April 25, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy L: A Women, A Red Dragon, A Male Child, A War & An Aftermath-Part II

[Continued from Part I]
So…the woman flees from the dragon after the deliverance of her son. She flees so that the dragon will not annihilate her. She escapes into the wilderness for protection because “there she has a place prepared by God”, “derived from God.” She will have not only protection but also “nourishment,” which enables her to continue to exist. This protection and assistance lasts for “twelve hundred and sixty days.” This is the same period as in 11:2–3, where for that length of time God protects the church as his invisible, inviolable temple and gives it power to witness despite ongoing persecution (Revelation 11:1–6). God gives his heavenly aid to the church (community of faith) throughout its existence on earth, since the earth is the sphere of the dragon’s activities after his heavenly eviction. The protection and nourishment given in Revelation12:6 assures the continued existence of God’s worshiping community on earth and enables it to function as a witness

Verse 7 develops Daniel’s heavenly imagery of the battle of Michael and the Son of man against the wicked angels of Persia and Greece (Dan. 10:13, 21; cf. Dan. 10:16). If you remember in Daniel, Michael is closely associated with the Son of man, and both are set forth as heavenly representatives of Israel (Daniel 12:1; 8:11, 7:13–27). Therefore they are identified as fighting together for Israel against the forces of evil, just as in Daniel 10:20–21. Michael helps this “son of man” fight against malevolent angelic forces. On the basis of this evidence, a plausible conclusion is that Michael is a heavenly representative. But now Christ conducts warfare on the new Israel’s behalf on earth, whereas Michael fights in the heavenly sphere. Consequently, verse 7 explains the heavenly counterpart to Christ’s victory at the cross and resurrection. Michael’s actions on behalf of true Israel must be linked to Daniel 12:1, which predicts that he will “stand up” in the latter-day tribulation to defend them from destruction.

Since Revelation 11:7 has already alluded to Dan. 7:21, and 13:7 will make the same allusion, both verses referring to the beast’s attacks against the saints. Here the language of Dan. 7:21 is applied to the defeat of the dragon. The heavenly struggle of Revelation 12:7 depicts the beginning of the earthly and celestial battle predicted by Daniel for the last days (Dan. 7:21; 8:10; 12:1).

If this is therefore a parallel with Daniel, then the woman, the dragon, the serpent, the wilderness, the wings of the eagle, and other descriptions throughout chapter12 are clearly symbolic. If we then scrutinize the rest of chapter 12 what we see in clarity is the way in which the devil was defeated by Christ’s resurrection. “A place was not found any more in heaven” for the devil and his angels and the divine hosts throw the dragon and his angels from heaven to the earth. The picture of the devil being thrown down indicates that in some way he is being punished by means of his own sin, since he unjustly “threw the stars onto the earth” (v 4). He is called the “ancient serpent,” which identifies him as the diabolical character of Gen. 3:1.

"Then 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 Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over 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. Therefore 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.' " Revelation 12:10-12

The meaning of Christ’s ascension and the devil’s expulsion from heaven (verses 3–9) is now explained to be the long-awaited inauguration of the prophesied messianic kingdom (Psalm 2 and Daniel 2: “ Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah ”. This statement is a development of the already-and-not-yet formulas of the kingdom throughout the New Testament. This means that verse 10 does not merely anticipate the future kingdom, but celebrates the fact that the kingdom has begun immediately following Christ’s death and resurrection. The second part of v 10 elaborates on how the kingdom has begun, specifically on what it means that Christ’s death and resurrection have resulted in Satan’s expulsion from heaven. The death and resurrection of Christ have banished the devil from this privilege formerly granted him by God, because Christ’s death was the penalty that God exacted for the sins of all those who were saved by faith. The sinless Christ vicariously took on himself the wrath threatening saints, so that they might be delivered from the final wrath to come. Therefore, the devil no longer had any basis for his accusations against the saints, since the penalty that they deserved and that he pleaded for had at last been exacted in Christ’s death.

Romans 3:21–26 contains a similar idea: God delayed the penalty that OT saints deserved until its execution in Jesus’ death, so that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) and “no one can bring a charge against God’s elect,” not even “angels, principalities or powers” (Rom. 8:33–34, 38). This is precisely what Rev. 12:11 means when it says “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb”.

