The third cycle ended with the seventh trumpet. And just like in the seventh seal, God appeared again. This is not to conclude that God appeared on the second time signifying multiple second comings as some have interpreted. No, for they simply show us the cyclic nature of the book. The last of the trumpet judgment puts an end to this age but it is signify the beginning of the new. Yet instead of the finishing the book, John begins again another cycle in his vision. This time using symbolic history (Revelation 12-14).
On this part of the cycle, God appears and we hear the declaration of God’s eternal rule in his kingdom. The great multitude in heaven sing: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15b).” These words were personally familiar to me because it is part of Handel’s song Messiah which my denomination sing during their anniversary. Just like when sang in the Anglican churches in London, we stand at the end of the service when large choir sing this song. The majesty of the choral and instrumental arrangement give elate the audience when they hear these famous words from Revelation 11:15b. It declares that the kingdom of sinful men are no more and God reigns forever more. God is victorious. He delivered on his promises. And the seventh trumpet highlights this reality.
Then moving forward, John repeats the cycle again and brings us back to another cycle between the first and second coming of Christ. This time he focuses on seven symbolic characters. 1) The Woman; 2) The Dragon; 3) The beast; 4) The false prophet; 5) The 144,000; 6) The angelic announcers; 7) The Son of Man. For this morning, we will focus on the first two and describe the details coming from verses 1-6. The whole series have three sermon points: 1) The Woman and the Dragon; 2) The Dragon’s Defeat; 3) The Protection of the Woman. We will spend the succeeding Lord’s Day on this topic so let us pray for it.
So before we begin, let us pray…
The Woman and the Dragon
verses 1-6: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.”
There are again several questions we need to answer this morning. Coming from these verses, there are several details set before us that makes us stop and ponder. Who is the woman and what does she symbolize? Who is the dragon and why is he trying to do?
Verse 1 speaks of a symbolic character referred to as a woman. According to John’s vision, she is “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” What does this mean? In the Roman Catholic interpretation of this text, the woman refers to Mary whom they attribute the “Mother” of all believers. Well yes, later we will identify Mary’s role as the virgin who gave birth to a son but the symbolism in general refers to the whole church as the mother of all believers first as nation Israel in the Old Testament and then including the Gentile believers in the New Testament.
The sun, moon, and stars refer to the vision Joseph receives in his dream. We can read it from Genesis 37:9-11:
“Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.”
The ones bowing down to Joseph were his family, the whole clan of Jacob including all of his brothers. It was prophecy foretold by Joseph which tells us of his role in redemptive history. He is a type of Christ portrayed as the Savior of Israel. He saves them from famine and death. And moving forward from Israel, specifically the tribe of Judah, Mary gave birth to Jesus. We can read from verse 2,“She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth”. Finally, the anti-type arrives and fulfilled prophecy of the promised Messiah.
Now, I know verses 1 and 2 seem complex. Believe me I studied this last year, I had the same sentiment. But studying it now I again, this interpretation does make sense. The scope of redemptive history covers the whole Old Testament history of redemption laid with historic symbolism. They are real events for sure but it takes a holistic view of history. That while Mary was specifically the one who gave birth, she was only part of the whole church. She must not receive veneration nor worship from us. Just like any believer, she was member of God’s kingdom. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now verse 3 speaks of the dragon. From the fifth trumpet, we had a glimpse of who this is. Satan was the dragon who tormented his own followers with famine, wars, and death. John describes him as “a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. I am looking forward on how Bro Reuel, our in-house artist and social media manager will portray him in our bulletin artcard but I am sure it will be challenging. This verse contain symbolism. Yes, Satan is a historical figure, he exists and until now continues to devour believers but of course, he does not literally come to us a fire breathing dragon. He is clever (seven heads), powerful (ten horns). He is the prince of his fallen world (seven diadem). He destroys his own followers (tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven). He owns the kingdom of this world do with them what pleases him but going back to the seven trumpet, John foretold that soon it becomes the kingdom of God and his Christ. But for now, he continues to defend his kingdom from the advancing kingdom of God. And as a offense, he tried to kill the woman by killing the Messiah (verse 4).
This cosmic battle begins at the fall. The seed of woman and the seed of the serpent will engage to war (Genesis 3:15). It is the proto-evangelium. And as declared by God himself, the promised seed of the Messiah will crush Satan and He will defeat the usurper. This epic tale of descendants between the people of God and the followers of Satan crosses path in redemptive history. The pharaoh sentenced to death the children of Israel in the Old Testament and King Herod did the same to Jesus in the Old Testament. Yet time and time again, we know from Scripture these attempts from Satan failed. The Messiah accomplishes the salvation of his people. Verse 5 says, “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” This one verse condensed the redemptive history of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus triumphs over Satan but Satan did not stop here. Instead of killing the child, he focused on persecuting the church and plot to destroy them here on earth.
Verse 6 reads, “and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days”.
Christians today live as pilgrims in exile between the two ages. This is what the wilderness symbolizes. It is not punishment but a picture of our suffering and tribulation. Yet according to this verse, we live under God’s protection, God nourishes us for 1,260 days. We know already that number. That is the whole period of the millennium. It the time between Christ’s first and second coming. It is the great tribulation, the church spiritual age, the time of exile for us waiting for Christ’s second coming. It is the time when God feeds us and nourishes us with Word and guide us and protects us with his Spirit.
ZCRC(Imus), we are living in the eschatological reality of our Triune God. In Christ, we are elected by God, and we are regenerated, converted, sanctified, and glorified by the Spirit. When our future seem uncertain, be encouraged by the fact that God has already won the decisive battle of this age and the age to come. For the Son has conquered death and the Holy Spirit has been poured out on sinful flesh. Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved!
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.