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The last time we were in Revelation, we were in chapter 11. If you remember, Revelation 11 describes the two witnesses during the Tribulation Period who will live in Jerusalem and will be real prophets and have the power to perform miracles.
They will have a ministry for three and a half years (probably the first half of the Tribulation Period). I want to finish the rest of the chapter and then move into Revelation 12. The rest of the chapter mentions the blowing of the seventh trumpet judgment.
Revelation describes the Tribulation Period. So far we have studied the seal judgments and the trumpet judgments which are even worse than the seal judgments.
If you remember, the seal judgments affect a fourth of the planet, while the trumpet judgments affect a fourth of the planet. We already studied the six trumpet judgments. It has been some time since we were in Revelation 8 but, just by way of review, the trumpet judgments are divided into two parts.
The first four affect nature (the grass, rivers, trees and stars). The last three affect people. The fifth trumpet judgment was an invasion of demon locusts which tortured people for five straight months but did not kill them.
The sixth trumpet judgment was an invasion of two hundred million soldiers who kill a third of the world’s population. In Revelation 11, the seventh trumpet is finally blown by another angel. What happens when the seventh trumpet is blown? When the seventh trumpet is sounded, three things happen.
1. The first thing that happens during the seventh trumpet is that loud voices are sounded in heaven (11:15).
If you remember, when the seventh seal was sounded, there was complete silence in heaven (8:1). When the seventh trumpet is sounded, there are loud voices in heaven (11:15). What do these voices say? “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever” (11:15). That is interesting for a number of reasons.
In the first place, the voices do not say “the kingdoms of the world” (plural [so KJV]) but “the kingdom of the world” (singular). That is what the majority of manuscripts read. There are many nations and countries and rulers in the world today but they make up one huge kingdom.
The kingdom belongs to Satan. In the second place, they do NOT say “the kingdom of the world WILL become the kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah”. They say, “The kingdom of the world has become (past tense) the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah”.
That is a little strange. It has not happened yet. They say “He WILL REIGN forever and ever”. That does not happen until Jesus returns from heaven in Revelation 19 but it is so certain to happen that they put it in the past tense. That raises a very important question.
Who Rules the World Today: God or Satan?
1) Satan is called “the ruler of this world” (ό αρχων τοϋ κόσμου)
This is taught in John 12:31; 14:30 & 16:11. Jesus said that he is the one who rules the world right now. Right now, Satan is in charge of what is going on in the world. He is running things on earth.
If you do not believe that, all you have to do is to read the newspaper. How can you look at the world and say that God is ruling today? Satan is called “the god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4). Does that mean that Satan is a god?
The Bible teaches monotheism. There is only one God (Psalm 86:10; Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6, 8; 45:21; 46:9). There are no other gods. Satan is not a god but he is worshiped by the world as a god. He is the one that people listen to, follow and obey (whether consciously or unconsciously). He is this world’s god.
He is not a literal god. How do we know? Paul was a Jew. The Jews believed in one God. He did not mean this literally but metaphorically. The same one who called Satan “the god of this world” also said explicitly that there is only one God (I Corinthians 8:4; Ephesians 4:6; I Timothy 2:5).
Satan is the one who “deceives the whole world” (12:9). This deception is world-wide. The majority of people on the planet (billions and billions of people) are completely deceived spiritually. They believe all kinds of lies and it is because of Satan. He deceives the Muslim world and he deceives the western world.
2) Satan is NOT in complete control over everything that happens.
Now his control is limited and is restricted by God. Satan cannot do everything. He couldn’t do everything with Job. Satan told God that if He stretched out his hand and struck everything he has, that Job will surely curse Him to your face. God said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (Job 1:11-12).
When that didn’t work, Satan changed his strategy. He said to God “Skin for skin. A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” God said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” (Job 2:4-6).
We saw this last week. During the first half of the Tribulation, he will not have control. Remember, he will not be able to hurt the two witnesses for the first half of the Tribulation two witnesses will have an incredible ministry in Jerusalem.
They will be genuine prophets. They will be unpopular. They will be hated by the world but no one (including Satan) will be able to touch them or hurt them for three and a half years. We see this in Revelation 12 as well.
The giant red dragon wants to eat the woman’s baby as soon as it is born (12:4) but he is not able to. God protects the baby. After Jesus was born, Satan tries to kill him but God protected him. Herod tried to kill all of the babies two years and under but an angel told them to flee to Egypt, where they stayed until Herod died (Matthew 2:13-16).
