The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17


Well, it's my joy to lead you back to the book of Revelation tonight - invite you to turn with me to Revelation 12. Revelation 12. We're seeing here Satan's long war against the people of God, specifically against Israel.

You know, it is remarkable how much of Satan's hatred reflected in his children, the unbelieving people of this world, has been directed against the people of Israel. Antisemitism has been called history's oldest hatred. The German journalist, Wilhelm Marr, popularized the term in 1879, and he used to describe his own hatred and hostility directed against the Jews and the same hostility that he encouraged others to have toward them. Of course, antisemitism goes back much further than its label. Hatred and hostility directed against the Jewish people can be traced from the very beginning of their history. Sadly, they have endured more hatred and more persecution than any other people on earth.

It began in ancient Egypt, fueled by fear that the Jews would eventually outnumber and then overwhelm the native Egyptians. Male Jewish children were consistently subject to infanticide. Fast forward to the times of the Judges and even the Monarchy and the nations around Palestine constantly threatened and attacked the Jewish people. In the year 722 BC, the Assyrians attacked and destroyed the northern ten tribes. Many were killed. Many others were taken into captivity. In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonians in attacking Judah, slaughtering many of the Jewish people, and carrying others into captivity. And while they were in Babylon, the Jews were routinely persecuted for their refusal to worship the gods of Babylon. You can see that obviously in the book of Daniel. After the Persians conquered Babylon, eventually a man named Haman, who resented the Jews and their success, tried to exterminate the Jews through legal edict. During the period of the Greeks, the Jews were again the target of fierce persecution by men like Antiochus Epiphanies. They were criticized and persecuted for their efforts to remain culturally separate, rather than adopting Greek religious and social customs. When the Romans came, they were particularly brutal in their conquest, rule, and response to the Jewish revolts, which of course culminated in the Roman destruction of the city of Jerusalem by Titus in the year 70 AD. That was followed, tragically, by a politicized version of Christianity after the time of Constantine that swept the Roman empire and became guilty as well of persecuting the Jewish people. With the rise of Islam, not too long after that, in the Middle East, the Jews became the target of fierce hostility from that front. The first intense persecution that the Jewish people faced in Europe began with the first Crusade in the 11th century. As the Crusaders marched toward Israel, groups of crusaders, who really were nothing more than mobs, destroyed Jewish cities and homes and massacred many Jewish people. In the year 1099, after capturing the city of Jerusalem, the Crusaders herded the Jews that were left in Jerusalem into a synagogue, and there they set the synagogue on fire. Most of the Jewish people died, but survivors were sold into slavery. In 1290, King Edward I banished all Jews from England. They wouldn't be allowed to return until almost 350 years later under the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Although England became the first country to expel the Jews in Europe, France in 1306, Spain in 1492, and others followed. In spite of the fact that they were pushed out of these nations, the Jews were still routinely blamed for natural disasters and pandemics and were horribly persecuted. Fast forward to Russia. In the 19th century, Jews were blamed for the assassination of the czar, Czar Alexander II, in 1881. Over the next 40 years, tens of thousands of Jews were killed in pogroms and hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes. In the 20th century, and I've had the opportunity to gather this history firsthand as I was over in Russia on a number of occasions, in the 20th century, Stalin would kill nearly three million Jews, along with more than 20 million other Russians. Of course, the darkest stain on the pages of human history, the darkest hour in the world's sordid history of antisemitism, came in the 1930s in Germany through the policies of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party. Eventually, their radical, racial theories produced government policy, referred to as "the final solution to the Jewish problem". More than half of the Jewish population of Europe, 6 million Jews, were systematically slaughtered.

