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Revelation 12:1-5 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:59 mins 48 secs

The War Between Satan and Israel; Rev. 12:1-5

The chapter break should take place with the last verse of chapter eleven: "And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm."

What we especially see resolved during the seven-year Tribulation period is the conflict that has occurred between Satan on the one hand and Israel, the descendants of Abraham, on the other hand. If we go back to Genesis chapter twelve we see that in the context of the rebellion that was initiated by Nimrod at the tower of Babel—the world unites against God, the scattering after the judgment of the Noahic flood—and the people basically shake their fists at God and saying that rather than scattering on the earth and filling the earth they were going to build cities for themselves and their own towers. There is a theological rationale behind the towers. They were going to build these places as areas of protection they could flee to if God ever sends a flood again and they could get above the water. It is rather silly, we might think, but that is the idea. There is a clear element there that they were going to make a name for themselves. In the light of this rampant rejection of God that affects the entire human race God comes and calls out one individual through whom He is going to bless all of the nations. God promise to Abraham that He is going to make Abraham's name great, in contrast to the people, the vast majority of whom were trying to make their name great on their own in rebellion against God. As we see this conflict occurring between Babel on the one hand and the work of God through Abraham and the seed of Abraham on the other hand Babylon becomes the picture in the Old Testament of the seat of man's desires and rebellion against God, and the descendants of Abraham establish them in Jerusalem in the promised land, and they are the ones who are going to be blessed by God. That leads to this conflict between Jerusalem and Babylon. 

When we get into the end stages of the Tribulation period we see that mankind has reestablished and rebuilt a literal Babylon that has become an economic seat of power under the Antichrist's kingdom. So there is this conflict once again between Babylon and Jerusalem. The Antichrist is the world leader during the time of the Tribulation and he is the one who is leading the charge against God's people, the physical descendants of Abraham, the Israelites; specifically the believing remnant of Jews. The chapter that really focuses on this is Revelation chapter twelve. By studying this chapter we see that all the little loose ends and threads that appear here and there all through the Old Testament, the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, and different things that are stated by Paul and others in the epistles, all start being tied together.  Sometimes if we start off way back in Genesis with certain facts and certain pieces of information we are not sure, if all we have is Genesis, what is going on until we understand what is described in these next few chapters.

One example in this chapter: On the garden of Eden God has placed Adam and Eve and He has given them one prohibition that they can't eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We see that covered in Genesis chapter two. Then at the beginning of chapter three, all of a sudden we are introduced to this creature, this new actor on the stage in the garden of Eden, which is the serpent. And the serpent is never directly identified in Genesis chapter three as Satan or the devil. If we look at Revelation 12:9 we see the statement, "so the great dragon was cast out." All we see from 1 to 8 is this great dragon. The dragon is usually understood to be some kind of reptile, something in the order of a dinosaur. The dragon is cast out, "the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan." So that connects the dots for us.

When John is told in Revelation 10:11, "You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings," that is the content of chapters 11-14. Chapter 11 focuses on the two witnesses who will come into Jerusalem and have their ministry there during the first half of the Tribulation period. Then the scene shifts again in 11:15 as the seventh angel sounds his trumpet and there is a scene in heaven where voices are heard praising God and saying, "The kingdom of the world has become {the kingdom} of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." This is anticipatory, looking for ward to the culmination of this at the end of the Tribulation period. Even as they are standing at the midway point they can see that it is going to be finalized, brought to completion, and so they speak as if it had already occurred.

Then there is a break at 11:19: "And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened." This shifts to the next scene. There is a heavenly prototype of the temple. The word "temple" at its core meaning indicates a dwelling place for God. It describes the inner throne room of God where God dwells, where He sits upon His throne. John looks up and sees into the very throne room of God as he has before in chapters 4 & 5. What he sees there is the ark of the covenant. This is not the earthly ark of the covenant that Moses made. We are told in Hebrews chapters 8 & 9 that what Moses built for the earthly tabernacle were copies or shadows of a heavenly reality. The shadows are referred to as a type. Here John sees the ark of His covenant which speaks of His faithfulness and His covenant with Israel. What was placed in the ark of the covenant was a copy of the Mosaic Law. In the ancient world if you entered into a contract two copies of the contract were made. You would keep one copy and one would go on file in the temple. The same kind of thing is going on here and this would be the location of God's copy of the Mosaic Law. One copy was put in the ark of the covenant that was in the tabernacle and later in the temple of Solomon, and one copy is placed in the heavenly ark of the covenant. What that tells us is that suddenly the focal point is shifting to something related to God's plan and purposes for Israel.

