Revelation 12 – Part 3

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9

Last time in our study of the book of Revelation, we saw that the dragon, Satan (12:9), failed to destroy the Christ Child at His birth and during His life and in His death, so Jesus could ascend victoriously to heaven after His resurrection (12:3-5). Since Satan cannot get to the Christ Child who is now on His throne in heaven (12:5), he is going to go after what is dearest to the Child – His people, Israel.

The apostle John writes, “Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revelation 12:6). Christ’s birth and ascension to heaven in verse 5 took place some two thousand years ago, but the events described here in verse 6will take place in the future. The nation of Israel, represented by “the woman” (cf. 12:1-2; Genesis 37:9-11), will flee “into the wilderness” immediately at the middle of the Tribulation period when the Man of Sin (the Beast or Antichrist) occupies the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and declares himself to be God (12:6a; cf. Matthew 24:15-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 1

During the first half of the Tribulation many Jews will believe in the gospel of the kingdom proclaimed by the Two Witnesses from Jerusalem (11:1-6). This believing remnant (“our brethren” – 12:10) will need to get out of Israel as quickly as possible because Satan’s desire is to exterminate Israel so he can render God’s promises to them as false, making God a liar.

If Israel obeys Jesus’ command to flee to the mountains to the “place prepared by God” when the Man of Sin occupies the rebuilt Jewish temple (“abomination of desolation” – Matthew 24:15-16), God will “feed” or provide for her “there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” or three and a half years during the last half of the Tribulation period (12:6b). “God fed millions of Jews for forty years during their Exodus from Egypt, and He will do so again in Israel’s darkest hour.” 2

Hitchcock suggests that this place of refuge prepared by God for Israel could be the rock city of Petra in modern Jordan (cf. Micah 2:12-13; Daniel 11:41). He writes, “This place is also consistently described as being in ‘the mountains’ or ‘the wilderness’ (Matthew 24:16; Revelation 12:6, 14, NASB). Therefore, this city must be prepared by God in advance, must be in the hills and in the wilderness. The city of Petra fits all of these criteria: it is adequate to hold what may be one million Jewish people; it is both in the hills and the wilderness; and it is accessible to the fleeing remnant. Therefore, putting all these points together, it is apparent that God will provide the fleeing Jewish remnant an accessible place of refuge in the wilderness and in the hills that will be like a sheepfold and that will be outside the Antichrist’s domain. The place that best fits the clues provided in Scripture is the magnificent rock city of Petra.” 3

To protect Israel during the last half of the Tribulation, John writes, 7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” (Revelation 12:7-8). John then sees a “war” break “out in heaven” between “Michael,” the archangel who battled with Satan over the body of Moses (cf. Jude 1:9), 4 and Satan, “the dragon.” Michael is accompanied by “his” unfallen “angels” and Satan is joined by “his” fallen “angels” or demons (12:7). The angels’ way of fighting here will be like what they do on behalf of all believers today (cf. Hebrews 1:14). The accidents we narrowly escape, and the perfect timing of various life events are not coincidences, but heaven’s divine arrangements of all things for our good. 5

As Michael fought on Daniel’s and Israel’s behalf against demons in the Old Testament era (cf. Daniel 10:13), angels fight for believers today and will fight for Israel in the last half of the future Tribulation. 6 Daniel 12:1a explains this event when it says, “Michael shall stand up,” which undeniably refers to the fact that the archangel is ready to act on behalf of Israel (cf. Daniel 10:21). This war in heaven will occur just before the time of Jacob’s “trouble” – the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 12:1b). 7

Despite all of Satan’s raging, he, and his fallen angels “did not prevail” over Michael and his angelic army (12:8a). As a result, there was no “place found for them in heaven any longer” (12:8b). Satan and his demonic cohorts are prohibited from entering heaven ever again. Since the fall of humankind, Satan used this God-given access to make relentless accusations against the people of God (cf. Revelation 12:10; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7), but near the middle of the Tribulation period, this access to God’s throne is stopped. 8 God will no longer hear Satan’s accusations against believers in His throne room. 9 In the end, Satan and his demonic armies will not be able to stop God’s plan for Israel nor His Son’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. 10

