SCRIPTURE REFERENCES » Revelation 12:13-17

Sermon: The Woman And Her Offspring, Pursued But Protected: Revelation 12:13-17

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 40:1–5; 28–31

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken… [Verse 28] Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:1–5; 28–31, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Revelation 12

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 12, ESV)

Introduction

I have been greatly blessed by this twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation. I know that many of you have been blessed by it as well given the feedback I’ve received from you. Really, it should come as no surprise that this chapter is particularly illuminating. It’s purpose, remember, is to pull back the curtain a bit more for us so that we might know something of the spiritual battle that rages in the heavenly realm. This ancient and invisible conflict between God and Satan, the elect angels and the fallen angels, has motivated the earthly conflicts that have transpired throughout the history of redemption, both small and great. This cosmic conflict motivates the trials and tribulations that we encounter in the world today, and will encounter, on to the consummation.

This chapter is particularly illuminating, not only because of what it reveals, but also because of how it reveals it. It reveals what it reveals by way of symbol. And I have come to love very much the symbolism of the book of Revelation.

The weakness of symbolism as a mode of communication is that it can be easily misunderstood and badly misconstrued (certainly, many have misunderstood and misconstrued the book of Revelation). But the answer to this potential problem within the book of Revelation (the problem of clarity) is, what theologians have called, the anologia fidie, or the analogy of faith. Put simply, the analogy of faith principle asserts that less clear portions of scripture are to be interpreted with the help of those passages that are more clear. The underlying assumption, of course, is that all of scripture hangs together, has one divine author who has inspired its contents from beginning to end, and tells one story. Nowhere is this more evident than in the book of Revelation. The book concludes the canon of scripture and you can hardly find a verse in it that does not, in one way or another, reach back into the Old Testament to pick its symbolism up from there. The potential problem of clarity is solved in the book of Revelation because its symbols are pulled, not out thin air, nor are their meanings hidden away in the mind of the original human author (inaccessible to us), nor are they rooted entirely and ultimately in the culture in which the original author and audience lived (a culture largely foreign to us), but instead the symbols are drawn mainly from the Old Testament scriptures and from passages that are clear indeed. The meaning of the symbolism of the book of Revelation is, therefore, understandable. The book is clear despite its genre. It is made clear by its divine author and its relationship to the rest of inspired scripture.

The strength of symbolism as a mode of communication is its vividness. You’ve herd the expression that “a picture is worth thousand words”? Well, though the book of Revelation is a book and not a picture, its words do paint pictures for us in the mind. And the pictures are vivid, are they not? They are detailed, colorful, and very memorable. Therefore, this wonderful book is able say so very much in a very small space.

I’ve come to love the symbolism of the book of Revelation, though I will admit it has frustrated me as a preacher.  It has frustrated me, not because it is unclear, but because it is so wonderfully complex, and I only have a short time with you. I do feel as if I am only able to scratch the surface with each sermon, saying just enough to set your mind off in the right direction.

What have we learned so far from chapter 12?

In verses 1-6 were were introduced to our advisory. He is the dragon, who is “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9, ESV). He is introduced to us as the primary opponent of God, his people, and his Messiah. Though the dragon has frantically opposed God, has sought to devour the people of God, so that he might devour the Christ of God, God has prevailed. Though the dragon tried with all of his might to devour the Christ from the time of his birth to the time of his crucifixion, in the end he “was caught up to God and to his throne” (Revelation 12:5, ESV).

In verses 7-12 we learned that this victory won by Christ on earth by virtue of his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, has produced a victory within the heavenly realm. Satan, though he was permitted by God to accuse the elect prior to Christ resurrection, was barred from heaven and was confined to the earth when Christ rose and ascended. This prompted heaven to celebrate, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10, ESV). But what else did the voice of heaven say? Verse 12: “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:12, ESV).

In verses 13-17 the focus returns again to the earthly side of the cosmic conflict. This passage picks up verses 6 and 12 to elaborate upon them further. In verse 6 we were told that the after  the ascension of Christ to his heavenly throne, “the woman [who gave birth to the Christ] fled [from the dragon] into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:6, ESV). Verse 12 says, “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:12, ESV). Verses 13-17 pick up where those verses left of in order to provide more detail concerning the dragons pursuit of the woman and his wrathful activities upon the earth to which he has been confined.

