Revelation 12 – Part 5

“But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” Revelation 12:14

Following Satan’s defeat and his eviction from heaven to earth (12:7-12), he directs all his rage at the nation of Israel knowing he has a short time left. Satan can read the book of Revelation too and he knows he is going to be bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years after Jesus’ return to earth (Revelation 12:13-17; 20:1-3). 1 The apostle John writes, “Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.” (Revelation 12:13). Since Satan (dragon) could not get to the Christ Child or His church who ascended victoriously to heaven (12:5; cf. 4:1-4), he will persecute “the woman,” which represents the nation of Israel (12:1-2; cf. Genesis 37:9-11), “who gave birth to the male Child.” Satan’s goal during the last half of the Tribulation period will be to destroy Israel and thus render God’s promises to Israel false, making God a liar. 2

Hitchcock writes, Satan focuses his fury on the woman and tries to wipe out the Jewish people once and for all to thwart the promises of God. He will embark on an all-out, worldwide campaign of anti-Semitism. This will mark the culmination of Satan’s agelong war against the Jewish people. But his attempts always backfire. Have you ever noticed that every time Satan tries to wipe out the Jews, they end up with a holiday? After Pharaoh’s brutal enslavement, they got Passover. After Haman’s plot in Esther to wipe them out, they got the Festival of Purim. After the atrocities of Antiochus Epiphanes in the intertestamental period, they got Hanukkah, or the Feast of Lights. And after Hitler’s holocaust, they got May 14, 1948—the rebirth of the modern state of Israel. Satan’s final assault against Israel will also fail. It will result in the repentance of Israel, the second coming of Jesus, and the establishment of the Messianic kingdom.” 3

Swindoll says, Satan has inspired countless attempts at destroying God’s special covenant people. Throughout history, the Jews have been the special object of hatred, ridicule, and persecution. During the Middle Ages, they were looked on with suspicion and treated as outcasts in a world dominated by a form of political Christianity that viewed all Jews as Christ-killers. During World War II, the Nazis attempted to obliterate the Jewish people in a horrific holocaust driven by absolute evil. Even after the birth of the modern nation of Israel in 1948, its neighboring nations in the Middle East have often talked of driving the Jews into the sea and retaking the land. Anti-Semitism has a long and sordid history. Yet God has continued to fulfill His promise to preserve Israel, even in their spiritually blind condition of rejecting Jesus as their Messiah (Rom. 11:28-29).” 4

Just as God has preserved the nation of Israel since her birth over four thousand years ago (Genesis 12:1-3), so He will continue to sustain them during the last half of the Tribulation when all of hell’s fury is directed against them. “But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” (Revelation 12:14). During the last half of the Tribulation period, many believing Jews will obey Jesus’ command to flee Judea when the Man of Sin takes his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) and God will give them supernatural speed (“two wings of a great eagle”) that they may quickly take refuge in the “wilderness to her place” of total security. “The comparison between a powerful “eagle,” that can “fly” very fast overhead, going wherever it chooses, and an earth-bound “serpent,” implies the superior protection of God.” 5

This hiding place was not clearly identified. Some suggest that it might be Petra, fortress capital of the Nabateans in Edom, south of the Dead Sea. This city has a narrow access which could easily be blocked but which opens up into a large canyon capable of caring for many thousands of people. Though Scripture is not specific, some believe the 144,000 of chapter 7 are to be preserved here. The Scriptures themselves speak of God’s seal of protection on them.

“The two wings probably do not refer to modern airplanes but rather to God’s delivering power, and are a figure of speech taken from such Old Testament passages as Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:11-12. The flight of Israel to a place of safety was also indicated in Matthew 24:16; Mark 13:14; and Luke 21:21.” 6

It is at this place in the wilderness “where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time.” This refers to the three and one-half years of the Great Tribulation with ‘a time’ equaling one year, ‘times’ equaling two years, and ‘half a time’ indicating 6 months (cf. Daniel 7:25; 12:7 with the 42 months referred to in Revelation 11:2; 13:5). References to these specific time periods show that the Great Tribulation is not the entire present Age but the three and one-half years preceding the second coming of Christ.” 7

God would supernaturally feed and protect the Israelites in this place of refuge much like He fed the Israelites in the wilderness and Elijah by the brook Cherith. 8 This would take place away “from the presence of the serpent” (Satan – 12:14) who will try to destroy them by means of the armies of the Man of Sin. 9 15 So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.” (Revelation 12:15-16). When Satan (“the serpent”) realizes his enemies, the believing Jews (“the woman”), have obediently fled Judea, he sends a “flood” of armies after them who will be miraculously “swallowed up” by “the earth.”