It's really shocking to trace the radical, unexplainable hatred of the Jewish people. What we're discovering is that that hatred ultimately traces back to none other than Satan himself. And, sadly, the antagonism that Satan has toward the Jewish people is not done. It has not run its full course. John MacArthur writes this in his commentary on Revelation: "It is the fervent hope of the Jewish people that the horrors of the Holocaust will never again be repeated. Tragically, however, they will. The Tribulation will be the worst of times for Israel for two reasons. During that seven-year period, God will pour out His final fury on the unrepentant and unbelieving world, including the unrepentant rebels of Israel. At the same time, Satan will make his last, desperate attempt to prevent the promised reign of the Lord Jesus Christ on Israel's throne and thus negate the salvation and kingdom promised to Israel. He will savagely assault the Jewish people, seeking to destroy both those Jews who've already come to faith in Christ, and those who still might." And then he ends with this, and I love it: "But Satan's efforts will not succeed." That's what we will discover tonight in the passage that we come to here in Revelation 12.

Just to remind you, the message of Revelation 12 is this: from Satan's fall, throughout human history, he has been at war with God, with the Messiah, and with God's people. And his attacks will only intensify as the end nears. Jesus described it this way in the Olivet Discourse, the sermon He gave when he sat on the Mount of Olives, looking back at the Temple, explaining the future to His disciples. He says in Matthew 24:21: "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will." It will be the worst of times. In chapter 12, John tells us about three major wars that Satan either has already waged, is waging, or will wage against God and His people.

Let me just remind you of what we've discovered so far. We started in verses 1-6 by studying Satan's continual war against Israel. He begins by talking about what that war in the past has looked like. He explains it in these images of a woman who represents Israel, of a dragon who represents Satan and his fierceness and ferocity (he's a monster who destroys, who kills), and the son of the woman who is the Messiah, who is Christ. And we discovered in the first five verses that Satan battled against Israel. He fought his war against Israel to prevent the birth of the Messiah, and then after the birth of the Messiah, seeing that he could not prevent that, he sought to kill Christ Himself. Herod, the killing of the two-year old and under children in Bethlehem, and other means as well during the ministry of Christ. Then in verse 6, he skips ahead to summarize the war to come, the war in the Tribulation against Israel. Verse 6: "Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days." Now, that is explained in more detail in the verses that we come to tonight, so we'll come back to that. But the first six verses of this chapter, Satan's continual war against Israel, it's been relentless, and it won't let up until he is caged.

The second part of this chapter and the second war that we discover here, in verses 7-12, is Satan's coming war in heaven. Satan's long war with God will reach its climax during the future Tribulation. And it's because that Satan loses that war and is cast down to the earth, that he will initiate another war that we will talk about tonight. Thwarted in heaven, he unleashes his rage on earth.

So tonight, we turn our attention to Satan's comprehensive war against Tribulation saints. This is what we learn in verses 13-17. Having lost his last attempt, his last desperate war against God in heaven, when he fought with Michael and the holy angels in the passage before this one, having been cast out of heaven to the earth, Satan's objectives for the second-half of the Tribulation are painfully simple. This is what he wants to do.

First of all, he will desperately try to keep the Lord Jesus Christ from establishing His kingdom - spiritually in the hearts of those who come to faith, literally in the millennium, the 1000-year reign of Christ, and eventually in the new heavens and the new earth. That's his first agenda: stop the Lord Jesus Christ. His second agenda: he will seek to deceive all unbelievers into rejecting the true God and His gospel and embracing, instead, the false religion offered by Antichrist and his false prophet, the two characters that we meet in chapter 13. Thirdly, he will seek to kill or at least destroy the faith of all believers in Jesus Christ. And fourthly, he will seek to destroy Israel.

Why? Why does that matter to Satan now that the Messiah has been born? He will seek to destroy Israel to prevent God's promise to save and restore a remnant from coming to pass. This is Satan's agenda. Revelation 12:13-17 focuses on Satan's war against Israel and, as we'll see, even against all believers during the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation.

Let's read it together. Revelation 12:13-17: "And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. So, the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus."

This paragraph reveals to us what Satan will do after he loses his war with God in heaven. That's recorded in verses 7-12. At the midpoint of the Tribulation, this is the agenda he unleashes, and we're told here how God will respond. Now, all of the events in the verses I just read to you will happen during the second-half of the future seven-year Tribulation. Let's look at how these events will unfold as we look at Satan's comprehensive war against Tribulation saints.

