Consider a possible dream vision:
- Seeing a great grey beast with a trunk and tusks like an elephant. This beast was wearing a crown symbolizing the seat of leadership and it was standing facing another animal…0
- The other beast looked like a donkey standing with furrowed brow and giant hooves ready to fight. It’s ears were long and pointed, attentive to the crowds of people.
- Both these animals had scars from old and endless battles, as well as fresh wounds from current conflict.
- Both these animals were clothed in stars and stripes, with the elephant in red accents and the donkey wearing blue accents.
- Above these animals flew an enormous bald eagle dressed in red and blue with stars and stripe accents. It had its wings spread far and wide over both the elephant and donkey, but its eyes were filled with tears, streaming down its face.
- Below these animals was an encompassing underworld with an enraged dragon surrounded by fire but grimly smiling, seeming to enjoy the conflict. Along with the dragon was an underworld seething with ferocious wolves readying to pounce and devour their prey of both the elephant and the donkey.
Can you visualize what this dream symbolized? Today, we know the Republican elephant, the Democrat donkey, and the US bald eagle are symbolic. While both parties are fighting the people suffer and the spiritual battle of a supernatural enemy.
GK Chesterton, “Though St. John saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.”
In some sense, the Book of Revelation is like a political cartoon with symbols that we do not entirely understand.
- John’s principle truths and overarching message are clear to us.
- John wants us to wonder in awe and worship the Lamb.
- John warns us to watch out for the dragon and rejoice when the serpent is crushed.
- John celebrates that the lion and lamb will embrace and eat together instead of one becoming the meal.
- The events of Revelation unveil what is going on behind the scenes in our world.
Today’s passage will explore the spiritual background behind Christmas… and more, there’s a dragon in my nativity.
— side note: lady in LA had dragons decorated with Christmas gear in yard; neighbor complained, so she put more up…
EXAMINE Revelation 12 Cosmic Christmas
Revelation 12:1-17 (ESV)
1 And a great sign appeared in heaven:
Christmas started in heaven. Our human attempts to reach heaven will always fail if they are not by God’s grace. We could not go up unless God came down.
- God made a promise to begin Christmas not in Bethlehem but in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15).
- God has kept His promise about Christmas for centuries with people, nations, and prophecies.
Isaiah 9:2 “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness a light on them has shined… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”
- God came down through Jesus Christ. A great sign appeared in heaven that would shine its light on earth.
Luke 2:9-12 “Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”
Revelation 12 tells a different nativity story with 5 characters…
a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.
#1 A wonderful woman / the past people of God (Rev 12:1-2)
The original nativity story includes the virgin Mary. Many commentators identify the Rev 12 nativity story of this woman to be Mary too. However, this woman goes beyond Mary to the nation of Israel (cf. Rom 1:3). We also knows this from prophetic descriptions, such as Genesis 37:9-11 with Joseph’s dream relating stars as the 12 tribes of Israel, the sun and moon being Jacob and Rachel. Even more, this woman points us to the greater remnant of God’s people of the church made up of every tribe and tongue (cf. Rom 3:29 ff.; Eph 2:11, ff.; Rev 7).
- God’s support come in our greatest struggles. While this woman was pregnant in birth pains and agony [βασανίζω; a word meaning torment, persecuted; used in context of martyrs Rev 9:5; 11:10; or context of judgment, Rev 14:10; 20:10], the child would be her only hope. Likewise, in your deepest pains you will discover God if you pray with open eyes.
- When we have grief, we do not move on, but we can move forward. Jesus’s glorified body still had scars, but they told a greater story that God is our redeeming refuge.
- The church is God’s precious treasure our prospective help.
Some people have the holiday blues – personal circumstances not what they desired, loss of loved ones. There is temptation to hide from the holidays and isolate yourself. Be careful, the whisper of the enemy wants you alone forever and separated from God’s people. The people of God are meant to extend an invitation for help, healing, and hope.
Revelation 22:17 “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’
One of the ways you can show the church is precious is by populating it. Invite others to participate with you in the family of God. They might be persons never having come to church or persons who attend casually but not committed to be part of the family; encourage others to take their next step toward the church.
3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.
4 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.
#2 A dangerous dragon. (Rev 12:3-4)
As illustrated previously, God is revealing to us a behind the scene peek into the gospel and nativity narrative. John describes a great fiery red (πυρρός) dragon. Undoubtedly, this dragon is the devil. John goes further, describing the dragon with 7 heads – symbolic of reigning, but with complete evil. He also has 10 horns, which we earlier in book study identified with ten kingdoms. Which ones? Well, there’s all these summits: G5, G10, etc. Take your pick these days and you can envision an international army against Israel and God’s people.
The dragon stood before the woman giving birth to devour the child, but he could not because God’s protection over the child (Rev 12:4-6). However, that does not stop the dragon from making war with the angels. Later Rev 13:1 John describes the Beast (Anti-Christ) with ten horns and seven heads and ten blasphemous crowns who receives power and authority from the dragon. The unholy trinity of the Dragon, the Beast, and Babylon will attempt to destroy God’s people but they will not succeed.
Details of the devil:
- Devil is doubted – 60% American Christians believe Satan is not a living being but a symbol of evil.
- Churchianity – preach positive sermons, don’t go deep (avoid Rev), keep it short…
- Satan’s first words in Bible were, “Has God said?” He comes off as this sophisticated theologian. We hear this today: Your bible has errors; stories are myths… but…
- We treat devil as make believe: card game war, board game Risk… but there’s a real battle & devil.
