Persecution
Revelation 12:12f
r1212

12:12
Some rejoice when the devil comes down

    "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God. . . . And they overcame him. . . .Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." (Rev. 12:11, 12)

   Words from the loud voice in heaven continue. We saw it as the voice of the living ones and the elders 1210c. Two groups are to rejoice, the heavens and heaven dwellers. For two other groups, woe is then pronounced. They are the sea dwellers and land dwellers. Before I explain who I understand these groups to be, notice why they were to be happy and sad. The devil is come down and is angry because he knows his time is short.
   The righteous are persecuted but rejoice. "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." (Luke 21:28). Those who choose wickedness will suffer without hope. But how do we jump from the four groups to these two? I puzzled for some time about who the earth and sea dwellers could be. Then I thought of the beasts from earth and sea. Do earth dwellers follow the earth beast and sea dwellers the sea beast? The texts agree with this idea. But that leaves the heaven dwellers who would appear to be the angels. The living ones and the elders are not seen here as these heaven dwellers because they are speaking.
    When I studied chapter 13 I bumped into the heaven dwellers again and concluded that they were those who have accepted Christ's invitation to join the kingdom of heaven, although they have not yet gone there (notice that the kingdom is mentioned in the quotation above). Just as earth dwellers follow the earth beast, heaven dwellers, follow the animal of heaven, the Lamb. I'll let you check on 13:6 to see if you agree 1306a2 - 1314b.
   The text says, ". . . rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them." I take the "heavens" to be the whole unfallen universe.

Agreement with the scene in the throne room
   Turning back to chapter 5 we look at the time when the Lamb had taken the scroll. Do you see the living ones (beasts) and the elders saying "rejoice, ye heavens" as in our passage here? Do you see the "heavens" joining them?
 

   "And when he [the Lamb] had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
   "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." (Rev. 5:8-12)

The devil is angry
   In the symbol of a dragon we saw him eager to destroy the child of Mary. ". . . and the dragon stood before the woman . . . to devour her child as soon as it was born. . . . and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne." (verses 4, 5). This was not his plan. At the cross, he must have known his doom was sealed, but hardened himself to fight to the end.
   How did he know his time was short? He knew the prophecies. He knew that after 2300 symbolic days, the sanctuary would be cleansed in God's final work for His people on the earth r06e. Although he probably didn't understand completely, he knew what was coming. In chapter 20 we see the end of his short time 2010.

 

12:13
Who is being persecuted?

     "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child." (Rev. 12:13)
 

Instead of "man child" the literal reading is simply "the male" or "the man." The word "child" is supplied by translators who must be concerned by the idea of giving birth to grown men.

    When her first child was born, Eve declared, "I have received a man from the Lord" ge0401. She was, no doubt, hoping that he would be the Redeemer. Four thousand years later, Mary was honored to bear the promised one. Thus "she gave birth to the man" the very one godly women over the centuries had hoped for.
    After giving birth to the male (the man Christ Jesus, 1 Tim. 2:5), the woman was persecuted.
    We discovered that Mary and Eve were story symbols of the woman in chapter 12. Let's look again at the popular idea that the woman is simply Mary. John who became Mary's guardian (John 19:26) and who recorded the vision we are studying says nothing about her being persecuted (nor being sinless nor being taken to heaven), nor does any other Bible writer. In fact, ". . . all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," Rom. 3:23. And we have no record of Eve being persecuted.
    Although Jesus loved His human mother, He did not consider her as more important in His kingdom than any other human around Him. In a special sense, you and I those who listen to and obey the word of God are his mother and brothers. We discussed this earlier 1201a+.
    This identification of Jesus' family brings us again to see how God's obedient people would be symbolized by the woman in our chapter. Christ was born into the family of God's people. Thus the woman brought forth the man, Christ Jesus. As faithful ones, we are collectively His mother and He is our brother (Heb. 2:12).

The true church was persecuted from early times
   "And Saul was consenting unto his [Stephen's] death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles." (Acts 8:1)
   The dragon's persecution of the woman didn't stop with Jerusalem as we will see in continuing our study.

How precious to have the close relationship to Jesus, enjoyed by His mother and brothers!

 

12:14a
Escape from food poisoning

   "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." (Rev. 12:13, 14)

   First, note the time when the woman fled. It was after the loud voice in heaven (verse 10) which we identified above with the inauguration of Christ in heaven after His ascension. The persecution began right away. The flight into the wilderness is a response to the persecution but, as we will see, came a little later.

