Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Christmas story with prequel and sequel

The woman and the Dragon - Rev. 12 (Artist unknown)
The woman and the Dragon - Rev. 12 (Artist unknown)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Revelation 12:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her child was caught up to God and His throne." Revelation 12:5


A few weeks ago our pastor preached on this very passage in the Summer Stories series. He used the verse above as the abbreviated retelling of the Christmas story. For John sees things on the grand scale and his revelation places the nativity into a far larger story.

It's a story told here in apocalyptic literature style using lots of symbols. But they're not hard to unlock. Even common readers like us can get their meanings.
  • The woman (Revelation 12:1 and on) is Israel ("garland of twelve stars" = the twelve tribes of Israel).
  • The child to which she gives birth is Jesus.
  • The fiery red dragon is Satan.
  • Revelation 12:7-9 is a flashback scene (the prequel) of Satan being cast out of heaven to earth. (Remember Jesus' words: "'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven'" Luke 10:18?)
  • Satan's current battle is with Israel and her offspring (Christians) - Revelation 12:7.

This view of history explains so much. It helps us understand:


  • The persistent persecution of the Jews and their survival (Revelation 12:13-16). 
  • The force behind all the evil on earth—the bloodshed, hatred, natural disasters, sickness, interpersonal conflict in wars and terrorism etc. Our world is in its desperate state because it's under the influence of Satan "… who deceives the whole world; he was cast to earth and his angels were cast out with him. … For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath because he knows that he has a short time" - Revelation 12:9,12 (emphasis added).
  • Where we fit in. This story isn't finished. We are right now part of the sequel of the Christmas instalment, involved in the thick of the battle of the last verse: "And the dragon was enraged with the woman and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" - Revelation 12:17 (emphasis added).

However, victory over this red, angry, teeth-gnashing, tail-lashing dragon is possible. How?
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" - Revelation 12:10 (emphasis added).

Our weapons are the blood of Jesus painted on the doorposts of our hearts that keeps out the death angel and the word—God's plan in history and our own involvement in it ("the word of their testimony" in both the Bible and our lives). When we find ourselves in the thick of any battle, let's not forget what our weapons are and not cease to use them.

 

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for giving us this behind-the-scenes glimpse of history. Help me to keep this big picture in mind and my weapons in hand when I'm in the thick of battle. 


MORE: Feast of St. Michael and all Angels
Today the church celebrates the feast of St. Michael and all angels. The angel Michael is comes up in our reading in Revelation 12:7 as the leader of the army of angels who fought against Satan and his army.

The liturgy for this day begins with this collect:

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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