal, we offer no enthusiasm. We should celebrate the Lord and His goodness.
I can testify that He is good to me all the time, and that even when I think that He is ‘hurting’ me, it always turns out for my blessings, and His glory is revealed to me even more. The Lord is faithful when we are not; He is trustworthy when we are not; He is stable and consistent when we are not; He simply IS!
Today we will begin to look at another of the ‘woman’ images used in the book of the Revelation.
In Revelation 2 we had a woman image in the name of Jezebel. She was causing the people to follow after paganism as the first Jezebel did in the account of the life of Ahab, the king of Israel (2 Kings; 2 Chronicles). She employed 900+ priests of Baal and other pagan gods, and promoted things like sacrificing children.
In the case that we have now in Revelation 12, we have a woman who is representing Israel. This sign that John sees is the first of seven (7) signs that John will see that pertains to the second half of the Tribulation. Israel is often depicted in the Old Testament as the wife of God. See Ezekiel 16:8 for example. And in Isaiah 54:5-6 we see these words:
“For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused,’ says your God.”
God uses the picture of a wife to speak of Israel. She is precious to Him. Those who hurt her are attacking the precious people of God. Things will not go well for those that hurt the nation of Israel.
This Woman is Israel, not the church, verse 1
There are ages in the scriptures. We had the Age of the Patriarchs, then the Age of the Law. Now we have the Age of the Church; and that age ends with the Rapture. Then we revert back to God dealing with Israel as a nation, and culminating with the Millennial Age.
In each age we had predominant characters. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob dominated the first age (of the Patriarchs), then the nation of Israel from its exodus of Egypt to the captivity and then the resettling of Palestine in which the Law is preeminent. At the birth of Jesus, we begin to hear about the Ekklesia – the called-out assembly from where we get the word church. This is the age of Gentile.
The nation of Israel, as an entity, is put on hold in 70 AD by the Roman invasion and the sacking of Jerusalem. The New Testament church – made up of Jews at first and then today predominantly of Gentiles – takes stage. When the Rapture occurs, the church age will fade into history, and a renewed focus on Israel will come. This renewed focus began on May 14th, 1948, and we simply await the Rapture to bring the whole course to fruition.
In Genesis 37:9-11, we have recorded for us a dream that God gave to young Joseph. It goes this way:
“Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, ‘Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.’ So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?’ And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.”
This dream was, of course, a prophecy, and it was fulfilled in Genesis 42-46 when his brothers and then his father come to see him and bow down to him as the ruler of Egypt. But for our interests today, notice that the nation of Israel, pictured in the family of Joseph, has the sun, moon and 11 stars bowing down to Joseph. In Rev. 12 we see the 12 stars in the garland of her headdress, and they remind us of the 12 tribes of Israel.
In verse 2 she, Israel, is about to give birth; she is often pictured as a woman about to give birth (Isaiah 26:17, 66:7; Micah 4:10), and, of course, the prophecy that brought Herod such agony (Matthew 2; Micah 5:2-3). Israel was about to have a child, a male child we are told in verse 5. This is none other than Jesus.
Verses 5-6 in Revelation 12 give us a clear understanding that this Child is Jesus. He is a male child to rule all the nations with a “rod of iron.” In Psalm 2:9 we find this promise. Then in Acts 1:9-11, we see the account of the ascension of Jesus back to God, spoken of here in Revelation 12:5. We can safely conclude that the woman is Israel and the Child is Jesus.
The Dragon, Satan himself, verses 3-4
I love the word dragon. As a kid, of course we hear many fairytales of dragons. The fact that the Holy Spirit is using the dragon as a symbol tells me that John knew what a dragon was. Maybe he had seen one himself. The Bible tells us of dragons, of course. In Job 41:19-21, we have a very good description of a dragon:
“Out of his mouth go burning torches; Sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils smoke goes forth as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame goes forth from his mouth.”
Read the chapter in Job for yourself and you will see the context. But we have here a dragon complete with smoke and fire from his nostrils. These are not legends; they are real. Satan is depicted as a dragon often in the scriptures. He is intent on killing Jesus as we see in verse 4; he is ready to ‘devour’ the child as soon as he is born.
