Most people think of the book of Revelation as being all about the end of the world. But in reality, this book focuses on the past as much as it does on the future. Prophecy is about speaking the Word of God, not about foretelling events to come. The fact is, God does not reveal these things to us to tell us what has happened or what is going to happen: He reveals His Word to us to tell about Himself. When we step out of our ego-centric world-view and concentrate our attention on God alone, His Word (even Revelation!) makes a lot more sense. Here is a lesson from the book of Revelation chapter 12.
In our last lesson, we learned about the 7 seals and the 7 trumpets that John saw in heaven. The seals and the trumpets were judgements that God will send on the earth at the end of time. But now, in chapter 12, John gets a little break from judgements and has a little history lesson. It’s kind of the history of the world from the perspective of heaven. The first important thing to remember when looking at history from heaven is that to God, time is not important. All times are now as far as God is concerned. (Draw a line on the white board or on a piece of paper.) This line is time. We are born on a point on this line and move along in one direction on the line until we die. But God isn’t on this line. He isn’t affected by it at all. (Draw a circle around the line.) God is the circle. Time is in Him, but He is all around time. So history is heaven isn’t linear–you don’t say things like “first this happened, and then this other thing happened.” All of it happens at once! You would just mention what you noticed first, or what was most important to you, since there is no first or second or last.
The second thing you must understand about history in heaven is that things in heaven don’t look like the do on earth. Think about what Jesus looks like in heaven. Can anyone remember how John described Jesus on the throne in heaven? He looked like a lamb that had been killed, with seven eyes and seven horns. That isn’t what Jesus looked like on earth, is it? The people and events that John saw in heaven are symbols, or pictures, and show us important things that God wants us to know about Who He is and how He works.
In John’s heavenly history lesson, the first thing he sees is the event that God sees as most important. He sees a woman giving birth. This woman is clothed with the sun and has the moon under her feet, and she has a crown with twelve stars in it on her head. This woman represents God’s people, Israel, and the baby she is having is Jesus. I have also read that some scholars believe the woman is the church and the baby is the church bringing salvation to the world. I honestly don’t see a lot of difference between these two interpretations! Remember that the church has been grafted into Israel? Israel is God’s chosen people and all who accept Israel’s Messiah as Savior are a part of God’s people. Jesus and salvation are one and the same. The twelve stars in the woman’s crown could be the twelve tribes of Israel, or the twelve apostles. Again, I don’t see why it couldn’t be both at the same time. These visions of John’s are metaphors, and metaphors often have more than one meaning at the same time.
As the woman cries out in the pain of childbirth, an enormous, red dragon stands before her, waiting. What a creepy picture that makes in my mind! Can you see it? This dragon has seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns, one on each head. His tail is so great that he can sweep stars right out of the sky with it. The dragon waits for the woman to give birth so that it can gobble up the baby as soon as it is born. Who do you think this dragon is? It’s Satan, of course. And we know that Satan did try to destroy Jesus as soon as He was born; the devil moved Herod to kill all the infant boys in Bethlehem, desperately trying to kill the Messiah. Remember that the number seven means completion. Satan has seven heads; he is completely evil. He has ten horns; he is very powerful. He has seven crowns; he is the king over all who are against God. But as much as Satan wants to, he cannot destroy God’s Messiah. The baby is born and is the ruler of all the nations. He is taken up to heaven where He sits with God on His throne.
Then John sees war in heaven. We don’t know exactly when in our time line this happened. All that is important is that it did happen. The dragon, Satan, and his fallen angels fought with Michael and the good angels. Remember how we learned that each of the churches has its own guardian angel? Apparently each of the nations also has a guardian angel. Michael is the angel in charge of Israel. That makes him one of the most important angels, and it seems he is the head of the angel army in heaven. This angelic army defeats the dragon and his demonic followers and hurls them out of heaven. John calls the dragon “that ancient serpent.” What does that make you think of? It makes me think of the serpent in the garden of Eden that tempted Adam and Eve.
As John watched this he heard a 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 night and day before our God, has been hurled down.” Did you know that Satan accuses us night and day before the throne of God? Every time you and I do something we shouldn’t, he is pointing his finger at us and saying, “See there, what she did! See what he did! What a bunch of sinners!” But John says that Satan has been defeated. Was it the mighty power of Michael and God’s angels that beat Satan? That’s not what John says. He says, “They overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Jesus’ death defeated Satan, and all we or the angels need to hurl Satan down is a word. What word would that be, do you think? I think it’s “Jesus!”
The dragon tries to destroy the woman who had given birth to the baby. Then a great eagle comes and flies her away to safety in the desert. The dragon then turns to the woman’s offspring and makes war against them. John says that the “offspring” are all those who obey God’s commands and who believe in Jesus the Messiah. I don’t know what all of that means; I’m not even certain that it has all happened yet. But we do know that Satan has tried many different times to destroy the Jews and that he making war against believers in Jesus all the time. Did you ever think about the fact that we are at war? This is why we are told to put on the armor of God. What is the armor of God? Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the helmet of salvation to protect our minds, the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts, and to hold the shield of faith to ward off the attack of the enemy. Satan wants to destroy us. But all we need to protect ourselves against him is the name of Jesus.