In Revelation 12, once again, we are given the heavenly perspective. We see a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and was about to give birth. Another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. The dragon was waiting to devour the child the moment it was born. A male child was born and he was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert (wilderness) to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1260 days. What followed was war in heaven and the dragon and his angels lost their place in heaven. The dragon was hurled down to the earth with his angels. At that point, a loud voice in heaven declared the establishment of the salvation, power and kingdom of God and the authority of Christ. The dragon was filled with fury, knowing his time is short, and he sought to harm the woman and made war against the rest of her offspring.
The woman was thought to represent Mary by some but the context does not support this. The male child is the Messiah Jesus Christ. In one sentence is described His life on earth, His ministry and ascension to the throne of God. There He waits until all His enemies are vanquished and brought to His footstool. The woman, we are told, represents the messianic community and the Messiah came forth from her. The other offspring are those who obey Gods command and hold to the testimony of Jesus and this points to the Church of God (from the Old Testament and the New Testament), all those justified by faith in Jesus.
The point of time the dragon was hurled down to earth seems to be the point of time he was defeated at the cross when the Messiah died for the sins of man. No longer can Satan be the accuser of the brethren before God, for the sins of believers have been forgiven and dealt with at the cross. It is also at this point that the salvation and the kingdom of God was established and the authority of Jesus demonstrated and further manifested by His victory over death and His ascension to the right hand of God. In this sense, we can rightly say that the war is over. However, as we can see, the dragon was full of fury and he went on to battle against the messianic community and the offspring of the woman. The battles rage on and although God brought the woman to the desert place for protection, the persecution of believers and the relentless fury of the enemy continue unabated until the final judgment and the con- summation of God’s kingdom at the end.
What is clear is that spiritual warfare is real and Satan is real. Believers must be conscious of this; otherwise, they may fall prey to the designs of the evil one and his angels. The enemy not only uses persecution and violence to cause damage to Gods people; he also is a master of deception and can dress as an angel of light. The distortion of truth and scriptures by him may not be recognized as his attacks and the people of God can be led astray and rendered as no longer a threat to his kingdom. The devil is not afraid of activities, even so-called spiritual ones, carried out in the flesh; he is only concerned with those done with the power of the Holy Spirit and in dependence on God. The apostle Paul reminded us that our battle is not only against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual powers, namely the evil one and his followers (Ephesians 6:12).
In the meantime, the woman was brought to the desert, to a safe place to be taken care of for 1260 days. We have looked at what 1260 days represent in the previous sharing. We will recall God taking care of Israel in the desert, providing for her, caring for her. Yet we know that Israel rebelled against God in the wilderness, grumbling, complaining and testing God and seeking to go back to Egypt (a type of the world). The desert is a place of testing for Gods people: God will care for them but they need to go on by faith and confidence in the Lord and not give in to self-preservation, disobedience, idolatry and outright rebellion against God, always seeking to go back to the world and into bondage prepared for them by the prince of this world, Satan himself. Many Israelites died in the desert without reaching the promised land. This is certainly a warning for us to triumph in the desert by faith and in loyalty to God who will definitely bring us into the promised land – the new heaven and the new earth. The God who brought Israel out of Egypt in the exodus is the same God who will bring us out of this fallen world in the eschatological exodus through the blood of the Lamb into the promised land where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more death but only eternal joy, worship of God and wondrous fellowship with all those who overcome (remember the letters to the seven churches).
We would recall the Lord Jesus, when He was on earth, led into the desert to be tempted by the evil one. The first Adam failed God and sinned in the garden of Eden. Israel, for the most part, failed God in the desert in her rebellion and disobedience. The second Adam, Jesus, triumphed in the desert when He confronted the temptations of the evil one with the Word of God and His submission and obedience to the heavenly Father. He demonstrated how man should live and obey God. Angels appeared to minister to Him. The Lord God takes care of His people in the desert. The desert is also a place where temptations abound and it serves as a testing ground for the people of God. We must remember the example of our Lord Jesus in meeting temptations in the desert and overcoming them. We must also remember that Jesus Christ was truly God and truly man when He was on earth. He encountered all that human beings encountered on earth, including going through difficulties and pain in meeting temptations, enduring misunderstanding from various ones as well as physical trials.
Some may conclude that He probably used His divine power to overcome all the difficulties and trials but this would not explain Him as fully man. In fact, Jesus as the God-man chose not to exercise His divine power and attributes in order to live within the limitations of being truly human. He opted to experience the world through the limitations He took upon Himself in order to be truly man even though His divine attributes were still present in Him but not voluntarily exercised by Him. As such, He experienced time and space events within the confines of a normal human being, and in such a context, He became the perfect example of how a man should live before God.
In the meantime, there is a mission to accomplish as seen in Revelation 12:11 – we need to overcome on the ground of the blood of the Lamb, to preach the gospel and Gods word faithfully and being ready even to sacrifice to the point of death. The messenger must look like the message in order to bring the rest of the world into Gods kingdom.