The first thing we learn here is that Satan will persecute Israel in his rage. Look at verse 13: "And when the dragon saw that he was thrown [cast] down to the earth..." The expression, "when the dragon saw", may imply a sort of shock, a sort of sudden realization. It's possible that one moment Satan will be fighting Michael and the holy angels in heaven, and the next he will find himself having been thrown out of heaven and having been thrown to the earth. The point, even in this description, is that Satan and his forces will be no match for the power of God displayed through Michael and the holy angels. He will be completely defeated, and he will suddenly find himself on earth. Once he realizes what's happened, how he's been defeated, he redirects his rage against the people of God. And according to verse 12, he will realize the shortness of the time he has. Therefore, verse 13 says, "...he persecuted the woman [that is, Israel] who gave birth to the male child [that is, the Messiah as we discovered earlier in this chapter]." He persecuted Israel. The Greek word translated persecuted literally means to pursue or to run after. But, obviously, sometimes you pursue or run after a person for the worst of motives. So, this word came to mean, in certain connotations and certain senses, to pursue one, to pursue someone for the sake of harming them, therefore, to persecute. And that's the idea here. Satan pursues Israel as they flee into the wilderness (verse 6) so that he can persecute them.

Now, why does Satan want to persecute Israel? Well, let me just remind you (verses 5 and 13), she's the one who gave birth to the male child. She's the one who gave birth to the Messiah. He hates the Messiah and everything He stands for. He's also been thrown out of heaven to the earth and so he can't fight God. So, the only thing left is to force his, or to enforce his anger and attacks against the people of God. And he knows his time is short (verse 12).

So, how will Satan persecute Israel? Don't think he's going to do it directly. We're going to see in chapter 13, he does it indirectly through his puppet leaders. You remember Antichrist, a human being, rose to power at the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation. And during the first 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation, he will pretend to be a friend of Israel and her protector. We saw that in the book of Daniel. Daniel 9:27 says Antichrist will initially make a covenant with the Jews, promising them his protection. So, you can see how the seven years begins - "I'm your friend. I'm your protector." And he makes a covenant with them, promising to guard them.

But at the midpoint of the Tribulation, Antichrist will break that covenant, and at the prompting of Satan, he will set up what is called in Daniel, by Christ, "the abomination of desolation". It's recorded in Daniel 11:31, Daniel 12:11. Jesus talks about it in Matthew 24:15-16 and Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. What is it? The abomination of desolation is an image of the Antichrist himself, an idol, that he will construct and set in the temple in Jerusalem, a rebuilt temple, and he will demand worship of himself. That is the abomination of desolation. That happens at the midpoint of the Tribulation. From that point, for the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation, the Antichrist shows his true colors. He will become Israel's greatest enemy and greatest persecutor. And he will be the tool that Satan will use to persecute Israel. Satan will persecute Israel in his rage.

Secondly, we discover that God will preserve a remnant for his salvation. According to the prophets, and this is really a shocking number, but according to the prophets and particularly the prophet Zechariah, two-thirds of the Jewish people, who lived during the Tribulation, will be killed. Here's Zechariah 13:8-9: "'It will come about in all the land,' declares the Lord, 'That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; but the third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them [so He's talking about people] as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are My people,' and they will say, 'The Lord [Yahweh] is my God.''" That's Zechariah 13:8-9. So, two-thirds of the Jewish people, living during the Tribulation, will be killed in the process of God's judgment and Satan's wrath. A third will survive.

Why does God do that? Well, I think Ezekiel, in his prophecy, tells us (Ezekiel 20:38). This is what God says in the same context: "and I will purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the Lord [Yahweh]." God says, "I'm going to purify My people and I'm going to use the judgments I unleash on the world. I'm going to use the anger and wrath of Satan himself. And two-thirds of the Jewish people living at that time will die."

