The Persistent Dragon
“The story has a semi-biblical tone: A man and woman together in a garden come across a serpent. The serpent awakens them to their own mortality and their lives are changed forever. But that's where the similarities end, because in this story, the man grabbed a shovel to decapitate the snake—a 4-foot-long Western diamondback rattlesnake—after it spooked his wife. And when he went to pick up the severed head, it sank its fangs into his flesh and released a near deadly dose of venom.
About two miles into the drive to the hospital her husband began having seizures, lost his vision and, unknown to them, began bleeding internally. So she met up with an ambulance and then a helicopter, which flew the 40-year-old to the hospital as his organs were already shutting down.
“A severed viper head certainly can deliver a dangerous bite, as can the unsecured head of a recently ‘killed’ snake,” Harry Greene, a biology professor at Cornell University, told NPR. Greene suspects he was injected with a powerful dose of venom. Living snakes typically strike quickly and rear back from whatever threat they perceive, but because the one in this instance was dead, it most likely latched on until someone forcibly removed it.”
Asking Judy out on a date for the first time
Some of you know how Judy and I met, but for those of you who don’t here is how it happened
I saw Judy sitting across the room in our History of Civilization class
She was sitting by a another girl I knew from Bible Quiz Team in PA
I asked this girl if she knew whether Judy was dating anyone (she found out that Judy was not seeing anyone)
One day after class I caught up with Judy, introduced myself and then asked her if she was interested in going to the movie that was being shown at the Student Union Building that evening
Her response was that she needed to study (her focus was in the right place, only 3 weeks in to our Freshman year)
I was persistent, because Judy has these incredible freckles, a beautiful smile, and a quiet personality – I found out later that she was also fully committed to the Lord
Since she had to study that evening, I asked her if she would like to go to the movie that was playing at the local cinema in downtown Huntington, IN
It was then that she realized that I was asking her out on a date
She agreed to go to the movie with me and the rest is history – 27 years of marriage, nearly 30 years of knowing each other, and three sons later
Our children are persistent
I know this doesn’t happen with anyone else’s children, but our children have pestered us in the past when they really wanted something
They can be very persistent in presenting their case for “needing” something
Again, I know this hasn’t happened to anyone else, but I’ve had to tell them not to bring it up again, because they’ve mentioned multiple times in a day for several days
I want everyone to take a moment to think about a time when you’ve been persistent
How did it turn out? (positive or negative?)
Areas where we can be persistent
How many of you have experienced the persistence of a telemarketer? [share the story of the recent telemarketer]
It’s well known today that within the medical community, we have to be our own advocate, especially when something is wrong and the doctors don’t know what’s happening
Finding a job
School (college may be more challenging than high school)
Saving for the future
We’ll see in these five verses today that Satan never gives up. He has lost the war, but continues to battle. He has lost his head, but is still harmful. He may be defeated in one area, but that doesn’t stop him. Instead he comes at God’s people from a different angel or attacks a different group. Throughout his persistent attacks, God protects His people. That’s what John wants us to understand today, that...
BIG IDEA – Evil is persistent, but God protects His people.
GOD (Revelation 12:13-17)
Failures of the Dragon
The enormous red dragon fails to devour the male child (Jesus) born by the woman (Rev. 12:4-6)
The dragon in defeated in a heavenly battle against Michael and his angels (Rev. 12:7-8)
These failures don’t stop the dragon from continuing to pursue God’s people
What we see in Rev. 12:13-17 is an expansion of Rev. 12:6, The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
Pursuing the Woman (v. 13)
As we saw last week, Satan is a loser
He and his angels fought against Michael and his angels
He lost and was hurled down to earth
Satan recognizes that he has lost and is now on earth
He lost the war in heaven, so now he is waging war on earth
He begins the war on earth by pursuing the woman, which is representative of Israel and the church
Akin cites Mounce concerning who the woman represents, “It is out of faithful Israel that the Messiah will come [ultimately embodied in a particular woman named Mary]. It should cause no trouble that within the same chapter the woman comes to signify the church (v. 17). The people of God are one throughout redemptive history. The early church did not view itself as discontinuous with faithful Israel. (Revelation, 232) [Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 216]
He pursued the woman
Osborne cites Swete about the meaning of the Greek word for “pursued.”
“There is a double meaning in this verb, as the dragon both ‘pursued’ and ‘persecuted’ her (so Swete 1911: 157.” [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 482]
We will see this played out in verse 15
There we see the persecution described as water coming from the serpents mouth
We will see an exodus motif throughout these five verses, which will remind us of the Israelites and all they went through as they fled Egypt
Here we see the dragon pursuing the woman, which reminds us of Pharaoh pursuing the Israelites
She is fleeing into the desert, just as the Israelites had done
Exodus 14:8, The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly.
The people of God, who are still on earth during this period of the tribulation, will be pursued and persecuted by Satan
Although they will be pursued and persecuted by Satan, they will be protected by God
Protecting the Woman (vv. 14-16)
PRINCIPLE – God provides protection for His people.