The victory won through Christ’s blood must be the basis, not only for the saints’ earthly victory, but also for Michael’s triumph in heaven. It is in verse 11 that we see the summarization of the entire chapter. It is to assure those who meet satanic evil on earth realize that it is really a defeated power, however contrary it might seem to human perception at the point of contaxt with it no matter how negative the experience.”

It is the old adage: Satan only attacks and wages war against believer’s bodies because he knows the overall war for their souls is over and he has lost to Christ. The theme is that the suffering of Christians is a sign, not of Satan’s victory, but of the saints’ victory over Satan because of their belief in the triumph of the cross…

"When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus." Revelation 12:13-17

Verse 13 picks up where both v 6 and v 12 left off. Verse 6 had narrated the saintly community fleeing into a place of divine refuge, and there was no explicit comment about the dragon’s persecution of that community. Verse 12 explains that the dragon was enraged over losing his heavenly office as a result of his inability to thwart the birth of Christ and especially Christ’s ultimate enthronement. Verse 13 now gives full expression or full range to his anger by pursuing or persecuting the saints (it can be interpreted both ways). Satan now directs his efforts of harassment and oppression full-on against God’s people even more. This bastard pulls out all the stops at this point. His rage is on full display. The object of his malicious intent is “the woman who bore the male child.” It is the woman’s identification with the “male child” that Has the dragon to persecute her.

This appears to be the Church or the community of Faith.

This quite possibly could refer to the early Jewish Christian church. Verse14 now reiterates the crux of verse 6: “it was given to the woman … that she should fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time, times and half a time (or 3 ½ years). The Woman’s exodus/pilgrimage is to find safeguard from the menacing “presence of the serpent.” The allusion to the period of tribulation of 3 ½ years…is again from Daniel. The image of the woman flying with “the two wings of a great eagle into the wilderness” recalls Old Testament pictures from Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:10-12.

The nourishment mentioned is the sustaining presence of God himself among his people. His presence assures and strengthens them in the midst of persecution and suffering. The devil’s persecution of the faith community is represented by the picture of the serpent casting water from his mouth in order to sweep away the woman with a flood in verse 15. This does not refer to any literal flood but figurative, as are

The metaphor of an overflowing flood can have at least three ideas in the Old Testament:

  1. An army spreading out to conquer a country (Dan. 11:10, 22, 26, 40), sometimes as an indication of divine judgment (Isaiah 8:7–8; 17:12–13; Hosea 5:10; Micah 1:4; Nahum 1:8)
  2. A general reference to divine judgment (Psalms 32:6; 90:5)
  3. The persecution of God’s people by enemies from whom God delivers them (2 Samuel 22:5; Psalms 18:4; 46:3; 66:12
  4. The last idea seems to be clearly in mind here in Revelation 12.
The earth swallowing the flood is a further allusion to the exodus and Israel’s wilderness experience. “The earth swallowed” the Egyptians when they pursued Israel through the Red Sea in Exodus 15:12.

Although the dragon is enraged because his efforts to destroy the church have been thwarted the fool does not cease his attempts to exterminate God’s people. In the end he loses but he doesn’t care, he’s taking out as many as he can as he goes. Verse17 may best be taken as a repetitive summary of verse 13-16 for repetitive effect. To me the most reasonable view is that the woman in verse 6 and 13–16 depicts the suffering of the “archetype” church from the heavenly perspective, and v17 depicts suffering from the perspective of “the people of God on earth.”  This cannot be ruled out considering there is parallel warfare going on in the beginning in terms of heaven and earth, Michael and the Son of Man, etc. This therefore needs to be taken as a contrast between the whole heavenly church and the whole earthly church.

Accordingly, verses 6, 13–17 could be portraying Satan as beginning his  attack against the church in the church’s early stages (early church persecution) in order to destroy it quickly and continuing the attack as long as the church exists.

The description of the seed as “those who keep the commandments of God and who hold the testimony of Jesus” is open-ended and points to an inclusion of Jews and Gentiles. The simplest explanation to the description here probably suggests how all the earthly church throughout the ages withstands the devil’s attacks. 

Those that remain obedient and persevere until the end are rewarded by the Lord. Period. Again we see the premise that believers will need to endure tribulation and/or suffering.

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