Text: Rev 12:13-17
OT Text: I Peter 5:8-11
Featured Verse: Rev 12:17 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.
Main Idea: Spiritual warfare means that we battle the devil by resisting his purposes in the midst of our lives here on earth.
[This is the conclusion of the first vision, which shows the battle that Satan (the "dragon") wages against the church.]
Earlier in this vision we saw that Satan was unsuccessful in his battle against the women and her child. I take that to refer to his inability to prevent the mission of Jesus. The end result of Christ's gospel victory was that Satan also lost the war in heaven. Cast down to earth, he now rages against the woman's offspring.* The church is forced (again) into the wilderness, but the protection of God continues.** This theme resonates with the message of many parts of the NT that God's people will find themselves as heavenly citizens in earthly exile. (Heb 11, I Peter 1-2) Though they are not in a position of visible strength and security, God continues to care for his church (both "the woman" and her "offspring.)***
Conclusion and Application
What we see in this passage is that the spiritual war that began in heaven will continue on earth. The seven churches of Revelation are meant to see themselves in this vision. Though they are small, and though they are facing increasing oppression, God cares for them. If they remain steadfast, they will conquer in Christ. But John's visions show the costliness of faith. For some, conquering will mean that they do not "love their lives unto death." (12:11)
The transition in this section is important. When we think of "spiritual warfare", we may be tempted to think of it as something that happens out there. But, the cosmic battle between Satan against the church is playing out down here. The seemingly everyday things that conspire to lead us away from Jesus are part of that battle. In the next vision we will see how Satan works through earthly agents (the two "beasts") to continue this war. One beast will coerce with political power. The other beast will seduce with prosperity and alluring idols. What John reveals here is the way in which Satan stands behind the visible earthly powers that we deal with day in and day out. By taking the lid off of this conflict he reminds us how much is at stake. But, even more importantly, he shows us that the power of Satan is limited now, and that one day it will be fully defeated.
* We can again be thankful that John identifies the meaning of his symbols. In verse 17, he tells us that the offspring of the woman are "those who hold the testimony of Jesus."
** We are told that the woman was nourished in the wilderness for "time, times and half a time." This is another reference to the 3.5 years which demark the church age. Since the woman represents the people of God, she is both the mother of his child and also identified with the ongoing believing community.
*** We see God's care for the church in multiple ways. They are given wings to fly, the river from the serpent is swallowed up, and they are "nourished" in the wilderness.