Holy War: Running With The Devil Or Running From The Devil
Authored by Mike Furey
Here we have a dragon against a pregnant woman. Possibly one of the most vulnerable and easiest targets is a pregnant person. How could a person in such a condition run from a dragon? How are we in our own human frailties going to disengage the power of the dragon in our lives? There is no way we can fight the evil and suffering in this world by our own power. Even with the help of others, no amount of human voluntarism or compassion can save the world. And worse, at the end of history when Satan is permitted to reign in terror upon the earth in his incarnation as the antichrist, it is a period known as the tribulation or the time of Jacob's trouble. Adolph Hitler will look like a gentle and kind Sunday School teacher compared to the antichrist. In Matthew 24 Jesus said pray you are not pregnant at such a time. Those in Judea especially are admonished to flee and run so fast you don't have time to grab your clothes. At the end of time the holy war will mushroom and evil will explode with power.
The First Sign
In this chapter there are two signs given. The purpose of a sign is to provoke reflection before God. The meanings of these signs are puzzling and only those who believe they are worth meditating over will get some clue to their meaning. We will not be able to completely decode the signs and comprehend their messages in their entirety, but one kernel of meaning that is certain to remain here is that there is a holy war in progress. The entire history of the world, especially of the history of Israel as recorded in the Bible is a story of how Satan has tried to wipe out the people of God, particularly the seed of Israel, and more particularly the lineage which would give us the messianic child, Jesus.
Verse 1: This New Testament book quotes the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament more than any other New Testament book. It is saturated with Old Testament allusions and reworking of OT imagery. John sees a vision of a woman like Joseph had seen in Genesis 37:9-10. In both the last book and the first book of the Bible, the sun represents Jacob/Israel, the moon Israel's mother, the twelve stars the twelve sons of Jacob; however, in Genesis there are only eleven stars because Joseph is not counted. Joseph is bowed down to by the sun, moon, and the eleven stars. He symbolizes the messianic son of God. As is possible only through the logic of the dream world, the imagery from Genesis and Joseph fades and merges with the imagery from Revelation and John. The imagery of the history of Israel merges with the history of the church. The dragon that oppressed God's people in Israel oppresses God's people in the church.
Verse 2: Out of the people of God came the messiah, Jesus. A new age is about to dawn. The Old Testament or Hebrew prophets tell us that before the new age, great tribulation would come upon the people of God, the time of Jacob's trouble. In addition to the warnings of the Hebrew scriptures, extra biblical apocalyptic writings contemporary with Daniel and later John also foretell great tribulation to precede the new messianic age.1 Ever since the first sin in the garden and with it the official declaration of the holy war, women have been having pains in the birthing process. Men may not suffer physically in the birthing process, but we assist in the delivery and suffer as our wives turn purple and veins raise themselves above their skin. Likewise, the ushering in of the new world that Jesus will bring will also bring birth pangs to the world before it brings the kingdom.
The Second Sign
Verse 3: Red symbolizes the blood thirsty murderous nature of Satan and the wars and rumours of wars he inspires. The antichrist will control the politics of the world. The seven heads with crowns and ten horns are referred to in Daniel. It is hard to decipher, perhaps it refers to a confederation of nations. It is commonly called "the one-world government." The wisdom of the world is teaching us to cooperate internationally, to make treaties and rightly so. The world is heading toward a "one world" government; according to the New Testament definition of "world," oikoumenh, it refers in general to the geography of the biblical world from the end of Europe to the Middle East, and in particular it refers to the Roman empire which extended from the end of Europe to the the Middle East up to the ancient nemesis of Rome, Parthia near India. Interestingly, in the Book of Revelation "the kings of the East" are independent of the so-called one world government. At any rate, a one world government of some kind, whether like we see in Star Trek movies or after the order of a stricter New Testament definition of a restored Roman empire called in NT code "Babylon," is inevitable and necessary in order to deal with nuclear terrorism, trade wars, economic disorder, ethnic cleansings, international drug trafficking, and etc.
The antichrist will control the economy of the world. The political confederation of the antichrist is also an economic union. Such an economic-based alliance would be beneficial for this money-driven world. Whatever makes money and drives the economy will inevitably lead the way in the future as it always has done in the past. Nations fall not because of bad ideology, but economics. Every dictator knows if the people have something to eat, they will not rebel. But if you fail to supply this basic economic requirement... The antichrist will have ideas on how to make money and nothing can stop that money making process. The Golden rule will still be in effect ever so much more: "Whoever has the gold rules." The antichrist will provide the political and economic genius of new leadership on the level of Socrates, Siddhartha, Confucious, and Moses. His statecraft will temporarily bring wizard-like wonderful answers to the politico-socio-economic dilemmas of the world.
