The book of Revelation is filled with symbolism. Some of the symbols are easy to understand because they are explained in the text, itself. For instance, in Chapter 1 we see Jesus in the midst of the lamp stands, then we are told the lamp stands represent the churches. Here in Chapter 12, the imagery is a bit harder to deduce. We are told of a woman clothed with the sun, who gives birth to a male child. Next, a red dragon, with seven heads, who draws a third of the stars from heaven, and awaits the birth of the child, that he might devour him. If we take a few minutes to unwrap the text, we will find that most of the imagery is, in fact, explained for us. Verse nine reveals the dragon is Satan, which makes the stars he drags, a reference to his angels. Verse five disclosess the male Child would rule the nations, making this a clear reference to Jesus. We are told He ascended to the throne of heaven. In verse 17, Satan makes war with the remnant of her seed. It would seem then, this reference represents Israel and the further offspring of the woman, and the Gentiles, who come to faith during the tribulation.
Instead of becoming overly distracted by the symbolism, I think it is critical to catch what is happening here. Satan is seeking to oppose the work of Christ, and in response, the angelic forces are sent forth to withstand him. Here we read, Satan is cast out of heaven, and will soon be caged in the bottomless pit. Realizing his time is short, he begins an all out attack upon the inhabitants of the earth. In the midst of this battle, we are given one of the great lessons in how to overcome temptations and live godly in Christ Jesus.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11
The blood of Christ was shed to provide forgiveness for all our sins. No charge brought against the Christian will stand in the court of heaven. Satan’s charges have already been answered at the cross. Instead of living in guilt and fear, we can live in confidence, knowing Christ has covered our sin.
The “word of their testimony” refers to the things that Christ has accomplished in their lives. One of the greatest weapons in our arsenal, is to look back at what Christ has already accomplished for us. Remembering yesterday’s victory can create confidence for tomorrow.
“They did not love their lives to the death.” The one who has surrendered all to Christ is indestructible, until Christ calls him home. Fear often keeps us from accomplishing what Christ has called us to. The cure for fear is trust. I was sitting with a friend recently in a quite volatile situation, when he remarked, “If you have to fear something, you might as well fear God.”
We have a great promise that one day the enemy of our souls will be bound up and cast into a pit. Until that time, we must fight. Trusting in the blood of Christ, the testimony of His Word, and the commitment we made to follow Him.
In chapter 11, the seventh and final trumpet sounds, likely indicating that the time of the Great Tribulation is drawing to a close (though there are still seven bowls of judgment ahead). One of the great works occurring during the Tribulation is that of God resuming His focus upon the nation of Israel.
1. Although Revelation is a book that does use symbolism, it will usually tell us when doing so, and it would be wrong to impose symbolism upon it in places where it is not clearly indicated. However, in this chapter we have three symbolic characters: the Woman, the Child, and the Dragon.
a. What clues do we have to the woman’s identity in verses 1-5? Also, look up Gen 37:9-11. This is the only reference to the sun, moon, and twelve stars in all the rest of the Bible. This is an unmistakable clue that the identity of the Woman is the family of Jacob and Joseph, Israel.
b. The woman bears a child. Look at the description of the child in verse 5 (look up 2Samuel 7:16). This is clearly Jesus.
c. Finally, the Dragon. Many details are given of him in verses 3-4 and 7-9. Ultimately his identity is revealed in verse 9. Satan.
2. Note the disposition of Satan toward the child in verse 4. Throughout history we see those who, because of the work of Satan, are bent on the destruction of the Jewish people and thereby the Child. Do you know people in your life who are bent on the destruction of the things of God? Read 2 Timothy 2:20-26 for how to be effective in reaching this lost world.
3. In verse 5, we see that Jesus is to rule all nations, and that He is to sit upon the throne of God. Does Jesus rule your heart? Is He ruler of your house and family? Your neighborhood and community? Your nation? He is the great and rightful King of all of these. Make it your daily purpose to enthrone Him in your heart and to see Him enthroned in the heart of others.
4. In verse 7 we see Satan fighting against God’s army. Look at verse 8. What is the result of all his fighting? Does it profit to fight with God?
5. As Satan is cast out of heaven in verse 10, he is referred to as the “accuser” or the one who judges and brings charges against God’s people. In contrast to the condemning work of the devil, read Romans 8:31-39 to see the work of Jesus.
6. Verse 11 tells us three things that we do to overcome the accuser. What are they?
7. Look at verse 12. What does Satan being cast out of heaven mean for the inhabitants of the earth? How much time does he have left?
8. In verses 13-17, we see that Satan directs his efforts toward the destruction of Israel, God’s people. Is He successful? Can the enemy ever succeed at undoing the God’s faithfulness to His people?