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(Revelation 12:11-17) The Great Escape

(Revelation 12:11-17) The Great Escape

Ref: Revelation 12:11–17

Is the woman in Revelation 12 representing a literal person or something figurative? What does John mean when he says 'the ear opened its mouth' to save her? Learn more about these vivid and confusing prophecies.


Escaping the Dragon

Revelation 12:11-17

Just this past month, I was driving my pickup down Penney Road when suddenly several walnuts or acorns, I’m not sure, ricocheted off my window.  I knew some kids were probably congratulating themselves on a well aimed throw.  I never slowed down.

That’s because it took me back many years.  I remember my older brother and I, along with some neighborhood boys going to the house whose yard bordered a two lane street much like Penney Road or Kildaire Farm Road or Holly Springs Road.  That neighbor’s yard was encircled by a row of hedges that went all the way around his large lawn.  One side of hedges ran parallel to the street, providing the perfect ambush spot.  He also had a peach tree.  We’d grab some peaches, crouch down behind the hedge and wait for a car to drive by.  Then we’d jump up and let our peaches fly.  We usually missed, but sometimes we’d hear that gratifying thump and know that some ripe peach hit the mark.  Sometimes the car would screech to a halt, and we’d hear, “Hey you!” And we’d run to the other side of the yard, dive headfirst over the hedges and escape.   We loved peach season.   As I think back on that scene now, it occurred to me that was there against my will . . . it was my older brother and the neighborhood boys that threw the peaches – I stood there quoting Bible verses.  Well, not quite.

To those people driving by, what we did was certainly irritating and probably startling – and it created a messy spot they had to clean up when they got home.  It was just peaches.

Many people seem to think that Satan’s just some mischievous little guy who lobs peaches at them every once in a while as they drive through life.  He’s not a very good shot and he doesn’t do much harm . .  . in fact, he just gets a charge out of startling you . . . making sticky little messes every once in a while.  Like a ripe peach in the wrong place.

Then there are those that believe they are open targets to the spirit world and they have no real tangible protection.

Go online and surf sites marked by spiritual warfare and you’ll find more than 2 million sites to tell you about the angelic and demonic world – most of it is sheer superstition and outside the revealed truth of God’s word.

On these sites, you can see pictures of demons in clouds; you can read miracle prayers to overcome them and how to invoke angelic protection.  You can watch videos from people who died, went to hell and came back to describe it.  Which of course is rather interesting since hell is not yet occupied – Hades is the place where people without Christ go to await their final judgment; nonetheless, you can purchase power supplying gems that fell from heaven; you can even see pictures of gold dust that has fallen from the heavenly streets of gold; you can buy miracle working water from the Jordan River and last but not least, you can learn to say magic prayers that give you power over the spirit world.

All of this, of course, ultimately destroys a biblical understanding of the gospel – that it is the power of God unto salvation; it also re-directs a personal focus away from Christ and turns it toward angels and demons.  It brings superstition and fear to the hearts of those who believe they are now hopelessly left without any real answers or guidance. 

And of course, all of this ultimately diverts true worship and trust in a sovereign, personal, caring, victorious Lord, so that even the believer is left to wonder what can triumph over the evil one.

We happen to have the end of the story.  We’re given a clear description of Satan and his final attempts to thwart the purposes of God. 

As John reveals for us the many faces of evil during these last days known as the tribulation, we’re given a clear description of Satan and his downfall. 

He’s a real personality with a real agenda.  And it isn’t lobbing peaches or walnuts; he isn’t backed into a corner with a special prayer or a crucifix or water from the Jordan River or a magic prayer.

In fact, John will give us the plan of escape – not only for those who face his final assault, but every believer today who wants to live a victorious Christian life.

Let’s go back to Revelation chapter 12 and wrap up John’s description of the Red Dragon – and his attempts to hinder the word and work of God.

Let’s go back to verse 7 and get a running start.  And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angles waging war with the dragon.  The dragon and his angels waged war, 8. And they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.  As we studied in our last session, they were no longer granted access to heaven where they accused the brethren before God – much like you read in Job chapter 1 – v. 9.  And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.  10.  Then 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 (His anointed one) have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

Escaping The Dragon’s Prosecution

Now, for our study today, notice this amazing revelation of what overcomes the enemy; 11. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death

Who are “they” who overcame Satan?  The antecedent to “they” is the brethren – both those who’ve already been martyred in the horrific days of the Tribulation, and those who will still be killed in the final days of the Tribulation, but it can also include every believer who has ever been accused by Satan before the presence of God – the brethren – that includes you and me – v. 10. whom he accused before our God day and night.

And what overcomes him . . . what strips him of his legal accusations against us?  What disarms him of lethal power?

