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THE WOMAN AND THE DRAGON, PART 3

 

Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.  And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” Revelation 12:6–12

 

The woman clothed with the sun is the church as it came into existence on the Day of Pentecost. The growth of the church was phenomenal during its first several centuries of existence. But the presence of the church and its growth also brought into existence a persecuting power from the Destroyer, the power of the devil working through Christ-less religion.

The church experienced ten seasons of persecution from its first days up to the Edict of Milan in A.D. 303. Verse 6 says that “the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” This fleeing into the wilderness immediately follows the ten seasons of persecution we looked at in our previous lecture. This fleeing into the wilderness is also pictured in verse 17 where the woman was given the wings of an eagle that she could fly into the wilderness. We will discuss this wilderness when we get to the end of the war in heaven.

 

The War in Heaven

 

Beginning in verse 7 we find war breaking out in heaven. Verse 7 begins with the word AND, which places the events described in verses 7–12 at the same time as the revelation of the woman and the great red dragon at the beginning of the chapter. The presence of the gospel of salvation from sin through the atonement in Christ aroused the ire of all Christ-less religions and it still does today. The Book of Acts records the first persecution of the Church by the Jews who refused to accept Jesus as Messiah and rejected actual salvation in favor of the ceremonial salvation of the sacrifices under the Law of Moses that were no longer affective with God.

That the war takes place in heaven does not mean the literal heaven where God resides. Remember, Jesus taught us that God’s will is done in heaven. The heaven is the heaven of the Book of Revelation. Heaven here means the spiritual realm as opposed to the material earthly realm. Battles fought on the earth are horrific but battles fought in the spiritual realm are worse, more intense, and far more destructive with eternal consequences.

Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. Who is Michael? There are some men named Michael mentioned in the OT, but they appear in genealogies or other contexts that are literal and not spiritual. This Michael cannot be any of them.

The first Michael that appears in a significant spiritual context is found in Daniel 10:13 where the angel Gabriel tells Daniel’s why the answer to his prayer was delayed.

 

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.

 

Commentators have differing ideas as to who this Michael is. Matthew Henry discusses the identity of the Michael referred to here.

 

Others think that Michael the archangel is no other than Christ himself, the angel of the covenant, and the Lord of the angels, he whom Daniel saw in vision, v. 5. He came to help me (v. 13); and there is none but he that holds with me in these things, v. 21. Christ is the church’s prince; angels are not, Hebrews 2:5. He presides in the affairs of the church and effectually provides for its good. He is said to hold with the angels, for it is he that makes them serviceable to the heirs of salvation; and, if he were not on the church’s side, its case were bad.

 

Michael also appears in Daniel 12:1,

 

At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.

 

As seen in both prophecies, Michael represents Christ. In this verse He is seen defending God’s people in a time of trouble, which resembles the war in the heaven of the Revelation.

In the spiritual war of the Revelation, Jesus fights the errors of Christ-less religion through the teaching of the ministers He appoints in His church. The church through its angels fighting in this war are seen in the events we have already studied.

We saw that the angels of the churches mentioned in Revelation chapters 2–3 are the ministers of those churches. Throughout the Revelation the angel symbol is consistent referring to ministers of the church.

In the first seal we saw the church under the leadership of Christ going forth conquering and to conquer. Certainly this depicts Michael and his angels defeating the dragon and his angels.

Under the sounding of the first trumpet we saw the gospel preached with power and authority moving people to flee false religion and sin. This fits verse 11, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and of their testimony.” The gospel exposes the errors of false religions and destroys their influence over honest and sincere people that want to know God.

The red dragon and his angels fought. Barnes comments on this fight.

 

Of the nature of this warfare, nothing is definitely stated. Its whole sphere lies beyond mortal vision, and is carried on in a manner of which we can have little conception. What weapons Satan may use to destroy the church, and in what way his efforts may be counteracted by holy angels, are points on which we can have little knowledge. It is sufficient to know that the fact of such a struggle is not improbable, and that Satan is successfully resisted by the leader of the heavenly host.

 

Verse 8 takes us to the end of this warfare: “but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.”  Not all pagans accepted Christianity but significant numbers of pagans were converted to the gospel so that the red dragon was effectively defeated. The Edict of Milan in 303 A.D. put an end to the persecution of the church and in 313 A.D. Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity.

The red dragon was exposed for what he really is in verse 9,

 

So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

 

He is that serpent of old, the force behind the temptation if Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The dragon is not just a force; the spirit behind the dragon is the personal Devil, Satan, the accuser of the brethren. He is the force behind all temptation and he is defeated in the lives of believers by the blood of Christ that not only brings forgiveness and cleansing but also the grace to withstand temptation. The gospel cast him down to the earth. The gospel proved that there is not salvation or hope in any Christ-less religion. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him. The gospel proves there are not many ways to heaven; only one—Jesus Christ.

Today our culture is plagued by moral relativism. The battle with the red dragon still goes on and the devil still deceives the vast majority of people into believing that all religions somehow lead to God. He was cast out into the earth and shown for what he is and it is tragic that people still reject Christ and embrace the great lie the devil palmed off on Adam and Eve so long ago—you shall not surely die.

The devil hates wherever the gospel is successful; and he rejoices where Christ is rejected. Verse 12, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

Verses 10–12 describe the rejoicing of the church as it stood faithful to Christ during the persecution during the war in heaven. “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come.” The church’s victory came through the blood of Christ, the only thing that can atone for sin, and their consecration to Christ—“they did not love their lives to the death.”

 

The Woman in the Wilderness

 

However, there is that pesky verse 6 that talks about the woman, the church, fleeing into the wilderness. The first four centuries of the church involved its war with the red dragon as he fought against it through Christ-less religion. Peeking ahead to verses 6 and 13, the red dragon resorted to another tactic to fight the church. This time the Christ-less enemy came against the church in a Christian robe yet ever-so-much Christ-less.

By 313 A.D. the external war of religion was over. The church Jesus built was victorious over the Christ-less religions. Now through an internal war the red dragon attempts to undermine the doctrine, faith, and practice of the church attempting to hold mankind in his godless and eternally destructive grip.