In every age, in every era, in every culture and nation there has been, and remains today a deep-seated hope that evil will be defeated. A hope that a hero will rise up who will slay the dragon and free the villagers living paralyzed in fear. This hope is so strong that many have not been able to keep it to themselves; they’ve had to express their hope in some creative way. This hope is the stuff of books and movies that captures our hearts and gives us hope. Do you remember the Disney movie “The Lion King?”
It appeared that all was well in the Pride Lands of Africa when King Mufasa’s son, Simba, was born. Lurking beneath the surface, seething with jealousy, was the sinister Scar, Mufasa’s brother. Do you remember the opening of the film when all the animals were present for the dramatic hoisting of Simba to the heavens by Rafiki on Pride Rock? Everyone was there except for Scar. Later that day, Mufasa confronted his younger brother, Scar, about his absence. Scar said he just forgot, but the truth was he was jealous because he believed that he should be the heir to the throne.
You know the story. Mufasa was killed as Scar was trying to eliminate Simba. Simba grows up and at the end of the movie a battle between Simba and Scar, good and evil, moved me to the edge of my seat. In the end, evil was defeated, Scar was killed, and Simba and his bride Nala were standing on Pride Rock with Rafiki hoisting their new-born cub before the animals of the Pride Lands who let out a gasp of relief as peace had been returned to the people. What a story!
We are not the only ones who have this deep-seated hope of evil’s defeat in our hearts. Throughout history there have been stories told in every culture of the young hero who grows up to right the wrongs and bring about the defeat of evil.
The Greeks had their own stories. One of the most well-known is the myth of the birth of the Greek god Apollo. Let me tell you the story. The goddess Leto was pregnant with Zeus’ son, Apollo. The great dragon, Python, the son of Earth, learned that the baby was to be born so he tried to track down Leto to do away with her and her child. Leto was snatched away to Poseidon, who put her on the island Ortygia and then sank the island beneath the sea. Python frantically searched for Leto to kill her baby, but when he could not find her he went away to Parnassus. After the threat of Python was gone Leto’s island surfaced from the deep and she gave birth to Apollo. When Apollo was born he immediately reached full strength and four days later went to Parnassus and killed the evil dragon, Python.
The Egyptian hearts were also hopeful that evil would succumb to good. One of the Egyptian myths tells the story of the goddess Hathor, or Isis, who was the wife of Osiris, and wore the sun upon her head like a crown. The red dragon Typhon, also called Set, who is sometimes pictured as a crocodile or serpent, slayed Osiris, Hathor’s husband, and then went after the pregnant Hathor. Miraculously, she was able to give birth to her son, Horus, the sun god, and then she escaped on a boat made out of papyrus to the island of Chemnis. Hathor’s son, Horus, eventually overcame the dragon who was then imprisoned and later destroyed through fire.
There are so many stories that we could tell which all have a similar story line—a hero will emerge, evil will be defeated by good, and we will be freed from evil’s diabolical grip! Now I must make something very clear, the Scripture that we will study this morning is not merely a story, it’s not a myth, it was not “adapted” from other ancient myths, but this is a revelation from God. S. Lewis Johnson says in his sermon on this passage of Scripture.
It is helpful at times to avoid the language that the scholarly world likes to use. Such as, ‘the apostle has adapted myths that were current in the ancient world and the apostle has given us this particular great work as the result of the adaptation of these myths.’ (S. Lewis Johnson)
How do you explain the hope of the human heart for “good” to win over “evil?” How do you explain this hope in the hearts of people who have never read the Bible or professed any faith in God at all? That’s a great question. God has put a hope for something more, something better, in the human heart. The hope of every human heart and every culture throughout history is fulfilled in but one Hero—there is no other deliverer but Jesus! The Egyptian’s “Horus,” the Greek’s “Apollo,” Disney’s “Simba,” or the Jew’s long awaited Messiah all find their fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus is no mythological figure my friends—He is the Revelation of God. He is the Promised One who has come and who is coming again!
If you will turn with me to Revelation 12:1-17 we are going to take a look at the centerpiece of the book of Revelation.
1 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. 7And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 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. 10Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11They 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. 12Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” 13When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. 15Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring– those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:1-17 NIV)
There is a reason why many believe that Revelation 12 is the centerpiece of the book of Revelation. It is the story of God’s sovereignty, God’s provision for His people, and of the victory that is sure, and secure, even though the battles continue. You and I have to remember Dr. Waltke’s words that “Revelation is a picture book and not a puzzle book.” If we try to take everything in chapter 12 as literal then we are going to come up with some very strange beliefs. Let me give you an example.