We are given the answer in three powerful statements that will be true of believers in the Tribulation, but also every believer throughout redemptive history. / Adapted from Thomas Constable, Online resource at Notes on Revelation, 2008 Edition, p. 112

  1. First, and foremost, they rested in their perfected forgiveness.

Notice again the first phrase of verse 11.  And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb.

Not holy water from the Jordan River or heavenly gem dangling from your rear view mirror. 

The victory of the believer is not in binding Satan with some incantation or rebuking him with some magic prayer. / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 2000), p. 22

Our victory is through and by means of the life giving, blood shedding sacrifice Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who died to take away your sin.

Peter wrote, You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).

When Satan and his fallen angels conspire together with your fallen flesh, whispers with that prosecutorial inner voice saying, “Just what right do you have to call yourself a Christian?  Look at all your sins . . . look at all your failures . . . look at the mess you’ve made again.  How could God ever love you?  How can you ever dare to say you belong to Him? / Adapted from Ray Stedman, Revelation: God’s Final Word (Discovery House, 1991), p. 237

And what must we say to the Accusing Serpent? 

How about – “You’re right!  We are sinners.  We have made a mess of things again.  We have lied – we have acted out of anger – we have focused on self – we have had impure thoughts – we have mistreated others – we have demanded our rights.  You’re right! / Ibid, p. 238

It’s all true!  But you’re forgetting something.  The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin. (I John 1:7)

You seem to have forgotten and you want me to forget that my lawless deeds have been forgiven, and my sins have been covered. (Romans 4:7)

You have forgotten that all my sin – past, present and yet future – was already been nailed to the cross of Christ (Colossians 2:14) – 2,000 years ago; which means when He saved you, he knew every sin you would commit throughout your life and He forgave them all!

So remind the accusing old serpent of the truth – you’re not just a sinner – you’re more than that.  You’re not just a flawed and flimsy vessel of clay – you’re more than that.  You are a sinner redeemed and placed in Christ your redeeming Lamb, and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

A believer in Ray Stedman’s church once wrote a poem, tying many of these verses together;

I sinned, and straightway, posthaste, Satan flew

Before the presence of the Most High God,

And made a railing accusation there;

He said, “This soul, this thing of clay and sod,

Has sinned. ‘Tis true that he named thy Name,

But I demand his death, for Thou hast said,

‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die.’  Shall not

Thy sentence be fulfilled?  Is Justice dead?

Send now this wretched sinner to his doom.

What other thing can a righteous ruler do?

And thus he did accuse me day and night.

And every word he spoke, O God, was true!

Then quickloy One rose up from God’s right hand

Before whose glory angels veiled their eyes.

He spoke, “Each jot and tittle of the Law

Must be fulfilled; the guilty sinner dies!

But wait! Suppose his guilt were all transferred

To Me, and that I paid his penalty.

Behold, my hands, my side, my feet!  One day

I was made sin for him, and died that he

Might be presented faultless at Thy throne.”

And Satan flew away, Full well he knew

That he could not prevail against such love,

For every word my dear Lord spoke was true!”

Ibid, p. 238

They overcame Him by the blood of the Lamb!

For the victorious believer, his forgiven status is the root of his victory from which everything else grows and flourishes.

Now, not only do we see them here resting in their perfected cleansing, secondly,

  1. They resonated with a public confession.

Notice verse 11 again.  And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony.

So you have, first, the principle of perfected cleansing which ultimately defeats the enemy; you have next the principle of public confession which daily defeats the strategies of the enemy.

The logos of their testimony.

You might read this text and think that all of a sudden it’s up to you – your faithfulness to deliver the testimony.

The emphasis here is not on the words, “their testimony” but on the words, “because of the word – logos”.

In fact, you could literally translate this, “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and the word of God to which they have borne testimony.”

See the emphasis?

We overcome the Dragon because of Who we are related to and because of what He has revealed to us in His word.

And because of this we can joyfully testify to it’s truth.

So the victorious believer lives in light of his forgiveness – claiming it and rejoice because of it.  And the victorious believer lives by the truth of the Word of God which he shares – the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation.

You have defeated the Serpent through salvation – that’s theological truth.  You defeat the Serpent as you deliver the gospel to your world – that’s practical truth.

A few Sunday’s ago I told you the story of a faithful witness of Mr. Genor who for forty years on George Street, in Australia, passed out tracts.  Not once did he ever have anyone receive Christ in his presence and he never heard of anyone accepting Christ until a few months before his death when he learned from one pastor that people on several continents had come to faith in Christ by reading one of his tracts.

I received so much response from people in our assembly . . . we decided to print up little tracts with our church phone number and web address on the back.

It’s a tract that it easy to pass out to people because of what it says on the front – How to Get to Heaven From North Carolina.

It’s very small – simply includes key texts and principles that someone can read and grasp the primary thrust of the gospel – and they can call the phone number on the back and find us if they want to know more.  All you need to do is leave this with your tip at the restaurant or hand it to someone and the title gives you an easy opening. 