But those Jews who survive will flee. Jesus talks about this in the Olivet Discourse. Go back to Matthew. Look at Matthew 24. Matthew 24:15: "Therefore when you see [here it is] the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place..." That's what I just described for you. When Antichrist sets up an image of himself for worship, at the midpoint of the Tribulation, Jesus says, "When you see the abomination of desolation..." Verse 16: "then those who are in Judea [so He's talking about Jewish people, those who are in Judea] must flee to the mountains. Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days [because it will be such difficult trip]!" Verse 20: "But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. For then there will be a great tribulation [He's talking about the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation period], such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him. For false Christs [Messiahs] and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." He's talking, obviously, about the things that we're studying in the book of Revelation, and we'll see in chapter 13. "Behold, I have told you in advance."

So, once Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel, and once he erects an image of himself in the temple, the abomination of desolation, his hostile intentions will become crystal clear, and the only appropriate response for the Jewish people, living in the land of Israel who've survived, will be to flee, to run. Jews living in Israel won't even have time to go home to gather their belongings. He says, even if you're up on the housetop, which was a place of... They had flat roofs and a place where they would have evening relaxation and even their meals at times. He says, if you're on the housetop and, typically, the stairwell went on the outside of the house, down from the rooftop. He said, "Don't even bother when you come down the stairs to go in your house and get your things. Just run! Flee!"

God will preserve a remnant - verse 14 of our text. Go back to Revelation 12. God will preserve a remnant: "But the two wings of the great eagle were given..." Notice, "were given" is passive. We're not told who gave. This is what's called a divine passive, meaning, these wings were given to Israel by God, given to the woman.

Now, what are these wings? Stay with me here. As we've worked our way through Revelation, we understand that there are images and there are pictures and those picture real events and real people and real things. There are times when we're in a passage, as we are now, when there are more images and symbols. In this passage, we found that the woman is not an actual woman but is clearly symbolic of Israel. And so, it is possible, I think even likely here, that the wings of an eagle is not referring to the actual wings of an actual eagle. This is picturesque language. It's describing Israel's escape from Satan. By the way, the Greek word translated "eagle" here, can also refer to a griffon and to a vulture. But the point is, all three of those birds are big birds and have large wingspans. Regardless of which is implied, it's a clear picture of God's powerful protection of the people of Israel. This language of wings really comes from Exodus 19:4 when God says to Israel, "You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself." Wings often, including in this context, symbolize protection. Go back to Deuteronomy. Let me show you this. Deuteronomy 32, Deuteronomy 32:9. You see this image used in the sense of protection. Verse 9 says, "For the Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He [that is, God] spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The Lord [Yahweh] alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him." So, you get that picture of protection. The wings are protection. And, of course, in the Psalms, if you're familiar with the Psalms, you know that same image is used again and again. Psalm 17:8: "...Hide me in the shadow of Your wings..." Psalm 36:7: "...And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings." I love Psalm 57:1: "...And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by." Psalm 91:4: "He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge..." That's what God will do for Israel. He will be their protector. He will enable the Jewish people who survive to fly swiftly to safety.

Go back to our text, go back to Revelation 12, and look again at verse 14. She will have these wings given to her by God "so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place..." What is this place? Go back to verse 6: "Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God..." That's her place. Now, John doesn't tell us where this place is. If you've done any reading in prophecy, you know that one popular suggestion is this place will be the ancient city of Petra, carved out of the rock between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. Well, maybe; we don't know. All we do know is what Jesus tells us. Jesus tells us, as we just saw in Matthew 24, that they will flee to the mountains. That tells us where they won't go. They're not going to go west, toward the coastal plain. They're not going to go south, toward the Negev, the desert. They're going to go to the mountains. So, it'll be the mountainous area, likely east of the Dead Sea.

In fact, there's a very interesting passage in Daniel. In Daniel 11:41, talking about the Antichrist, it says this: "He [the Antichrist] will also enter the Beautiful Land [that is, Israel], and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon." Now, what's interesting about those countries is those ancient countries are all the mountainous areas east of the Dead Sea. So, it's possible, don't know for sure, it's possible, that God will spare those areas as the refuge for His people. But, regardless, He will protect them. He will spread His wings over them, and they will ride swiftly on His wings to safety from Satan and the Antichrist. Jeremiah 30:7: "Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob's distress, but he will be saved from it."