Let us begin with this simple observation: though Christ has won the decisive victory over Satan by his death, resurrection, ascension, and session, the battle with him is not over completely. It is true that Satan has been barred from heaven so that he can no longer accuse God’s elect (Romans 8:33). This happened at Christ’s resurrection and ascension. This happened just as Christ said it would. Remember the words that he spoke to his disciples just before his crucifixion: “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:31–32, ESV). This casting out of the ruler of this world, is what Revelation 12:7-12 has revealed to us.  And though it is right for us to rejoice that Satan has been barred from heaven, his ability to accuse having been taken away by the accomplishment of our redemption, we should be sober concerning the fact that he is now confined to the earth and that he has great wrath, “because he knows that his time is short!”

Verses 13-17 sets our attention back upon the earth and describes in greater detail Satan’s wrathful pursuit of the woman who gave birth to the Christ and her many offspring.

Satan, Being Barred From Heaven Is Now Preoccupied With The Persecution Of God’s People.

Christ, Being Seated At God’s Right Hand, Is Now Committed To The Preservation Of His People.

Two basic principles are communicated in this text.

The first is this: Satan, being barred from heaven as the accuser of God’s elect and confined to the earth, is now preoccupied with the persecution of God’s people.

The second truth corresponds to the first, and it is this: Christ, being raised from the dead, ascended, and seated at God’s right hand with all authority being given to him, is now committed to the preservation of his people.

These two truths – Satan’s resolve to persecute God’s people and God’s commitment to preserve his people – are so intertwined in this passage that it would feel awkward to consider them one at a time. And so I have given you the two principles from the start so that we might move through this passage verse by verse and notice these principles as they naturally emerge.

Notice that in verse 13 Satan is preoccupied with persecution: “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child” (Revelation 12:13, ESV).

You can picture it can’t you? There Satan stood before the throne of God accusing the elect of God just as he always had from the fall of Adam onward. And there he stood, particularly pleased, now that Christ was in the grave. But on the third day Christ rose, and Satan’s countenance fell. Michael and the elect angels, seeing that the victory had been won by Christ, seeing that the redemption of God’s elect had been earned, the legal demands that were then against us having been nail to the cross and thus removed, initiated war against the accuser of God’s elect, and cast them to the earth. Of course Satan is not a physical being, but a spiritual one. But if imagine him to be a physical being you can picture him falling from heaven like a meteor, hitting the earth with great speed, and a plume of dust rising about him. I like to imagine that he left a crater and then to picture him crawling out with his anger boiling as he turns to the left and right with great rage. He looks about for someone to attack, and who does he set his eyes upon except the woman who had given birth to the Christ child. She becomes the target of his fury for she was the one through whom the Champion came, and so he pursues her to do her harm.

We must remember who this woman represents.

She represents Mary the Mother of Jesus, for she was the one who, in fact, gave birth to the Christ. But clearly this woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes something more than Mary the Mother of Jesus.

Remember that she was described in 12:1 as being “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1, ESV). This language is used elsewhere in scripture to symbolize the people of Israel collectively (see Genesis 37). And certainly you can understand why it is proper to speak of Israel prior to the coming of Christ as being “pregnant” with the Christ and “crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth” (Revelation 12:2, ESV). This was true of Mary in a most literal way. She was literally pregnant with the Christ and experience the “pains and the agony of giving birth” to him. But it was also true of the people Israel, metaphorically speaking. God promised that from them them the Christ would come. And they did indeed suffer many “birth pains” and much “agony of giving birth”  throughout their history as they awaited his arrival. Remember God’s promise to Abraham when he said, “for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever” (Genesis 13:15, ESV). And remember that Paul, when considering that promise, and others like it, remarked “now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16, ESV). What is Paul’s point in that text? His point is that although Abraham would have many offspring (the singular “offspring” can function as a a collective noun, referring to many) yet the promise to Abraham was really focused upon an offspring in the singular since – a particular offspring. The promise to Abraham was that in the process of time, and after many thousands were born to him, some of them being kings, one of his decedents would arrive, who is the Christ. He would inherit the land forever and ever. The New Testament makes it clear that the land he would inherit would not be a sliver of land on the earth, but the whole earth – the new heavens and the new earth. Even Abraham knew this in his day, for by faith he “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10, ESV). Indeed the people Israel, from the time of Abraham onward, were collectively “pregnant” with the Christ., the promise having been made to them that from their loins  the Messiah would emerge.  This is why the first verse of the New Testament says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1, ESV).

The woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes, not just Mary, but Old Covenant Israel. That people “gave birth” to Jesus. I suppose we could could say that theirs was the longest “pregnancy” in the history of the world, lasting some 2,000 years, from the time of Abraham onward.

And it is also right for us to push this back further than Abraham all the way to Adam and Eve. Was it not they who first encountered the attacks of the dragon? And, having fallen from their state of innocency, was it not they who heard the first promise of the gospel when God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, ESV)? Indeed, the women of Revelation 12 symbolizes Eve, who is the mother of all living, who carried within her the seed of the promised Messiah.

As you can see, the symbolism of the woman of Revelation 12 is complex, having as its referent Mary the mother of Jesus, the first woman, Eve, and Israel collectively. But we must also recognize that the church is also included in her. This becomes exceedingly clear when we remember how the New Testament scriptures answer the question, who is the true Israel? Or, who are the true children of Abraham? Without a doubt, the woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes Israel (this has already been established). But who is true Israel? Who are the true offspring of Abraham?

The answer that is given in the New Testament it that true Israel and the true children of Abraham are those who have faith in Christ, both from amongst the ethnic Jews and also the Gentiles. How the dispensationalists miss this point, I do not know.

Listen to Paul in Galatians 3:6-9, for example:

“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ’In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:7–9, ESV).

Later in Galatians 3:26-29 we read,

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:26–29, ESV).

How can it be that Gentiles, who do not have Abraham as their father according to the flesh, are called Abraham’s offspring? It is because they are united by faith to Christ Jesus, who is Abraham’s offspring, in the singular. We are heirs, therefore, not according to the flesh, but of promise. We are children of Abraham, not because we defend from him physically, but because we are united to him in a much more profound and lasting way – we have his faith. He believed in the promise of the Christ, as do we.

It is important to recognize that this principle – the principle that true Israel and the true children of Abraham are those who share in the faith of Abraham – was as true under the Old Covenant as it is under the New. Even under the Old Covenant a distinction was made between Israel according the flesh only and true spiritual Israel – the Israel of faith, sometimes referred to as the remnant.

Listen to Paul in Romans 9:6-8:

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but [quoting from Genesis 21:12] ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:6–8, ESV).

Brothers and sisters, do you see that under the Old Covenant and the New it is those who have faith in Christ – either in the promise of his coming, under the Old, or the good new that he has come under the New – who are the true children of Abraham and the true Israel of God.

This is why at the end of his letter to the Galatian churches Paul pronounced blessing upon those churches (who were predominantly Gentile), saying, “And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16, ESV). Paul refers to the the church as the Israel of God.

So when we consider the woman of Revelation 12 it is right for us to see in her Mary the mother of Jesus, also, the first woman, Eve, and Israel. But we should not fail to recognize that this woman symbolizes the true Israel of God and not Israel according to the flesh. Satan has always been preoccupied with the defeat of true Israel (read the scriptures). Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying that Satan does not also do harm to those who are in unbelief from amongst the Jews and Gentiles – he is a murderer and lier from the beginning and he torments even those who belong to him. But the thing revealed in Revelation 12 is that Satan wages a special kind of war against the true people of God. His objective under the Old Covenat and the New has been to snuff out God’s elect remnant so that none remain.  Though Satan does indeed torment even those who belong to him (this is the kind of master he is) he does not seek to devour them in the same way that he seeks to devour God’s elect. Why would Satan pursue and seek to devour Israel according to the flesh? If they are Israel according to the flesh only then they already belong to the evil one, and not to Christ, just as the rest of the unbelieving world does. What did Jesus say to unbelieving Israel – that is, Israel according to the flesh only?

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.” (John 8:44–45, ESV)

You and I, brothers and sisters, if we have faith in Christ, are the offspring of Abraham. We are heirs, not according to the flesh, but according to promise. The woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes the true Israel of God. She gave birth to the Christ and she remains in the world to this present day. She is identified, not by her DNA, but by her profession of faith in Jesus the Messiah.