Listen, the average Christian in America has never handed anyone a gospel tract in their life . . . I’ve been convicted in my own life – and believe the Lord wants us to step up to a fresh challenge of witnessing. 

So we’ve ordered thousands of these little tracts and you can go out in the lobby – turn to your right and you’ll bump into our bookstore where you can pick up a handful for free – and any Sunday afterward, we’ll keep the supply coming.

You say, “I’m not clever enough . . . what if I get stumped with their questions?”  Let me assure you – you will!  None of us are walking Bible encyclopedias . . . the primary method however, is not answering all their questions, but simply testifying to the truth of the gospel.

Dr. Charles Feinberg was a brilliant Jewish Bible scholar and seminary professor for many years.  He had been raised in an orthodox Jewish home that hired a woman to come into their home on Saturday.  She was referred to as a Sabbath Gentile because she was hired to come in on Saturdays and cook and clean so the family didn’t have to “work” on the Sabbath.

Yet over time, her quiet testimony was appealing and even unnerving until finally, wealthy, sophisticated, educated Charles went to his cleaning lady and said, “I’ve got to know what you have that has given you such peace and joy.”  She told him the gospel story and he placed his faith in Jesus Christ as his Messiah. / Adapted from R. Kent Hughes, Romans (Crossway books, 1991), p. 196

You have the foundation of perfected forgiveness;

You have the practice of public confession;

  1. Thirdly, you have the focus on permanent glory.

These victorious believers focused on their permanent glory.

Notice the last part of verse 11.  And they did not love their own life even when faced with death.  For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them.

Let me quickly review these three principles of victory for the believer:

  1. In the first point – the blood of the Lamb – you have the principle of permanent cleansing;
  2. In the second point – the word of their testimony – you have the principle of public confession;
  3. And in this final point – they did not love their own lives – you have the principle of personal concentration.

They focused on eternal glory. 

John Phillips wrote, “What can Satan do with the likes of these?  Lock them up in prison and they convert their jailors; torture them and they become partakers of Christ’s sufferings and heirs to a greater reward; martyr them and they go straight to be with Christ; turn them loose and they evangelize the world.” / John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), p. 161

Good point – this is the outworking of the Dragon’s downfall.

Like missionary Karen Watson, I read about recently who was martyred for her faith just a couple of years ago.  Before going to serve Christ in Iraq she left a letter with her pastor, with specific instructions.  The letter began, “You’re only reading this if I died.  The letter included gracious words to family and friends and then this closing summary of her concentration; she wrote, “To obey was my objective; to suffer was expected; His glory is my reward.”  Los Angeles Times, “Missionary Slain in Iraq Mourned (3-17-04)

Escaping the Dragon’s Persecution

 The Dragon’s Fury

Even though Satan knows the Book of Revelation better than any of us – he’s not about to take this lying down.  In fact, notice verse 12 again, the middle part; Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.”

He knows his time is short – verse 6 and verse 14 use prophetic language to inform us that the Dragon only has 3 ½ years left – the latter part of the Tribulation period.

One author wrote of Satan’s disbarment from heaven where he can no longer accuse the brethren with these vivid words, “Satan is now like a caged lion, enraged beyond words by the limitations now placed upon his freedom.  He picks himself up from the dust of the earth, shakes his fist at the sky, and glares around, choking with fury for ways to vent his hatred and his spite upon humankind.  He has been checkmated and mastered by the One he hates most of all. / Phillips, p. 160

And so what does he do?  Verse 13. And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman (Israel) who gave birth to the male child – that is, he persecutes the nation which delivered a Jewish Messiah and heir to David’s throne; but even here he is stymied once again – Verse 14. But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.  That’s Daniel’s terminology for 3 and ½ years – Daniel 7:25

The revelation continues to use figurative language here – he goes back to referring to Israel as a woman and thus figuratively speaks of her rescue on the wings of an eagle. 

The Woman’s Flight

That picture of deliverance has already been used in the Old Testament where God spoke through Moses saying, You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. (Exodus 19:4)

John is now referring to the mid-point of the tribulation where Jews once again face another holocaust and they flee.  Jesus Christ spoke in His Mount Olivet Discourse of this moment in the future when Jews would flee after the Antichrist desecrates the temple in Jerusalem.  A moment referred to as the abomination of desolation – in other words, an act by the antichrist that desecrates the altar and renders the temple meaningless. 

Jesus Christ said in Matthew 24, Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet . . . those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.  Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in the house. Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak . . . for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world.  (Matthew 24:15-21)

John informs us that once the Jewish people reach this particular destination – those that were able to escape, will be nourished and protected by the Lord.

We’re not told exactly where the Israelite remnant flees for safety.

