Revelation Devotion #19
– Pastor Timothy
Revelation chapter 12 maps out the full scope of redemption, beginning even before the creation of humanity when Satan rebelled in the heavenly realm and a third of the angels fell with him (12:4a; cf. 2 Peter 2:4). I thus read Revelation 12:7-9 as primordial:
“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 serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
This heavenly battle gets little attention or detail because Satan and his following “was not strong enough.” In fact, God does not even need to lift a finger, so to speak. The dragon and the other rebellious angels were hurled from heaven by the archangel Michael and his angelic support.
Satan had sought a kingdom for himself — he wanted equal glory with God. Although his rebellion was easily squelched, his kingdom-thirst was not. That is why he came into the garden to deceive Adam and Eve. The wiles of Satan led the first couple astray just as he had the fallen angels.
Yet, while the angelic host had no pathway to redemption, Genesis 3:15 is widely regarded as the proto-evangelium or as the first pronouncement of the Gospel to fallen humanity. The Lord says to the serpent of old, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”
The proto-evangelium prophesies about Satan bruising Christ’s heel at the cross and Jesus crushing Satan’s head as a result of the resurrection. Consequently, the promise of Genesis 3:15 presents humanity’s eternal hope along with the great dragon’s eternal doom. Satan knows this to be so, and it is why he wages war with the woman (12:1-6).
The woman of Revelation chapter 12 is the faithful remnant that God preserves in spite of Satan’s attempts to pollute and wipe out that lineage. She reflects the people of God in the Old and New Testament, whose seed Satan could never vanquish and who triumph over the hurled down great dragon.
Satan’s goal prior to the coming of Jesus was to eliminate the line through which the seed would come to fruition. In Genesis 6, he sets out to corrupt the seed. In Exodus 1-2, he uses Pharaoh to try to wipe out the seed — a pattern also seen with Haman in Esther 3.
Upon Christ’s birth, Satan employs Herod in an attempt to annihilate baby Jesus (cf. Matthew 2:16). Unsuccessful yet again, Satan seeks to derail Christ when the Lord goes out into the wilderness to begin His earthly ministry (cf. Matthew 4; Luke 4). Failing in that, Satan ultimately brings unjust, ignorant men to crucify the Lord of Glory (cf. Acts 3:13-18; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8).
As in all things, however, Satan’s schemes were thwarted. Revelation 12:5 points to the conquering, risen, ascended, and ruling Son (cf. Psalm 2) who redeems His church.
Ever since the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, Satan’s intent has been to destroy the church and to tear down and dismantle human beings. He is the ancient serpent, “who leads the whole world astray” (12:9).
In other words, Satan hates you. He is the devil, the serpent, and the accuser (12:9-10). The red dragon with ten horns of Revelation 12:3 brings to mind Daniel chapter 7. The color “red” highlights the violence and bloodshed that he advances (cf. Revelation 6:4; 16:6; 17:6; 18:4).
Revelation 12:6 explains that the woman, after Christ’s glorification (12:5), will take flight into the wilderness for 1,260 days. This is not a literal number of days, but it represents a period between the first and second coming of Christ where Satan will continue his attacks against the messianic community in the post-resurrection age.
The pattern of fleeing into the wilderness matches with how Moses (Exodus 2:15) and Elijah (1 Kings 17; 19:3-8) — the two witnesses symbolic of the church in Revelation 11:3-12 — had fled into the wilderness. Paradoxically, the wilderness is a place of danger and difficulty where the Lord simultaneously protects His people.
Remember, Satan cannot win. All his tactics prove to be losing propositions. His final defeat will take place at Christ’s second coming, a fact that Revelation repeatedly confirms.
This establishes an already-not yet tension, in that the war has already been won but the church has not yet fully claimed her victory. Christians must continue to fight against the forces of the wicked one in order to overcome his lies, accusations, and assaults until the Lord returns.
Satan will never cease in his efforts to exterminate God’s covenantal people. The Greek word translated as offspring (spermatos) in Revelation 12:17 is the same word that appears in the septuagint translation of Genesis 3:15.
On August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito of Japan announced to the Japanese nation its defeat at the hands of Allied forces. One would think that would be enough, only a number of Japanese soldiers continued fighting. The last to surrender was Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who carried on until March 9, 1974! Onoda surrendered his military samurai sword only after he received formal governmental orders.
So it is that Satan continues to battle on, all the while knowing that his time is short (12:12). His pursuit is likened to that of Pharaoh after the release of the Hebrew people from Egypt (12:15-16; cf. Exodus 15:12). Just as God led Israel out of physical bondage, the Passover Lamb — Jesus Christ — leads the church out of spiritual bondage. Even as Satan fails to concede and spews out his venom when the Father tells the Son to go get His Bride the great dragon will be swallowed up in the same manner as Pharaoh’s army. (The formal governmental orders, if you will).
Until then, the church, as the faithful remnant on this side of the cross, faces Satan’s ongoing attacks (12:13). Until then, the church must “keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus” (12:17). Until then, the church should “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).
Paul says in Romans 16:20, echoing the promise of Genesis 3:15, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
Let us, then, not become sidetracked by any difference of interpretation we might have about the difficult, debatable passages in Revelation and focus instead on the most important points. One, Christ has already won the war. Two, we shall overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (12:11).