That is important to understand because in the Mosaic Law God had made certain promises to Israel about restoration to the land. In Deuteronomy chapters 28-30 He had outlined the various stages of discipline He would take the nation through if they rejected Him and went after false Gods. He did the same thing in Leviticus chapter 26 where we have the disciplinary action, some of the blessings, and then promises following that related to their restoration to the land. In those promises God said, "And when you are scattered among all of the nations…" Their scattering occurred in two stages. One occurred in 722 BC [Assyria] and the second in 586 BC [Babylon]. The Babylonians didn't scatter the people as the Assyrians did and so most of the people stayed together and had strong areas within Babylon where they were able to maintain their racial integrity. When they returned from the Babylonian captivity, beginning in 536, they came back in dribs and drabs. The initial return was about 50-60,000, and then there were two or three returns between 536 and 444 BC. The majority return from Babylon itself and not from all over Egypt and the area we now know as Turkey and other areas. So still about half the Jews in existence in the period from about 400 BC up to the time of Christ lived outside the land. Then in 70 AD there is a second defeat of Israel and a second scattering occurs (the first scattering never fully ended) and the diaspora is really traced from 586 BC.

God had made a promise that at one point He would return them from all the areas of the earth where He had scattered them. That has never happened, and so God still must fulfill that promise even though the Mosaic covenant itself has been abrogated and replaced by a new covenant. So we see this picture occur here related to the ark of His covenant appearing in His temple, indicating that now we are going to focus on the fulfillment of those promises in the Mosaic covenant. "…and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake," indicating the presence of God and His actions—the same kinds of phenomena occurred in Exodus 19 on Mount Sinai when God appeared to Moses and gave the Mosaic Law. The imagery that we have in 11:19 and what is going on here is intended to take us back to that giving of the law, because the focus of the next chapter is going to be on Israel. The imagery in this verse is that God is moving.

There is no break in the original text here. The next verse is Revelation 12:1 NASB "A great sign appeared in heaven…" There is no shift there, we just read that the temple of God was opened in heaven …. A great sign appeared in heaven. There is no break. It is in the context of this image of the ark of the covenant that a great sign appeared in heaven, "a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; [2] and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth." This is the first of seven personages that are introduced in this section. We have been through the first part of Revelation and have seen that there are two series of judgments, a series of seal judgments and then a series of trumpet judgments, followed by a pause in the action. then we go back in time and we get a score card, a program. the first two people we are introduced to are the two witnesses. The third person who shows up on the scene is this woman. Then we are going to be introduced to the dragon, then the first beast and the second beast, and a few others along the way. So this is our program identifying the key players during the Tribulation period.

The verse begins by saying this is a great sign. Often we see the words "sign" and "wonder" appear together in the text but this is a sign but not a wonder. The difference is that when it is just a sign it indicates that it is signifying something; it is designed to depict something through a particular image. This sign is a woman and she is clothed with the sun, at her feet is the moon, and upon her head are the twelve stars. She is the first of five signs in this end part of Revelation. We have the sign of the woman clothed with the sun in 12:1; the sign of the great red dragon, 12:3; in the next chapter we see the signs of the second beast (false prophet), vv. 13, 14 cf. 19:20. His signs are mentioned three times which indicates something about the frequency and the presence of his signs or miracles that he performs; fourth, another sign mentioned of the seven angels who come with the seven plagues related to the seven bowl judgments in 15:1; and then in 16:13, 14 we are told that there are going to be these demons that come out of the mouth of the false prophet.

This first sign appears in the heavens. Who is this woman? The best interpretation is when we stick with the text and let Scripture interpret itself. We have these same images in Genesis which tells about how God worked through Joseph to preserve the nation. Joseph was one twelve brothers each of whom became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. Genesis 37-50 tells the story of how God preserved the nation through Joseph. As a young man he made the mistake of telling his brothers about the dreams he had had. It was obvious to his brothers that these dreams indicated that they were all going to bow down to Joseph. Genesis 37:9 describes his second dream. NASB "Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, 'Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me'." In Genesis God made a promise to Abraham: "In your seed all nations will be blessed." And it is important to track that word "seed" as we study Genesis. After Adam and Eve had sinned God addressed the serpent and said that He would bruise the woman's seed on the heel (not fatal) but the woman's seed would bruise him on the head (a fatal wound). What He was indicating was that the seed of the woman would defeat the seed of the serpent. The seed is tracked through the book of Genesis, which is the reason for the genealogies. The line of the seed of the woman is tracked because it is through that seed that the serpent is going to be defeated.

In Revelation 12 we are going to see the seed mentioned again. The woman is Israel and the seed of the woman is going to defeat the serpent, it is the fulfillment of the Genesis 3:15 prophecy and fulfillment. Genesis 37:9 is depicting the family of Jacob as at that time the present heirs of the Abrahamic covenant. So there is the original imagery here of the sun and the moon and eleven stars, and this refers to Israel and to God's promise to Abraham as fulfilled through Jacob and his family. In Revelation 12 this woman is pregnant and so she is depicted as bringing into the world a particular child. Cf. Isaiah 7:14. The line was to come through David. The alliance between the northern kingdom and Syria was in order to wipe out the kingdom of David.