Let's look at the source of this imagery:
   "In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: (Ex. 19:1-5)

   Is our woman in chapter 12 simply the children of Israel? No, because we are looking at an experience after the appearance of the Messiah (verses 5, 6, 13, 14). You may recall from the beginning of our chapter that we saw the woman as a symbol of God's people with the twelve stars of her crown representing the tribes of Israel as well as the apostles. Here we see the woman after the time of the incarnation having an experience like she had in the Old Testament. Here she is given two eagle wings to flee a situation like the bondage of Egypt. Also like the children of Israel, she could come close to God in her wilderness. She is "a peculiar treasure" a special called-out people. (Stephen referred to this wilderness experience, ac0738, ex19).
   So what were her Egypt and her wilderness, and what was her nourishment? This takes a bit of unraveling. Let's pick up the last phrase of our verse to examine more closely. She would be "nourished" away "from the face of the serpent." The dragon is identified as the serpent here for a reason. How was the first woman nourished in the face of the serpent (not away from it)? Read the story of Eve's fall ge0301-6.

Good food from two sources
   So the woman's flying to the wilderness was to avoid the wrong kind of nourishment. In eating the forbidden fruit, Eve was nourished with false doctrine. What would be the good nourishment for the woman? The Scriptures. You may recall that we identified the two witnesses as the established divine Word and the contemporary witness in John's time the Old and New Testaments of the Bible (John 5:39; Matt. 24:14; Isa. 8:20, 1103a).
   "And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth." (Rev. 11:3)

   In the introductory part of our chapter, the woman "fled to the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days." (verse 6). Here in verse 14, the "time, and times, and half a time" or 3½ "times" or years is the same as the 1260 days of verse 6 (figuring 30 days per month or 360 days per year). Furthermore this is the same 1260-day time period we saw in chapter 11 with the two witnesses as the source of the spiritual nourishment. The sackcloth represents the same covert access to the Word of God as does the wilderness experience here.
   The two wings may be seen as equivalent to the two witnesses. God carried His people from Egypt on eagle wings until He could teach them His ways by His words. His people after the cross were familiar with the inspired words they had received. Thus "to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness."
   Why did God take His Old Testament people to the wilderness? To hold a "feast" ex0501. When they got to Sinai, they learned what the feast was about. Their nourishment was hearing God's Words from which they had been essentially cut off for so long in the atmosphere of Egypt. Also see de3210, ex2001, je2304, je1516. Remember that some passages linked to have more than one verse. Image © Corel

   We have more to learn before we can pull all the clues together for a clear picture.

   Praise God for direct access to His Word. "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." (Jer. 15:16) linked above

 

12:14b
The period of the "times"

   "And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." (Rev. 12:14)

   One of our clues about the woman's wilderness experience is its occurrence during a specific time period. God wants to be sure we understand this period because it is mentioned seven times in the Scriptures. It appears twice in this chapter, 6, 14, twice in 11:2, 3 and once at 13:5. The other two places are in the book of Daniel (7:25 and 12:7). To clarify the woman's experience during this period we can compare with other descriptions of what was going on then. Each occurrence shows different aspects but, in examining them, we can recognize the one time period they describe.
   Let's go back to the first occurrence in Daniel (Dan. 7:23-25). Here is the passage with explanatory notes added. You might want to read it first in your own Bible. The notes are based on other Bible passages and on history. After  the verses in Daniel, we will look at the description of the same time period in Revelation 11.
   "Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth [The first was Babylon (Dan. 2:36-40) the second and third are identified in 8:20, 21. Thus the fourth or iron (2:40; 7:7) kingdom was Rome], which shall be diverse from all kingdoms [next phrase tells how], and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise [out of the fallen Roman empire]: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first [or "former," which were political powers], and he shall subdue [uproot, v.8] three kings [who had opposing views of Christianity]. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times [as set times] and laws [singular in Aramaic, the original language]: and they [the saints] shall be given into his hand until a time [of duration (different Aramaic word) or "year" cf. Dan. 7:14] and times [2 years] and the dividing of time [half a year]."
   Then turn to chapter 11 remembering that 3½ years = 42 months =1260 days at 30 days per month
   ". . . Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore [a "score" means "twenty"] days, clothed in sackcloth." (Rev. 11:1-3)

   So the court, in chapter 11, was given to the Gentiles for the same 3½ symbolic years during which the saints were worn out in Daniel 7. The symbol of trampling and the symbol of wearing out are equivalent ways to describe persecution. The saints are the holy city. The Holy Spirit showed John symbols drawn from the Jewish captivity which left Jerusalem broken down and desolate. (Isa. 62:12; Rev. 21:2) This concern of Daniel is expressed in his prayer of his 9th chapter. In the time prophecies, a day stands for a year, making this period of persecution 1260 literal years. This day-for-a-year interpretation is explained below.
   During the Dark Ages (or Middle Ages) anyone who had a religious idea different from those held by the established church was considered a heretic and forced to conform to the standard or often face torture and death. The military enforcement of the church dogma was extended to areas like Southern France where the Albigenses were brutally dealt with. Elsewhere we discuss the St. Bartholomew massacre, 1315cp. This bit of history is not popular these days so we don't hear so much about it. Untold millions submitted to death rather than violate their conscience. They "loved not their lives undo the death" (Rev. 12:11).
   Elsewhere we see why the 1260 years is from 538 to 1798 but, even without establishing the specific dates, history clearly shows that the western world was dominated by the church power for over a thousand years 1305a. This I share in love and respect for the multitude of sincere people of the Roman Catholic church. I pray that God will lead them, as He leads us all, to greater light.

