Revelation 12-14
(Celestial Battles)
December 28th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

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.

- Revelation 12:3 (KJV)

Summary of Chapters

In the previous chapters the Apostle John had described seven seals opened from a scroll and seven angels blowing seven trumpets. In this set of chapters he describes a series of significant signs and celestial battles.

Chapter 12 records two signs: A celestial woman with a crown of twelve stars who was about to give birth and a dragon who tried to snatch the baby as it was born. The woman delivered a son who would rule the nations and who was taken up to God. The woman then fled into the desert. Meanwhile, the dragon battled with Michael and the other angels in heaven, but was defeated, and thrown back to earth where he had a limited time to achieve his evil purposes. He pursued the woman, who was given wings of an eagle to flee from his presence. The dragon persisted, but the earth protected the woman. As a result, the dragon was unable to capture her, so he sought her offspring instead:

    Helpless with rage, the Dragon raged at the Woman, then went off to make war with the rest of her children, the children who keep Godís commands and hold firm to the witness of Jesus.

    - Revelation 12:17 (MSG)

In chapter 13 John describes a bizarre beast that emerges from the sea and another that came out of the earth. That one had ďhorns like a lamb but spoke like a dragon (Rev 13:11-NIV).Ē The second beast deceived people into worshiping the first one and forced all the people to receive the mark of 666 on their right hands. They would not be allowed to conduct commerce without this mark.

Then, in chapter 14, John saw ďthe LambĒ and the 144,000 who had been sealed with the mark of God. They sang a new song to the Lord. Subsequently, an angel was dispatched to every nation and declared that the hour of judgment had come. A team of angels set out to destroy Babylon and all who had the mark of the beast on their forehead or hand, but those who believed in the Lord would be given eternal rest.

Reflection and Application

We have reached a section in Revelation that some commentators called the most difficult of all. Some of the imagery seems easy enough to follow. For example, the woman giving birth is presumed to be the nation of Israel giving birth to the Messiah, and the dragon represents Satan. The image of the mother Israel connects the Old Testament roots and the New Testament reality. The twelve stars in her crown could represent the twelve tribes of Israel or the twelve disciples of Jesus. Satan used King Herod to try to kill Jesus shortly after birth and then tried to co-opt Jesus in the desert, but failed in both occasions, as recorded in the Gospels. Johnís testimony of this vision skips over the life of Jesus on earth and jumps immediately to the Ascension: "and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne (Rev 12:5b - KJV)."

The time of the woman in the desert could have represented the escape of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to the desert, but more likely represented the persecution of the church in the latter part of the first century because John describes it as occurring after the Ascension of Jesus. The desert also represented a frequently used image of refuge in the Bible, such as the exodus of the Israelites who headed to the desert following their escape from Pharaoh. The wings of an eagle given to the woman is reminiscent of various scriptures, including one from Exodus, which quotes God explaining his role in the escape from Egypt and one from Isaiah that many runners find to be inspirational:

    You have seen how I treated the Egyptians and how I bore you up on eaglesí wings and brought you to myself.

    -- Exodus 19:4 (NAB)

    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.

    - Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV)

The war that Satan waged against the offspring of Israel is still being fought today. We donít have to look far to see where evil has triumphed through war, greed, and violence. We probably donít have to look far to see where we are tempted to be co-opted by the world. Itís important to acknowledge that this battle is real and to prepare ourselves as any soldier would. Immersion in scripture and in praise music is one element of a successful strategy. The more we fill our mind with the words of God the less room there is for accepting the words of the deceiver. We might also find spiritual strengthening during time spent in nature, away from manís world and into Godís creation.

The images in chapter 13 are sometimes referred to as the "Counterfeit Trinity (1)." The dragon represents Satan, the first component of this unholy trinity. The first beast, which came out of the sea, represents the Roman Empire. Each city therein had temples for worship. The Christians countered that with worship of God and the beast responded by blaspheming God. The second beast and third member of the evil alliance came from the land. It glorifies the first beast and the dragon, thus it represents false religion. This scenario occurred during the era of the Roman Empire, when there were priests in the temple directing people to worship the emperor. A similar situation occurred in other eras, including Nazi Germany in the 20th century. Eric Metaxas gives a good account of the takeover of the church by the Nazis In his biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The second beast also administered its mark on the people. The Roman citizens had to have this mark to conduct business, but the Christians refused to bow down and therefore suffered for it.

The Mark of the Beast and the number 666 are concepts that appear to be widely recognized in our society Ė but perhaps not as widely understood. In ancient days, the idea of the mark on the skin might be equivalent to the mark put on a slave by a master or the mark on a coin, indicating, in either case, that the object permanently belonged to the master. There is no consensus on the meaning of the number 666, but one prevailing theory is that it represents the imperfection of man Ė one value short of the complete number 7 for each digit. Another theory is that the numbers representing letters of an alphabet add up the name of a person on earth. For example, the Greek name of the Emperor Nero spelled out in Hebrew letters fits this equation.

Some people would claim that when our identity is represented by a number that we are moving closer to accepting the Mark of the Beast, but this theory seems to miss the point. Those who accepted the Mark have fully abandoned God. Those who pledge themselves to God receive his Seal, regardless of what numbers they might use to represent themselves.

Those with the Seal of God will be given wings of eagles to flee from danger and will be saved on the day when his Angels reap the final harvest and heave it into "the winepress, the giant winepress of Godís wrath (Rev. 14:19 - MSG)." It is up to us to choose which way we want to go. Accept the seal of God and serve him by serving others here on Earth, or seek short-term satisfaction by following the Beast and his minions.

We have two video representations of songs to recommend to you today. The first is "On Eagles Wings," written by Michael Joncas, which provides an uplifting reflection on the image of God raising us up on eagles wings. The second is the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," written by Julia Ward Howe (May 27, 1819 Ė October 17, 1910), an American poet and social activist. It has been a popular patriotic song in America and was a favorite of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It's a victory song with references from the book of Revelation including this one:

    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
    He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
    He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
    Our God is marching on.

On Eagles Wings, performed by Josh Groban

Battle Hymn of the Republic, performed by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
at U.S. President Obama's Inauguration, January 21st, 2013

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is your favorite park or natural setting?
    2. What can you do today to fill your mind with Godís word?
    3. How do we resist the temptations of the Beast?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that evil only exists because you allow it and even then, only within the boundaries in which you allow it to work. Help us to wait patiently for your ultimate victory.

    Prayer Concern
    Those living under cruel dictatorships


    (1) Doll, Rev. Gregory, "Life Along the Post Road and the Book of Revelation, an Alternate Reading of Reality," series of lectures delivered in Darien, CT and New York City, January - June 2012, lecture delivered on 4/10/12

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Revelations 15-17 (Seven Final Plagues)

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