Satan is limited in what he can do and how long he can do it. Satan knows his time is short (12:12). In Revelation it is limited to a period of forty-two months (11:2; 13:4-5). God is sovereign even over Satan but he has allowed Satan to rule the world. God is the one who rules over everything, including Satan (Psalm 103:19; 135:6).
3) One day God will take the throne back and Jesus will rule the world, instead of Satan ruling it.
This will all take place at the Second Coming when Jesus returns to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (19:16). Satan will be removed and God will be in charge of world affairs.
2. The second thing that happens during the seventh trumpet is that the twenty-four elders get off their thrones, fall on their faces and worship God (11:16-18).
Why do they worship him? They fall down and worship God for four reasons. They praise him for reigning, for judging the nations, for rewarding the righteous and for destroying those who destroy the earth.
That last reason sounds like a good verse for environmentalists. Liberals love this passage. God says that He will destroy those who destroy the earth.
The only problem is that this is NOT talking about pollution or drilling for oil in Alaska. It is NOT talking about the physical world. There is nothing else in Revelation that talks about taking care of the planet. It is not wrong to be a good steward of the world God made but Revelation does not talk about that.
God is the one in Revelation who destroys the physical world. He is the one who sends all of the plagues on the earth (turns the water in to blood, burns up a bunch of trees and green grass, fiery mountains plunge into the sea and kill the fish and damage drinking water).
In fact, at the end God destroys the earth. He burns it all up. This passage is talking about God’s people. Revelation does describe people being martyred, a lot of them. Believers will be slaughtered in the Tribulation Period. Those who kill will be killed. The punishment will fit the crime.
3. The third thing that happens during the seventh trumpet is that God’s temple is opened in heaven.
That is interesting. Revelation 11 has one temple at the beginning of the chapter and one at the end of the chapter. When the Babylonians destroyed the temple, what happened to the ark? Did God take it to heaven? This is unlikely.
The Bible says that there are two temples. One is in heaven and one is on earth. The Book of Hebrews says that the earthly temple is just a picture of the heavenly temple (8:5; 9:23). The heavenly ark in Revelation 11 is what the earthly ark is patterned after and represents.
As we come to Revelation 12, we come to a rather strange chapter. With the seventh trumpet finally blown, one would expect to see terrible judgments fall on the earth. Instead, there is no divine judgment on earth in Revelation 12 or 13. It is a parenthesis in the book. It gives us some background information.
It gives much needed background information. For example, Revelation 11:7 describes two witnesses who minister for three and a half years completely unopposed. No one can touch them but at the end of forty-two months.
Then the beast who arises from the Abyss attacks and kills them. Who exactly is this beast? We find out in Revelation 13. Revelation 12 tells us who is behind the persecution and martyrdom of the Tribulation Period.
Satan is the one behind all of the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world. He is the one behind all of the persecution of Christians in Communist China. He is the one behind all of the persecution of believers throughout history.
Symbolism in Revelation 12
The chapter is also strange because it is highly symbolic. Revelation is an apocalyptic book and apocalyptic books use symbolic language. They say all kinds of things which cannot be taken at face value.
Most of us are used to taking the Bible literally. God said it. It must be true but this chapter cannot be taken literally. This is perhaps the most symbolic chapter in the most symbolic book in the NT. It is full of symbolism.
The Pregnant Woman is Not Literal
This woman is not literal but symbolic. She is clothed with the Sun and has Moon under her feet (12:1). This woman also has two wings and flies (12:14). Everyone one of those descriptions are symbolic. The woman is not literal. The Sun and Moon are not literal. The wings are not literal. The woman does not literally fly.
The Red Dragon is Not Literal
This is an enormous red dragon with a tail so long, it reached up into the sky and took out some stars in the sky. This is not a literal dragon with a literal tail which literally knocked out stars in the sky. Everything in this description is symbolic. The dragon is not literal. It’s tail is not literal. The stars in the sky are not literal. It is also called a serpent but the serpent is not literal.
There are some who take this literally. When people dress up like a red devil with horns and a tail, they get that picture from Revelation 12. The red dragon in Revelation 12 has horns. It has ten horns.
They modify the picture by adding a pitchfork. The problem is that people take literally what was intended to be symbolic. This dragon is not red because that is what Satan looks like but because of how he acts.
