Today’s Reading: Revelation 12.
(Context: This chapter is the history of the world through God’s eyes. It is both incredibly different from normal world history, and far simpler. As far as its literary structure, it is almost like studying an ancient mythological work, perhaps similar to Homer’s Iliad. )
Personally, I love world history, especially as it relates to Biblical and Church History. There is so much to learn from the past, for it is the best teacher for the future. As Solomon once explained, that basically everything “new” in this world is simply recycled ideas (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Church History mainly revolves around the main doctrinal changes, important theologians, and cities such as Rome, Paris, and Geneva. In World History most of it revolves around important wars, outstanding kings and generals, and countries like Egypt, Iraq/Iran, Greece, Italy, England, and the United States.
The greater question, and the purpose or Revelation 12 is to answer the question: What is God’s view of history?
For God, Jerusalem is the center of the world, the Jews are the most important people in the world, and all that becomes involved with this Israel or it’s people suddenly gain universal importance.
So let us look at God’s history, as outlined in this passage:
The basic story line is a woman (personifying Israel) trying to survive the onslaught of a dragon (Satan and his followers). In this process she gives birth to a Son (Jesus Christ) and so the dragon attempts to kill the Son. When he fails, he attempts to destroy the woman and all her descendants, being the Jews. Again the dragon fails, so he goes after the followers of her Son (being the Christians). This plan is also thwarted, and the Son who was born to rule, eventually takes His place over the dragon.
Keep in mind that this “history of the world” is not necessarily in chronological order, for many parts overlap, but there is clearly some continuity:
1. The Woman (Israel): Israel is personified by a woman with twelve stars above her head (the twelve tribes of Israel). She is also “clothed” in the sun, with the “moon” below her feet (Rev. 12:1). This shows perhaps her prominence, because God’s light is upon her, to guide her day and night, and to always keep her in His sight. If the central country in the world is Israel, then the central city is Jerusalem.
Israel’s suffering and incredible perseverance has been well-document, and it is truly and unquestionably remarkable. This includes the Babylonian Captivity, constant attacks from various nations, the long war with Rome and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Inquisition in Spain and Europe to eradicate Judaism, the Holocaust, and most recently the major wars against the current country of Israel.
2. The Dragon (Satan): Another important aspect of God’s view of history is the “underworld” or the unseen “powers” of the world. As Paul explained so expertly:
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
Here Paul clearly speaks of the future glory awaiting Christians, but it also points out to the reality of the “unseen”, which includes both perfect goodness and utter wickedness. The Dragon and his followers (called demons or spirits) are many and very powerful. More is not seen than what is seen. Satan is completely bent on destroying Israel and all those who support, protect, and honor her. First Satan attempted to take God’s place on the Throne of Heaven. When he failed at this he went after his chosen one, Israel. As this became increasingly worse, he went after the next two adversaries.
3. The Son (Jesus Christ): King Herod and the Pharisees are examples of people being used to fulfill the evil intentions of Satan. Herod attempted to kill Christ at His birth, in a very strange move, historically speaking (although Herod did kill several family members for fear of loosing his crown, so this was not completely out-of-the-ordinary. But why attempt to kill a baby born to poor parents in a pile of hay in Bethlehem?). Jesus was saved by fleeing with his literal mother out of the country of Israel into Egypt. Once an adult, the Pharisees later completed what Herod attempted to do. Ironically, in their “success” they actually allowed the true and eternal demise of Satan, to take place in the future. Our Savior was born out of the ashes of death.
4. The “rest of her offspring” (Christians): This mainly refers to the Tribulation Saints, but also to all the Christians who have been persecuted throughout the ages for their faith. Such historical events include: the persecution under the Caesars, the later Crusades on Christians in Southern France, the Inquisition, Communist imprisonments and killings (still happening in China today), and the more modern and ever-increasing Radical Muslim states and groups killing Christians by beheading or suicide bombings.
Let us not give up hope! The King who was given the scepter to rule the world is not far from showing us His Glory!