Hitchcock states,Both amillennialists and postmillennialists… view the casting of Satan from heaven in Revelation 12:7-9 as parallel with Luke 10:18-19. They point to Mark 3:27 and Matthew 12:25-29 as the fulfillment of the binding of Satan during the earthly ministry of Christ. For them, Satan’s activity and power are restricted during this present age. However, this contradicts the way Satan is pictured in the New Testament. Satan is called ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30), ‘the god of this world’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), ‘an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), ‘the commander of the powers in the unseen world’ (Ephesians 2:2), and he is ‘like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). The devil schemes against believers (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11), hinders us (1 Thessalonians 2:18), accuses us (Revelation (Revelation 12:10), and blinds the minds of the lost (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is anything but bound today. He is aggressively opposing the work of God. 11

“As someone once said, ‘If Satan is bound today, he must have an awfully long chain.’ Satan is characterized as the arch-deceiver in the New Testament. Yet, Revelation 20:3 says that when he is bound Satan will ‘not deceive the nations anymore.’ This does not fit the current situation. It demands a later time after the Lord’s coming.” 12

Satan’s defeat in heaven at the midpoint of the Tribulation led to his and his fallen angels’ expulsion to earth. So, the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9). God identifies “the great dragon” as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.”

What do we learn about Satan in this verse? He is a “great dragon” who is fierce, cruel, and monstrous in nature. 13 As the “serpent of old,” he is crafty and subtle in character (cf. Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan is too strong and crafty for us to overcome his strategies on our own. We need God’s power and wisdom to experience victory over him in our Christian lives.

The name “Devil” (diabolos) means “Slanderer” or “Accuser.” 14 This title for “the evil one would have made a specially strong impact in the first century, for there was a well-known and well-hated figure called the delator, the paid informer. He made his living by accusing people before the authorities.” 15

In this church age the Devil focuses on accusing believers of wrongdoing. But because God has “justified” or declared believers totally righteous in His courtroom the moment we believe in Jesus apart from any works (Romans 4:5), no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing before God (cf. Romans 8:33), including the Devil.

The title “Satan” (Satanas) means “Adversary.” 16 Satan is not our friend. He is against us. He is our worst enemy. He hates us and wants to destroy our lives and testimony. But Jesus is our “Advocate” (I John 2:1-2) Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes before God the Father’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 7:25). Whenever Satan accuses us of wrongdoing, Christ says to the Father, “I paid for that sin, Father.”   

John writes that Satan is the one “who deceives the whole world” (12:9b). The primary strategy Satan uses to accuse and oppose us is deception. The Devil cannot win spiritual battles by exerting authority because he has been defeated on the cross (cf. Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). So, Satan must win by deception, influencing our thinking through spiritual and worldly means. We permit Satan to achieve victories in our lives when we act on that deception rather than rejecting it as a lie. 17

How can we overcome Satan’s deception? Jesus tells us in John 8. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31). Christ is talking to Jewish believers who have eternal life, so He is not talking about salvation here. He is talking about the lifelong process of discipleship after we believe in Him for everlasting life.

Hence, the first way to overcome Satan’s deception is to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so you may have eternal life in His name (John 20:31). The only condition for eternal life is simply believing in Christ for it. Obviously, then if you want to be free from the deception of the Devil, you must believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. And the moment you do, the eternal Son of God comes to live inside of you. If you don’t have Jesus Christ in your life, the only changes in your life will be superficial. You may read your Bible, pray, and go to church or counseling, but you are not going to experience lasting freedom from Satan’s lies without Christ in your life! Only Christ has the power to defeat the Devil’s deception in your life.

But overcoming deception does not stop with believing in Christ. Christ says to these believers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (8:31b). What is the condition for being Jesus’ disciples? Abiding in His Word. To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” 18 in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.”Where we make our home is where we spend our time. So, notice that you can believe in Jesus and not abide in His word. When believers “abide” or remain in Christ’s word, they “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make” them “free” (8:32).

Note two things. First, there is such a thing as truth. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. We live in a relativistic society that denies absolute truth, claiming, ‘What’s true for you may not be true for me.’ But truth is not based on our feelings, experiences, or desires. Truth is God’s viewpoint on every matter, and it is not subject to redefinition. Pilate would ask, ‘What is truth?’ (18:38), and the answer to that question is ‘Jesus’ (see 14:6).