Go back to Daniel. Look at Daniel 12. We studied this at length when we studied through the book of Daniel. Daniel 12:1-2. Let's just look at verse 1: "Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time [so, he's talking about the same time period]; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book [what?], will be rescued [will be rescued]." God will supernaturally help Israel flee to the mountains under His protection.

Go back again to Revelation 12. Look at verse 14. What happens when she gets there? It says, "...where she was nourished..." Notice, again, another divine passive - nourished by God. For how long? "...for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent." God will supernaturally nourish or provide for her.

Now, that's important because, remember, this is the Tribulation, and these Jews will have two great problems providing anything for themselves. Number one: since they have refused to worship the Antichrist, they will be unable to buy or sell anything according to chapter 13:17. And they're going to be in the wilderness. So, as God supernaturally provided manna and quail in the wilderness in the time of Moses, and as He provided Elijah with food by the brook, Kerith, God will provide miraculously for His people. Israel will be forced to hide from the presence of the serpent, the dragon, Satan.

Notice for how long: "for a time and times and half a time". Now, if you're familiar with Daniel, you understand that that expression is taken from two passages in Daniel, Daniel 7:25 and Daniel 12:7. And in that context or in those contexts, it refers to the second-half of the Tribulation, that 3 1/2-year period from the midpoint of the seven years to its end that Jesus called the Great Tribulation. That same time, by the way, is referred to in Revelation 11:3 and 12:6 as 1260 days and it's referred to in chapter 11:2 and chapter 13:5 as 42 months. Of course, all of them the same time period, the same length of time. This time begins with Satan's war in heaven and with Antichrist's broken covenant, and the abomination of desolation on earth. That's what begins the Great Tribulation, the second 3 1/2 years. So, Satan will persecute Israel in his rage. God will preserve a remnant for His salvation.

Thirdly, Satan will pursue Israel for her destruction. Verse 15: "And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman..." Apparently, Satan will know where the Jews are hiding. It won't be too much of a secret. And having failed to massacre them in their own land before they fled and having failed to keep them from fleeing to the mountains, through Antichrist his human puppet, Satan will pursue them, bent on their destruction.

Now, you know, as I said a moment ago, this passage is unusual, even in Revelation, in that it is clearly, intentionally filled with pictures and symbols. The woman is not a woman but represents Israel. The serpent is not a snake but represents Satan. And so, I think it's highly unlikely that the "water like a river that poured out of his mouth" is literal water. The Old Testament often uses the symbol of floods to describe trouble and adversity in a general sense. How much, how often do the writers of the Psalms talk about the troubles of their life overflowing them like a flood? But more to the point in this passage, the Old Testament often uses the image of a flood, a river that's at flood stage, of invading armies. For example, even in Daniel 11:26, it's used in that way. And I think that's exactly the sense that it is here. So, likely, the picture in verse 15 is of Satan's unleashing Antichrist's invading army that will rush toward the Jews' hiding place like an overwhelming flood.

Why? Notice verse 15 explains the reason: " that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood." Satan wants to destroy Israel. He wants Israel to be drowned in the flood of these armies, to be destroyed by the armies of Antichrist, to be swept away to their destruction. So, even though God will supernaturally preserve them, help them flee to the mountains where they will hide, Satan will not give up. He will pursue them using Antichrist's armies to attempt to destroy them.

