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The Salvation, The Power & The Kingdom of God

Revelation 12:1-17

Key Verse 12:11

“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

The seventh trumpet (11:15) brought about the 7 bowl judgments (15:1-16:21). Then, in chapters 12-14 John actually witnesses the conflict of ages between God and Satan. He witnesses evil personified; he sees the images of the persecution of God’s people; he sees the part of the final suffering that is promised to come on the earth. In these 3 chapters (12-13) the nature of evil is fully exposed, revealing the climax of Satan’s wickedness. But in this chapter many things happen in the story of the end times. We are introduced to 5 new figures. We see the woman who is the nation of Israel; the red dragon who is Satan; the male child of the woman who is Jesus Christ; Michael the archangel who makes war with Satan; and we finally see the remnant of the woman who is the nation of Israel. They all play part in the story of the end as it slowly unravels in the book of Revelation.

Read verse 1. “A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” A great and wondrous sign appears in heaven. A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and wearing a crown of 12 stars on her head. The woman symbolizes the nation of Israel and the 12 stars on her head seem to be the 12 tribes of Israel. The woman, therefore is God’s people whom God had called to himself to be a nation set apart for his own glory and work in history. And according to this chapter 12, it may be that the story of the woman reflects the entire history of God’s people, since there will still be a remnant of them even to the very end of the age. I say this because the revelation here includes even the time when Israel had not yet delivered the Christ to the world, the time that it did deliver the Messiah to the world, up to the end times. John tells us that “a great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven”. In verse 5 he tells us the woman gave birth to a son who will rule all nations. What greater and more wondrous sign could there ever be than the fulfillment of God’s promise— the coming of the Savior Jesus to our world! From the beginning of time, God had promised the world that a Savior would come who would deliver us from sin and restore us to the kingdom of God. Throughout history, the promise was repeated time and again through the prophets whom God sent to bring the warning to the unfaithful and hope to the faithful. Then finally when the time came, the nation of Israel played the biggest role in history when from two ordinary people, the Savior of the world was born. People look for signs and wonders to inspire them in a world full of corruption and decay. But the only sign they should look for is in the coming of the Savior into the world.

Let us follow the story line here. Read verse 2. “She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” Nothing can happen in this world for its good without pain, even the birth of the Savior; even the birth of the church, even the birth of a new Christian. For Israel to bear the blessing of being the instrument of God to deliver his Savior Son into the world, she had to suffer much. She suffered in slavery to Egypt so that she might taste the power of God’s deliverance first hand. She suffered much to maintain the faith when the godless nations around it pressed hard to vanquish it. But in her terrible suffering, she stood firm until the coming of the Lord, until the Messiah was finally born to her in a manger of a stable. After the death and resurrection of the Savior of mankind, the church was born—  also in pain and anguish. The pain the church suffered was unbearable. But the church grew strong through its suffering until it became the house of God on earth for all who seek God. When a Christian is born, he or she are born not in the ease and comforts of life, but they are born in the pain and anguish of repentance and of faith. And it is never easy for them. They face every hardship and suffering that the evil one puts in their way. It is a natural thing for the new born Christian to suffer many pains. Some suffer the pain of severing worldly things they had been attached to. Others suffer the sacrifices they make for the love of Jesus, sacrificing family and friends, some sacrificing jobs and positions. Others suffer persecution while some suffer from misunderstanding, criticism, all for the sake of upholding the one thing that really matters in their new lives, that is the grace of Jesus and pleasing God with their lives. There are those Christians who never suffer anything, or some who avoid suffering at every corner in life. But they cannot fully mature into the temple God had prepared them to be. They are stunted in growth, misshapen, aggressive in their self defenses, and sometimes even hostile to the gospel teaching that does not agree with their lifestyle. But as the woman had to suffer the birth of the Son, and the nation of God and the church had to suffer to maintain faith, so also the Christian who is new born must endure the pain of the Christian life so that all that he or she might live might serve the God who called us out of death to life by the sacrifice and pain of his Son.

Read verse 3. “Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.” John witnessed a great and wondrous sing at first, the sign of the woman who would give birth to a Son. But he also witnessed another sign— and he had no description for this sign because it was awful, as terrible a sign as can be. The Bible tells us that many delight in evil, but I wonder if they might continue delighting in evil if they saw what John saw— the source of all the evil they delight in— the dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. From what John saw, at the same time the great sign was about to be fulfilled, another sign appeared, mighty and fearful, the appearance of the dragon who is the devil or Satan (9). From this we can also see clearly the great battle of the ages that has been going on between the forces of good and those of evil. Wherever the devil is, and regardless of how much power God allows him to wield at the time, his evil is terrible and destructive. He always ravages the earth with his evil. But his greatest victories are in ravaging people’s lives and turning their hearts to stone so that they can no longer either see God nor hear him, and so that they might be left desolate and hopelessly lost.