“Second, knowing the truth results in genuine freedom. Don’t be confused. Truth alone doesn’t liberate; rather, the knowledge of the truth liberates. Deliverance comes when we know the truth—that is, when we hang out in what God says. When this happens, we will experience the truth setting us free from illegitimate bondage” 19 to Satan’s lies.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. We always learn from others, truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you? So, as we abide or remain in Christ’s word, we shall know the truth, and the truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), shall make us free from Satan’s deception. The truth will identify the lies we have been believing that have held us in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is knowing and applying the truth of God’s Word that will overcome the Devil’s deception.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for reminding us that although Satan is a powerful and aggressive foe, he will not be victorious. Your angels will defeat him at the midpoint of the Tribulation period, so he never has access to Your throne in heaven again. And while Satan accuses us before You every day and night during this current Church Age, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes for us. Not only this, but Jesus also gives us eternal life the moment we believe in Him so we can subsequently abide in His Word and know the truth which sets us free from Satan’s lies. Please empower us, Lord, to know, believe and act on Your truth so that we may become all that You intended us to be for Your glory alone. In the mighty name of Jesus Who is the truth, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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.

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. 378, 490 491.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1542.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2397.

6. Ibid.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543; see also 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 5701 and Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 136.  

8. Vacendak, pg. 1543. cf. Hitchcock, pg. 314.

9. Constable, pg. 136.

10. Evans, pg. 2397.

11. Hitchcock, pp. 413-414.

12. Ibid., pg. 414 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 702-703.

13. Contstable, pg. 136.

14. Ibid., see also 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. 226.

15. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 161; cf. William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 102.

16. Ibid., cf. Bauer, pg. 916.

17. Evans, 2397.

18. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

19. Evans, pg. 1779.

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.

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.

Living Life Today in Light of Tomorrow (Video)

This video looks at Bible prophecy in the book of Revelation to bring stability and hope to our lives when so many things seem out of control in the world today.

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 Digital Globe / www.FreeBibleimages.org, GoodSalt / www.goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses. The video scenes in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world? Part 5

“But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.” John 16:4

As we draw closer to the time of Christ’s return for His church, we are seeing an increase in the world’s hostility toward Christians. We are learning from Jesus’instructions to His eleven believing disciples how we can be effective witnesses to a hostile world. So far we have discovered we can be effective witnesses when we…

– Realize that we will face the same conflict with the world that Jesus did (John 15:18-19).

– Recall what Jesus has already taught us (John 15:20).

– Recognize that the world is not opposed to us personally, but to our relationship with Christ (John 15:21-25).

– Remain in vital contact with Christ through the Holy Spirit (John 15:26-27).        

The fifth and final way is to REMEMBER THAT JESUS IS STILL IN CONTROL (John 16:1-4). Christ said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.” (John 16:1). This message about the hatred of the world was not meant to discourage Jesus’ disciples or dissuade them from the ministry. He told them what to expect from the world so they “should not be made to stumble” or fall away from their Christian faith. The word picture here is of someone stumbling over an unexpected obstacle. 1  Jesus was warning His disciples (and us) of the obstacles ahead so they would not be taken by surprise and overcome by worldly opposition. We do a disservice by telling people that discipleship is easy. Jesus never taught that, and neither should we. He said discipleship is costly (cf. Luke 14:26-33). It will be difficult. How difficult would it be for them (and us)?

He describes specific ways that the world will hate them. “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” (John 16:2). When Jesus says, “They will put you out of the synagogues,” He is saying they will lose every privilege they had as a citizen of Israel. They would be excluded from using the temple for worship. They would be excluded from the society in which they had moved. They would lose the privilege of employment in their nation. They would be deprived of schools to which they could send their children. In effect, they would be reduced to poverty. Some would even be killed, and their killers would think they were providing a faithful “service” to God. According to church tradition, all the apostles were martyred for their faith except for John. 2

Christ is not talking about persecution by the secular government here. He is speaking of persecution by religious zealots. No persecution is more bitter than when done by religious enthusiasts like the Spanish Inquisition, set up in 1478. It sought to eliminate heretics and killed up to 5,000 people. 3

From 1095-1492, violent crusades against Muslims took place in Europe, Asia, and Palestine along with severe persecution by the Roman Church of those who differed with it. The Roman Inquisition, 1542-1858, originally sought to deal with the spread of Protestantism. Those who differed with the Roman Church were tortured until they confessed and recanted. If they did not confess and recant, they would lose their property, freedom, or be burned at the stake. 5

