In Revelation 11:14 John leaves his audience with an ominous warning. Speaking of the death and resurrection of these Two Witnesses, the earthquake that demos 1/10th of the city of Jerusalem, and the 7000 souls that perish as a result, he writes, “The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.” Within the flow of his narrative and the context of what immediately follows, it’s clear this “third woe” is the sounding of the seventh trumpet.
Shifting the scene from the streets of Jerusalem back into the heavenly realm, John records… Revelation 11:15-18, “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’
And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying (this is their reaction to the sounding of the seventh trumpet): ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
With the blast of this seventh trumpet, all of heaven acknowledges the finality of God’s plan for the ages and specifically how this seven-year period of Tribulation will conclude. In an act of His “great power,” Jesus will return to earth and take possession of “the kingdoms of this world and reign forever and ever.” Additionally, in His “wrath,” Jesus will also “judge” the world of her wickedness and “reward His servants the prophets and saints.”
In many ways, verse 18 provides for the reader a general outline for the remainder of the book. While John hears this seventh trumpet blast and then records the reaction of heaven, we’ve already noted how Revelation 10:7 confirms what results on earth will demand an unspecified number of days. We read, “In the days of the sounding of the seventh angel.”
Just like the opening of the seventh seal initiated the blowing of these seven trumpets, we will see in chapters 15 and 16 the sounding of this seventh trumpet resulting in seven more bowl judgments being poured out on this world leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus.
It’s worth pointing out this is the third time we have John recording the worship of “the twenty-four elders who sat before God,” and in doing so we see an interesting progression.
In Revelation 4, they celebrated God as the Creator of heaven and earth! Then in Revelation 5, they fell on their faces and worshipped Jesus the Lamb as being their Redeemer. Now, in Revelation 11, we see them praise Jesus again but this time as a King and Judge.
They begin their song, “We give You thanks!” Understand, the Creator of this world not only had a responsibility to provide a way for redemption, but it was absolutely necessary the day come when He would right every wrong and restore things back to their original design.
You see it’s not enough for Jesus, in His capacity as Redeemer, to provide a way by which men might be saved. As a King and Judge, it is also necessary that those who commit wickedness face a day of reckoning. Never forget justice demands a fair judgment.
I know for some people the concept of hell is a sticking point when it comes to God. They struggle with the idea a God of love could allow such a place to exist in the first place!
Personally, I’d have a greater problem with God if hell didn’t exist! I look around this wicked world and wonder why anyone would be ok with a God who ends up allowing the evil deeds of men to go unpunished! Sure, I want God to be loving, merciful, and gracious, but I also want Him to be just, a defender of the weak, and willing to right serious wrongs.
Revelation 11:19, “Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. (What resulted on earth…) And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.” (A great storm was brewing.)
At this moment, following the blast of the seventh trumpet, as the elders are worshipping Jesus, John sees “the temple of God in heaven” being “opened.” There are a few things you should note about this “temple in heaven.” First, while this is the first mention of this heavenly temple in the Book of Revelation, we know the blueprints for the Tabernacle and later the Temple was patterned after heaven making this imagery consistent.
Secondly, the fact John says the temple “was opened” implies it has been closed or at least concealed from his view until this very moment. Whether this is a location different from the throne room or a new dimension of the same space, we can’t really say for sure.
Thirdly, it will become evident why John introduces us to this place here at the end of Revelation 11 because in chapters 14, 15, and 16 this temple will be used as a kind of launching pad by which the final set of cataclysmic judgments are poured out on the earth.
What is really fascinating about this passage and why it demands a few minutes of our attention is the fact John says he saw in this heavenly temple “the ark of His covenant!” All the way back in Exodus Moses had been given the prints for the creation of a piece of furniture known as the Ark of the Covenant. As the centerpiece for the Tabernacle, the Ark was located in the Holy of Holies and was the place the presence of God resided.
According to Hebrews, we know the Ark contained the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s budding staff, and a jar of manna. Additionally, we also know the Ark of the Covenant would ultimately move from the Tabernacle located in Shiloh to a permanent home in Solomon’s Temple. And yet, what’s bizarre is that at some point in time the Ark completely disappears. It’s no longer mentioned in Scripture and the archeological trail goes cold.
Because we have no record of the Ark being taken to Babylon along with the rest of the treasure of Solomon’s Temple and there is no reference of the Ark of the Covenant ever existing in Zerubbabel’s Temple, theories abound as to where the Ark is today. Some say the Ark was taken to the Ethiopian town of Aksum where it’s now held in St. Mary of Zion Cathedral. Others claim it was hidden in one of the many tunnels under the Temple Mount.
While I love diving into the archeology and enjoy all the various speculations as to the Ark’s current location, as much as it pains me, the most likely scenario is that the Ark of the Covenant has no earthly home as it presently rests in the Temple of God in heaven.