In verse 14 we have a picture of the woman being “given two wings of a great eagle” so that she can fly away to a place God prepared for her so that she can be safe from the dragon. One of the most widely read Bible teachers, a man who has sold millions of books about the end times, believes that the two wings of the eagle describe an airplane. He says that since the eagle is the national symbol of the U.S.A. that this is referring to an airlift on behalf of persecuted Israelis performed by the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. The U.S. airlift will fly Israelis to the ancient city of Petra. (Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming, p. 179.) This is just one example of how folks have not taken the time to truly study this section of God’s Word in context with all of God’s Word.
Revelation 12 begins a new series of visions that runs through Revelation 15:4. According to one Bible teacher, G.K. Beale, the series of visions can be divided into seven sections:
1) The conflict of the serpent with the woman and her seed. (Revelation 12)
2) Persecution by the beast from the sea. (Rev. 13:1-10)
3) Persecution by the beast from the land. (Rev. 13:11-18)
4) The Lamb and the 144,000 standing on Mount Zion. (Rev. 14:1-5)
5) The proclamation of the gospel and of judgment by three angels. (Rev. 14:6-13)
6) The Son of Man’s harvest of the earth. (Rev. 14:14-20)
7) The saint’s victory over the sea beast and their victory song. (Rev. 15:2-4)
This morning we will spend our time by taking a look at the first of these seven visions. Revelation 12 can be broken down into three scenes. They are verses 1-6, verses 7-12, and verses 13-17. If you read the Scripture you will notice that the first and last scenes form a bracket around the middle scene for us. Let’s see what we can learn from our Scripture for today.
The first thing John saw was a “sign.” The Greek word, “shmei/on” (semeion) means, “a sign, mark, an unusual occurrence, or miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the people sent by Him.” The word appears 77 times in the Greek New Testament and it is used to show signs that are from God and false signs as well. (For signs from God see Luke 21:11, 25; Acts 2:19. For false signs see Revelation 13:13, 14; 16:14; 19:20). John MacArthur in his commentary on Revelation says,
Se?meion (sign) describes a symbol that points to a reality. The literal approach to interpreting Scripture allows for normal use of symbolic language, but understands that it points to a literal reality. In this case, the description plainly shows that the woman John saw was not an actual woman. Also, the reference to “the rest of her children,” those “who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (v. 17), shows that this woman is a symbolic mother. (John MacArthur)
Dr. MacArthur says that the woman John saw in his vision was not a literal woman. Then who was she? If she is a “sign” what literal reality does she point us to? That’s a great question. Many Catholic Bible teachers throughout history have taught that the woman was Mary, but this can’t be the case since the woman in Revelation 12 is persecuted in the wilderness later in the chapter, after her Son is “snatched up” into heaven. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Christian Scientists, says the woman in this passage is herself, the “child” is her teaching, and the “dragon” is mortal man. Most Bible teachers agree that the woman is symbolic of Israel. Throughout Scripture Israel is oftentimes described as a woman, sometimes faithful, and sometimes unfaithful. Let me give you one example. In Isaiah 54:1-5 we read,
1Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. 3For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. 4 “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. 5For your Maker is your husband– the LORD Almighty is his name– the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. (Isaiah 54:1-5 NIV)
Another “sign” appears in verse 3 where we read about the “red dragon.” As I mentioned to you earlier, Mary Baker Eddy believes that the red dragon is symbolic of mortal man, but there can be no doubt that the real entity behind the red dragon is Satan. Revelation 12:9 tells us that the great dragon is the “devil, “Satan,” the one “who leads the whole world astray.” The Greek word for “dragon” is the word, “dra,kwn” (drakon) and it means, “serpent, dragon, or sea-monster.” This is the key word for Satan throughout the book of Revelation. The word appears 13 times in the New Testament, each of them in the book of Revelation.
Once again we see the Greek word, “me,gaj” used to describe the dragon. Do you remember from last week what this Greek word means? It means “huge, big,” or in this instance, “great in size and power.” It was used last week to describe the voices of the elders as they praised God. The dragon is further described as having “seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns on his heads.” His huge tail swept one third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to earth. He stood in front of the woman waiting for her child to be born so that he could devour him the moment He was born. Now that is an imposing figure.
Throughout time Satan has tried to thwart the plans of God. He has tried to use his power and influence to lead the people of God astray, but God’s plans are fail-proof my friends. It is interesting to see how this word, “dragon” is used in other parts of God’s Word. I want us to take a look at Isaiah 27:1 where we find the same Greek word used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Before we read the verse let me set the scene for you. Isaiah 24-27 is sometimes called Isaiah’s “Little Apocalypse.” Jerusalem was going to fall at the hands of the Assyrians, but God would one day rise up and destroy the Assyrians and restore Jerusalem. Read with me from Isaiah 27:1.
1In that day, the LORD will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea. (Isaiah 27:1 NIV)
In the footnotes of “The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible” we read.
