So, we don’t have time to read through this entire chapter although, I would have loved to. However, I would suggest that you do so in your own studies.
So a quick recap of where we are in Revelation and what is happening in the story tonight. So last week we saw how John had depicted the Old Testament “Day of the Lord” for the second time. Now, we are transported to a series of symbols; John calls them signs from chapter 12.
The first symbol or sign that we are introduced to is this woman, who is clothed in the Sun and the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. John says then another sign appeared; an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his head.
Now there is a picture painted in this throughout this chapter of the war waged by the dragon upon the woman and her children.
This war starts, in this passage with the dragon trying to devour her child; this child is described in the messianic hope of the Old Testament. The dragon was frustrated by God in his attempt to kill the child (who was snached up to heaven, and the woman then fled to the wilderness).
From this we are moved into a great battle in heaven between Michael and his angels and the dragon. The result of this battle was that the dragon lost the battle and was cast to the earth.
After this battle a loud voice declares a poem of victory.
Now, we are transported back to the earth where the dragon takes his battle to the woman, however, every attempt to destroy her, was frustrated and blocked, first she was given wings to fly away and then the very earth swallowed up the water that was used to destroy her.
Frustrated the dragon went off to make war against the rest of her offspring and we are told these are those who hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Now this is a vivid section of different images and confusing realities. So, what does this all mean?
To state it again, our interpretation of this passage has to be in line with the language used in the passage which is Apocalyptic language which is always used in Scripture to show God’s view of History to his people. Also, our understanding and interpretation must be relevant to the original audience of the first century, because this letter was written to real people existing in the first century in Asia Minor.
So, with this in mind, what is this passage saying…
Now if you were here two weeks ago, when we went through Revelation in one sermon, you might remember hearing that these pictures that we are going into now for the next few weeks depict a cosmic and then earthly battles that lay behind the persecution and message of Revelation. So, with this in mind, who is this woman?
1.Who is the Woman?
Now when we look at this woman, there are many who state that this must be Mary, because she gave birth to Jesus (as seen in the passage). However, this is to miss the language as well as the lengths John goes to depict the woman.
Firstly, he says that a great and wondrous sign appeared in the heavens. It is more likely that this is a symbolic depiction of the whole history of the people of God; or the line of the messiah; from Eve to Mary.
If we see this we can make sense of the many references that John uses to describe her plight; the flood, running to the desert. The lesson that John is trying to get across to us the readers is simple and obvious; The dragon has always been against the plans and people of God.
Throughout the Old Testament we see the plans of God being frustrated on some level, by the sins of people and a (almost hidden) dark force that was against God’s plans.
Ask yourself, how many times did the people of God find themselves in compromising situations that threatened the plan of God declared to us in Gen 3 that the serpent will be crushed by the heal of the seed of the woman.
Now to understand how pernicious this is we have to look and see who this dragon is!
2.Who is the dragon?
There are many images that are purposely slammed together in this passage to depict who exactly this dragon is.
John depicts the dragon with 7 heads and 10 horns. Now, John is helping his readers see that this dragon looks like Rome, but is more than simply Rome.
Rome was built on seven hills (the seven heads) but the 10 horns, would mean 10 rulers. And there is debate about exactly what this means; whether it means the provinces of Rome, others argue that it is 10 kingdoms that will rise up from the Roman empire.
It is more likely, that John is using the imagery from Daniel 7 to depict rather beastly nations; which now happen to be Rome.
Whoever, he is describing; John makes it clear that these earthly realities are simply instruments of the cosmic reality behind these Kingdoms.
Great length is taken by John to ensure that we know that this dragon is the Devil and his angels. But it is also the earthy reality of that; which is Kingdom (John uses the term Babylon throughout Revelation).
The message is this; Rome is bad, or to contextualise it today; Empire is evil, the government is corrupt and evil. But church realise that there is a force behind Rome, behind Empire behind the corrupt government and Evil corporations of the world.
And that Evil has had one goal since the dawn of time to destroy the plans of God to bring about the Messiah and therefore save humanity.
The devil has always used Empire to destroy the work of God and the people of God.
Now that might freak you out; because it is bad enough if the Empires and corrupt Corporations of this world are just evil, but you are saying the are demonically evil! Yes I am, but you will see that they cannot succeed!
Which leads us to;
3. How is the dragon defeated
It is here why I absolutely love how John writes; because he gives us snippets of the final outcome; however, veils his writing just enough that we long to see how this actually works.
What do I mean? Well, John gives us the key to the defeat of the dragon and his angels, but does not tell us how this actually looks like; that he saves for the last few chapters of Revelation.
So how is the dragon defeated? Well, through this passage we only see in the narrative that he is simply frustrated in his attempts to destroy the woman and her child (the messiah) and her offspring.
Whatever the dragon does to try and destroy the plans of God is frustrated and thwarted.
And again; I have to say this; evil undoes itself; it consumes itself. It cannot win because it is against reality. God is the ground of reality so evil is a resistance against the ground of reality and therefore cannot win! We know this in our hearts, and yet think to ourselves and convince ourselves; we will get away with it.
Politicians think that their corruption will work; that their evil and greed will this time work! it cannot! It will always be frustrated, there might be seasons that it looks like it is working however, this will come to an end.
Every action that the dragon uses is used against him! So the Dragon is frustrated, evil is frustrated, how is it defeated?
Well John tells us of a great defeat that the dragon suffered in heaven at the hand of Michael. Now many of us think oh great, he was defeated in heaven and thrown to the earth how does that help us here on earth?
Well John, through sheer brilliance gives us a declaration of how the dragon is defeated in verse 11
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
This will be unpacked more at the end of the book; however, here we are given the key in destroying evil, of fighting the devil and his demonically empowered empires!
How? Through the blood of the lamb and not loving our lives unto death!
The gospel is our power to overcome! We do not pick up arms to fight, we do not war! No, we resist by loving our enemies even if they kill us!
Now, church, I want to spend some time applying this for us today.
4.A lesson for us today
John gives us a warning in this passage church; He says in verse 12;
Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short.
Don’t be shocked church when the world seems evil, when Empires are evil, when corporations destroy lives and people because of greed. The devil is here and he is filled with fury!
Don’t be surprised by this! But also don’t despair church; for his defeat has actually happened on the cross! Although his final defeat has not occurred yet; he is powerless against that which defeated him.
So, we who stand in the power of the gospel; who overcome through the blood of the lamb, are secure because of the gospel.
In fact, the end of this passage ends with the fact that the dragon has come to wage war against us!
For the church of John’s age, it might have been Rome, a terrifying all powerful ruling empire, to us, it is the multifaceted waring empires that we face.
Whether it is the labels we receive from the liberal left who call us bigots and evil because we stand on the truth of God’s word. Whether is it the rise of global terrorism. Whether it is simply corrupt people who want to take our rights? These things will rise in the world and then destroy themselves! The devil is here!
But don’t fear these things church, don’t worry about picking up arms! Simply stand on your testimony. Stand on the truth of the gospel and love your enemies as Christ loves us!
Do not love your life, but love Him who gave you life through the cross!
The hope of the world church, is not a new ideology or technology or anything else; the hope of the world is the gospel of Jesus Christ!
This is what we stand on; this is what gives us the strength to stand! This is what give us hope to endure whatever is thrown at us!
Church, Empire is not our enemy, the government is not our enemy, the liberal left is not our enemy; terrorism is not our enemy; our true enemy is the Spiritual power behind all of this and we overcome through loving those who hate us and through declaring the gospel of Jesus to all who will hear!
This is the hope to overcome; this is the power we have to overcome evil in all it's guises!