The antichrist will use science and religion to control the world. The antichrist will use all of modern science and thinking as the props of his rule, and the god he will project will be one based on human wisdom as seen in the New Age movement with its very "excellent" and workable Buddhist-based perspective. (Buddhism does not lead to the antichrist. But the antichrist will adopt Buddhist-derived teachings. I respect Buddhism and apologize for any misunderstandings my viewpoint may generate.) In short, modern Buddhist teaching provides the underpinning of New Age thought which could very well provide a religious platform for the antichrist because it makes the most logical sense of all religions being based on wisdom from the humanistic earth rather than the divine heavens, and it unites different religions very nicely into one politically correct unit, and barely places any ethical boundaries on science. (If I were not a Christian I would be a New Age Buddhist because it is the most rational religion in the world, it is an inclusive philosophy of life more than an exclusive faith.) Furthermore, the antichrist's religion will be a lot like the Protestantism that supported Hitler's. Smart, but satanic. Wise, but wrong. Scientific, but deadly. Inclusive, but intrusive. Appealing, but appalling. Yet, our highest human wisdom will not bring the great shalom of peace and harmony, but destruction to believers and others. The "one world" government will persecute those of us who are not "politically correct." Since we will not bow down to other religions and we pray only in Jesus' name, we are considered intolerant and hard to govern. Since we take a stand against practicing abortion or ungodly forms of sexual expression, we are against "freedom" and modern science, which defines abortion and sexual expressions as matters of natural choice. We must not run to the world for help, but run from the dragon of this world. We are warned by the revelator not to sell our soul to the Zeitgeistof 666 just to get along or get ahead economically. The theme of Revelation is how to survive the holy war and the end time escalation of evil. How do you survive it? Gerhard A. Krodel says that Revelation teaches us that patience is the chief virtue of a Christian.2 Krodel says that true worship of the one true God is the only way to escape the full brunt of evil.3 Worship not the dragon. Worship only God himself. Run from the dragon. Run to God.
Verses 4-10: One third of the stars are swiped by the tail of the dragon. John is referrring to Isaiah 14, the fall of Satan. (In contrast, another theological perspective in the Bible like the one in Job still shows Satan free to go about in God's courtly presence.)4 Historically the passage in Isaiah is about a king who was full of pride and haughtiness. John's vision here seems to place the eviction of Satan out of heaven as a future event. Time does not exactly exist in heaven, so that adds to our confusion and linear mentality. John paints a picture of Satan having one third of the angels. God still has two thirds of the angels. We don't need to fear demons who are outnumbered two to one. Actually numbers are irrelevant. Even if all the creatures of heaven and earth tried to gang up on God, he wouldn't have to bat an eye to defeat them. God could whoop the devil without blinking an eye. Verses seven through nine say he once sent Michael the archangel and beat him with Michael's strength alone. Daniel 10:13 describes Michael as the guardian angel of Israel, waging battles for God's people. But why is God even bothering to wage these small battles and letting the holy war continue? I don't know except it is his will. And he wants you to do some of the fighting or as this chapter tells us he wants us to run. He wants you to be victorious by escaping, to run from the devil and not with the devil.
So, we must be willing to run, to accept setbacks and seeming defeat by the powers of this dark world. We must be willing to run like the few but fortunate Jews who fled Europe during the Nazi era to escape the "Final Solution." We must sometimes run, but someone might think: Are we just chess pieces in God's battle? Are we pawns? No. Spiritual warfare, if it does anything, it is not for God's pleasure and amusement; rather, it is how we become kings and co-rulers with Christ. If you suffer with him you will reign with him. I once owned a book about a man who spent fourteen years in solitary confinement under East Germany; I think it was called "Sermons From Solitary." The book was so good I lent it out and have never gotten it back. It was about a Christian minister who spent fourteen years alone in prison without physical human contact. That kind of torture is enough to drive one insane. He wondered how God could allow him to suffer so much. He suffered from food deprivation, injection from mind altering drugs, isolation, not to mention physical torture. How could God keep his servant in such a state of pain? He did. He allowed it. The preacher survived it all by coming to one conclusion. He must count it a privilege to suffer for the kingdom of God. The only thing that made sense was he had to suffer for the kingdom. If we cannot run from the dragon, what can we do? Sometimes we must accept suffering, but not only that, turn it over to God for his glory. He beat the dragon and did not lose his faith despite the "facts" of existence. Our task as believers is to flee evil and seek the kingdom of God. If we practice this ethic during the green days of our lives, we will be prepared for that great outbreak of evil when the firey breath of the dragon dries up our days and his tongue and tail lash out as never before.