In the Old Testament, overflowing waters and floods are sometimes used symbolically to represent military attack (cf. Isaiah 8:7-8; Jeremiah 47:2-3). 10 For example, this image of a flood overtaking Israel is also seen in Daniel 9:26, a prophetic reference to the Roman invasion that destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70: “And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.” 11 Soon after the Man of Sin sits in the rebuilt Jewish temple, declaring himself to be God (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), he will discover that his enemies (the believing Jewish remnant) are escaping and will send a flood of soldiers after them. However, just as He did in the past on behalf of His people (cf. Exodus 15:12; Psalm 106:17), God will miraculously open an enormous crevice in the earth that will swallow the soldiers of the Man of Sin alive. 12 Two thirds of these Israelites will die, and one third will escape (Zechariah 13:8-9). 13

We learn an important principle from this particular prophecy: We discover God most powerfully in the context of being overwhelmed. When believers are flooded with opposition, often they are able to watch God supernaturally suck up the flood of despair and avert Satan’s plan for destruction.” (Emphasis mine). 14

Enraged by the escape of all these Israelites, Satan will now focus his attack on the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who are sharing the gospel around the world (cf. 7:1-8; 14:1-5; Matthew 24:14). “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:17). These evangelists are described as those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.” The 144,000 are more than believers in Jesus. They are committed followers of Christ who are supernaturally protected by God so they can make Jesus Christ known during an unprecedented time of deception and persecution throughout the world.

Revelation 12 teaches us that Israel may be blind and disobedient as a nation, but God has never forgotten them. He never will. His reputation as a promise keeper is at stake. God will remember His people and preserve them. He will protect them when persecution arises, and He will ultimately fulfill His promise to return them to their own land under the Messiah. Although most ethnic Jews have not accepted Jesus as their Messiah, God has still preserved them as a distinct people over the last two thousand years. In Romans 11:1 Paul wrote, ‘God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!’ The fact of God’s faithfulness even to faithless Israel should give us hope, too! The same God who stands by His promises to Israel stands by His promise to each of us: ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’ (Heb. 13:5).” 15

We also learn from Revelation 12, that the dragon still comes after children of God, and sometimes he gets them (12:13-17). You and I might face the dragon in different ways, but we still face him daily. For John, that is part of the true meaning of the story of Christ’s birth. The message of the coming of Christ into the world is not peace and joy for all. The world has churned on for two thousand years since the pronouncement of the angels, and there has never been lasting peace on earth or good will toward men. But then, that was never the promise, was it? Notice what it was the angels really promised to the shepherds, “Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God” (Luke 2:14 NCV). The promise of peace is for those who please God, those who follow the Lamb. The dragon will continue to attack, but the battle belongs to the Lord. Do you belong to Him?

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, we thank You for our verses in Revelation 12 today which emphasize Your supernatural protection and provision of Your people Israel despite all the fury of hell directed against them. We are reminded that during times when we are most overwhelmed, we discover You in the most powerful ways when You seem to supernaturally suck up the flood of our despair and turn away Satan’s plan for destruction. Your faithfulness to faithless Israel gives us hope because we too can be faithless especially when we are overwhelmed. You are the same God Who keeps His promises to Israel Who stands by His promises to us. When You say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), we can be confident You will never abandon us no matter what hardships we face. Thank You for the security this gives us. Thank You for the peace You give to us when we make it our aim to please You. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2398.

2. Ibid.

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pp. 314-315.

4. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 240.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 138.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5718 to 5724.

7. Ibid., location 5724 to 5729.

8. Constable, pg. 138.

9. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1544.

