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Revelation 12 and the Great Controversy

The Great Controversy Theme

Revelation 12

 

Brief Idea: The war between Christ and Satan is the unseen reality that answers many of our most perplexing “why?” questions. Adventists, to Satan’s great chagrin, have been given insights into this battle. He is “angry” with the end-time remnant that has the “testimony of Jesus” through which his battle plan and history has been so thoroughly exposed. It is no coincidence that the same prophecy that introduces the war (Revelation 12) mentions also his hostility against the end-time body.

 

Genesis 3 and Revelation 12

 

Genesis 3 contains the Old Testament story that provides the symbols used in Revelation 12.

 

Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”  And the woman said unto the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said,’ Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’” And the serpent said unto the woman, “Ye shall not surely die:” . . . .  And the LORD God said unto the woman, “What is this that thou hast done?” And the woman said, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”  And the LORD God said unto the serpent, “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Gen 3:1-4, 13-15

 

In Revelation 12 we find that the enmity has not faded even over the course of millennia.

 

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. . . .  And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. . . .  And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Re 12:9, 14, 17

 

What Revelation reveals is that the serpent in Genesis 3 was not a lone evil figure. He has a name, “the Devil” and “Satan”; he deceives “the whole world.” And more than this, he “and his angels” have been “cast out” into this “earth.”

 

From these few verses we gain an insight into the history of the universe that is surprisingly little understood.

 

We find, for example, that the devil is not on this earth by choice. We find that he is the leader of many angels. They are bound here. And they make it their business to deceive this entire planet.

 

They have particular enmity against the “woman.” And as in Genesis 3, this enmity is played out between the seed of the serpent and the “seed” of “the woman.” Persons that join the “remnant of her seed” launch themselves into the fiercest conflict on this earth.

 

Revelation 12 reveals “another wonder” in verse 3, indicating that we should not necessarily expect a chronological flow from verse 2 to verse 3.

 

And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.  And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: Rev 12:3-4.

 

What is this figure of a “tail”?

 

Isa 9:15  The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.

Joh 8:44  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

 

From what Jesus said it is easy to identify the “seed” of the serpent. Those that imitate the character of the serpent are “of him.” He is their “father.” And so they are his seed. That, in John 8:44 and Rev 12, includes both wicked men and wicked angels.

 

In what sense is Satan their father? He is the father of their sin. “For he is a liar, and the father of it.”

 

The war between the two seeds finds a focal point in Revelation 12. It is directed especially against the man child, Jesus.

 

“And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. 5  And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. . .”

 

We noted earlier that the liar had cast a third part of the angels (stars are angels, Revelation 1:20) to earth. We find in verses seven to nine that though it was his lies that caused their fall, it was not his power that expelled them from heaven.

 

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Re 12:7-9.

 

This “war” in “heaven” was not the end of the Great Controversy, however. The fallen angel that could not prevail against heavenly angels has thought rather to prevail against redeemed men. The devil’s work has been to accuse the saints before their God. This is how, in Zechariah’s vision, Satan has resisted God’s faithful for ages.

 

And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. Zech 3:1-4.

 

But this banter between Christ and Satan was not to defile the heavenly courts indefinitely. As it was lies that drew a third of the angels to Satan’s side, so it was a mighty revelation of truth, even the cross, that put an end to Satan’s access to the throne. He no longer accuses us before the Father.

 

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. Rev 12:10

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. Joh 12:31

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Lu 10:18

 

Don’t think for a moment that Satan was not bothered by this restriction on his movements. His anger was, in fact, the cause of the irrationally cruel persecutions of the early Christians. Though Satan knows as well as you that the “blood of martyrs is seed”, yet he was beside himself with fury and promoted the cause of God by the surreal nature of his hostility.

 

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

 

So the good news to heaven was bad news to us. The warfare became more intense here even as it ceased there.

 

Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. Re 12:12

 

Our Defense and Way of Escape

 

The key to our victory over the evil one is dependence on the power of Christ’s sacrifice. Our willingness to speak up for the Lamb, even at the cost of our lives, utterly unnerves the devil and is the cause of his immediate defeat.

 

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Re 12:11

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Jas 4:7

 

And while every individual has a spiritual means of overcoming Satan, God has also provided a societal means for the church of the middle ages and for the church in our day. They were to flee to the mountains and less inhabited places – like the Alps, like the Americas. For 1260 years the church found refuge in such retreats.

 

And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. Re 12:14-16

 

(We are to settle in country settings and be prepared to flee to the mountains also.)

 

Adventist Insights

 

From Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 Adventists understand something of the fall of Lucifer from perfection. From the book of Job we understand something of how the honor of God is involved in the behavior of his people.

 

From comparing Revelation 12 to Revelation 13, Revelation 17 and Daniel 7, we understand how Satan has used the domineering kingdoms of this world as if they were his own. So while it is Pagan Rome that tried to kill Jesus, and Papal Rome that chased God’s people into the wilderness, and it is America that speaks “as a dragon” at the end, yet the seven-headed ten-horned monster is always the devil working, as he did in Genesis 3, through a medium.

 

But the closest we get in scripture to a revelation of what kind of lies Satan used to deceive the heavenly angels is found in the last verse of Revelation 12.

 

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Re 12:17.

 

From this passage and the story of Job we learn that Satan denies that God’s law is able to be kept. Satan told God that even the most righteous man on earth, Job, would “curse thee to thy face.”

 

But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. Job 1:11

But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. Job 2:5

 

We find in that story that Job had a word of testimony that sounds similar to that of the faithful overcomers in Revelation 12 who “loved not their lives unto death.”

 

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: Job 13:15

 

From Zechariah 3 and from Jude 9 that Satan contests that God can not be just and merciful at the same time. If, for example, God wishes to be just, then he must condemn Joshua and Moses for their sins. God’s Old Testament response, before the cross, simply asserted God’s right to be merciful and left the proof of that right to Christ’s future decease.

 

And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Zec 3:2

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. Jude 9

 

At least as early as Genesis 3 Satan was promoting the idea of the immortality of the soul to the woman. But it might be a stretch to say that he deceived the evil angels the same way. It seams from Revelation 12 that he “knows he has but a short time.”

 

Additional Notes on the Chapter

 

Church Births

 

In Galatians 4 and Isaiah 54 and in several other passages we find the metaphor of the church travailing in pain. In scripture she gives birth to Jesus, to the final generation, and in her worst time, to “wind.” Is 26:18.

 

This is a fruitful field for study. The devil tried to devour the church’s first child. He is not likely to leave the last one without harassment.

 

For a Word Doc click here: Rev_12_-_The_Great_Controversy_Theme

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