Suffering and hope
   As we study God's Word, we see that the suffering of His faithful people is permitted to refine them (Dan. 12:10) and also so that the evil of the forces of oppression can be seen clearly (Mal. 3:18). Satan told Eve that he had a better way. Was he right? As God allows him to demonstrate his way more fully, everyone will understand and, when Christ takes over at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, no one will ever again question that God's way is best. "What do ye imagine against the Lord? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time." (Nahum 1:9)
   Returning to our study of the woman in the wilderness, we recall from verse 13 that the dragon "persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child." The significant point about the wilderness experience is that, in spite of persecution, God's faithful ones continued to find their strength (nourishment) in the pure Word of God and that the dominant source of doctrine was different from where they were nurtured. The church was not their church. Next time we can look at another Scripture passage to help us understand this.

Praise God for His marvelous Word which nourishes us, too.

12:14c
The word "day" as a symbol

   First it is reasonable, in a symbolic narrative, for essentially all the terms to be symbolic. Some people, however, hold that the days in these prophecies are literal, so an explanation for my position is appropriate. If you turn to Daniel 8 you find, in verse 13, a holy one speaking to another holy one (perhaps cherubim) and asking, "How long will be the vision?" The response, directed to Daniel, was "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." We look back to verse 3 where the first thing Daniel saw was a ram (Medo-Persian kingdom, Dan. 8:20) standing (or in power). The vision continued through the next kingdom, Greece Dan. 9:21, and did not end until the horn power was broken without hand in verse 25.
   2300 days is somewhat more than 6 literal years, while the time span of the vision obviously included many centuries. This means that the "day" must be symbolic. That Daniel saw the time as very long is confirmed in the last two verses of the chapter. Looking elsewhere in the Scriptures we find only one choice for the symbolic meaning of "day." Twice the Holy Spirit used a day to represent a year: Num. 14:34 and Ezek. 4:6. (Explained again at 0610da)
   Incidentally, the symbolic day is generally accepted in Dan. 9 for the prophecy of seventy weeks (literally, "seventy sevens"). The temple construction, only a part of the time, would itself have taken longer than 490 literal days.

12:14d
Fallen church? Paul agrees

   I have explained how Jesus, through the visions given to the apostle John, predicted that the institution claiming to be the true church would actually become corrupt and would interfere with people's relationship to God during a period of time. This is a strong conclusion so you should read your Bible asking for the leading of the Spirit to see if this is true. We will learn more when we read chapters 13 and 14, but now notice a passage from the writings of Paul. I have quoted the first part of it several times. ac2028-30.

The man of lawlessness
    God showed the apostle that corruption would come from within the church and that many would follow the deception. We still need this counsel. Their safety, and ours, is in seeking God and "the word of his grace," the holy Scriptures. Now turn to 2 Thessalonians 2. 2th02. A major apostasy would come before the "day of Christ." Continuing with verse 3 we see what would be associated with that apostasy:
    ". . . and that man of sin [or "lawlessness"] be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." (verses 3 and 4).  In this text we see Satan and the fallen church he would work through.

If the restrainer is the Spirit of God, when is He out of the way?
   Paul understood that the apostasy would cease to be restrained at a certain time. Is this at the beginning of the 3½ times, when the saints would be given into the hand of the horn power da0725? The movement of lawlessness itself could not be paganism because it involved a "falling away." Paganism never had a pure religion to fall away from.
   Up through the time of the divided Roman Empire, the emperors were controlling the church. When the balance shifted in the sixth century and the church began using the arm of the state to control those it considered heretics, the "proper time" had come the beginning of the era described in Daniel 7 which is also the time of the persecution of the woman who flew to the wilderness. Remember that this verse in Daniel mentions the arrogance toward God, the lawlessness, and the persecution.
    Above the powers of earth, God is in control. He has restrained evil through the centuries. Today restraint is being lifted as the winds of trouble are starting to blow 0701ff. They will be fully freed at the time when Michael stands da1201. The argument for seeing Him as the restrainer is supported by a later verse in the chapter. Those who want to believe in the apostasy are permitted to do so. God allows them to believe a lie 2th0210f because they do not accept the love of the truth. So, in a way, the restraint is lifted in this way.

Confused?
   I hope not too much. The apostasy of the early church and the apostasy of the end-time church may both be seen in 2 Thess. 2. Chapter 13 describes these as the time of the beast from the sea and the time of the beast from the earth. God has used civil governments to restrain the actions of those who claim to follow God. In our time, the separation of church and state has permitted freedom of conscience and living according to conscience. As this liberty erodes, the oppression of the end-time will develop. Finally God will take charge and save His true followers.

People involved in apostasy often do not realize it. May we each be alert and faithful to our Lord as He reveals Himself to us.

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