Posted: 20 Dec 2010 11:00 PM PST
THE VISION OF REVELATION 12 provides the ultimate cause of the ongoing tribulations of the people of God. That cause is nothing less than the rage of Satan.
The woman in this chapter is not Mary, but a figure representing the people of God. From her springs Jesus, the son "who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter" (Rev. 12:5). Yet she is not simply Israel, for after Jesus ascends to God, the woman is left behind with "the rest of her offspring—those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 12:17). The woman, then, represents the collective people of God, whether of the old covenant or of the new.
Satan in this chapter not only fails in his vicious attempt to destroy Jesus (Rev. 12:4–5), but he is defeated by Michael and thrown out of heaven (Rev. 12:7–9). He is hurled to the earth (Rev. 12:9). Raging against this restriction (Rev. 12:13), raging as well "because he knows that his time is short" (Rev. 12:12) before his utter destruction, he is filled with fury against the woman and her offspring. Much of the rest of the chapter describes his attack on the woman and her children—on us Christians!—in symbol-laden language drawn from the Old Testament.
Among his attacks are accusations designed both to destroy our confidence and to engage God's wrath against people as sinful as we are: Satan is "the accuser of [the] brothers" (Rev. 12:10). But in one crucial verse (Rev. 12:11), John tells us how these believers overcome the devil.
(1) "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb." The preposition translated as by in the NIV should be rendered "on the ground of." When all his accusations are brought before us—so many of them entirely justified, if we gauge things only by the quality of our faithfulness—Satan is silenced when we insist that our acceptance before God is grounded not in ourselves but in the death of Jesus Christ. "Who is he that condemns?" Paul exultantly asks. "Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us" (Rom. 8:34). We neither have nor need another ground for our acquittal.
(2) "They overcame him by … the word of their testimony." This does not mean that they frequently gave their testimonies. It means, rather, that they constantly bore testimony to Jesus Christ; in short, they constantly proclaimed the Gospel. That is what spells Satan's defeat. Keep silent, and Satan wins.
(3) "They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." You cannot defeat an opponent who is not only willing to die, but for whom death means winning (Phil. 1:21).
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