Is the idea of good and evil only something for story books and Hollywood movies, or do you see evidence of it in your own life and the world around you?
Our lesson this week backs up from the three angels’ messages in Revelation 14 to chapter 12 and the dragon’s war against Christ. But really, the lesson should start in Ch. 11. Each sequence of seven in Revelation (Churches, seals, trumpets, angels, plagues) begins with a setting in the Hebrew Sanctuary, next to an item of furniture. John introduces us to these furniture scenes in ch. 1 when he hears a voice behind him like a trumpet, and then turning, sees Jesus—one like a son of man!—dressed as a high priest and walking among candlesticks. In the introductory scene of the seven seals (chs. 4–5), the throne opposite the candlesticks is likely a reference to the table of showbread, though the table isn’t referenced explicitly. In 8:2, the altar of incense introduces the seven trumpets, and as the trumpets close, the anticipation grows as we expect one more piece of furniture to complete the priestly ritual.
In 11:18–19, we move with John’s revelation into the Most Holy Place, only seen and visited by the High Priest once each year, the most solemn of days, Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement. On this day, God begins cleansing His people, the camp of Israel. By faith, Israelites follow their High Priest who makes atonement for them, and symbolic of the forgiveness he offers their own sanctuary hearts as they turn to Him for their personal cleansing and reconciliation with God in spite of their sins. This sanctuary scene forms a context for this entire section, through the end of ch. 14.
I have the privilege of teaching a class a couple times each year on Daniel and Revelation, and my students are given the option for one of the seven academic assignments to create art based on some of the imagery in Revelation. Submission mediums have included oil-paintings, needlepoint, songs/poetry, sketch-pencil, even epoxy shapes! But the single most commonly chosen passage to illustrate is this one. The scene introduces characters who will play significant roles in the rest of the book, but who also have been mentioned previously in Scripture. We see a brilliantly-but-naturally adorned, pregnant woman, her son, and the dragon (“that ancient serpent”). Hebrew Bible students will recognize allusions to Genesis 3 where the woman is confronted by the serpent, and after the human couple are led away from trust in God’s words, the promise of a male offspring gave hope that the serpent’s ways would end. The O.T. allusion provides a religious setting for this narrative. Throughout centuries of Biblical history since the fall, women have given birth to male offspring hoping their son would be the promised deliverer. Cain, Seth, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, etc. Each of these were hoped to have been the promised seed, but the real, true seed/offspring would come through Mary. The imagery of the woman in Rev. 12 then seems to go far beyond the original Mary, and beyond Eve, too.
In what ways is Mary similar to this woman according to the text of Revelation 12, and in what ways is she different?
Of course, just as Mary and Joseph were protected in the wilderness of Egypt for a time before Herod died, so this woman goes into a wilderness. But her time of sojourn is prophetic time—1,260 days. This is the most repeated time prophecy in the Bible between Daniel 7 and 12, and several places in Revelation and given as either 1,260 days, or time-two-times-and-half-time, or as 42 months. It is the time of the little horn’s power in Daniel 7. Protestants have attributed this prophetic time to the nearly 1,300 years of apostasy of the Church-State power of Rome.
There was a war in heaven, according to 12:7-11. Satan and his angels were thrown down, and Michael and his angels won. There was no longer a place found for evil in heaven. The victory of Christ cast him down once for all.
When was this war in heaven? What is the immediate context for Satan’s fall and why was there no longer a place found for him there? Does this passage reach back to the beginning of sin, back to Christ’s ascension, or to some other point in time?
What role does “accusation” play in our spiritual experience? When we’re accused by Satan of wrongdoing, is he right? Do you ever play the role of “accuser” of others or even yourself?
According to verse 10 and 11, the accused brethren conquer Satan by “the blood of the lamb” and “the word of their testimony.” To what experiences do these two aspects of Christian life do these seem to apply, especially considering Satan’s accusations?
The end of chapter 12 shows that the woman’s offspring become the object of Satan’s rage, because he cannot hurt the mother, he hurts the children. They are noted for two aspects: they keep the commandments of God and hold to the Testimony of Jesus. It is through the new covenant written on the heart by Christ’s Spirit that the commandments become second nature; and the testimony of Jesus is exactly the experience of John (1:2, 9) and the angel (19:10) who, through visionary, prophetic revelation came to understand the events that would take place “soon.” Adventists have been blessed with this testimony, and we should see it again in larger measure before Christ returns.
We see that Christ’s victory came about sequentially, and within earth history: 1) by his shed blood on the cross, 2) sealed by His resurrection from the dead, and 3) ascension to the right hand of God as King sitting on a throne of grace and help in time of need. Heaven has had its victory, but now the earth is in trouble, facing an opponent who knows he’s lost. The end is near, but our faith in Christ’s victory becomes our own! His blood cleanses my past, his life empowers my present testimony, and his resurrection assures my future!