Revelation 12:13-17 — The War on the Earth

The war in heaven is over. The dragon has been expelled from heaven. The son’s throne is secure; the dragon cannot defeat him. But what’s a dragon to do? If he can’t devour the son, he will go after the mother.

The woman, as noted previously, represents the people of God–Israel gives birth to the Messiah. Subsequent to the Messiah’s ascension she represents the people of God who are the faithful followers of the Lamb. She is a metaphor for the corporate reality of God’s people. The woman is the church.

The dragon (or serpent) cannot destroy the woman. She is protected by God. When the dragon seeks her, she sprouts wings to fly to safety. Ironically, she is safe in the wilderness. God nourishes her there.

The wilderness image reminds readers of Israel’s own flight into the wilderness. Israel escaped Egypt into the wilderness. There God fed her, protected her and nurtured her.  The wilderness, though a testing time, was a safe place. In the same way, the church escapes destruction by the world powers (Roman powers) through divine protection. It is a wilderness experience, but it is also a safe place in the arms of God.

Even when the dragon seeks to destroy the woman in the wilderness by spewing a raging river-as happens in the Judean wilderness on occasion when rain runs off the mountains–that potentially would engulf her, the earth opened its mouth to swallow the water. Even the earth itself protects the woman; creation serves God’s interests. While the river came from the dragon’s mouth and thus is the dragon’s creation, the earth which is God’s creation protects the woman. The cosmic battle includes the earth itself and the earth serves God.

But if you can’t get at the son, and you can’t defeat the mother, what’s a dragon to do? The dragon is enraged by his expulsion from heaven, his inability to unseat the reigning king (the son), and his frustrated attempts to destroy the woman.The dragon will find whoever he can who is related to the woman. He determines to “make war” against the offspring of the woman.

Since the woman represents the people of God–both Israel and the church within redemptive history–her offspring are those who populate the people of God. They are believers; they are the followers of the Lamb.  The dragon cannot annihilate the people of God, but he will attempt to pick them off one-by-one just like a lioness picks off the weak and isolated members of a herd.

The offspring are specifically identified. They are “those who keep God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” They are the faithful followers of the Lamb who do not compromise with or accommodate to the culture. They embrace the testimony of Jesus.

Remember, however, that such an embrace is a committment to martyrdom; it is a commitment to be faithful even to the point of dying.

The dragon will “make war” against the followers of the Lamb. He will put some of them to death. Through death they will become faithful witnesses just like Jesus and they will reign with Jesus in God’s heavenly temple.

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