The Bible begins with a wedding, ends with a wedding, and is shot through with pictures of a faithful Bridegroom loving an unfaithful bride. This Bridegroom has the power to transform her through His love, which includes taking her through the wilderness. This Bride has children who are hated by God’s Ancient Foe and, by his children.
Satan is described as a dragon in Revelation 12. He seeks to swallow up the woman’s seed. We can see this through the pages of Scripture and of history. The dragon’s techniques are to lie, kill, and destroy. His purpose is to get God’s Bride to back up from her Bridegroom and to throw away her lifeline. But the book of Revelation lifts the curtain and shows us how deeply we are loved. God is not picking on us, but rather is with us in our cosmic battle against our enemy. The dragon, you may remember, is the counterfeit to the first person of the Trinity — God the Father. Instead of instigating good, the dragon institutes evil.
Revelation 13:1 writes: “And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea.” How perfectly this natural rock formation in Australia depicts this!
We must not lose heart in this cosmic battle. Remember the warning of Jesus in Matthew 24:12-13:
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
We do not earn our salvation by standing firm, but we show that, indeed, we belong to Him, love Him truly, and have His power within us.
In Revelation 12, Satan is described as an enormous red dragon “who stood in front of the woman about to give birth.” (Revelation 12:4) Who is this woman? It may seem, at first glance, that she is Mary, for we know how Satan tried to murder the infant Jesus through Herod’s murderous plan of killing all the boy babies in Bethlehem under two. Philip Yancey says this picture is the Christmas card you never see.
This painting by Rubens portrays the dragon’s rage. Behind every evil ruler who has gone after God’s seed is our ancient foe. We saw it in the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Herod of Bethlehem, and I believe as well in the Nero of Rome, the Hitler of Germany, and the Islamic terrorists of today… The Voice of the Martyrs reports more martyrdoms of Christians in the last century than in all the centuries of the past combined, though the news rarely covers them. I believe America and Canada, are in the first stage of persecution. (1: We don’t want your ideas. 2: We don’t want you around here. 3: We don’t want you.) This seems to be happening rapidly – Revelation tells us that as the dragon sees his time getting short, his rage increases. Likewise, Jesus warned that our troubles will increase before He returns, like the birth pangs of a woman in labor. (Matthew 24:8)
We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of this dark world. But, as Tim Keller says, “God only gives Satan enough rope to hang himself.” If Satan, indeed, is behind our many troubles, we need to be wise and fit for the battle.
Below is a sermon from Charles Biggs that you can listen to in the next few days and will add great clarity to a challenging but oh so strengthening chapter. I’ll ask you for your comments and notes on Day 4.
Word Document of Homework Questions for Week 2
Day 1. Getting Started
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- Read Revelation 12:1-12 as an overview, remembering that Revelation gives us signs and symbols. A picture, it has been said, is worth a thousand words.
A. Identify the three main characters.
B. What stands out to you upon your first reading?
Michael Wilcock explains the three main characters in Rev. 12:1-6:
The child is Christ (Rev. 12:9), the woman is Israel, from whom he is born and who continues as the Christian church after his ascension, and the dragon is Satan who seeks to destroy the child, and when foiled, vents his anger on the church. (John Stott commentaries: The Wisdom of Revelation, 120)
Day 2: Background of the Battle
The battle with the dragon began as early as Genesis 3:15, in what is called the protoevangelium, or the first gospel.
3. Read Genesis 3:14-15
A. To who is God speaking and who is he, really? (v. 14)
B. Between what two parties will there be enmity? (v. 15)
C. What is meant by “her offspring and yours?”
D. Explain how v. 15b was fulfilled at Calvary.
4. Read John 8:39-47
A. Who did the Pharisees claim as their father, according to verse 39?
B. Who does Jesus say their father is and why, according to verses 39-47? Find everything you can.
5. Read John 8:56-59
A. What does Jesus tell the Pharisees in verse 56 and how do they respond?
B. Then what does Jesus tell them?
C. Whenever Jesus says one of the great I AM’s, though you cannot see it in English, the Septuagint shows us it is the same phrase God spoke to Moses when He said “I AM who I AM.” It is a clear declaration of Deity, and another way of expressing that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the One who was, who is, and who is to come. How did the Jews respond to this, and why, do you think?
6. Read 1 John 4:4-6
A. What encouragement can you find in verse 4?
B. What telltale sign gives away children of the devil according to verses 5-6?
Day 3: The Woman
She is Israel, she is the Church, and she will be persecuted by the dragon until he is cast down forever and ever. His intent was to destroy Israel, then Christ, and then, His seed. But his doom is sure.
7. Read Revelation 12:1-2. Describe the woman and her clothing. Describe her agony in giving birth.
8. Read Genesis 37:9. How is Joseph’s second dream similar to the woman’s clothing?
D. A. Carson writes: “…the sun, moon, and eleven stars are metaphorical respectively for Jacob, his wife, and the eleven tribes of Israel. All bow down to Joseph, representing the twelfth tribe.” (Commentary on New Testament Use of Old Testament, p. 1122.)
It is often in suffering that we defeat the dragon, as Joseph suffered yet remained steadfast.
9. Read Genesis 50:15-21
A. How did Joseph view the trouble in his life? (v. 20)
B. How could this help you face the dragon’s attacks with endurance?
C. Can you share a way that God used an attack from the enemy for good in your life?
10. (This is an optional question for those who went through the study “Shallows,” or those who are grounded in the Old Testament stories.) Barrenness and infanticide are two ways the dragon tried to stop God’s seed. How do you see this in:
A. Abraham and Sarah?
B. Isaac and Rebekah?
C. Jacob and his wives?
D. Jochebed and Moses?
E. Mary, the mother of Jesus?
11. How do you see Satan’s progeny trying to murder Jesus and His progeny? (Find an example in the New Testament.) How did that backfire? (Consider John 11:53 and John 12:10.)
12. How did Satan try to murder the seed of God’s Bride in Exodus 1?
13. Some of the godliest women I know have been prevented from marrying or having biological children — yet how God has blessed them with spiritual children, defeating Satan’s plan. How do you see this in Isaiah 54:1-3? How can we all, childless or not, take this to heart?
Day 4: The Sermon by Charles Biggs
14. Listen to the sermon and share your notes and comments. (See link in opening)
Day 5: Contemplation Questions
15. Contemplation questions on Revelation 12:1-12
A. How can I praise Him on the basis of this text?
B. How can I confess my sins on the basis of this text?
C. If this is really true, what wrong behavior, what harmful emotions & what false attitudes happen when I forget this?
D. What should I be aspiring to — reaching for?
E. Why are You telling me this today?
F. What is your take-a-way this week and why?