Fourthly, earth will consume Satan's attack in divine protection. Look at verse 16: "But the earth helped the woman..." For a second time, God will supernaturally intervene to protect the one third survivors of the Jewish people. And this time, He will use creation to accomplish His purpose. Notice verse 16 says, "...and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth." Again, this picture comes from the Old Testament. It reminds us of how Moses described God's defeat of the armies of Pharaoh and Egypt in Exodus 15:12: "You stretched out Your right hand, the earth swallowed them." It also reminds us of the story of Korah in Numbers 16 and how God crushed Korah's rebellion. You remember that story in Numbers 16:31? "As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, 'The earth may swallow us up!'" I think it's possible. I would say it's even highly likely that God will cause one of the many earthquakes that occur during the Tribulation period to split the ground, just as He did in the days of Korah, and to swallow Antichrist's army. But the earth will consume Satan's attack in divine protection.

In response, Satan will direct his rage at the saints. Satan will direct his rage at the saints. Verse 17: "So [because of this] the dragon was enraged with the woman..." If you've ever been around an angry person, imagine that person who's had thousands of years to develop anger, who's been frustrated at every turn, who's every attempt to thwart the purposes of God has been dashed in failure. It's impossible to imagine how completely enraged Satan will be by his repeated defeats. Having been unable to defeat Michael and the holy angels, unable to kill the woman Israel, he will redirect his growing rage, verse 17: "...and [he] went off to make war with the rest of her children..." Now, who are these people, the rest of our children? There've been a number of ideas that have been presented. I think the three most common and most likely would be these.

First of all, some have said they're the 144,000 Jewish evangelists that are mentioned both in chapter 7, but we're going to meet them again in the first five verses of chapter 14. Maybe that's the rest of her children. They are Jews after all. Another suggestion is, no, these are not Jews. These are Gentile Tribulation saints that we met back in the second-half of chapter 7, and they are sons of Abraham by faith, as Galatians 3 talks about. So, they're her children in that sense. A third possibility that has been presented as that, no, it's more general than that. We're talking about all believers worldwide, Jew and Gentile, all who are not hiding in the mountains east of the Holy Land, east of the Dead Sea. I think that final choice is the most likely. The rest of her children are all of those who know and love God, scattered across the world, Jew or Gentile. He goes to wage war and that also is reflected in other passages where Satan wages war with all the saints.

Notice how John describes these true followers of Jesus Christ in verse 17. He says they're those, "who keep the commandments of God..." John, it's interesting, often uses this word, "commandments", to refer to New Testament commands but, of course, not exclusively so. Those - it's just like we were seeing this morning in 1 John. Those who are true believers keep God's commandments. They have a love and a new ability to keep the law of God. But verse 17 goes on to describe them, "and [they] hold to the testimony of Jesus." Now, John is not likely referring to their testimony about Jesus but to the testimony that Jesus Himself gave. In other words, they are holding to the truths that Jesus taught that are revealed in the New Testament. I love those pictures. It's a great picture of believers.

Let me ask you, who claim to be a follower of Christ? Do you keep the commandments of God, and do you hold fast to the testimony of Jesus contained in the New Testament Scriptures?

But don't miss the big point that John is making in our text. It's that every attempt Satan makes to prevent Christ's kingdom will be a complete and utter disaster and failure. Our Lord Jesus Christ will reign. He will establish His kingdom on earth for 1000 years and on a new earth forever and no machinations of Satan can prevent it for one single moment. That's the lesson we see unfolding in Revelation 12.

But there are more lessons. Let me just briefly point them out to you. These are the things that we learn here. I'm going to put them in the form of always statements because I think they are entirely that. Here are the lessons from this great passage.

Number one: God is always faithful to His people. You see that unfolding here as He protects His people, as He cares for His people.

Secondly, persecution is always a reality for every believer. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that's the truth. 2 Timothy 3:12: "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Jesus put it this way in Genesis, I'm sorry, in John 15:20. He says, "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you..."

You say, "Well, I don't know. Am I persecuted?" Well, let me remind you that persecution takes a number of different forms. Turn to Matthew 5, Matthew 5:10. Jesus says, as part of the Beatitudes (early part of the Sermon on the Mount), He says, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs [or, to them belongs] is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you [now watch the forms that persecution takes] when people insult you..." I hate to tell you this, but if you're a true, committed, Bible-believing follower of Jesus Christ, who believes in the biblical gospel and the biblical Christ, you are insulted every day on almost every Internet site there is. When they insult you... He goes on to say, "...and persecute you..." Here, the word "persecute" probably has the idea of physical persecution and some of our brothers in Christ are enduring that as we speak. "...and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me." There are constant rumors and innuendos about believers that are hatched everywhere.