10. Ibid.

11. Swindoll, pg. 240.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1544.

13. Constable, pg. 138.

14. Evans, pg. 2399.

15. Swindoll, pg. 241.

Revelation 12 – Part 2

“She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” Revelation 12:5

As the apostle John continued to survey the seventieth week of years (Daniel 9:27) a second time (cf. Revelation 10:11) in the book of Revelation, he focused on specific characters who will appear on stage as the drama unfolds. Beginning in Revelation 12, the apostle will describe the conflict between God and Satan in the spiritual realm that has taken place throughout history since Satan’s rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-18) so we can understand how it will be manifested in the physical realm during the second half of the Tribulation period, especially during the bowl judgments (Revelation 16). 1

Last time John introduced two characters involved in the conflict: a woman and a Child (12:1-2). We learned that the woman represents the nation of Israel (12:1; cf. Genesis 37:9-11) and the Child represents the Lord Jesus Christ (12:2). Today, we will look at the third character in this spiritual battle.

“And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.” (Revelation 12:3). This second “sign” is described as a “fiery red dragon.” God identifies this dragon as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.” (Revelation 12:9; cf. 20:2). The color “red” might indicate the bloodshed Satan causes during this last half of the Tribulation period. 2

Why is the dragon used as a symbol of Satan? Pharaoh, king of Egypt, in his cruelty to God’s people, and in proud and haughty independence of God, is termed ‘the great dragon’ (Ezekiel 29:3, 4). Nebuchadnezzar is similarly spoken of in respect to his violence and cruelty (Jeremiah 51:34). Gathering up the numerous scripture references in the Book of Psalms, and in the first three of the greater prophets, to the crocodile, the sovereign of the seas, who is identified with the dragon, insatiable cruelty seems the main feature. The Egyptians regarded the crocodile or dragon, according to their hieroglyphics, as the source and author of all evil, worshipped under the name of Typho. The color of the dragon, red, denotes his murderous, bloodthirsty character. This is the first time in Scripture that Satan is directly spoken of as a dragon. The heathen monarchs, Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, enslaved and oppressed the people of God, and, thus far acting in satanic power, merited the appellation of dragon. But at the time treated of in our chapter, Satan is the prince of the world—its virtual ruler. The Roman power is the instrument through which he acts. Hence the title ‘great red dragon’ can now for the first time be used of him.” 3

Satan is described as “having seven heads and ten horns” (12:3b), which are the same as the Beast (Antichrist) possesses during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 13:1; 17:3, 7). Revelation 13:2b clearly tells us that this individual derives his authority from Satan: “The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” This demonstrates that Satan is seeking a governmental authority over the woman’s “offspring” (Revelation 12:17), the nation of Israel, which authority rightly belongs to Christ Himself (Revelation 12:5; cf. Psalm 2:6-9; Matthew 2:2; 27:11, 37). 4

The “seven heads” and “ten horns” probably represent seven nations and ten rulers (12:3b; cf. Revelation 17:12) and the “seven diadems” represent political authority in the Tribulation period (12:3b; cf. Revelation 17:10-12). 5 Ten kings will rule under Satan’s authority in the Tribulation period (12:3b; cf. Daniel 7:7, 23-24; Revelation 13:1; 17:7, 12), but when the Beast (Antichrist) rises to preeminence among them, he will subdue threeof them, leaving only seven (Daniel 7:7-8, 20, 23-24; Revelation 13:1). 6

“His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.” (Revelation 12:4). God was coming down to Satan’s turf on earth! And the old dragon was not about to let that happen without a fight! John informs us that Satan’s “tail drew a third of the stars of heaven” or fallen angels who followed Satan’s rebellion against God “and threw them to the earth” to try to prevent the birth of Jesus the Messiah (12:4a). When Jesus is born into the world, Satan is there, with his cohorts, waiting to destroy Christ. While shepherds are watching and angels are singing, Satan is waiting to make his move.

The attempt to kill the Christ Child John sees in this vision is probably a reference to king Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus. Herod was the Roman government’s puppet king over the nation of Israel. The book of Matthew tells us that when Herod learned that Jesus had been born, he had all boys two years old and younger be murdered (Matthew 2:1-16). Herod was afraid, because he knew that he wasn’t the rightful king and that Jesus was, so he did what political leaders do when threatened, and he tried to exterminate the competition. John pictures Herod’s brutal attempt to kill Jesus as a Satanic attempt to stop Jesus in fulfilling His mission.