The woman gives birth to the son, Jesus who is to rule with a rod of iron as Psalm two tells us. In this brief history of the life of Jesus it does not mention the cross. He is born and then snatched up to heaven. Jesus is "raptured" out. God is emphasizing the complete victory in Christ. God is emphasizing the ascension of Jesus rather than the death of Jesus. Nonetheless, Jesus suffered in all forms in his life. The devil tries to eat the baby as he is born which means that Satan through the agency of king Herod the Great tried to execute Jesus when he learned of his birth. As is possible in a visionary dream which is not bound by ordinary logical processes, the woman who at first represented Israel or the people of God in the OT, now represents the church, or the people of God in the NT. The woman flees into the desert which is the opposite of the city where evil stereotypically dominates. The desert represents the place where God took care of Israel for forty years after they fled Egypt. During the economic reign of Satan, we may not be materially advantaged, but God will provide. One internet preacher5teaches we should be debt free with our homes paid for and have set up a secondary shelter in a remote area with material supplies stocked up. Only a few could afford this measure. The point I am making is that our worship of God is our primary protection against that day.
Even if we had a secondary shelter, the natural cataclysmic disasters that befall the earth are inescapable6; nevertheless, the first half of the seven years of tribulation appear to be "peaceful." The 1260 days equal 3 1/2 years of peace for non-christian worshippers of the world system during the tribulation period. God alone can protect us and sometimes God requires that we die. Job had Satan the accuser slandering him in the courts of heaven. He begged God's permission to afflict Job. Perfect Job survived the testing of God and the tempting of Satan. Job said, "Though he slay me yet will I trust him." This saying of Job encapsulates the history of Israel and sets the direction for believers at the end times. But let's keep in mind that if we are called to lay down our lives for the Lord, think of the One who also was willing to lay down his life on the cross. Let's keep in mind the victory song beginning in verse ten. Our fight song begins at Calvary. Pablo Richard says the key to interpreting these signs is this nonallegorical, "nonmythic core" in verses ten and eleven.7 That is, the mythic language of the dragon may not be clear, but the actual death of Jesus on the cross is clearly historical and plain to understand. In early church history the way the NT Christians clipped the imperial claws of the dragon was Calvary, Confession, and Commitment.
- Calvary: They overcame him by the blood of the lamb.
- Confession: They overcame by the word of their testimony.
- Committment: They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Verses 13-14. Since the devil cannot touch the son of God and the church universal, he goes after individual believers. But then, God gives his people eagle wings for flight as Isaiah forty describes. When the Antiochuses, the Herods, and the Hitlers assume power, God's people must take refuge in other places than usual. Jesus left his home with his parents as an infant and went to Egypt of all places. Mary and Joseph once ran from the dragon.
Verses 15-17 Here Satan spews floods of lies against God's people. The big lie is one of the main concerns of philosophy called theodicy. The spirit of the antichrist is already in control of many with this strategy based on the wisdom of the senses. Satan loves to make God look bad and logic is one of the tools from his warchest. He casts doubt on the goodness of God. After all if God is almighty and good, why should there be suffering at all? Why doesn't the loving and powerful God as claimed by religion stop the starvation of infants and other insane injustices around us? This is the hardest question ever asked. It is based on reason, logic, and the senses. We need a revelation from above, from beyond our intellectual capacity to understand the answer. We need faith that God is good. The world is full of pain and suffering, and it is because of evil. I do not have to prove to you that evil exists. The Bible doesn't even try to prove that. What the Bible does show us is that good and evil are diametrically opposite. But they are not equal at all. The devil is not the opposite of God. The devil is not a god, although scripture may refer to him as the god of this world in the sense that he has a lot of worshippers called the children of darkness and in the sense that scripture calls a human "god" because he or she has reasoning faculties like God. The devil is not a god, but a leech. He is a parasite that sucks the good out of living things. The devil and evil could not exist on their own. They can only destroy and tear down. Evil can build no kingdom, but only latch on to one that already exists. Again, one question that disturbs thinking people is how could an almighty and good God give room to such an evil devil if he is truly the Almighty Lord? Incredibly, John doesn't even consider the question. Instead, he begins with the reality that faith is necessary in this world. Yes, this world is evil. Somehow we find a serpentine satan in the garden of Eden. How did he get there? The Bible does not say. The creep is just there. And we can't explain why bad things happen to us except to say that these bad things are just there. The devil pops up on a tree in Genesis and we find the war of good and evil beginning in primal history. As far back as humanity goes, the holy war goes. Revelation tells us that the reality of antigodly power and might exists, but that this power will end in Jesus Christ. God is waging a war against evil. He could end it now, but his purposes are beyond our knowing, except that evil will end and the future is clear. We are struggling and that struggle will not last forever. Before the struggles end, things will get worse. The holy war isn't over. Be ready to stay faithful when evil pursues you. It will pursue you. But, so will God's grace. Maintain this perspective in escaping the clutches of the pursuing dragon.