I remember the first time I went to Russia back in the early 2000s. They were telling me that Bible-believing Christians there had these stories, these wild stories that unbelievers would tell about them. You know, they would make the Lord's table out to be some sort of a celebration of cannibalism. This is what unbelievers would say. They said that they were, you know, they had a lot of children for awful purposes. And on and on the story went.

Jesus says, "[This is persecution when they] say all kinds of evil against you because of Me." I suspect many of us in this room have experienced that at a personal level as well as at the Internet level. "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Go over to Luke 6, you see a couple of other forms that persecution takes. Luke 6:22: "Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you [when they try to distance themselves from you, have nothing to do with you in the office or at school or in the neighborhood], and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man."

What I want you to see, excuse me, is that a lot of persecution happens in the mind of the persecutor and in the words of the persecutor. We haven't yet experienced physical persecution in our country, at least, for the most part. It's been at this other level. But it is persecution. Don't be surprised. Persecution is always a reality for every believer.

Thirdly, Satan is always behind the persecution of God's people. It's not an accident. It's not the people. Ultimately, it's not the people. As Paul said to the Ephesians, "For our struggle is not [we don't wrestle] against flesh and blood..." Our battle is with spiritual powers. Behind their hatred of you, is Satan himself, just as it's behind people's hatred of the Jewish people. 1 Peter 5:8: "Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." It's very possible that's talking about physical persecution because a lion roars just before it launches on its prey. Revelation 2:10 says, "Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison..." Satan is always behind the persecution of God's people.

Number four: God always protects His people to accomplish His plans. Now, don't misunderstand me. This doesn't mean nothing bad happens to Christians. Obviously, there have been plenty of Christian martyrs. There are plenty of Christians suffering now. We just talked about Christians are always persecuted. So, He doesn't protect us in the sense that nothing bad ever happens. He protects us in this sense. He puts a guard around us and absolutely nothing happens to us that He does not choose to allow and to direct for our good and His glory. In His providence, God can use any means to accomplish His purpose and protect His people, including a king with insomnia. And on and on the details go in the Old Testament and the New.

Number five: God is always faithful to His promises. All Israel, the remnant who survives the Tribulation, will be saved. Look at Zechariah, the prophet Zechariah and, specifically, look at chapter 12. Zechariah 12:10: "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn." A fount of cleansing (verse 1 of chapter 13): "In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity." God promised that He would save Israel, that He would save His people. He'll do so. Romans 11:26: "...all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, 'The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.'" The Lord Jesus Christ will show up and He will save His people. He will keep His promises.

As shocking as the unexplainable hatred of the Jewish people is, even more shocking, is that they still survive. I love what John Phillips writes. He says, "Significantly, the turning point came in Moses' life when he saw, in the desert, the mysterious burning bush which flamed and blazed away, but for all of the crackling of the fire was not consumed. That bush clearly symbolized Israel, which cannot be consumed despite the ceaseless hatred of her foes because God is in her midst. Israel cannot be assimilated into the nations, nor can she be exterminated by the nations. She is a burning bush in the wilderness. She is a testimony to the faithfulness of our God."

And Number 6: Christ is always worthy of our worship and praise. He's the One behind all of this. Don't forget the central character in this book. Don't forget that He's the One who's opened the seals. He's the One who's taking back what is rightfully His. He's the One who's saving and protecting His people. Don't forget 5:12: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." He's the hero of the story, not Israel, certainly not Satan. It's Jesus Christ our Lord who is redeeming a people. The Father is allowing Him to redeem a people for Himself, through His work, to the Father's glory. That's the story of the Scripture, and that story comes to an end in the very book we study.


The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

Antichrist - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10

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How Should We Then Live? - Part 1

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