All too often we romanticize the life of Jesus. But what we see here is that, from the very moment that He was born, He was being attacked by Satan. He had hardly drawn His first breath as a human when the fight was on to kill him before Calvary. The pressure on Him and His parents must have been almost immeasurable. How often did Satan come to kill him? How often was he under pressure from the prince and power of the air? We will never know the darkness that surrounded the eternal source of Light from His birth right to the cross. This was an intense battle for the souls of men.
Now, let us be clear that Jesus could not be beaten. God’s plan could not be swayed, but it was challenged; and we are told that there was war in Heaven. War! Let that sink in. War! Actual combat, angel on angel, swords drawn and the rage of battle. Satan, we are told in Job 1, has some degree of access to God and comes to see God.
Satan has been the shadow ruler behind the 7 kingdoms of the world depicted in his seven heads; and he is the current shadow ruler of the ten temporary kingdoms on earth that the antichrist sets up, as pictured with his ten horns. To say it simply: if God is not behind your rulers, then Satan is; it is really that simple. Satan has made it his goal to destroy Israel. In Daniel 8:24 even in the last days, the focus of Satan will be to either rule from Jerusalem, or if he cannot, then destroy it.
Think down through history about the crusades, the constant wars for Jerusalem. The Arabs and Muslims right now want Jerusalem for themselves; they lay claim to the Temple mount, and this is all driven by Satan. Every vote in the UN against Israel is driven by Satan; every lie in the news about Israel is driven by Satan trying to destroy.
Satan is very good at getting people to follow him. He got one third of the angels to follow him when he rebelled against God. If he could get angels who had seen God create the world and all that is in it to turn their backs on Him, imagine what he can do with mere mortals who have never seen God face to face.
We have then, two opposing armies. From what we can figure out, there are hundreds of millions of angels on either side. In just one plague that we recently studied, God unleashed some 200 million angels that had been held in a prison. In one encounter here on earth, Jesus met with more than 1,000 demons, fallen angels, who were in one man. These are massive combative forces in the heavens, and the skirmishes have gone on for thousands of years. Remember that Jude accounts for us that Michael and Lucifer fought over the body of Moses in the wilderness.
There are battles all around us daily. There are little skirmishes over seemingly small things; and in verse 6 next week, we will hear about war in the heavens. We live in our little cocoons protected by God from the realities of the spiritual warfare that surrounds us. I was recently reading through the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles, and it amazes me how many wars there were where God simply beat the enemy for Israel. No arrows and swords needed; all they had to do was collect the spoils of war.
How many wars has God fought over you and me? We go unscathed but the angels assigned to watch us and our children are constantly engaged in war. Satan hates Jesus; and since you and I have Jesus in us via the Holy Spirit, he hates us. We are his enemies and he ours. Do not fear; Satan is on a short leash. He knows it, and the scriptures confirm it.
A safe Place for Israel, verse 6
According to Daniel 11, there will be a great war in the Middle East between the king of the North and the king of the South. The king of the North will prevail, enter Jerusalem and attempt to take it over. Many Bible scholars think that this is where the antichrist goes in to defile the newly built temple in Jerusalem. The people of Israel will come to understand that this man is NOT the Messiah that they were looking for, and fear will overtake them. They will need a safe place to run to, and God will provide for them a place in the wilderness. There they will be safe for 1,260 days, or 3.5 years.
God has been providing safe places for Israel for a long time; from Egypt, to Africa, to the US, God has found places over the life of Israel to hide His people until it was time to go home. This little hiccup with the antichrist is just another step in the redemption of Israel. Once again, they have missed the Messiah; and they have to be prepared to meet the real one in Revelation 19.
What a day that will be when my Jesus Israel shall see! They will look and see their Messiah. They will never need a safe place again.
Jesus is your safe place. If you know Him as Saviour, He is already your safe place. Read Psalm 23 and remind yourself that Jesus is the Shepherd that loves His sheep and keeps them safe.