NOTE: Referenced Overview: “The Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible,” Along with other commentaries:
The Seventh Trumpet in Detail (Part D): two spiritual wonders struggling behind the great tribulation (12:1-17) – The Preachers Outline and Sermon Bible pages 159-163.
THE CENTRAL CHARACTERS IN THE GREAT TRIBULATION
Introduction – 12:1-5
(12:1-2) – Israel
(12:3-4) – Satan – Dragon
(12::5) – The Lord Jesus Christ
This is one of the most revealing and fascinating chapters in the Bible. It rolls back the curtain between earth and the heavens and shows what lies behind all the sin and evil and all the conflict and struggle of this world.
It reveals a great SPIRITUAL STRUGGLE occurring behind the scenes of this world. In the last days that spiritual struggle will be more intense than ever. The conflict will be so intense that the struggle that is waged upon earth is called, by our Lord, THE GREAT TRIBULATION.
NOTE: By great He meant the most intense and terrible tribulation the world has ever seen. But why does the world have to suffer the worst tribulation that they have ever seen? This passage tells us of the GREAT spiritual warfare that is waged behind the scenes of this world, the great spiritual warfare that is being fought for the souls of men.
There are three principle characters who have been involved in the spiritual warfare. These characters are the subject of this first passages Revelation 12:1-5.
- The first character: a woman with child (v. 1-2)
- The second character: a great red dragon – Satan (v. 3-4)
- The main character: a man child – Jesus (v. 5)
(12:1-2) ISRAEL: We are looking at the first character in the great tribulation – the woman with child. Note how the woman bursts upon the scene. She is said to be a great “wonder” (semeion) or a great sign in heaven. Note also that she is in heaven. This means that she is the heavenly representative of some earthly people. Who is the woman on earth, what people does she represent?
1. This woman is not identified, but it is clear who she is.
a. She is clothed with the sun, the moon is under her feet, and she has upon her head a crown of stars. This refers back to the Old Testament dream that Joseph had:
“And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, what is this dream that thou has dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to the to the earth before you? And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying” (Genesis 37:9-11).
Note that Jacob understood exactly what Joseph meant:
- The sun represented the father Jacob,
- the moon the mother, and
- the twelve stars the brothers.
- The dream was a picture of Israel.
- Joseph was dreaming that Israel would be saved from destruction through him.
b. She is pregnant, and the child is pictured as being born (v. 2, 5). Note what is said about the child.
“And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and the child was caught up unto God, and to his throne” (v. 5).
This clearly refers to Jesus Christ. He and He alone was born to rule all nations, and He alone was exalted to the throne of God. As stated, this is a clear reference to Jesus Christ.
2. Now who is this woman? There are three main positions about who she is.
a. Some say she is Mary, the mother of Jesus. But there are just too many supernatural things said about the woman for her to be an earthly or human being.
b. Some say she is the church. But this is difficult to see, for the church did not give birth to Christ. On the contrary, Christ gave birth to the church.
c. Some say she is the ideal Zion, the ideal Jerusalem, the ideal Israel, the chosen people, the community of God from which Christ came. These say the mother represents all the true people of God, those before Jesus came and those after He came.
Paul actually speaks of Jerusalem which is above, who is the mother of the people of God on earth (Galatians 4:26). This position is a possible identification of the woman. But again, this position does not fill all the things said about the woman, not as well as Israel itself does.
d. Some say that the woman represents Israel, the very people who gave birth to Jesus Christ. This seems to be the clearest identification of the woman. As we progress through the passage, we will see that everything said about this woman fits Israel just like a glove.
- Paul himself said that Jesus Christ came out of Israel (Romans 9:5).
- Isaiah prophesied that Israel would travail in pain and bring forth a man-child (Isaiah 66:7-8).
(Revelation 12:3-4) – Satan — Dragon: There is the second character in the great tribulation — the great red dragon, that is the devil. Note that the dragon is also said to be a WONDER OR A SIGN IN HEAVEN. Three significant things need to be discussed about this sign.
1. There is the description and authority of the dragon or devil. The description is entirely different from what most people think. When people think of the devil, they picture a fiery red serpent-like creature with two horns, and a long pointed tail who holds a pitchfork in his hand. But this is a total misconception, a far cry from the truth.
When Scripture speaks of Satan as a dragon, it is referring to the evil work he does, not to his looks or appearance. Scripture says that Satan is the HIGHEST and MOST GLORIOUS BEING EVER CREATED BY GOD, that his being is so magnificent that he shines like the sun and that he actually possesses glory just like God.