We’ll see this principle played out in vv. 14 and 16
God will not allow Satan to overtake His people
God provides the woman with two wings of a great eagle
Exodus typology seen again
The people of God are not given two literal wings of an eagle to fly away to the desert
It is a picture of God’s providential protection and care of His people [Akin, 216]
The imagery of wings in Scripture points to God’s protective care
This was true when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt
Exodus 19:4, ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.’
God protected the Israelites as they fled Egypt and brought them to Mt. Sinai where He met with them
Deuteronomy 32:10-12, In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up hits nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions. The Lord alone led him; no foreign god was with him.
This promise of protection and care isn’t just for the Israelites, but it’s for everyone who puts their hope in Jesus Christ
Isaiah 40:29-31, He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
God promises to protect and care for us as we experience the persistence of evil in our lives.
Purpose of the two wings
It is to protect the people of God until they reach the place He has prepared for them in the desert
The desert is a place of spiritual protection [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 241]
We see throughout the Old Testament that individuals fled into the desert where God protected and provided for them [Osborne, 464]
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him. (1 Samuel 22:1-2)
Read 1 Kings 19:3-9 (Elijah)
Hosea 2:14, “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. (This speaks of God restoring Israel and He does it in the desert)
Jesus spent time in the wilderness alone, so He could communicate with God (Mark 1:35; Matt. 14:13; Luke 4:42; 5:16)
While in the desert, God also provides for their needs
God will provide nourishment for His people
If we continue with the comparisons to the Exodus in the Old Testament, we know that God provided nourishment, supernaturally, for the Israelites in the form of manna
While it’s not stated here, how God will provide nourishment for His people, we know that He has the power to do it supernaturally
PRINCIPLE – God sustains His people through difficult times.
Perhaps you’ve experience this in your own life
When you’ve experienced emotional or mental difficulties, God sustained you through His Word or another person that He sent your way
Maybe you were going through a difficult financial time and God provided in a supernatural way at just the right time
Those of us who have gone through spiritual battles and have come out the other side, know what it’s like to be sustained by God through the battle
In this end times scenario we see that God’s protection will be complete, but limited
God’s protection will be complete for a limited time
The serpent will not be able to reach this remnant
They will be protected and nourished for three and a half years (a specific period of time, if not a literal 3.5 years)
Here the three and a half years is identified as time, times and half a time
In verse 6 it was explained in days – 1,260 days
Osborne sees this as “a direct allusion to Dan. 7:25 and 12:7 . . . when the saints will be ‘handed over’ to the little horn, who will ‘oppress’ them (7:25). This is the flip side of that emphasis: they will be oppressed through physical persecution but will be nourished spiritually by God.” [Osborne, 482-83]
They will be protected from the serpent’s deceptions and lies for a period of time
Satan is persistent in his pursuit of God’s people – he isn’t giving in – he’s trying to turn the world against this Jewish remnant
The serpent’s persecution
We see that the serpent’s persecution is compared to water that is spewed from his mouth like a river
Verbal instead of physical
Some believe the reference to water or a flood represents an army that will try to overtake God’s people (this certainly could be the case and there are Biblical references to the earth swallowing people)
Others believe it represents words, especially since it is coming from the mouth of the serpent
“Satan, who can no longer accuse the saints to God, accuses them to the world instead.” [Keener, The NIV Application Commentary, Revelation, 323]
Satan is trying to drown God’s people with lies and deceit
There is a good possibility that what we are seeing here is another round of anti-Semitism
Jews have, long been persecuted and spoken of poorly, especially in the Middle East
Those who partner with her are also ridiculed and persecuted
It definitely represents some kind of evil or tribulation that God’s people will be confronted with
Psalm 18:4, The cords of death entangled me; the torrents (floods) of destruction overwhelmed me.
The Psalmist also uses the idea of water and floods to depict evil or tribulation in Psalm 32:6 and 69:2
Isaiah 43:2, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
The reference to the water coming from the mouth of the serpent, strengthens the idea that what is being spoken of here relates to words and speech
PRINCIPLE – Satan will use lies and deceit to try to overtake God’s people.
We see this in our culture all the time
It’s the old adage, “He said, she said.”
I’m convinced that in certain situations and scenarios, we will never know the truth
That’s heart breaking
We stretch the truth for our own purposes, to accomplish what we believe is right
Maybe we have experienced this in our own lives?
Anytime something false is said about us to multiple people, it is nearly impossible to correct it because no one really knows how far the lie has gone
In our humanness, we are reluctant to go back to those we told the false information to and make it right
But, that’s what we should do
We should make every effort to return to each person that we spoke to and correct the false information we spread
The next step is to encourage them to do the same thing
While it will probably never reach every person who heard, at least an effort was made to make it right
My Next Step Today Is To: Make right, with as many people as possible, something that I falsely communicated about someone or something.
Whether it’s words (lies and deceit) or people physically assaulting God’s people, we know that God will protect them
We see that something miraculous takes place to protect God’s people
The earth opens its mouth and swallows the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth
Most scholars agree that this is a particularly difficult concept to interpret
If the water that the serpent spews from his mouth is referring to an army or people, then certainly there are Biblical references of the earth opening up and swallowing those who were being deceitful or propagating evil against God’s people
Osborne cites Dochhorn who believes that what we see here is another reference to the Exodus [Osborne, 484]
While the Israelites were wandering in the desert, there was a group that began to rebel against Moses (Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On along with 250 Israelite men)
Numbers 16:30-32, “But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens it mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.” As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions.