So, when we celebrate the birth of Christ, I believe the Lord would tell us that we ought never forget the great conflict that was being waged in the heavenlies to get the Savior to earth. Think about how vulnerable Christ made Himself! Here He was, the Creator of the world, lying helpless and hungry in the arms of a woman that He created! The Savior who came to bring peace and restore God’s creation was the object of the greatest hatred ever known to God’s creation. And He found Himself in the middle of the greatest conflict to be waged yet on this earth.

“She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” (Revelation 12:5). In this version of the Christmas story, Jesus goes from being born at Bethlehem (“She bore a male Child”) to ascending to heaven where He would sit on “His throne.” Satan failed to destroy Jesus at His birth, and because he also failed to destroy Him during His life and in His death, Jesus Christ ascended victoriously into heaven 7 where He would sit on His throne until His enemies will be made the footstool of His feet (cf. Hebrews 1:10). The Messiah’s kingdom will come in spite of any and all attempts of the dragon to prevent it. 8 Christ will “rule all nations with a rod of iron” in His Millennial Kingdom on earth after He returns from heaven to earth with His church (Revelation 19:11-20:6; cf. Psalm 2:8-9). John uses this one verse to summarize the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and future reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Satan not only used Herod in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus, but He would later use Judas to betray Him (John 13:27) andPilate to condemn Him (Mark 15:15) andthe Romans to crucify Him. All the fury of hell would be released against the child born on that silent night.

As Jesus lay in the manger, somewhere in Palestine there grew a tree, straight and strong. One day that tree would be cut down and fashioned into a cross. And it would become the ultimate Christmas tree upon which was hung the ultimate gift! On that cross the perfect Son of God would take our punishment for our sin and defeat the devil once and for all. This was predicted in the first book of the Bible.

When the first man and woman disobeyed God, the Lord pronounced a curse on the serpent, the woman, and the man (Genesis 3:14-19). Regarding the serpent, God said: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15). God said there would be a perpetual struggle between Satanic forces and humankind. It would be between Satan and the woman, and their respective offspring or “seeds.” The “offspring” of the woman was Cain, then all humanity at large, and then Christ and those collectively in Him. The “offspring” of the serpent includes demons and anyone serving his kingdom of darkness, those whose “father” is the devil (John 8:44). God’s pronouncement was ultimately fulfilled when Satan would bruise Jesus’ heel (“he shall bruise His heel”) through Christ’s sufferings and death, but Christ, would deliver the fatal blow to Satan when He defeated the Devil through His death and resurrection (“He shall bruise your head”).

How? Christ 14 wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:14-15). Through His death on the cross, Christ “wiped out” or erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us (2:14). When a person was executed under Roman law, the sentence was attached to the accused’s cross (cf. John 19:19). All our sins were attached to Jesus’ cross. Jesus took all of Satan’s accusations against us away, effectively nailing our certificates of debt to His cross. He paid our sin debt to God in full; He died for our guilt and shame. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

In doing so, Christ also disarmed “principalities and powers” – Satan and his forces – disgraced them and triumphed over them (Colossians 2:15). A fallen angel is no match for the Son of God, who took away Satan’s rulership. Satan’s accusations against us are empty because Christ paid the penalty for all our sins.

If somebody has a gun pointed at you, whether or not it’s loaded is a huge deal. The devil doesn’t want you to know that his gun has been emptied by the cross of Christ. Now, if you don’t know that, you’re still going to cower and run, living in fear and shame. But you don’t have to listen to him. Though he is right about your sin, your debt has been paid by Christ. You are free to live for God. Satan still has power, but he no longer possesses final authority in history.” 9

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 2:14-15: 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Jesus Christ became a man without ceasing to be God, to render the devil powerless over us. Through His death, Jesus conquered death to free people from the fear of death (2:14-15). If the Son has set you free, then, the only power the devil has over you is what you permit him.Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44), so he’ll try to trick you into giving him permission to exercise authority over you. But the devil no longer has the power of death.Hence, the fear of death should no longer make you a slave (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-57). 10

This cosmic war between God and Satan is won through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. John wants us to see the manger through the lens of the cross in Revelation 12:1-5! He wants us to understand that Jesus’ victory began on the day He was born.

