Revelation 12 - Born to Rule
What could possibly disturb our peace? That question was answered on this past September 11. The police, fire departments, and ambulances rushed to disaster scenes in New York and Washington. Many of us watched television or listened to the radio during that day. We were horrified. We are not as safe as we would like to think.
The uncertainty since then continues. Our Armed Forces are on the alert and law enforcement agencies are at work. But people called to promote law and order are limited in what they can do to protect us. There is no guarantee that they will anticipate every move terrorists might make.
The great dragon described in Revelation 12 is at work behind this. He is “that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan” (Revelation 12:9). We see evidence of his activities around us. The basic conflict is not between the Western world on the one hand and Muslim terrorists on the other. The basic conflict is between God and the devil. The devil is not only at work in Muslim countries. He is at work throughout the world.
The devil sows terror, using wicked people as his instruments. But God sows the seeds of hope through the proclamation of his Word. All things are in his hands. He can use the difficulties of our times to further his work of grace in Jesus Christ.
The Woman and the Dragon
In Revelation 12, the apostle John tells us about his vision of “a woman clothed with the sun.” Her radiant appearance indicates the glory of her high position. The moon is “under her feet.” That speaks of dominion. A crown of twelve stars is on her head. It is a sign of royalty. God has chosen to give this woman symbols that speak of her privileged position over creation, which is the work of his hands. The virgin Mary is the one who gave birth to our Saviour. But the woman in the vision represents the people of God. This becomes clear when you read all of Revelation 12. Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament the people of God are portrayed as a woman, a bride, a wife. Think, for example, of Isaiah 54:5, where we read:
For your Maker is your husband – the LORD Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer.
John also saw another sign in heaven: “an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads” (Revelation 12:3). The great dragon is “that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9). He is portrayed in this chapter as a huge, powerful and cunning beast, ready for violence and destruction. He has a host of fallen angels under his command.
The Child of the Woman
Satan is powerful, but he cannot overpower God. In Genesis 3:15 we read the LORD God’s promise that the offspring of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. It is a prophecy of the birth of Jesus Christ.
The days of the serpent are numbered. The devil, however, has always tried to avoid his own defeat. If you read through the Old Testament you’ll see many signs of his work. He did what he could to prevent the birth of our Saviour from becoming reality. The New Testament tells us of his activity at the time of Christ’s birth. Think of what king Herod did, killing all the young children of Bethlehem to make sure of the death of the promised Messiah.
Revelation 12:5 shows us why the dragon wanted so desperately to kill this child. He is “a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” The additional term translated as “a male child” highlights the masculine character of this son. Not the dragon, but this son of the woman will be the divinely appointed ruler of the world.
The reference to the “iron scepter” also occurs in Psalm 2. This Psalm speaks of how the nations rage and the peoples plot against the LORD and against his Anointed One. It is a prophecy of the coming King, the Son of God. He will one day rule over the rebellious nations with an iron scepter (Psalm 2:9). This means they will be subject to his will. If they do not submit to him, they will be judged by him. That is why this Psalm ends with the words,
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.Psalm 2:12
The dragon wanted to devour the child after his birth, but was unable to do this. God himself protected his Son. During the years that followed, Satan continued his attacks on our Saviour. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, it seemed as if the dragon had won. The opposite, however, was true! The death of Jesus Christ gave Him the victory over all the power of the devil. Sin was atoned for. Death could no longer be the final punishment for those who take refuge in Jesus Christ.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ and his ascension to heaven confirmed his victory. The child of the woman “was snatched up to God and to his throne.” That is where He is now. It is a position of glory and power.
The dragon will continue to rage. He will use the conflicts and wars of this world to further his own ends. But his efforts are doomed to failure. Hold onto that, no matter what the devil and all his angels, and wicked people may seem to accomplish. Jesus Christ, born of the woman, is now in heavenly glory. He is the Ruler of the nations. Remember the final words of Psalm 2:
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.Psalm 2:12
Acknowledge Him as Saviour. Worship Him as King.