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) reorganized in 1915 and in addition to hating blacks, it hated Catholics, Jews, and  it opposed Jews, blacks, Catholics, and newly arriving Southern and Eastern European immigrants, many of whom were Jewish or Catholic. The Klan claimed to be explicitly Protestant. Although it appropriated some Christian teaching, hymns, and symbols, it was widely denounced by Christian denominations. 6  

It is important to understand that the persecutors mentioned above do not represent biblical Christianity. Just because someone says they are a Christian or does something in the name of Jesus does not mean they are genuine believers in Jesus.

The Bible emphasizes that eternal life is a free gift (John 4:10-14; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). A person does not receive eternal life by living a good life, keeping God’s commandments, going to church, praying every day, being baptized with water, or hating their enemies. The Bible tells us that a person must come to God as a sinner (Romans 3:23), realizing that Christ died for all his sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6), and then believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:36; 6:40, 47; I Corinthians 15:3-6). The moment a person trusts in Christ alone to give them everlasting life, God not only gives him or her the free gift He paid for when He died on the cross – eternal life – He also comes to live inside of that person through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20; 3:2) to give them the power to live a life that pleases Him.

Many people who claim to be Christians do not understand this simple gospel message. Instead of trusting in Christ alone to get them to heaven, they are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, and therefore, they do not have God’s power in them to live a life that pleases Him. Many non-Christians use their religion to try to cover up their sins. So it is important to understand that not all people who say they are Christians have God’s power in them to live a different life because they are not trusting in Christ alone to save them and give them everlasting life. Instead, they are depending on their good works or religious efforts to get them to heaven, instead of on Christ and His finished work on the cross alone. 

Modern day examples of persecution by misguided zealots include militant Muslims persecuting innocent Christians in the Middle East and Africa, and militant Hindus attacking Christians in India, etc. Since the time of Christ, the most severe persecution of Christians has come from religious enthusiasts who think they are serving their god or gods.

Next Christ said to His disciples, “And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.” (John 16:3). The reason the world will persecute Jesus’ followers is because it is spiritually ignorant of God the Father and God the Son. Opposition to God’s messengers really meant opposition to God Himself.

Jesus then said, “But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.” (John 16:4). Jesus warned His disciples about this coming persecution to strengthen their faith. Even on the night before His crucifixion, He is concerned for these men and their future. Jesus’ knowledge about their future would give them more confidence in His ability to control events. Christ did not tell His disciples “these things” about their coming persecution “at the beginning” of His ministry when He was with them, because He was the object of attack from the world at that time. But now that He is leaving them to go be with His Father in heaven, He forewarns them. They would know He was in control when trials would come because He had said they would.

We see in the book of Acts that Jesus’ words emboldened the apostles to continue preaching Christ in the midst of persecution. For example, when the apostles disobeyed the Sanhedrin’s order to stop preaching Jesus, they were beaten and commanded once again to speak no more in Jesus’ name. Luke reports, “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42). They were not taken by surprise when the Sanhedrin opposed them because Jesus forewarned them of this. Jesus really is in control.

Do you think Jesus’ control over us is total or partial? Listen to Daniel 4:35: “He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ ” Accept it or not, God is in total control. He is running the show. Either He is in full control or He is off the throne. It is as foolish to say He is “almost” in control as it would be to say I am “almost” married or Trump is “almost” President, or the surgeon’s gloves are “almost” sterile. God is totally in control. The more we believe this, the more confidence we will have to be an effective witness for Christ in a hostile world.

Jesus wanted His disciples and us to be prepared for what is coming. We should not be overtaken by surprise when we experience some form of rejection or censure for our Christian beliefs and standards because Christ forewarned us of such opposition. This hostility can come from family, friends, employers, customers, coworkers, the government, and especially from religious zealots. As Paul warned Timothy, “All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12). But the Holy Spirit is always available to empower us in our time of need (John 15:26-27). 7

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are an amazing God! Thank You for warning me about the hostility of the world so that when I do experience it, I can be encouraged to know that You are in control and I can trust You to accomplish Your purposes in my life. Please embolden me to share Your gospel message unashamedly with this broken and hostile world. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit Who can empower me to face this opposition with grace and truth. I surrender everyone and everything to You, my Lord and my God. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1 J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 285.

2. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 453.

3. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition.

4. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades.

5. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Inquisition.

6. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan.

7.  Adapted from Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1809.

The Providence of God or the Plots of Man? Part 2

51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” John 11:51-52

After Jesus miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead in front of many Jews who had come from Jerusalem to console the family of Lazarus (John 11:28-44), many of those Jews believed in Jesus for everlasting life (John 11:45) while some began to plot against Christ (John 11:46-48). We are learning from this conflict over Jesus’ miracle how the providence of God and the plans of people work together for God’s glory. The first principle we learned is that plans to oppose Christ can arise from fear and jealousy (John 11:45-48). Today we learn the second principle which is to REALIZE THAT GOD USES THE PLOTS OF MAN TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSES (John 11:49-53).

“And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all.’ ” (John 11:49). No man comprehended the situation better than Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas. He was the high priest “that [fateful] year.” He served as high priest from 18-36 A.D. Originally the high priest held his position for a lifetime, but the Romans were afraid of letting a man gain too much power. So the Romans appointed high priests at their convenience.” 2 Caiaphas’ first words reflect rudeness to his fellow Sanhedrin members, “You know nothing at all.” Rudeness was common among the Sanhedrin members. He correctly observes that they have no solution to their problem.

Caiaphas then proposed a solution to their problem. “… Nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:50). The Sanhedrin could not figure out that it would be to their advantage, and that is what they cared the most about, that Jesus die at the hands of the Romans instead of the entire nation. Caiaphas proposed the death of Christ as a solution to the immediate political problem. Politicians are often willing to sacrifice the other guy for their own benefit. Ironically, “their rejection of Jesus did not solve their problem. The Jewish people followed false shepherds into a war against Rome (A.D. 66-70), which did in fact destroy their nation.” 3

John then explains that Caiaphas’ words were prophetic. “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.” (John 11:51). What Caiaphas meant to be cynical political realism; God meant to be understood in a deeper, more significant way. Caiaphas only had political interests in mind, whereas God had spiritual interests in mind (Acts 4:27-28). The prophetic quality of Caiaphas’ words is attributed to his priestly office, not his personal character. Because of Caiaphas’ office, God spoke providentially through him even though Caiaphas was not conscious of his word’s spiritual significance. Jesus’ death would be in place of the Jewish nation. If He would die, they would live. Christ would be their Substitute.

A former Thai navy seal diver, Saman Gunan, heroically died on July 6, 2018, while placing oxygen tanks along the twisting passageways of a cave flooded by monsoon rains in Thailand where twelve boys (ages 11 to 16) and their soccer coach were trapped since June 23, 2018. Eventually the entire soccer team was rescued between July 8 – 10, 2018. Saman died so this soccer team and their coach could live. Out of love for these boys and their coach, he laid down his life for them. Likewise, Jesus Christ loved you and me so much that He died on a cross as our Substitute for our sins so we could live forever the moment we believe in Him (John 3:14-16).

But there is more. Caiaphas continued, “And not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” (John 11:52). Caiaphas’ words were not just for Israel, but for the whole world. John has a world-vision in mind. This refers to uniting Jews and Gentiles around the world into“one” body, the church (cf. John 10:16; cf. Ephesians 2:14-18; 3:6). Sin scatters people, but the Savior unites them. Only Christ can unite the nations and cultures of the world into one body. Governments cannot do this. The United Nations cannot bring world peace nor can Black Lives Matter. But Jesus Christ can because He changes people from the inside out.

“Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.” (John 11:53). The Sanhedrin concurs with Caiaphas’ proposal. They seriously plot to kill Jesus. An old purpose (John 5:18; 7:19, 44-45; 8:59; 10:31, 39) was revived with fresh energy due to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. What these wicked men planned for evil, God providentially intended for good.  

Do you remember the story of Joseph in the Old Testament? After Joseph’s father, Jacob, died, his brothers fear that the only thing that has kept Joseph from taking revenge on them has been his respect for his father. So, they come to Joseph begging for forgiveness – even though he gave them that forgiveness many years earlier. How does Joseph respond? Does he avenge the wrongs that they did to him?