When John wrote, “And her Child was caught up to God and His throne” (Revelation 12:5b), he used the Greek word haparzō (“caught up”)for the ascension of Christ from earth to heaven after His death and resurrection (cf. Acts 1:9-11). This word means to snatch, seize, or take suddenly.” 11 This is the same word that the apostle Paul uses to describe the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth prior to the Tribulation. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (haparzō) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:17).

It is interesting to observe in Revelation 12:6 that John then fast forwards in time from Christ’s ascension to Satan’s hostile attacks against the woman representing the nation of Israel during the Tribulation period. John skips over the entire history of the church here. Why? 

“For one thing, the emphasis in the book of Revelation is not on what happens to the church during the present age but on what will happen to Israel and Gentile believers during the future Tribulation. Second, ever since Pentecost the church has been spiritually united with Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), so we share with Christ in His destiny. Just as the male child was caught up to God and rescued from Satan’s earthly wrath, the church also will be caught up to God to be rescued from the coming wrath of the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 5:9-10).” 12

Christ’s resurrection and ascension guarantees our own resurrection and ascension to heaven through the Rapture of the church (I Thessalonians 4:14-17). Instead of facing the wrath of the Tribulation period on earth, the church will be caught up to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11). What a glorious future awaits those who believe in Christ during this Church Age. Satan hated Jesus and He hates Christ’s church. But Jesus loves us infinitely and has provided an incredible future for us with Him in heaven (John 14:2-3). May all the glory go to Him!!!

Prayer: Precious Lord, thank You for Your Word which gives us heaven’s perspective about earthly events. Since his rebellion, Satan has aggressively opposed You and Your people. The Devil failed to destroy Jesus at His birth, and because he also failed to destroy Him during His life and in His death, the Lord Jesus ascended victoriously into heaven. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we who have believed in Jesus will also be resurrected and caught up to heaven in victory to be with Christ forever when He returns at any moment for His church. We praise You, Lord, for the plans You have for us, to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans involving a future that is filled with hope. Satan on the other hand, is a liar and a murderer who seeks to devour us. Please use Your Holy Spirit to expose his strategies, we pray, and open the eyes of those who have been blinded by his deceit. We ask that many more people on earth will hear and believe the gospel of grace before Jesus returns for His church, so Christ is most glorified. In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pp. 132-133 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 117.

2. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 5673 5679.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 287 cites Walter Scott, Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ (London: Pickering and Inglis, [n.d.]), pp. 249-250.

4. Pentecost, pg. 287.

5. Constable, pg. 134.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., pg. 135.

8. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1542.  

9. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2148.

10. Ibid., pg. 2243-2244.

11. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 134.

12. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 235-236.

Two Christmas Seasons

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

You can experience the joy and peace of Christmas every day by hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus talks about two Christmas seasons in one of the most familiar verses of the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

This verse falls in the middle of a conversation between Jesus and a religious ruler named Nicodemus (John 3:1-21). Nicodemus thinks the way to heaven is by living a good life. But Jesus confronts him with the truth that he must be born again by believing in Christ alone for eternal life. It is not what you do that gets you to heaven, it is what Christ has already done for you on the cross, and simply believing in Him.

The first Christmas season is seen in the first part of the verse: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” No one has ever loved to the degree that God has loved. He loved the world. He did not limit His love to one country, culture, or color. God loved everyone.

Because God loves everyone, His love cannot be earned. God loves us now, not when we get better. He loves us regardless of what we have done or not done. Do you realize that nothing you do can make God love you any less? God has designed us to be loved by Him. Only His love can meet our deepest needs. Sadly, we often look in the wrong places for God’s love, don’t we? We look for love in – a cell phone, a job, money, sports, alcohol, a computer, drugs, or a brief romantic relationship. God’s love isn’t found in these things. His love is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

How did God express His love for us? “He gave His only begotten Son.” The phrase “only begotten Son” does not mean Jesus had a beginning like a baby that is birthed by his parents. The word translated “only begotten” (monogenḗs) literally means “one of a kind.” Jesus Christ is the only One of His kind because only He is fully God (John 1:1-3) and fully Man (John 1:14).