It is not a description of his physical appearance. It is a description of his character. He is read because he is a murderer (John 8:44). Red is the color of blood. That is why the second horse is red.
Satan wants to kill the woman’s baby boy but he is supernaturally protected. When that does not work, he goes after the woman herself but she is supernaturally protected. When that doesn’t work, he goes after the woman’s other children.
The Serpent is Not Literal
This animal is said to poured water out of its mouth like a river (12:15). It creates a flood of water from its mouth. Ordinary snakes cannot do this.
The Earth is Personified
It is pictured as a person with a mouth that opens and swallows a river that came from the dragon (12:16). This chapter is full of figurative language. It contains metaphors, similes, personification, hyperbole and incredible imagery.
Five Characters in Revelation 12
There are five characters in Revelation 12 – a pregnant woman, a giant red dragon, a baby boy, Michael and the woman’s other children. We know what the dragon represents. We are told who the dragon is in 12:9. The dragon is the devil or Satan. You can’t miss that symbol.
John made sure that you do not miss that one that he gave five names for this individual – the dragon, the serpent, the devil, Satan and the deceiver of the world. What does Satan do in Revelation 12? He does four things. He tempts people. He is the serpent (12:9). He deceives the world (12:9). He accuses believers (12:10) and he persecutes believers (12:17).
We know who the dragon is. We know who the woman’s son is. It is Jesus (12:5). We know who Michael is. He is an angel. In fact, he is a leader of angels. He has his own angels (“Michael and his angels”). Jude calls him an archangel. The real question is who does the woman represent and what do her other children represent? (144,000)
Identification of the Woman
The Roman Catholic Church believes she is Mary. This is one of the places where they get the idea that Mary is the Queen Mother. The person is decked out in royal splendor, clothed with the sun, crowned with 12 stars, with the moon under her feet. The woman’s child is a royal son.
The child is brought up to heaven to a throne, where he is seated at the right hand of God, the position of authority. Is there any reason why some might believe that this woman is Mary? Mary is the mother of Jesus. She did give birth to Jesus and the woman in Revelation 12 gave birth to Jesus but if this woman is Mary, the Catholics have some problems.
Does the Woman Refer to Mary?
1) This woman experienced pain in childbirth (12:2).
Catholics believe that that Mary was sinless because they believe in something called “the immaculate conception” and therefore could not have experienced pain in childbirth.
2) This woman also had other offspring (12:17). Catholics believe Mary was a perpetual virgin.
3) Mary and Joseph did go to Egypt to protect their baby but the woman in Revelation 12 fled into the wilderness after the baby was protected. She fled to protect herself, not her child. This woman could not be Mary because this person will be alive during the future Tribulation Period.
Does the Woman Represent the Church?
Others say that the woman represents the church and the attack of the dragon on the woman represents the persecution of Christians throughout history. There is only one problem. The church did not give birth to Jesus.
Jesus gave birth to the church. In no sense could the church be pictured as a pregnant woman giving birth to Jesus. The church is the bride of Christ not the mother of Christ.
Does the Woman Represent All Believers?
Another view is that the woman represents all believers throughout history (the people of God – OT saints and NT saints) but there is a problem with this view. If the woman represents all of the redeemed, then who are her offspring (12:17)?
Does the Woman Represent Israel?
If the woman is not Mary, the church or all of the redeemed, then who is she? The woman in Revelation 12 is a symbol of the nation Israel.
1) The context deals with Israel.
Revelation 11:19 mentions the Ark of the Covenant which is never associated with the church but always with Israel.
2) Jesus was Jewish.
He descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The church did not gave birth to the Messiah. Israel did give birth to the Messiah.
3) The clothes of the woman bring to mind Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9-11.
The twelve stars stood for the twelve sons of Jacob which turned into the twelve tribes of Israel.
4) Israel is represented in the OT by the figure of a woman (Isaiah 54:1, 5; 66:7-9) and in some cases a pregnant woman (Isaiah 26:17; Micah 4:10).
5) The Bible teaches that there will be a future persecution of the Jews.
This is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). Daniel 12:1 mentions a future persecution of the Jews. Daniel says that it “will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then”.
Both Revelation 12 and Daniel 12 mention an angel named Michael and Michael is an angel who is specifically said to be a protector of Israel – “Michael, the great prince who protects your people” (Daniel 12:1; I Enoch 20:5).
War in Heaven
Revelation 12:7 describes a war takes place in heaven. We know what earthly wars look like. I do not know what heavenly wars look like. How do angels fight? What weapons do they use?