We see this same episode recounted in Deut. 11:6
In the Song of Moses, found in Exodus 15 we see him describing the defeat of the Egyptians with similar word pictures
Exodus 15:12, You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.
“Throughout the OT, this image speaks both of divine judgment and God protecting his people from those who would lead them astray (the sons of Korah) or destroy them (the Egyptians).” [Osborne, 484]
If the water from the serpent’s mouth represents lies, slander, and deceit, then God in His sovereign power protects His people from these lies and slander
Perhaps He’ll cause the lies and slander to fall on deaf ears or for the lies and slander to be so outrageous that no one will believe them
However He chooses to do it, is up to Him
The overarching theme is God’s protection of His people
Evil is persistent, but God protects His people.
We can have confidence, when we experience the persistence of evil in our own lives, that God will protect us
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s promise to protect me, as His child, when evil persistently pursues me.
Satan realizes that he is defeated once again – he is unable to overpower and drown God’s people with lies and deceit, so he turns his attention to the woman’s offspring
Pursuing the Offspring (v. 17)
We see that the dragon (Satan) is enraged at the woman
What we see here is an intense, passionate anger
Just imagine if we were trying to stop something from moving forward, because we hate the person who started it
But ever angel and approach we use, to try to stop the movement, ends in failure
We would have an intense, passionate anger at the person or group that continues to move forward successfully
I’m reminded of the Apostles persecution by the Pharisees and religious leaders
They were doing God’s will and following His direction in sharing the Gospel in Jerusalem, but the Pharisees and religious leaders didn’t see it that way (they thought they were right)
Read Acts 5:29-39
We can try to fight against God, but we will lose, every time
Instead, we could join God in what He is doing and experience His blessing
Satan didn’t let go of his anger, but rather used it to make war against the woman’s offspring
He goes to make war against her offspring
Satan is persistent, he isn’t giving up
There are two primary views about who is represented by the offspring
Those who hold to the belief that the woman represents Israel, say that her offspring are all other followers of Jesus Christ, both Jew and Gentile
Others believe that the woman represents the church universal, both Jews and Gentiles collectively, as a whole, so her offspring represent individuals within that group
While the identification of the woman’s offspring is not spelled out directly in this passage, there is one thing we know for sure – they are followers of Jesus Christ, Christians!
The second half of verse 17 makes this clear
They obey God’s commandments
We demonstrate to the world that we are true followers of Jesus Christ by what we do [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 215]
1 John 5:3-4, This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
1 Corinthians 7:19, Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.
So, we have to ask ourselves, “Are we obeying God’s commandments?”
The woman’s offspring weren’t only obeying God’s commandments, but they were also holding to the testimony of Jesus
They hold to the testimony of Jesus
We also demonstrate a true commitment to Jesus Christ by what we have [Easley, 215]
We believe and share the same testimony as Jesus Christ did
1 John 5:10-12, Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
How do we have the Son, so we can have life?
Recognize our sin
Romans 3:10-12, As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:23 and 6:23
Repent of our sin (It is more than just being sorry about our sin, but actively turning away from it, determining in our hearts and minds not to return to it)
Accept God’s plan to deal with our sin
2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus took our punishment for sin when He died on the cross
God accepted Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, on the cross, by allowing Him to come alive again in three days
God’s plan of salvation comes only through Jesus Christ – He is the way, the truth, and the life
No one comes to the Father except through Jesus
1 John 5:13, I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
Eternal life is the kind of life we need here on earth to obey God and it is the kind of life we need to spend eternity with God in heaven some day
Are you holding to the testimony of Jesus?
Have you believed in the name of Jesus and received eternal life?
My Next Step Today Is To: Believe in the name of Jesus and what He did to take my punishment for sin, so I can have eternal life.
Evil is persistent, but God protects His people
You can claim that promise for yourself today
No matter how evil is tempting you, you can trust in God’s protective power over the situation and circumstances
You have to recognize that Satan will use lies and deceit to try to overtake you
He’ll allow you to believe that you are right or justified in spreading something false about a situation or a person
Satan wins when you give in to his persistent temptations to share something juicy about someone or something
God can still win in that situation when you repent and return to those whom you have shared false information with and make it right
God is glorified when you humbly confess your wrong doings and seek forgiveness and reconciliation
You demonstrate to the world that you are truly a Christian when they see you obeying God’s commandments and holding to the Gospel of Jesus Christ
As the body of believers here at Idaville Church we have the responsibility to demonstrate to those in the greater Idaville area what true Christianity looks like
We have to claim God’s promise to protect us even while evil persistently pursues us
We show our community what a relationship with Jesus is truly like when we love one another and are united in the Pursuing, Growing, and Multiplying Disciples for Him
Charles Wesley beautifully expresses all that we have talked about in Revelation 12 in one of his hymn, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Come, Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of ev’ry nation, joy of ev’ry longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.