Over two thousand years ago, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, was born in a manger on the earth even though He pre-existed as God. He loved you and me so much He was willing to become a helpless baby. Here He was, the Creator of the universe, lying in the arms of a woman that He created! God sent Jesus so you could know what He is like (John 1:18). If God wanted to communicate to birds, He would have become a bird. If God had wanted to communicate to cows, He would have become a cow. But God wanted to relate to you and to me, so He became a human being without ceasing to be God.

You may be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Mormon, or an atheist. It does not matter what your religious background is because Christ did not come to give us religion, He came to give us a relationship. Christmas is God saying, “I want to relate to you. I want you to know Me as much as I know you.”

Because all of us have sinned against God (Romans 3:23), we deserve to die forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). But Jesus came that first Christmas season to die in our place on a cross and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Christ paid for the gift of eternal life.

When you receive a gift, do you have to pay for it? No, of course not. Why? Because it is already paid for. Eternal life is free to you and me (Romans 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9) because Jesus already paid for it when He died on the cross (John 19:30) and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is alive today! So, the first Christmas season was when Christ came to us.

The second Christmas season is now when Christ invites us to come to Him. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b). Does the word “whoever” include everyone? Yes. It includes the best and worst of people and everyone in between.

Christ invites everyone to believe in Him for His free gift. He did not say “whoever behaves…” Jesus simply says, “whoever believes…” Receiving Christ’s gift of eternal life is apart from any good works we might do.

Jesus is not asking you, “Do you do good in the community?” because He never said, “Whoever does good in the community should not perish but have everlasting.” Nor is Jesus asking you, “Did you live an obedient life?” because He never said, “Whoever lives an obedient life should not perish but have everlasting.” Nor is Jesus asking, “Do you have religion?” because He never said, “whoever has religion should not perish but have everlasting.”

Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because He said, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What does it mean to believe? To believe simply means to trust or depend upon. It is so simple a child can do it, yet, as adults, we have made it difficult. Jesus says you “believe” and “have.” You have what you take, correct?

What do you like the most about Christmas? Most people will say, receiving gifts, right?! To enjoy a gift, what must you do? You must receive it.

Jesus Christ was born in a manger and died on a cross so we could receive eternal life as a free gift. We cannot trust our obedience to God’s commands, our good life, our religion, or our prayers to receive eternal life. Instead, we must believe or trust in Christ alone to receive His gift of eternal life and live with Him forever in heaven. The moment you trust Christ, Christmas will never end for you. What makes Christmas lasting is knowing you will live forever in God’s presence. Jesus asks us to take the eternal life that He is freely offering to us.

Christ promises that when you believe in Him you “should not perish” in hell. When you believe in Christ, He promises you will be rescued from eternal punishment. When Jesus speaks of perishing, He is not talking about physical death, He is talking about suffering forever and ever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10; 20:15). Many people don’t believe in hell today, but they better be sure about it because no one can afford to be wrong on this issue. Everyone needs to be rescued because “all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23).

The word “but” contrasts eternal death and torment (“perish”) with “eternal life” and enjoyment. Jesus is acknowledging that there is a place of eternal ruin where people will be in agony forever. “But,” He says, “You can have the opposite of death, agony and torment – you can have eternal life.” All people exist forever, the question is where will you live when you die – heaven or hell?

When you believe in Jesus, He promises that you can be sure that you “have everlasting life.” Jesus did not say, “might have” or “hope to have.” He simply says, “have,” which expresses absolute certainty. You can be one hundred percent sure that you have eternal life because Jesus promises it to all who believe in Him. If you could lose your salvation, then Jesus just lied to us in John 3:16. Our salvation is based upon a promise that cannot be broken. It comes from a God who cannot lie.

Eternal life is described in John 17:3 as knowing God the Father and God the Son personally forever. Eternal life begins when you believe in Jesus, not when you die or after you die. What could possibly be greater than that? If you have not believed or trusted in Jesus Christ alone to give you His gift of eternal life, why not do so right now? This is how you can tell God in prayer what you are doing:

“Dear God, I come to you now as a sinner. Nothing I am or do makes me deserving of heaven. I now understand that Jesus Christ, the One born in a manger, died for me on a cross and rose again. I place my trust in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life. Thank You for the gift of eternal life I have just received. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

When you believed in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, He came to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). You can get to know Jesus better by talking to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) and by listening to Him as you learn to read and apply the Bible to your life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Find a church where you can worship God with other like-minded Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25). Tell others about Jesus and what He can do for them (Matthew 4:19).

