Reading for Tuesday, Nov 27: Revelation 12
Beginning with ch12, John gives us three chapters worth of visions that take a comprehensive view of the times in which the church lives: from the birth of Jesus until the end.
Ch12 opens with a cosmic scene: a pregnant woman, pursued by a great dragon. The woman gives birth to a child which the dragon seeks to destroy. But this royal child is swept away to heaven while the woman takes refuge in the wilderness. Several of the images are easy enough to decipher: 12:9 flat out tells us the dragon is Satan; the ruler-child is clearly Jesus; but, in my opinion, the mother who gives birth to the child should be expanded beyond Mary, the physical mother of Jesus. In this cosmic scene, the woman is wearing a crown of twelve stars. Twelve, in John’s motif, is the mark of the people of God. Furthermore, Isaiah and Jeremiah frequently refer to Israel as a woman in childbirth. The Messiah is not merely “Mary’s boy”; He is the royal lineage of Israel, the fulfillment of Israel’s promises, law, and prophecy. And in light of the new covenant Jesus brings us into, we should understand the woman as a composite of spiritual Israel / the church; the wilderness to which she flees is the context we find ourselves living in while we await the return of the royal child who has ascended to the heavens.
The final scene of this chapter emphasizes the “already but not yet” element of New Testament eschatology. The victory of Christ is heralded as a present reality in v10: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come…” And though we believe the forces of evil and darkness have ultimately been defeated ALREADY, we also acknowledge that we live in the midst of conflict — the defeated dragon will seek to take down as many as possible in the midst of these NOT YET times. And so we wait as a mother bereft of child in the wilderness while the dragon does his worst…yet we also take refuge in the wings of eagles (Ex. 19:4; Isa. 40:31), deliverance coming to us even in the present.