THE BOOK OF REVELATION
THE CHURCH'S TRIUMPH THROUGH CHRIST
Sermon #42 - The War of the Ages - Revelation 12:1-5
INTRODUCTION - This morning we enter into a new chapter of Revelation. So far, we have been shown the great judgment which Christ sends forth as He breaks open the seals of the New Covenant. Israel had become apostate in rejecting the Son of God. Now they would reap the promises of judgment from the Covenant. Revelation has the tone of Old Testament prophecy, as God judges apostate Israel, yet preserves for Himself His faithful people in the church. As we come to Chapter 12, we will be shown a panoramic view of history, from the beginning of time to the great victory which Christ and His Church enjoy over their enemies. Chapter 12 in particular deals with the conflict between the church and the devil. It is a chapter of great encouragement for John's readers, for they were the persecuted church, and yet they needed to see that victory was assured through the ascended Christ. Revelation is a highly figurative book, and what John is about to show to us is a picture of spiritual truths (12:1). Let us therefore think like first century Christians who understood this passage, and let us keep our Old Testaments close at hand so that we might interpret this passage correctly.
1) IDENTIFYING THE WOMAN, THE CHILD AND THE DRAGON
A) THE IDENTITY OF THE WOMAN - Revelation 12:1,2 - As we shall see from the Old Testament, this woman represents the church, the people of God in the Old Testament. Her Child, as we shall see, is Christ, who is the culmination and the promise which the Old Testament people bring forth. In Genesis 37:9,10, we have the description of the woman's symbols used by Joseph to describe the people of Israel. Thus, the woman of Revelation 12 is Israel. Also, the fact that she is a woman is pertinent to Old Testament history. God's people are often described as a woman, sometimes a woman in labor (Isaiah 26:17; Jeremiah 4:31). She is sometimes a faithful bride while at other times she is described as an unfaithful wife. This, then, is the meaning of the woman in Revelation 12. She represents the people of God in the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament we see God's people working at bringing forth the all-important Child. Who is the Child?
B) THE IDENTITY OF THE WOMAN'S CHILD - Revelation 12:5 - Obviously it is the Lord Jesus Christ. The woman, however, should not just be identified as the Virgin Mary, the mother of the Lord. No, the woman actually represents the entire line of Christ which would finally bring Him forth. He is described in verse 5 as the Child who would "rule all nations with a rod of iron." This is from Psalm 2 and describes the triumphant succession of Christ to the throne of God and His present rule over the nations of the world. This theme ties in with Revelation 11 and the description of Christ's present rule and reign. The Child is the Lord Jesus Christ.
C) THE IDENTITY OF THE DRAGON - Revelation 12:3,9 - Once again, this is not difficult to figure out. The text tells us that the dragon is the great enemy of the Old Testament church, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the New Testament church. The dragon is the devil. Yet it is his description of having "seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads" that should intrigue us. How would the early church understand this figurative description? We need to return to Daniel 7 for this picture. Here, in a dream of Daniel, we are told about the four great empires which will rule before the last and final empire of the Lord Jesus Christ. Daniel dreams about four great beasts which are four great empires (Daniel 7:3,17,18). Babylon, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks and Romans are all depicted as being the nations which will rise and conquer the world. Yet it is the figurative description of these nations which should interest us. The beasts have a total of seven heads (Daniel 9:6) and ten horns (Daniel 9:7), just like the devil in Revelation 12. John is tying in the devil with these four nations. In other words, they are the devil's great attempt to set up for himself a worldly kingdom in opposition to the kingdom of Christ. They will also be one of the means through which the devil tries to destroy any chance of Christ being born into this world. Yet we should also note that Daniel 7 deals with the final kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the kingdom which will end all kingdoms, triumphing over all of these empires (Daniel 7:13,14). The description of the devil in Revelation 12 is quite incredible, for he is associated with the world empires which stand in opposition to the Kingdom of Christ.
2) THE WAR BETWEEN THE WOMAN, HER CHILD AND THE DRAGON - Revelation 12:4,5 - The all-pervading focus of Scripture of the Lord Jesus Christ. The all-pervading promise of Scripture is that God is forming for Himself a people. The all-pervading war of Scripture sets the devil against God's plan and against God's Son. Since the beginning of time, the devil has endeavored to destroy the plan of God. Perhaps the best commentary on Revelation 12 is Genesis 3:15, for here we see the woman, the Child and the devil, along with the beginning of their war. As God addresses the devil in this verse, He declares war against the devil's seed. The woman is present (in the form of Eve), the Child is also present (in the seed of the woman), and the devil and his seed are present. God has divided the world into two great families at war, and it is this battle which we can trace throughout the pages of Scripture. In Revelation 12:4, we are told that the dragon stands ready to devour the Child at birth, and as we read the Scriptures, we see that this has been the devil's tactic since the beginning of time. He has always endeavored to corrupt or destroy the birth of Christ. We read of Cain, the devil's seed, killing Abel, the seed of the Lord (Genesis 4:1,2,8). In Egypt, Sarah, the mother of the promise, is almost lost to Pharaoh (Genesis 12:17-19). Later the devil tries to supplant Isaac the son of promise through Hagar and her son Ishmael. Jacob and Esau are at odds with each other as the war wages between them. These are not random events, but they are all part of the great war waging between the two families of earth. In Exodus 1:22, Pharaoh tries to wipe out all the children of Israel. This too is from the hand of the devil. Throughout the Old Testament, through foreign nations like Babylon, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks and Romans, the devil has tried to eradicate the promise through Christ. He has always tried to set up his own kingdom in opposition to Christ's. Finally, in the New Testament as Christ is to be born, what do we see happening? Herod endeavors to have Him destroyed (Matthew 2:16). Here is the devil ready to devour the Child. Finally, at the cross, we see the end of the battle as the devil is dealt the crushing blow to the head by Christ. Though Christ dies, He triumphs victoriously and ascends to the throne of God where He is given absolute dominion over all things, including the defeated dragon. This is how we are to understand the first picture given to us in Revelation 12. It is the glorious battle of the Lord's people against the devil's. It is the glorious triumph of the leader of God's people, the Lord Jesus Christ. John presents this picture to the early church for they especially needed to know that the devil had been defeated and that victory was theirs through Christ Jesus.
Yet, whose side are you on? There is no neutrality in this world, for one is either on the side of the devil or the side of God. The devil works hard at keeping his people deceived. He continues to harass the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet he is now a toothless old dragon whose end is in sight. A believer can simply resist him and he will flee. The Child has triumphed and presently rules and reigns in heaven and on earth. Therefore, are you on the side of the King of kings and Lord of lords?