To learn more about how you can experience the joy and peace of Christmas every day of your life, please go to our website at www.seeyouinheaven.life and download our free digital Pressing On discipleship materials to go through with those you care about.

Why all the fuss about Christmas?

In response to our video, “A Cosmic Christmas” on our Facebook page (“See You in Heaven”), we are receiving many questions or should I say “attacks” about the time of Jesus’ birth which was not even mentioned in the video. Some think December 25th was originally a pagan holiday and therefore, should not be observed by Christians. I could make an argument for a December birth of Christ, and you might be able to make an argument for a different time of the year. But that is not what matters.

In response to this, I would quote the apostle Paul, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5). Paul was writing to Christians in Rome who were Jews and Gentiles. Some of them were observing special holidays and some treated every day alike based on their personal preferences or opinions.

God’s Word tells us that each of us is to “be fully convinced in his own mind” that he is honoring God regarding a matter on which Scripture isn’t clear. We are to let our brothers and sisters exercise their liberty in Christ. My family and I celebrate Christmas in December. You may choose not to do that. The Bible is saying I would be wrong to condemn you for not observing Christmas in December just as you would be wrong to condemn us for doing that.

It is uncomfortable for people at different levels of faith and maturity to coexist without judging each other on matters of preference or opinion. Paul gives us both a reason to respect one another’s freedom and motivation: you and I are not each other’s Lord or Master. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:6-9). The phrase “to the Lord” shows up six times in these verses. This phrase means the person is seeking to please the Lord. If a brother eats, let him eat to please the Lord (14:6). If he doesn’t, let him not eat to please the Lord. If he celebrates a day, such as Christmas, he does it to please the Lord; if he doesn’t observe Christmas, he is still doing it to please the Lord. If he lives or dies, he is doing it to please the Lord—not to please you (14:7-8).

Many churches are drowning in legalism, and we are placing a leash around the necks of other Christians with our manmade preferences and opinions. Moreover, we are keeping rules for this brother or that sister in Christ. We have got to stop trying to please each other and focus on pleasing the One who came to earth that first Christmas season to eventually die in our place on a cross and rise from the dead that “He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (14:9).

Christians are not to judge one another based on our own personal preferences or opinions because there is only one person who is qualified to do that: the Lord Jesus Christ. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10-12). The more we try to control the behavior of others, the more dangerous our own position becomes. Jesus said that it is foolishness to point out a speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye if you have a log in your own (Matthew 7:3). Paul is getting at the same idea here: Why do you judge your brother or sister (14:10), when you know that each of us will give an account of himself to God (14:12)? God won’t be asking you about the opinions and preferences of your brother or sister in Christ. He will be looking into your account. So don’t worry about your neighbor so much; keep a better, closer eye on yourself. Get out of God’s business and tend to your own.

Just because our focus is on pleasing God doesn’t mean we are not thinking of others at all. “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” (Romans 14:13).  Instead of judging one another, we decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in their way. We think of others all the time, but our first question is not, “What faults can I find in their lives?” Instead, it is, “How will my actions affect them?” Yes, you are free to enjoy what God gives you the freedom to enjoy including observing Christmas or not observing Christmas. But don’t use that freedom to hurt others.

Our video focuses on the birth of Christ from heaven’s perspective recorded in Revelation 12:1-5. It answers the “Why?” question, not the “When?” question. In my opinion, the focus on the “When?” of Jesus birth is another attempt by the Dragon (Revelation 12:3-4, 9) to mislead people away from the true meaning of Christmas.  

Answering the “Why?“ of Jesus birth is far more important than answering the “When?” Why did God the Son (John 20:31; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20), the Creator of the universe (John 1:1-3), come to earth as a Baby (Revelation 12:4-5; cf. Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20), instead of appearing in power and majesty? Why make Himself a true man and live among us without ceasing to be God (John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20), when He knew full well how horribly He would be treated?