What happened because of this second and terrible sign? Read verse 4. “His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.” Some say that this image reflects Satan’s rebellion and the sweeping of one third of the angels who became demons and were cast down with him. But we must look at this picture of the danger that awaited the woman who was about to give birth. We know the story of the birth of Jesus. How his birth was shrouded in danger. We know that Herod tried to kill him. We know that his parents had to flee to Egypt to avoid the death sentence that hovered over their heads and the head of the child. But here is the true picture of what Jesus and his parents were up against. The dragon with 7 heads Jesus’ life was at risk before his birth. Satan had determined to extinguish his life the moment he was born. This Son, born to be our Messiah suffered so much even before his birth. Of course Satan was unable to harm him until God’s time was ripe.

Read verse 5. “She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.” This is indeed the gospel story. The child was born, and was raised in the shelter of God and godly people. Then when the time came for him to show himself to the world, Jesus appeared and preached the good news of God’s redemption. Finally, God allowed it that his Son Jesus would be taken to be crucified. He did it willingly because in his suffering and crucifixion there would be redemption from sin and death for anyone who believes and puts their faith in Jesus. At the time, Satan thought he had finally won the battle when he thought that Jesus’ death would be the end of him. But Jesus was sinless, and God had promised to raise him from the death. But Satan was wrong, and he did not win at all. The moment Jesus rose from the dead and was taken up to heaven, the final defeat of Satan had begun. Look at verse 6. After the gospel was fulfilled and Jesus ascended to heaven, the church was born and immediately went into the wilderness for a period of time to be prepared and equipped by God. This may have been the time of the apostles and the church that emerged form their preachings. But it may also be a continuation of the story of the end times, where the church will be sheltered from Satan’s evil and be protected from the judgments that are upon the earth.

Read verses 7-9. “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” This is the image of the time of intense spiritual struggle between Satan and the heavenly host led by Michael! We do not know if this has been a revelation of past times or times to come. But we know that the struggle of good and evil has been going on for ages. As long as the earth has endured, the power of sin and evil has been waging war in heaven and on earth on all that is God’s and is good. But regardless of how strong evil and sin have been, and regardless of how many victories in life sin and evil may cause to people, this revelation John saw tells us clearly of the reality of things. The reality is that Satan is not strong enough— never was strong enough and will never be strong enough to overcome God or the Godly forces at work in heaven and on earth. According to this revelation, Satan was  hurled to the earth. We know that he fell once, but perhaps this is a sort of second falling— a falling that marks the end of his reign forever. Perhaps this falling is the one that ravages the earth in the last days. What did Satan do when he was cast down to earth?

Look at verse 9 again. He will lead the whole world astray! In 2nd Thess 2 we read that “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie
and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” What a description of how Satan leads the whole world astray. He actually leads the whole world astray from God. And he has subtle tricks and ways that he does this such that even the elect of God, if they are not careful fall for his schemes. Mostly Satan leads the world astray with doubts and unbelief. People no longer believe in God these days. There seems to be some kind of veil over their hearts to make them believe that God does not exist, that we are gods and the authors of our own destiny. Unbelief is not only the bane of the unbeliever, it is also the bane of the believer. Unbelief keeps the heart oppressed with doubts and fears that are mostly unreasonable, especially for a Christian who supposedly knows the grace of God and God’s power to deliver form any situation of life. People seem to doubt everything. They doubt their own faith, if their faith is good enough or not. That comes form Satan. Others doubt the love of God and the love of those who love them. Satan has for long led the world astray with his instrument of doubt. Doubt is not a health thing, not even when there is just cause to doubt. The Bible tells us that we must have no doubt, that rather we must have faith in all circumstances. Doubt is the gift of Satan. Faith is the gift of God. Which gift must we embrace? Surely we must never doubt God nor his words of life. Surely we must never doubt the love of God above all things, and the grace of God through his Son Jesus. Surely we must never doubt that God loves us enough to receive us as his children and chastise us if necessary and shelter us form the evil one. Surely we must not doubt God’s hope and mighty hand to raise us up from the slumber of life. Hope is a glorious thing. The Bible tells us that we must live by faith and live by hope, and not by doubt. Whatever doubts we may have about God or about the sincerity of the body of Christ, and whatever doubts we may have of our own redemption in the blood of Jesus, we must cast out. We must repent of our doubts, and embrace the hope and faith God gives those who trust him.

Read verse 10. “Then I heard a loud 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 before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” This will be the ultimate victory of God and the Saints. It is time for salvation to be fully fulfilled. It will be the time for God’s power to be manifest by crushing the power of evil and sin forever. It will be the time of the coming of the kingdom of God. It will be the time when Christ will take up his authority over all things in heaven and on earth. And finally it will be the time when the accuser of the saints will be forever gone from heaven to accuse us no more. Satan does not only lead the world astray. He also accuses the world and its people, believer and non-believer of sin and guilt. Guilt is the tell tale sign of our sin. We are weak as long as we are in the flesh. And quite honestly we don’t need an accuser to accuse us before our Father God. We are glad to, if allowed, to accuse ourselves night and day. But self condemnation is a sin of presumption. We have no right to accuse ourselves either for many reasons. We have no aauthority to judge or accuse ourselves nor anyone else. Only God is the judge. We have no right to condemn ourselves even when we desperately feel like condemning ourselves because the word of God prepared us even before the banishment of the accuser who is Satan. The word of God commands us “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8)  How wonderful it is to know this and to deeply believe this in the depth of our hearts. That we are forgiven by the sacrifice of the one who was willing to be condemned in our place. How wonderful it is to believe in the depth of our heart that when we have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior and turned over our lives to him in faith, that there is no power in heaven or on earth to accuse us of anything. It is a shame that so many live in guilt, even Christians live in guilt. But there is no need to, because the Lord has shown us that our guilt is forever banished when the Dragon was hurled to earth and is no more. May God give us the faith to trust in the word of God which tells us that guilt has been banished by the power of Jesus who defeated the dragon and hurled him away to accuse no more.