This situation is almost the complete opposite of how things were under the Old Covenant. At that time Israel enjoyed very little diversity ethnically speaking, but she was far too diverse as it pertained to her faith – there were many who did not believe within Old Covenant Israel.  But under the New Covenant Israel enjoys a great deal of ethnic diversity, the Gentiles having now been grafted in. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV). And New Covenant Israel also enjoyed total uniformity as it pertains to faith. Israel is ethnically diverse now – the gospel is to be preached to all nations, and then the end will come – and yet she is pure as it pertains to faith. There are no non-believers within the New Covenant.

The Old Testament itself spoke of this radical change ahead of time. Hear God’s word to Jeremiah:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31–34, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, this is the Covenant under which you and I live if we have Christ as Lord. This is the Covenant that Christ ratified in his blood. The partakers of this Covenant are ethnically diverse. Jew and Gentile are rightly called the offspring of Abraham and the Israel of God if they have believed upon Christ. But the partakers of this Covenant are pure in faith. The Old Covenant was made with Israel according to the flesh, but in her were found elect and non-elect, belief and unbelief. The New Covenant is made only with those who believe. They have the law within them written on their hearts (regeneration). The know the Lord, having had their sins forgiven.

So the woman of Revelation 12 also symbolizes the church, that is to say, all who have faith in Jesus the Christ, the promised seed of Abraham.

Though is true that Satan is preoccupied with the persecution of God’s people, notice that in verse 14 God is preoccupied with the preservation of his people. There we read, “But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time” (Revelation 12:14, ESV).

The symbolism here is also rich and complex. And, as usual, the meaning of the symbolism is found within the pages of the Old Testament. I will not linger very long here for the sake of time. Instead I will say only a few  things, and I will say them quickly.

First of all, notice the most obvious thing. God is here promising to care for his people in the midst of trouble. The woman, who symbolizes God’s elect, is said to be nourished by God.

Secondly, notice the time frame. She will be nourished for a “time, and times, and half a time”. This three and a half year period of time has appeared again and again in the book of Revelation, sometimes stated as 1,260 days, sometimes as 42 months, and here as a “time, and times, and half a time”. Notice that in each instance this period of time is used to describe the time in which the church will suffer tribulation in the world while being spiritually preserved by God. In 11:2 we were told that the courtyard of the temple (which symbolizes the church) would be left vulnerable to the trampling of the nations for 42 months while the temple, the alter and those who worship there were measured and protected. In 11:3 were told that the two witnesses would witness for 1,260 days. They would be killed but raised up, just as Christ was. In 12:6 the woman was said to be nourished for 1,260 days in the wilderness. And here the woman is nourished for a “time, and times, and half a time” while being pursued by the dragon. In 13:5 we will meet the  “the beast [who] was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months” (Revelation 13:5, ESV). The symbolism is drawn mainly from Daniel 7 but also from the series of 42 encampments experienced by Israel as she wandered in the wilderness after the Exodus and prior to the conquest of Canaan. Those encampments are listed in Numbers 33:5-49. This three and a half year time of tribulation, and this time of wilderness wandering spanning 42 encampments is taken up in the book of Revelation and is used to symbolize the church age wherein God’s people are described as pilgrims and sojourners in this world (1 Peter 2:11).

Thirdly, notice that verse 14 portrays God’s preservation of his church in language reminiscent of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt. Notice that the woman of Revelation 12 is described as one fleeing from the dragon. In the Old Testament Pharaoh, king of Egypt is described as a dragon who pursued Israel (see Ezekiel 29:3 and 32:2).  Notice also that the woman of Revelation 12 is given “the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent”. This is too is exodus language. For example, when God reminds Israel of his having rescued them from Egypt he says, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19:4, ESV). And notice lastly where the woman of Revelation 12 flees to. She flies “from the serpent into the wilderness.” At the exodus Israel was brought into the wilderness. It was both a place of testing and a place of protection. Listen to Deuteronomy 1:30-33:

“The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place”(Deuteronomy 1:30–32, ESV).

What, therefore, is the meaning of Revelation 12:14? It is that though the dragon pursue the church, God will provide for her and protect her as she sojourns in this world just as he provided for and protected Israel in that wilderness place. He will fight for us, and carry us, just as a man carries his son, bringing us safely to the eternal promised land.