It was God’s love that brought Him to earth in this way. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). The phrase, “God … gave His only begotten Son,” includes Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. Jesus became a baby without ceasing to be God so we could relate to Him and eventually believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 1:14-18; 3:15-16).

Have you believed or trusted in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life? Do you know you have eternal life right now by believing in the name of the Son of God (I John 5:13)? Answering these questions is far more important than any question about the time of Jesus’ birth.

A Cosmic Christmas (Video)

This video is about the birth of Christ from heaven’s perspective as described in the book of Revelation. The message of this video will help you learn how to experience the joy and peace you were meant to have.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, www.LumoProject.com, GoodSalt / goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Finding security in this insecure world

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2

This year people are reeling from pandemics, hurricanes/typhoons, volcanoes, social unrest, political battles, wild fires, and riots all of which leave us feeling insecure. Many of us may be wondering what in the world is God doing?

The people of Israel may have felt a similar type of insecurity in the time of the prophet Micah. Micah admits that the situation his people were living in was gloomy: the nation was in extreme distress, Jerusalem was under siege, and the king has been humiliated. Much of the distress of the people was caused by the misuse of authority by the nation’s leaders (Micah 3:1-12).

In contrast to the wicked and greedy leaders of Israel in Micah’s day, there would come forth from the insignificant town of “Bethlehem Ephrathah… the One to be Ruler in Israel.” Dr.Tony Evans writes, Hundreds of years later, God would sovereignly ensure the fulfillment of this prophecy through a Roman census that took Joseph and his pregnant bride, Mary, to his ancestral home of Bethlehem. There, in the humblest of circumstances, Mary gave birth to the One who would one day rule the world (see Luke 2:1-7).” 1

The name “Bethlehem” means “house of bread.” How fitting that “the Bread of Life,” Jesus Christ (John 6:35, 51a), would come down from heaven to be born in Bethlehem, the “house of bread,” which had also been the home of King David (cf. 1 Samuel 16:1, 18-19; 17:12). The name “Ephrathah” means “fruitful.” Only through Jesus Christ, “the True Vine” (John 15:1), can believers be enabled to be fruitful and fulfilled for the Father’s glory (cf. John 15:1-8).

The One born in this most insignificant town would be the most significant Person to ever live on earth. He is the One “Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” He is not just any “Ruler,” He is a Divine Ruler Who is the “everlasting” God! When Mary and Joseph looked into the face of the Child of Bethlehem, they were looking into the face of God.

Thank God for sending His only begotten Son, “the Bread of Life,” to the “house of bread” so that “if anyone eats of this bread [i.e. believes in Him – John 6:35], he will live forever” (John 6:51a)! Only Jesus Christ can satisfy our hunger for eternal life (cf. John 6:35) and give us security that lasts forever (John 10:28-29).

The reason? Because, as Micah says, only Jesus Christ is fully God (“from everlasting” – cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; 44:6; John 1:1, 14-18, 34, 49; 5:16-47; 6:69; 8:57-59; 14:7-9; 10:30-33; 11:27; 20:28, 31; Acts 16:31, 34; 20:28; Romans 1:3-4; 9:5; I Timothy 3:16; 4:10; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20; Revelation 1:17; 22:13; et al.) and fully Man (“Bethlehem… out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel” – cf. Matthew 8:24; 9:11; Mark 6:3; John 1:14; 2:12; 4:6; 7:3, 5; 11:35;12:27; 19:28; 21:12; Philippians 2:6-8; I Timothy 2:5; et al.), Who died for all our sins and rose from the dead, so we can have eternal life the moment we believe in Him (Micah 5:2; cf. John 3:14-16; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

Micah shared this hope-filled message with people who were overwhelmed with life and God wants to use us to do the same. Thank the Lord that the Bread of Life was born in the House of Bread so the world may have life in His name!

Prayer: Father God, thank You for sending the Bread of Life to be born in the House of Bread so we may have everlasting life in His name the moment we believe in Him! Just as Mary held You, Jesus, in her womb in the beginning of Your life on earth in human form without ceasing to be God, so You will hold us in the end because You remain faithful to Your promise (John 10:28-29). Thank You for security that lasts, especially in this insecure world. Please use us to spread this hope-filled message to those who are desperately in need of Your love and grace. In the mighty name of our God, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1414.