Read verse 11. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” How did the brothers of whom John talks about overcome the devil’s accusations? How did they banish their own guilt and give themselves over to faith? They did so by the blood of Jesus. The blood of Jesus is everything to us. He shed his blood to cleanse us from sin and from shame and guilt. His blood covers all our sin, not part of it, not the part that was nor is but the part that is yet to come as we live in the flesh and await our final redemption. No one can overcome their guilt by saying: “well today I am just not going to feel guilty anymore.” Guilt is too strong for us to overcome on our own. We must depend on the blood and claim the blood of Jesus in order to overcome. As our brothers in the Lord overcame the accuser by the blood of Jesus, so also we are shown the way to overcome which is by the same blood. May the blood of Jesus cleanse your hearts of all guilt today, and give you the assurance of being secure in the grace of God. Which takes us to the other way or truth that helped the brothers to overcome the accusation of the devil and the guilt of their own hearts.

They also overcame him by the word of their testimony. They never stopped testifying to the saving grace of Jesus in their lives. That is the way of overcoming the wiles of the devil who always wants us paralyzed by our own guilt and sin. The testimony of the grace of God must always be upon our hearts. Some people forget the testimony of the grace, because they go too long without testifying to it. But we must not allow ourselves to go too long, not even one day without testifying to the grace of Jesus in our lives. Jesus grace in our lives does not change, as Jesus never changes, so also his grace never changes. Once his grace is upon us that grace is a treasure— always forever there— that we must hold on to. No one must let that treasure out of their sight not even for a single day. But when hours turn to days and days turn to months and years and we do not testify to that marvelous grace, then there is a danger that the grace of Jesus ay be overshadowed by all the guilt that the devil tries to cloud our hearts with. There is nothing that can replace the grace of Jesus in our lives. For the believer, we know that Jesus’ blood has transformed us into his children, and that never changes. By that same grace we can open our mouth and say “Father in heaven” for no one can say this unless they are marked by the grace of Jesus. For the non-believer the grace is ever still so wondrous and available. The non-believer can only open his or her heart to the saving grace of Jesus. They need only say Lord Jesus help me (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21) and his grace will overflow in their lives like rain in the desert. Praise God who gave all of us a weapon to fight the accusations of Satan the devil. But we must testify. We must testify when we are alone, open our hearts and say thank you for your grace. We must testify when we are not alone, open our mouth and tell others what Jesus has done for us. We may be young spiritually, but we can surely give thanks to God in all circumstances. Testifying is not difficult when we are thankful to God. It is when the thankfulness has departed and the troubles of life and its temptations have come in that we find it hard to testify. We feel like a hypocrite. But hypocrite or not, we cannot deny that the accuser is banished, and the grace is abundant even for those who have not testified in a long time.

Finally, the brothers overcame the accuser because their love for God outweighed their love for their own life. Some of them may have been martyred. But the majority of those who confess Jesus are not martyred in that way, but martyred when they believe and obey Jesus who taught us that we must not love our life. That our life must be lived for the glory of God. When we love our life too much we pamper our lives too much and we forget that Jesus died on the cross for us not that we should live for ourselves, but that we should live for him. As Paul said: Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is a man who did not love his life too much. He loved Jesus. He loved Jesus too much. But not only Paul, all those who have truly embraced the gospel at heart, find out that this life is not worthy holding on to, that what Jesus died to accomplish for us is worth more than anything this world could ever give us. We must remember this. When we remember how Jesus shed his blood on the cross for our sins, and we testify to that marvelous grace in our lives, we will have no problem living for Jesus in this world. At times living for Jesus in this world is like dying because we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus. But this kind of death is welcome when we know we do so for the love of Jesus, for the love of the one who loved us more than his own life. Then we can live for him, and serve his purpose in our lives.

In verses 12-17 we see Satan’s assault on the church of God. And we see God’s protection of the church for a while. Eventually Satan’s rage increases and his assault strengthens against the church. She could not survive without the help of God. And when Satan’s assault on the church fails, he pursued the descendants of the church— the children of God born to her in every generation who live by faith and by the word of God. Surely Satan hates those who obey God’s word and follow Jesus. Because of that we can expect assault on our faith and on our hearts, on the church and on the word of God to the end of time. But we must overcome by the blood of the Lamb, by the testimony of his grace, and by loving Jesus more than loving our own lives. Read verse 11 again. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

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