The Old Testament employs this imagery to denote demonic forces behind oppressive political powers. (Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, p. 1117)
Let me show you another example of how the Bible uses the imagery of the “dragon” or “sea monster” to describe demonic forces behind politically oppressive powers. In Ezekiel 29:1-3 we have another example. I want us to recognize that this judgment is dated. It took place during Jehoiachin’s reign in January of 587 B.C. Read along with me.
1In the tenth year, in the tenth month on the twelfth day, the word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. 3 Speak to him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. You say, “The Nile is mine; I made it for myself.” (Ezekiel 29:1-3 NIV)
The reason I wanted us to take the time to see how the Bible uses the word “dragon” is because I want you to remember the context of the book of Revelation. Who is in power? Domitian is dominating. There is widespread persecution against the followers of Jesus taking place. Behind the world powers, whether they are Nebuchadnezzar or Pharaoh or the Emperor, whether they are a modern-day despot or an ancient evil king, there is the power of the dragon, Satan, at work. This has been true throughout time. Peter writes,
8 …Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NIV)
Our enemy was prowling around in the days of Abraham, he was lurking about in the days of King David, and the Apostle Paul. He is on the prowl in every age, but those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb are safe. Oh, they, like Antipas, may lose their life, but they will gain eternity! Our enemy was defeated at the cross!
The dragon sees that he can’t destroy the woman’s child, Jesus, so he turns to destroy the woman. In verses 14-16 we find that the woman was given two wings so that she could fly to a place prepared for her in the desert. She wasn’t alone in the desert because we read that she was taken care of for “a time, times, and half a time.” This is the same designation as the 1,260 days that we’ve read about already in Revelation 12:6. In Revelation 11:1-3 we read,
1I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. 3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11:1-3 NIV)
Once again I would like to quote to you from The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible.
It is half of seven years, which from a symbolic point of view suggests a complete period of suffering cut short by half. The main background is found in Daniel 7:25, which in turn is related to other passages (Daniel 9:27; 12:7,11-12). Some futurist interpreters look for a period of time of this length shortly before the second coming. But like other numbers in Revelation, this one is probably symbolic, relating to the three and one half days in verses 9 and 11. In this case it designates a persecution of limited length. (The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, p. 2067-2068.)
The main emphasis that I want us to notice this morning is that the woman is provided for by God. She is not the focal point of the verses, God’s provision is. He gives her two wings like eagles, He prepared a place for her in the desert, and He took care of her for the time that she was in the desert. When the dragon spews water to overtake her, God supplies the earth to dry up the river so that she is protected. Wow! God is good isn’t He!
You have to remember that the woman is Israel and not a literal woman. Satan has tried to destroy God’s people, the Israelites, but he has not, and he never will succeed. God has chosen Israel, though they were least among the nations, God chose them, and He has a plan for His people.
I want you to notice one more very important aspect about our Scripture this morning. In verse 17 we find out that the dragon, unsuccessful in his attempt to destroy the woman, turned on the rest of her offspring. Read along with me.
17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring– those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:1-17 NIV)
Who are “the rest of her offspring?” The woman is Israel, her son is Jesus, but the rest of her offspring are “those who obey God’s commands and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” This verse is speaking about the whole family of God, Israel and those Gentiles who have been “grafted in” by faith in Jesus, all of those who have been called and professed faith in Jesus. The dragon is making war on believers in every age, at every time, and in every place, but remember–he will not prevail. How do believers claim the victory? Verse 11 tells us,
11They 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. (Revelation 12:11 NIV)
The War has been won! The child of the woman, Jesus, our Savior, is victorious! How has the battle been won? The enemy, Satan, and every little oppressor, every little deceiver, every little antagonist of God’s people has been defeated by the blood of the Lamb. The War has been won my friends, but the battles continue to rage. Hold true to the testimony of our glorious Savior, refuse to love your life more than you love your Savior, and live boldly for the glory of our King! Paul told the Ephesians,
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)
We are battling a defeated enemy. Don’t give up the fight! Carry the banner of our Savior and hold it high! While the rest of the world uses His precious name in vain, never be ashamed to speak the Name that is above every name. John tells us that our enemy, Satan, is “filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Every day his time is getting shorter. That ought to make you and me even stronger as we leave this study today and go out to face the enemy.
How will you do battle with the enemy today if you aren’t clothed in the right battle gear? What do you have in your arsenal to do battle with the enemy today? A good education? Good luck. Deep pockets? They aren’t that deep. You say you’re smooth, you’ve always been able to get yourself out of jams? Not this one. You need to be clothed in Christ as you leave this place today. If you have never accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life then won’t you bow your knee to Him even now and ask Him into your heart?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 17, 2006