Why would this be the case? While it’s hard to say for sure because the Ark was the connecting point between heaven and earth having supernatural power and significance, it’s not hard to come up with some reasonable theories: God took the Ark from the Jewish people and their Temple to illustrate His displeasure… He removed it from earth to protect the Ark from falling into the wrong hands… Because Jesus came in the flesh and now the Holy Spirit indwells the hearts of men, the functional purpose of the Ark no longer exists.
As we move from chapter 11 to 12 keep in mind that John’s revelation of events is again going to be placed on pause. Between this seventh trumpet and the bowl judgments it unleashes, John will extend the intermission in order to introduce us to a few more characters central to these seven years of Great Tribulation. In doing this John will also utilize the opportunity to fill us in on some of the other important events happening on earth.
By this point, we’ve already been introduced to the 144,000 sealed by God as well as the Two Witnesses. Now, in chapter 12, we will find a reference to five more characters: a woman, a dragon, a Child, Michael the Archangel, as well as the offspring of the woman. While in chapter 11 we had a brief mention of the beast, in chapter 13, we will see him rise out of the sea followed by another who rises out of the land. There will be seven characters in total.
The initial thing you should think about regarding this section is that John will refer to what he sees as being “signs.” The reason this is noteworthy is that it tells us right from the beginning what John is recording should be viewed as being illustrative and not taken literally. John is using figurative language in his description of these various characters.
The other thing you need to consider, specifically with regards to chapter 12, is that John will record past events in order to set the stage for future happenings. There are a lot of ways you can approach this text… Our plan will be to read the chapter in its entirety, identify the characters, then unpack what future scenario John is documenting.
Revelation 12:1, “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.”
Revelation 12:5, “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. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.”
Revelation 12:7, “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
Revelation 12:10, “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.’”
Revelation 12:13, “Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.
But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 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.”
The first character we should identify is this “male Child.” We know He was born in “labor and pain” — which spoke of a time of great trouble for His mother. We also know He was hated by this dragon who wanted to “devour” Him the very moment “He was born.”
Additionally, we’re told this Child is destined “to rule all nations with a rod of iron” and that He was “caught up” from this earth “to God” where He was given a position of prominence at “His throne.” I don’t want to spend our time this morning proving the obvious. Clearly, this “male Child” is Jesus who perfectly fits John’s description.
With that in mind, let’s identify this “woman.” Establishing a complete mosaic of what we know about her from the chapter, in verse 2, John tells us she was “with child” and that the labor was very difficult. In verse 5, the moment came when she eventually “bore a male Child” (Jesus) whom this dragon wanted to “devour!” This is all presented in the past tense.
In a future scenario, recorded in verse 13, this woman is then persecuted by the dragon — which explains why in verse 6 she will be forced to “flee into the wilderness” for a period of 1260 days. In fact, verse 16 tells us she will be supernaturally protected from the evil intents of the dragon. Because of this development, verse 17 indicates the dragon will instead wage “war with the rest of her offspring who have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Regarding her identity, with all of these things in mind, we can definitely say this woman isn’t Mary. While she was the literal mother of Jesus, the simple truth is that she doesn’t fit the rest of the description — especially the portion that still has a future fulfillment.
Additionally, it also makes no sense to view this woman as being the Church. Aside from the fact the Church didn’t give birth to Jesus as it was He who gave birth to the Church, in 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul writes, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
Consistent with Old Testament imagery, a better fit for the identity of this woman would be the Jewish people or the Nation of Israel. Not only was Jesus born during a time of great “labor and pain” — the Roman occupation, but the description of her being “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars” is almost identical to Joseph’s dream of the family of Jacob (Israel) recorded in Genesis 37.
With the child being Jesus and the woman Israel, concerning the identity of this “dragon” we have no need to speculate. In verse 9, John tells us plainly that this dragon is “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.” Now what makes this chapter so interesting is that it provides for us the most complete profile of Satan anywhere in the Scriptures.
For starters, we’re told he is “fiery red” indicating he has a thirst for blood. The idea of him having “seven heads” with “seven diadems on each” along with “ten horns” tells us he is also cunning, powerful, and majestic — which is why he could “deceive the whole world.”
Beyond this, the reference of him being “that serpent of old” indicates it was Satan who originally tempted Eve into sinning and not a snake. In Genesis 3, we read, “The serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.” Not only did he lead man into sin, but as an angelic being, in his rebellion, he “drew a third of the stars of heaven throwing them to the earth.” Verse 9 says, “His angels were cast out with him.”
In His cursing of Satan back in Genesis 3:15, we read, “So the LORD God said to the serpent: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.’” With this in mind, we can understand why Satan “stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.” Apparently, King Herod was being Satanically motivated.
The two things that are absolutely clear concerning Satan from Revelation 12 is that he absolutely hates Jesus and despises the Hebrew people. Antisemitism is real, it’s evil, and it’s motivated by Satan himself. Whether it be the Nazis of the past or the fanatical Islamists today, it really transcends all reason and logic that such a small group of people would draw such vitriolic hatred from so many throughout the centuries.
Additionally, verse 10 provides us an insight into Satan’s current activity. Not only does Satan presently have access to heaven as confirmed in Job 1 (access that will be taken away), but he’s called “the accuser of the brethren.” Right this very moment, in the throne room of heaven, Satan is making accusations against the saints of God “day and night.”