Satan's primary weapon has always been slandering reputations and dividing relationships. The root of all the evil that exists is a lie that twists relationships among persons and their relationship with God. Satan is all out to destroy those who obey God's commandments, a technical term for Jewish Christians, and those who hold to the testimony of Jesus, a technical term for Gentile Christians. Satan the slanderer is not only busy making God look bad, he is trying to destroy any witness we have as believers. The devil loves to chew us up in the grinds of gossip, so Christians live right and don't give the wicked one any thing to use. Here the earth swallows up the flood of lies. There is no basis for Satan's lies and God disposes them into the belly of the earth where they fall into the abyss of hell where they belong.
Chapter thirteen and verse one. The dragon waits on the sea. One commentator said Jews are not sailors at all and so the dragon goes to the sea looking forward to the Roman soldiers who will attack via the Mediterranean Sea. Chapter thirteen is an all out attack on believers. The holy war continues until the last day.
In conclusion, one day the armies of the dragon will be permitted to strike the earth in its full force and fury. Satan knows he has only a limited time left. Chapter twelve places us still in the heat of the holy war. Satan is going after you and me right now. He is on a rampage. And when given the chance to unleash his full power at the end time tribulation, he will come after believers like a blood thirsty mad dragon indeed. Like pregnant women barely able to run, we must run into the ark of worship beginning from the foot of the cross. We need to run from the dragon and to our awesome and worthy God.
1 Mitchell G. Reddish, Ed. Apocalyptic Literature: A Reader, Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1990.
2 Gerhard A. Krodel, Revelation: Augsburg Commentary On The New Testament, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1989, p. 106. This is my favorite commentary of all on Revelation. It builds off the work of Victorinus of Pettau, died c. A.D. 304 who authored the first surviving commentary on Revelation. He is the father of the recapitulation hermeneutic for Revelation, which is an outstanding lense by which to read and synthesize Revelation (confer Krodel).
3 Krodel, Revelation, p. 150 and through out the book. Krodel teaches that the message of Revelation is to surrender to the throne of God and not to the throne of evil. To survive any evil that befalls us, we must surrender it to God, especially before the great tribulation breaks out. Many commentaries on Revelation soon fade as their interpretations are made "silly" by hindsight. This commentary will stand the test of time and be applicable a thousand years from now, if the Lord tarries. For instance, sensationalist and popularist Hal Lindsey has had to re-write his intrepretation after twenty years. I recommend studying Hal Lindsey and others like him (Jack Van Impe); their method is to read the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other and make interpretations based on current movements in history. Of course, this interpretive style will date itself rather quickly. Unfortunately, when the audience hears such prophetic preaching it is exciting for them, but sooner or later it is depressing for them when "God's Word" doesn't occur according to the "time table" as so "clearly" stated.
4 J. M. Ford, Revelation: The Anchor Bible Commentary, Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1975, p. 206.
"According to Jewish sources there are two conflicting traditions concerning Satan's residence in heaven. In one he has a place, e.g. Zech 3:1-2, I Enoch 40:7, II Enoch 7:1, Ascension of Isaiah 7:9ff. In the other he was hurled down from heaven because he tried to place his throne beside God's (II Enoch 29:4-5; Book of Adam and Eve 9:1). The appendix to Rev 12 appears to follow the last tradition."
5 "Pan-handlers: Pan-tribulationism" at <http://www.neptune.on.ca/%7Ejyonge/panhand.htm> as of 971007
6 Gordon R. Lewis, Decide For Yourself: A Theological Workbook [For People Who Are Tired Of Being Told What To Believe], Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1970, pp. 163-168. Lewis discusses the different views of believers regarding the timing of the rapture. My view is the rapture could occur any time: before, during, or after the tribulation. I tend to think the church of God must suffer the cleansing effect of tribulation because judgment begins with the house of God and God's people are in pretty bad shape. Nothing draws a person to God like suffering. Are we any better than Israel who has been under the fires of suffering for millenia? Usually the popular version of a pre-tribulational rapture is taught in the media or the pulpit. At minimum, people should at least know the Bible is not cut and dried clear on this subject. The people of the church should not act like parrots quoting verses mindlessly.
7 Pablo Richard, Apocalypse: A People's Commentary On The Book Of Revelation, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1995, p. 101.