He said, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20a).  Joseph doesn’t try to rewrite history saying, “Oh, I know you guys didn’t mean it.” He is honest – “You guys tried to harm me – but God intended your harm for good.” Romans 8:28 says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” This “all things” means “all things” – including people’s evil intentions, their desire to cause harm, and sin. This is an absolutely amazing promise from God! Nobody can do anything to you that God cannot bring good from.

We see it clearly in Joseph’s life – sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned – which was exactly where, in the strangest kind of way, Pharaoh, would be able to hear about him. Then Joseph says, “God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20b). Joseph experienced tremendous pain – heartache, difficulty, problems, but God used all of that for incredible good – the saving of many lives. And as it turned out, not just the people of Egypt, but also his own family – including the very men who did him wrong – his brothers.

Can you relate to Joseph? Perhaps God has used the most painful experiences in your life involving believers who betrayed you to help and bless others. He has used your weaknesses and failures much more than He has used your so-called strengths. It is important for us to see God’s ability to do far more through our trials or failures than through our successes. God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. That means that many can gain through our pain!

The religious leaders had evil intentions toward Jesus, but God intended to bring good from their rejection of His Son. Jesus’ death would unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, the Church. Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross would pay the penalty for the sins of the world so that all who believe in Him may be reconciled to God and have everlasting life (John 3:14-16; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:16).

Christ’s work in our lives can turn enemies into friends. He can bring men and women back into harmony with each other. But it begins by resolving our conflict with God. The Bible says that before we come to Jesus Christ we are in conflict with God. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” (Romans 5:10). Before we became Christians, we were God’s “enemies” because of our sin. God hates sin (Genesis 6:5-7; Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 6:16-19; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 1:9), but He loves the sinner (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ came to this world to make peace between humanity and God, to resolve this conflict. This is the key place to begin in resolving conflict in all of our relationships. Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins so we could be “reconciled to God.” The moment we believe in Christ “we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1). Once we gain peace with God we can learn to live peacefully with one another.

“As parts of the same body, our anger against each other has disappeared. For both of us have been reconciled to God and so the feud ended at the cross.” (Ephesians 2:16 – TLB). Paul is talking about conflict between nations in this verse, but this works between people too. “The feud ended at the cross.” God is able to resolve the conflicts in our lives. Many conflicts between people could be solved overnight, if both parties involved would come to know Christ because of the power that He has to resolve those conflicts we face in our lives.

For me, this is the most everyday advice I could give anyone. In my relationships with people, my relationship to Jesus Christ more than anything else sets the tone for the ability to handle the conflicts that we face. He gives me the ability to think in a different way and relate in a different way. Finding the love of Christ helped me find the forgiveness in my life that built the foundation of strength for all of my relationships. Finding the love of Christ also gives me the strength to forgive others. If you are going to resolve conflicts you have got to have that strength. 

What relationship in your life still has walls to tear down? Whom do you despise? Maybe you dislike the way they look, talk, walk, laugh, and work. You detest being near to them. How can Christ slowly take down those walls one brick at a time so you can live peacefully with them? Ask Him to show you. He is our Peace (Ephesians 2:13-14) and He can teach us to live in harmony with others.

Prayer: Dear Lord God Almighty, Your ways are so much higher than ours. While evil politicians proposed the death of Jesus to advance their own plans and welfare, You providentially intended Jesus’ substitutionary death to save the nation of Israel and the entire world from eternal death. And not only that, Christ’s death would unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, the Church. Over and over again we see throughout history that sin divides people, but our Savior died to unite people of all colors, cultures, and countries. Many of us are not able to resolve conflicts with people because we are still in conflict with You. Our sin separates us from You, Oh Lord. But Your only Son, Jesus Christ, died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead to reconcile us to You. Oh Lord, I pray that those who are still in conflict with You will recognize that Jesus can resolve that conflict by freely forgiving all their sins and giving them eternal life the moment they believe in Him alone. Then He can give them the strength to love and forgive those they are in conflict with. And if we are all honest with ourselves, we must admit that there are people in our lives that we despise for whatever reason. Please show us today how we can begin the process of taking down those walls we have built so we can live peacefully them. It may begin with the words, “I am truly sorry for what I have done. I was only thinking of myself. Help me to see things as you do.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 215.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Gospels, (David C Cook: Kindle Edition, 2018), pg. 640.

3. Ibid, pp. 640-641.