June 10: Rev 12

Phil Ryken
Revelation 12 contains mysterious symbols with seemingly unfathomable meanings.  One is reminded of Ambrose Bierce's famous definition of Revelation as "a famous book in which St John the Divine concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by the commentators, who know nothing."

Here we read about a woman adorned with the sun, moon, and stars and a seven-headed, ten-horned red dragon.  We read how the dragon's tail swept the stars from the sky and how the woman's child ruled the earth with a rod of iron.  We also read about a war in heaven between angels and demons, between the archangel Michael and the arch-devil Satan.  There are people with wings like eagles, water-spouting serpents, river-swallowing mountains, and other fantastic marvels.  

What do these things mean?  

It would be possible to connect at least some of these symbols to earthly events and biblical prophecies.   The woman giving birth reminds us of the promise that God gave to Eve, that one day her offspring would crush the devil.  She also calls Mary to mind, as well as the Son of God she carried in her womb--the God-man, man-child, Savior-King who rules the nations from his heavenly throne. 

We could also attempt to plot these events on some sort of timeline, connecting them to events in world history, although if we try to do this we will have some judgment calls to make.  When was Satan thrown down to earth?  Are the woman's 1260 days in the wilderness literal or symbolic?  And so on.  

What is just as important, if not more so, is the general impression this chapter gives, with the overall message that it communicates.  Satan is at war with the people of God, here identified as "those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (v. 17).  Satan hates God-fearing, Jesus-believing, law-keeping Christians, and he will do anything he can to destroy us in the little time that he has left (see v. 12).  

Here is something else that is unmistakable: Satan will not win the fight.  God will.  The salvation, the power, the kingdom, and the authority belong to Jesus Christ.  Therefore, there is nothing for us to fear from the strange mysteries of Revelation12, or anything else in the world.