Isaiah 7:10 NASB "Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, [11] 'Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; make {it} deep as Sheol or high as heaven. [12] But Ahaz [false humility here] said, 'I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!'" This is pure arrogance on his part because God told him to ask. [13] "Then he said, 'Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?'" Before this in the Hebrew He had addressed Ahaz in singular pronouns—second person singular. Now He is going to shift and He addresses the house of David. This isn't a sign to Ahaz, it is a sign to the house of David. [14] "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the [not a virgin] virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." The virgin indicates that that was understood, that there was something already that God had probably revealed, though not recorded in Scripture, and understanding that there was this promise related back to "the woman," and now it is defined as the virgin. The word that is used in Hebrew here for virgin is the word almah. In the LXX the word almah was translated with the Greek word parthenos [parqenoj] which is the very specific word for virgin. They understood that this was talking about a virgin. A second point: It is not much of a sign to say that a young girl is going to get pregnant! To be a sign it has to be something unusual, something miraculous. A word study of almah indicates that in most cases it refers to a young unmarried woman who has not been with a man.

In this Old Testament picture, just think of this as the pipeline coming down from Genesis chapter three, and it is sort of wide and broad at the beginning because it is just a vague promise. With Abraham it narrows to the descendants of Abraham, later down in Genesis 49 it has narrowed down to come from the tribe of Judah, and then with David it narrows toward the tribe of David, in Micah it is going to be born in Bethlehem; and so there is this narrowing of the promise and the sign, but all through the Old Testament there is this assault that is made against the woman that we see in Revelation 12, which is Israel. There is this ongoing attempt by Satan to destroy the woman so that she can't give birth to this child. The nation Israel giving birth to this child is what drives history from God's viewpoint all through the Old Testament. So when we get to this passage in Revelation 12:2, "and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth," this is an allusion to all of the suffering that Israel goes through because they have a target painted on them for Satan to aim at. So all of the suffering, all of the warfare, all of the violence that occurs towards Israel during the period of the judges and later on are all part of these labor pains of the woman before she finally gives birth to the child who is clearly from the context the Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 12:3 NASB "Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads {were} seven diadems." We are introduced to the next sign. We have to address a couple of questions here. The first one is rather easy to answer; the second is more difficult. The first: Who is the dragon? That is clear from the context. The second question is a little more challenging to answer, and that is identifying the seven heads and the ten horns. The difficulty is that among dispensationalists and Bible scholars there is a legitimate disagreement in the interpretation of this because in Daniel chapter seven there is a picture of the final form of the Antichrist's kingdom as being composed of ten nations represented as ten horns and then there is another horn that comes up that conquers three of them. Three from ten is seven, so that is where we get this picture of seven and ten. The conclusion from that approach is that this represents the final form of the kingdom of man, the kingdom of the Antichrist that is empowered and energized by Satan at the end time.

The other view looks at it a little differently. It looks at the seven heads as a panorama of kingdoms that have occurred in history and the ten horns are ten kings that make up the ten-nation confederacy. We might think there is not a lot of difference because the bottom line is still the same. That is, when we picture the dragon with the seven heads, and ten horns, that this is talking about the final form of the kingdom. It is how we get there where there is uncertainty.

The dragon is Satan, and that is clear from Revelation 12:9 NASB "And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." The Hebrew word for Satan is shatan, which means the accuser, the one who brings an accusation; and he is pictured as doing that in Job 1:7; 2:1; Zechariah 3; Revelation 12:9. The word that is used in Revelation 12 for the accuser is kategoros [kathgoroj] which is the root of our English word "category." The idea is that the accuser is someone who is going to list and itemize the accusation. He is also called the devil or diabolos [diaboloj] in the Greek, and that means a slanderer. It is used in 1 Peter 5:8 where he uses slanderous accusations against the believer. In Revelation 12:9 he is the great red dragon that is cast out of heaven; in 1 Peter 5:8 the Greek word used is called "adversary" – antidikos [a)ntidikoj]. This is interesting. anti can have the idea of against, opposition. dikos [dikoj] is the Greek for righteousness, so this is an adversary, someone who is working against justice, or in the judicial system taking the adversarial position. He is called the ruler of this world by Jesus in John 12:31, "Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out." He is the ruler of this world and has been ever since he usurped the power from Adam in Genesis chapter three. He is not finally cast out experientially until the end of the Tribulation period. He is also called the prince of the power of the air in Ephesians 2:2; "the god of this age" in 2 Corinthians 4:4. In Matthew 4:3 he is the tempter. In John 8:44 he is called a murderer and a liar.

He is the dragon who appears on the scene in verse three, and in verse 4 we have another statement: NASB "And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth…" That is a picture of what happens historically when Satan fell. He influenced a third of the angels in heaven and in throwing them to the earth he is the one who performs the action—he throws them to the earth. The one who performs the action in verse 9 is God. Verse 4 is where Satan casts a third of the stars of heaven to the earth in order to influence the human race and stop the birth of that child. "… And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child." That is the focal point. He wants to destroy the child that she is going to bring to the earth because that is the birth of the savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 12:5 NASB "And she gave birth to a son, a male {child,} who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne [the ascension]." That is a very clear statement that this is the Messiah because in Psalm 2:9 God the Father says to His Son, the Messiah, "You shall break them with a rod of iron." That rod of iron terminology identifies Him as the Messiah.

What this indicates is that from the fall of man Satan has declared war against man to stop the birth of the savior. But when it was clear that He was going to come through the descendants of Abraham he makes it his mission to prevent that from coming about. So Satan is the originator of anti-Semitism and all anti-Semitic policies.

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