Many Bible scholars conjecture that this place is the ancient city of Edom.  It’s a city carved out of rock, known as Petra. Petra comes from the word which means rock.

Many of the buildings in this ancient city are literally carved out of the sandstone.  The development of this amazing city began at least 1,000 years before the birth of Christ.

It’s buildings were not just primitive carvings dug into the sides of the mountain but intricate and beautifully crafted, these buildings have stood now for centuries. 

Evidently an earthquake in A.D. 551 caused the city to be abandoned, evidently for fear that the mountains might collapse and the buildings with them.

Petra was rediscovered in 1812 and intense excavation since then has been intense.

What makes the city all that more fitting to the scene in Revelation is the fact that much of it can be protected.

Many of these buildings can be accessed only by riding a camel or donkey or even walking between huge sandstone cliffs.

As a result of being surrounded by sheer cliffs, many of the buildings of Petra are easy to guard . . . relatively easy to protect.

It’s here in Petra, perhaps, that a believing remnant of Jews will be protected as the Dragon unleashes unbelievable fury upon them. 

Verse 15 informs us that the Serpent will send a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. 

In other words, he may very well try to flood them out by diverting with a river of water.  The language seems to indicate that a literal destruction by water is the enemy’s attempt. / Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 140

By the way, from sources I read about this city built into the rocky sandstone mountains, even at this point in time, not even 10% of these buildings and this underground city have been excavated or even discovered.

But we know enough about it to know that a river of water would be the perfect way to end the resistance. 

Perhaps the enemy through some sort of engineering feat taps into an underground river – which are common in this region – he is able to divert that water source to rush toward Petra by which he hopes drown the Jewish people.

They wouldn’t have any way out – water would fill every crevice and cavern.

But God provides a miracle of His provision by doing something He has already done several times in the past Old Testament history (Exodus 15 and Numbers 16) He causes the earth to open up and literally drain off the water. 

Notice verse 16.  But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.  17.  So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children.

Obviously, this woman can’t be Mary because we’re told the Dragon goes off to fight with her children – her offspring.  The sons and daughters born to Mary and Joseph after Christ, according to Matthew 13:55 – and they are certainly not alive or in view here.   

Furthermore, this woman cannot be the church, because the church did not give birth to Christ, Christ gave birth to the church.

This woman is Israel who delivers the Messiah – a Jewish descendant of David – and the Dragon, having been disbarred from heaven; having been stymied at Petra, now turns his final fury then upon the children of Israel – the offspring of the Woman. Satan, now through his puppet antichrist, unleashes a final holocaust against the Jewish people.

I would agree that his target is broadened beyond the Jew simply because John also implies such – he says here in the latter part of verse 17 that the he goes after all who obey the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

That would include not only the believing Jew who didn’t make it to the safety of this city, but also the believing Gentile who lives throughout the world, holding to the testimony of God’s word and the living Word – Jesus Christ.

So Revelation chapter 12 concludes with an amazing description of this first and foremost face of evil – the Dragon.

Evidently we needed to be not only aware of his fury and his failure, but also how to resist him, even in this dispensation of grace.

We need to be able to recognize who he is and how he operates and, what weapons can be used against him.

The blood of the lamb and the word of God.

I remember being at the airport on one occasion years ago when our twin sons were around 6 years of age.  We had gone to pick up their maternal grandmother who was coming to visit for the Christmas holidays.

It was 1991 and our war in Iraq – known as Desert Storm – was under way.

As I was standing there at the terminal, my boys standing on either side of me, Nanny’s plane arrived and the first to deplane were soldiers.  They were dressed in fatigues, boots, guns strapped to their sides.  As this rather impressive retinue filed directly in front of us, my boys were rather awestruck, and one of them said, ‘Daddy, look at those army men.”  One of the soldiers stopped in his tracks, looked down at him and said, “Boy, we’re not army, we’re marines.” 

Listen, recognize who you are – you happen to be, right now – in a war.  Don’t forget it.  Revelation 12 isn’t your conflict – but the enemy hasn’t changed.  Ephesians 6 tells you to get dressed for battle. 

Your enemy is ruthless . . . bloodthirsty . . . unmerciful.  He doesn’t throw ripe peaches . . . he goes for the throat; he hurls insults and accusations against you before God and about God before you.

How do you overcome?  Remind him of the blood of the Lamb . . . blood for sinners slain.  Remind him of the word of God and your testimony that it is true.  And love Christ more than your own life.

And while you’re at it, remember that Satan has already read his future.  Don’t let him keep you pinned down in defeat in the meantime with his empty threats and accusations.

  • Claim the blood of Christ daily in your life . . . you are forgiven;
  • Confess your faith publicly before others . . . you are an ambassador;
  • Focus on your everlasting future with Jesus Christ, your Lord . . . you are on your way to heaven.

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