In verse 15 Satan’s preoccupation with persecution is highlighted again, but with more detail: “The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood” (Revelation 12:15, ESV).

Can you visualize the scene? The woman is running for her life. The dragon is on her heals, and then he crouches down deliver his fatal blow when out of his mouth issues forth a torrent of water like a river. His objective is to sweep the woman away in a flood.

I wish that I had the time to remind you of all of the places in the Old Testament where the people of God found themselves threatened by water. For now we should remember the waters of the Red Sea which blocked Israel in to make them vulnerable to the attack of that dragon Pharaoh and his armies. Also, we should remember the flood waters of the Jordan which blocked Israel from crossing over into the land of promise. Certainly these two waters should come to mind given that the exodus is already in view.

Also, we should recognize that the water of Revelation 12 issues forth from the mouth of the dragon. This is not the first time that some something unnatural has issued forth from someones mouth in the book of Revelation. Remember that Christ is described as having “a sharp two-edged sword” coming from his mouth, symbolizing his power to judge with his word.

The flood waters that pour from the mouth of the dragon symbolize the flood of lies that proceed from him. Remember that he had just been as “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12:9, ESV). Remember the assault that he brought against Eve. How did he defeat her? He lied to her. And remember Christ’s description of Satan: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, ESV). Satan assaults the church by seeking to drown her in a flood of lies.

In verse 16 we are again reminded of God’s commitment to preserve his people: “But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth” (Revelation 12:16, ESV).

What did God for Israel when she was hindered by the flood waters of the Jordan from crossing into the promised land? He cut off the water far upstream so that “the people passed over [and]…the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan” (Joshua 3:16–17, ESV).

What did God do for Israel when that dragon Pharaoh pursued her into the wilderness blocking her in against the waters of the Red Sea?

“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exodus 14:21–22, ESV).

In Moses’ song concerning this great act of deliverance he reflects upon the salvation of Israel and the destruction of the armies of dragon Pharaoh, he says, “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them” (Exodus 15:11–12, ESV). The language is the same as in Revelation 12:16. The earth swallowed up the flood that issued from the dragons mouth, and thus the woman was delivered.

And then in verse 17 we return once more to focus upon Satan’s preoccupation with the persecution of God’s people: “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea” (Revelation 12:17, ESV).

I think what we have here is some distinction between the early church and the church born from her so that within Revelation 12 we have some progression. The woman symbolizes progressively Eve, then Old Covenant Israel, the Mary, and then the true New Covenant Israel, in particular, those early disciples of Jesus. They were the ones initially pursued in by the evil one after the ascension of Christ and in a most vicious way. God persevered them, the church was established, and it began to spread to the ends of the earth. The evil one, seeing that he could not defeat the apostles of Christ and the church they founded, turned with great frustration also to her offspring. They are identified as “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus”(Revelation 12:17, ESV).

After that we are simply told that the dragon, “stood on the sand of the sea.” With these words the stage is sufficiently set for the two beasts of Revelation 13. The one will rise from the sea, the other from the land. And they will continue the assault against the church.

Application 

Let is take a moment to apply this passage before we conclude so that we “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves]” (James 1:22, ESV).

Three points of application come to mind:

First of all, we must be sober concerning our enemy who seeks our destruction and in particular we must be careful of his lies. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, ESV). He wars against the people of God by trying to sweep them away in a flood of lies.

False teachings are a continual thereat to the church. How many have compromised the gospel of Jesus Christ! How many have turned the gospel into no gospel at all!

The evil one may even be speaking lies to your own mind and heart. He may be seeking to undermine your faith. He may be seeking to plant a seed of doubt concerning God’s love for you. He may be seeking to sow discord within the body of Christ by planting a seed of doubt concerning the love of the brethren for you.

Remember how sly the serpent was when tempting Eve. He is doing the same thing throughout the world today attempting to sweep away the church in a flood of lies.

Secondly, take comfort in the doctrine of preservation. While it is true that you must persevere, bing sober and vigilant in this life, it is also true that God has promised to preserve his people. He will fight for you.

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13–14, ESV).

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).

Thirdly, let us learn to walk in this world with a kind of humble and sober confidence. 

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:31–37, ESV).

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 12:13-17, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Woman And Her Offspring, Pursued But Protected: Revelation 12:13-17


"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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