- Jesus believed in a devil (John 8:44, ff.). Devil/Satan is named in 22+ different books in Bible.
- Devil is a fallen angel.
Ezekiel 28:13-17 describes the king of Tyre
13 “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. 15You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. 16 In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.
Isaiah 14:12-15 describes the king of Babylon
12“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.
Revelation 12:4, 7-10 describes a dragon – a king’s fall, similar to Tyre and Babylon (cf. Dan 8:10)
4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. 7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 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. 10 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.
- Devil is an adversary (John 10:10; 1Peter 5:8). Devil seeks to steal good and joy, kill your life and destiny.
- Discovery Channel shows lions attacking its prey… they don’t order from a menu or have a set table with napkin and polite manners – no, they are ferocious and violent seeking to devour!
- Devil is disciplined & organized (Eph 6:12, ff). He has plans for destructive warfare and individual schemes.
- Devil is doomed; defeated but not yet destroyed… but he’s never a threat, a competitor, or an equal to God. Rev 12:11-12 11 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. 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!”
Rev 20:10 “the devil was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
- For Christian, Satan cannot steal your salvation, but he can steal your testimony. Don’t let him. Christians are not fighting for victory, but from victory.
1John 5:4 “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”
- Christians, our family doesn’t need another accuser; we need brothers and sisters helping each other find grace in our times of need.
5 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,
#3 A male Child/Man (Rev 12:5)
Since God’s declaration in Genesis 3:15, Satan has sought to prevent this offspring from coming into our world.
- Satan conned Cain to kill Abel but God raised up Seth.
- Satan anticipated victory when Abraham took Isaac on mountain, but Lord provided a substitute sacrifice.
- Satan duped Pharaoh to kill Hebrew baby boys, but God instilled midwives with courage to protect children.
- Satan swindled Saul into murder attempts against king David, but God shielded David.
- Satan hoodwinked Haman to plot genocide against Jews, but God gave Esther courage to ask for king’s help.
- Satan deceived Herod to kill newborn males in Bethlehem, but God safeguarded Joseph & Mary and Jesus.
- The birth of this child defused the power of sin, deactivated the power of death, and defanged the devil’s intimidation tactics.
But God did manifest in the flesh through the Son, named Jesus to serve, to save, and to sovereignly reign.
- Luke 2:34 “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts be revealed.”
- Psalm 2:9 “You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
(cf. Rev 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).
- Isaiah 9:6 “the government shall be upon his shoulder… of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end”
- Rev 12:5 “her child was caught up to God and to his throne” The resurrection of Jesus assured the reign of Jesus. If Jesus dies and never resurrects, not only does He not reign but He’s not relevant. Since Jesus does resurrect, He is worthy of our celebration and our commitment; He’s Savior and Lord; He’s the child at Christmas and the victor who defeats death and the devil at Easter.
- Lottie Moon spent 39 years as a missionary to China. She taught school and she told the story of Jesus to thousands. She turned down marriage & family life and the comforts of America because she believed Jesus was worthy of commitment.
- “How many there are… who imagine that because Jesus paid it all, they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God.”
- “I would that I had a thousand lives that I might give them to [the work of the Lord.]”
- Jesus came that we might go to neighbors and nations. #WhosYour1
6 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.
7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,
8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
9 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.
10 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.
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!”
13 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.
14 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.
15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.
16 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.
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.
#4 Warring angels and demons. (Rev 12:6-10, 12-17 – – – come back to v.11)
Revelation tells us there are myriads upon myriads [10K of 10K – an uncountable host] and thousands upon thousands of angels (Rev 5:11). The Bible gives some names of specific angels:
- Gabriel an arch-angel messenger in Daniel (8-9); and also to Zechariah (Lk 1:19) and Mary (Lk 1:26), maybe also Joseph.
- Michael also an arch-angel, but who battles (cf. Dan 10:13; 12:1; Jude 9; Rev 12:7-8).
- Apollyon an angel over the Abyss (Rev 9:11).
- Demons are angels of the dragon/devil who is disguised as angel of light (2Cor 11:14; Rev 12:9).
- They were defeated. (cf. Rev 20).
- In the heat of battle and the enemy hot on our trail, you are not alone. While our culture trains us to be incessant victims, God’s word tells us we are victors. We can cry when life hurts, but we shall not whine for God’s people are not wimps. We are warriors against the darkness and we exercise trust when all we can see are shadows. We are afflicted but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not abandon, struck down but not destroyed. We carry the cross not our complaints, and we face life with tender hearts and a tenacious faith. Let us not lose hope, but win hearts for Jesus with our prayers.
- Prayer & Fasting in 2020.
11 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.
#5 Saints / the present people of God
We are part of the nativity story. The dragon continues to make war with the offspring of the woman (Rev 12:17). The nativity story is still being written and we have the pen/keyboard in our hand. Our testimony is telling the story of God’s presence to show up and God’s power to sustain within. Our hope is in the Lamb, sacrificed on our behalf who became a Lion roaring with victory.
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein were sometimes criticized for writing children’s stories (fantasies). Here is one of Lewis’ response: “Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”
Another author says, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
- We can complain about the past chapters of our life or start writing new ones appropriate to the ending already written by Jesus Christ. The Christmas story reminds us life has some adventurous cliff-hangers, horror monsters, and dramatic pauses, but the conclusion is fixed and never more fitting: look up child, we win!
 Paraphrase of a quote by GK Chesterton https://thefederalist.com/2014/05/06/the-seven-most-popular-g-k-chesterton-quotes-he-never-said/