You can’t shoot an angel. Bombs do not work but it is possible for angels to fight (cf. Daniel 10:12-13). Satan loses this battle and gets kicked out of heaven and there will be no place for him in heaven or his angels. They lost their place in heaven (12:8)
Has this taken place yet or is it future? It is future. How do we know? Ephesians 6:12 shows that in the church age Satan still has access to heaven. He has not fallen out of heaven yet because right now there is spiritual wickedness in heavenly paces but during the Tribulation Period Satan will be cast out of heaven.
That will be good for heaven but bad for earth (12:12). It does not describe Satan’s original fall but his fall in the middle of the tribulation.
Most people think that when Satan fell, he was cast out of heaven. The Bible nowhere says that he was completely cast out of heaven when he fell. Even in the OT he had access to heaven (Job 1; Zechariah 3). Right now he has access to heaven.
There is spiritual wickedness in heavenly places now. Satan is in heaven accusing us before God day and night (12:10) but around the middle of the Tribulation there will be a war in heaven and Satan will be cast out. Satan has four homes in Revelation – heaven (12:9), earth (12:12), the Abyss (20:2) and the Lake of Fire (20:10).
Satan is at War with God
There are two battles here. He is at war with God. He tries to kill baby Jesus. There was a battle on earth between the woman and the dragon and a battle in heaven between Michael and his angels and Satan and his angels.
He fights the angels in heaven and the saints on earth. Satan fights the nation of Israel because God made a covenant with that nation. He also fights genuine believers in every nation all over the world.
Satan Loses Many of his Battles
He tries to kill the woman’s baby after he is born but does not succeed. The baby is “caught up” into heaven. That is a strong word which is also used of the rapture of the church (I Thessalonians 4:17).
When Jesus actually dies on the cross for the sins of the world, he tries to get Jesus to come down from the cross but that does not work. Satan’s angels fight Michael and his angels. He loses that battle and gets kicked out of heaven.
He then goes after the woman and tries to destroy Israel. He loses that battle. He tries to drown the woman but he is not successful. When he can’t get the woman or her baby, he goes after her other children and that refers to believers (12:17). The application here is that God is stronger than Satan. The one in us is greater than the one in the world and God’s angels are stronger than Satan’s angels.
God Protects his People
We saw that in Revelation 7. He sealed the 144,000 and protected them from plagues. He protected the inner court of the Temple for forty-two months (11:1-3). When Satan goes after the woman, God has a place prepared for her. He protects her (12:6, 14-16).
When the Romans kicked the Jews out of Israel and scattered them for two thousand years, God preserved the nation. They were not completely wiped out. When Hitler tried to wipe out the Jews (and killed six million of them), God stopped him. The Jews survived the Holocaust and his efforts only backfired and led to the state of Israel.
We Have Someone Who Accuses Us
The picture here is a court room scene. God is the judge sitting on his throne. The word “accuser” is a legal term. Satan is our accuser. Who does he accuse? He is the accuser of the brethren (12:10). He is the great accuser of Christians today. He accuses us before God day and night.
While we are sleeping, he accuses us. He is the prosecutor. He wants to bring an indictment. What is he saying about you and me right now? We have an attorney. Jesus is our defense attorney (I John 2:1). Sometimes Satan’s accusations come to us.
We Can Defeat Satan
Grant Osborne notes that Revelation 12 is one of the most important passages in the Word of God on the topic of demonology . Revelation 12:11 gives four ways that Satan can be defeated. It is the most important statement in the whole chapter. It says “they overcame him”. It does not say “Jesus overcame him”.
1) Satan is overcome by the blood of the Lamb.
When Satan says that we are wicked sinners who deserve nothing but Hell, the answer we can give him is that Jesus’ blood was shed for all of our sins.
2) Satan is overcome by public testimony.
A clear public testimony for Jesus Christ is an effective weapon against Satan. This is an activity in which Satan is overcome. When we witness and lead others to Christ, Satan is defeated.
3) Satan is overcome by a godly life.
Satan is overcome, not just by blood and words but by actions. He is overcome by those who hold to the testimony of Jesus and keep the commandments of God (12:17). The Bible says, “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
4) Satan is overcome by the Word of God.
God’s Word is a weapon against Satan. Paul called it “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). Jesus overcame Satan when he was tempted by quoting Scripture. How well do we know God’s Word? Can we quote it like Jesus did?