“If once the curtain were pulled back, and the spiritual world behind it came to view, it would expose to our spiritual vision a struggle so intense, so convulsive, sweeping everything within its range, that the fiercest battle ever fought on earth would seem, by comparison, a mere game. Not here, but up there—that is where the real conflict is waged. Our earthly struggle drones in its backlash.”
(Abraham Kuyper’s words quoted in Sinclair Ferguson commentary on the Book of Daniel, The Preacher’s Commentary, 199).
“…so, the dragon was enraged with the woman and went off to make war with the rest of her children who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus…” (Revelation 12:17 NASB)
“…but deliver us from evil…” Jesus, The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:13.)
Revelation is a book that reveals realities. It "x-rays" reality and uncovers the forces and motivations behind the events of human history. In Chapter 12 we are shown a cosmic conflict that involves three main characters - "the Woman," the "Male Child," and the "Dragon." Two of these characters are clearly identified. The Dragon is called the "serpent" - further clarification is given in verse nine where we learn that this individual is actually someone we've seen before - "the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan. The "Son, the Male Child" is, of course, Jesus Christ himself - the one destined to rule all the nations with a rod of iron" - evoking many Old Testament references and also several in the New including Revelation 2:27 - an almost direct quote from the Messianic Psalm 9 verse nine.
Identifying the woman is a bit more difficult. She is described very graphically and dramatically, as is the Dragon, so that we can pick up immediately on several Old Testament passages - most notably Genesis 37:9 - Joseph's second dream as he related it to his brothers and later his father and mother. Yes, she can be Mary - but she is more than Mary. Most commentators agree that the Woman represents all of God's Covenant people - Old and New Testament - across salvation history.
We discover here that the Dragon has been actively opposing God's Kingdom for a very long time - almost from the moment of creation. But what motives Satan's rage? Why is he at “war” with the “children of the woman?” Rage is not always rational – anyone who’s been around people knows that there is an inexplicable cause for rage. Psychologists speak of those who easily give in to rage - some have compared this with alcoholism – coining the colloquial term “rageaholic” (which is not an official medical term). Sometimes it can seem as if certain people are simply addicted to rage – just take a look at how so many drive in our Southern California freeways.
But the Scripture in Revelation 12:17 reveals the cause of the "Dragon's" rage against the "Woman" – who represents the people of God. We read that it is motivated by “her children’s [commitment} to hold to the testimony of Jesus.” I think we can safely conclude that anytime the people of God set out to obey God and embrace their calling in the Kingdom – there will be opposition. Sometimes this is done in a passively aggressive fashion and at other times it may just be plainly vicious – the “dragon [is always standing] before the woman about to give birth” (12:4). The advance of the Kingdom of God always meets resistance and opposition. We need faith to endure and continue to obey in spite of the delays and setbacks which may come.
I explained yesterday that there is a strong message that flows from Chapter 10 to Chapter 12. When a church or any follower of Jesus decides to embrace the "scroll" and obey the Lord's command to “prophesy…to many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” (the Great Commission) the dragon stands prepared to "devour" what is God is preparing birth. The Dragon will pursue and intimidate – this includes the “[outpouring] of water like a river [which originates] from his mouth” (12:15) – slander, terror, shame, accusation, etc.. He will do and say whatever he needs to do to stop the “word of [our] testimony” (12:11).
Yet in all of this we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) – when “the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth in pursuit of the woman” (verse 15) we read in the following verse that “the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured of our his mouth” (16). This, of course, evokes the story of the Exodus and the great deliverance of the Hebrew slaves from their captivity in Egypt. In Exodus 15:12, after seeing the “wonders” of God’s power displayed in their defense, Moses gives God all the glory as he sings "You stretched out Your right hand, The earth swallowed them.”
The Devil hates us and will oppose us fiercely, but God is always at work to protect us. As you trust Him, his hand is outstretched towards you. Despite the intimidation and might of the serpent/dragon, the Church, the people of God are always being kept and preserved in a wonderful and miraculous way from the efforts of the devil against us. 1 Peter 1:5 tells us how God does this: “…and through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” From the moment we said “yes” to Jesus, until the moment we stand before him in glory, God is protecting us by His power – “through [our] faith.” I pray that your faith would not fail this week!