NOTE: what this verse says about his description and remember: that this is not picturing what he looks like. It is describing his authority and power.
- Satan has seven heads: seven is the number of completeness and fullness. Satan is complete in intelligence; he has full knowledge. HE IS NOT OMNISCIENT, of course, but his knowledge is complete and full.
- Satan has seven crowns: this symbolizes authority, rule, and dominion — a crowned ruler who has a kingdom that he rules over. Scripture clearly says that Satan is a crowned ruler and that his authority is well beyond anything that man ever thinks.
- Satan has ten horns: this symbolizes great power, but power that pierces, rips and tears — all in the most ferocious and vicious way.
- It symbolizes that he uses his head and authority in an evil way.
- Satan is the GOD OF THIS WORLD who blinds men’s minds.
“In whom the god of this world hath BLINDED THE MINDS OF THEM WHICH BELIEVE NOT, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
- Satan is the prince of this world.
“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out: (John 12:31).
“Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30).
“Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:11).
- Satan is the prince of the power of the air.
“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the PRINCE OF THE POWER OF THE AIR, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).
- Satan is the king of a kingdom.
“And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:26).
“Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall downs and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9).
- Satan has his grip upon the whole world.
“And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (I John 5:19).
2. There is the origin of the dragon or devil. This statement is telling where Satan came from. This is clearly seen in the Greek tenses of the statement. Note the two statements in the Greek:
- His tail “draws” (surei, present tense) a third part of heaven. That is, Satan draws, pulls, and drags a third of the stars, that is, angels of heaven.
- He “did cast” (ebalen) them down or threw them down. This is past tense; that is, it tells us what Satan did long ago.
THE POINT IS THIS: TODAY, IN THE PRESENT MOMENT, Satan has authority over one third of the stars or angels of heaven. How? Because in the past he cast them down with himself.
Now note two points.
a. Where were Satan and the angels cast down from? Heaven. They were the stars of heaven, but they were cast down from heaven. Eons ago, sometime before man ever began, God created an angel, the highest and most glorious being ever created.
- His name is Lucifer which means STAR OF THE MORNING.
- He was the anointed cherub who covered the very throne of God itself. He was the angel put in charge of the glory of God’s very own throne.
b. NOTE: Something happened: he did what so many people do. He began to look at himself, and he began to want to live like he wanted instead of like God wanted. He wanted to do his own thing instead of doing like God said.
Therefore, he rebelled against God, and in his rebellion, he led one third of the angelic beings with him.
Consequently, God had no choice but to cast him down from his exalted position in heaven. From what we can glean from Scripture this is what happened to Lucifer, how he became the devil, the arch-enemy of God. (see Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4; I Peter 5:8 for more information).
Also note the information contained in: (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19; Revelation 12:3-4).
3. There is the aim of the dragon or devil. Satan’s aim is to devour the woman, to destroy Israel. This has always been Satan’s aim. Why? Because he is out to get back at God for judging him. He is out to hurt God, to cut the heart of God. And the best way he can do this is to turn the hearts of people away from God and lead them to sin and to follow the way of evil.
Now, to way back in history again, to the time when God promised to send the Savior to the world. When God first promised to send Christ to save the world, Satan knew it. He was listening.
He was the SERPENT who had tempted Adam and Eve and led them to sin and hurt God. But God loved Adam and Eve and wanted to save them from sin and death; therefore, God promised to send the SEED, the Savior of the world, who would crush the head and power of Satan.
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; and it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
As stated, Satan heard God’s promise to send the Savior. Consequently, he was bound to do all he could to delay the coming of the Seed, the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He, of course, knew what we know: no person can stop God’s plan and His will.
But Satan wanted to get as many people as he could to sin and to turn away from God so that God’s heart would be cut and hurt. He wanted to delay his own defeat and the crushing of his head as long as he could. This is what is meant by this verse:
“…The dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born” (v. 4).
Satan has tried from the very beginning to destroy the seed of the woman. He has been waging war against the SEED OF GOD, the Savior of the world, ever since God promised to save the world.
This is how Satan has attempted to hurt God, by doing all he could to devour the woman, the line of Israel. He did all he could to keep the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, from being born.
Now that Christ has come, Satan does all he can to turn people away from the judgment to come. Even when people do repent and turn to follow Christ, Satan does all he can to turn the followers of the Lord away from Him.
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