Like Satan, there is no need to speculate regarding Michael. In fact, we actually know quite a bit about Michael from other passages. In his epistle, Jude confirms that Michael is an Archangel making him the most powerful of the angelic host — a great example of his power can be found in Daniel 10. Aside from this, Daniel 12 indicates Michael has been specifically charged by God to protect and minister to the Jewish people.
While there is no mystery as to his identity, the introduction of Michael in verse 7 following the record in verse 6 of the “woman fleeing into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” is significant. Again, there are portions of this chapter where John describes events that have happened in order to set the context for events that will take place.
In verse 7, we read that a moment in time will come when a “war” will “break out in heaven.” “Michael and his angels” will “fight with the dragon and his angels.” Not only will Satan and his angelic cohort “not prevail,” but “a place” would not be “found for them in heaven any longer.” According to verse 9, what results will be “the great dragon” and “his angels” being “cast to the earth.” Verse 13 picks up the narrative by then saying, “Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman.”
When thinking through the timing of what John is recording note the Bible describes four “falls” of Satan. When the story is completed, we know Satan’s final destiny will be hell when he leads one final rebellion after spending 1000 years bound in the Bottomless Pit. Aside from this, we also know Satan initially fell from glory when he originally rebelled against God. That said, he still maintains access to heaven where he accuses the brethren.
In this chapter it’s evident John is describing a future fall whereby Satan has his current access to heaven revoked. As you can imagine Satan doesn’t go quietly which results in this angelic war breaking out in the heavenly realm. Michael proves victorious and Satan’s domain ends up being relegated to earth. In response to this unwelcome development, Satan immediately turns his attention to “persecuting the woman” — the Nation of Israel.
In response to this Satanic persecution aimed at the Jewish people during the Tribulational Period, verse 14 tells us “the woman (Israel) was given two wings of a great eagle (some mode of transport whereby she could escape), that she might fly into the wilderness to her place (verse 6 tells us this was “a place prepared by God”), where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time (3½ years or 1260 days), from the presence of the serpent.”
Regarding this place in the wilderness, in Isaiah 16:3-4, we read, “Take counsel, execute judgment; make your shadow like the night in the middle of the day; hide the outcasts, do not betray him who escapes. Let My outcasts dwell with you, O Moab (present-day Jordan); be a shelter to them from the face of the spoiler. For the extortioner is at an end, devastation ceases, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.” I believe the Jewish people will find refuge and protection in the rock city of Petra — an Edomite capital built in Jordan.
While the Jewish people will be able to flee and their escape successful, John describes an interesting scene… In verse 15, he says, as the woman was fleeing, “the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.” This Satanically motivated attack on those who were trying to escape may be a literal flood of water or an actual army sent to stop them from succeeding.
Then, in a scenario that seems to come directly out of the pages of the Old Testament, John says, against incredible odds, “The earth helped the woman” by “opening its mouth and swallowing up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.” I’d refer you to a similar story recorded in Numbers 16 as being the precedent for such an event.
Clearly upset by this unexpected development, the chapter closes with Satan being so “enraged” at the Jewish people that “he went to make war with the rest of her offspring” which John says includes anyone “who keeps the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” This final set of characters John calls “her offspring” simply refer to any Jew or Gentile follower of Jesus who was unable to get to this place of protection.
Tragically, these believers are left in a vulnerable place to face the serious and concentrated ire of Satan himself for a period of 3½ years. In verse 12, John records the warning heaven has for the earth, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”
Concerning the timing of this event within the context of these seven years also known as Daniel’s 70th Week, in Matthew 24:15-16, Jesus said, “Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Putting all of these things together it appears at the 3½ year mark or the middle of this seven-year tribulation, motivated by Satan himself, the Antichrist enters the Temple and declares himself to be God. In the context of Revelation 11, it’s likely he also proceeds to kill the Two Witnesses demonstrating his divine power. Completely appalled by what they are witnessing, the Jewish people immediately flee into the wilderness where for the next 1260 days they find protection and refuge from the vengeance of the Antichrist and Satan.
Before we wrap up our time together, in the middle of this chapter, following Satan’s final removal from the heavenly space by Michael, John tells us beginning with verse 10, “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!”
The reason I want to conclude with these verses is that in this future scene whereby Satan is no longer allowed to “accuse the brethren” we are provided a present insight into how we overcome the attacks of the enemy. In fact, verse 11 provides three keys: (1) “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” (2) They overcame him “by the word of their testimony.” (3) They overcame him because “they did not love their lives to the death.”
Understand, you are always left vulnerable to defeat if you haven’t come to see your life and death for what they are. In Jesus, you have been given an eternal life meaning death has no power. The true overcomer is the person who “does not love their life to the death.”
Now the question we need to address is how does a person come to such a place? The answer is found in the progression of these three keys. The first step is the moment you realize nothing else matters but “the blood of the Lamb!” Your works don’t matter! Your piety doesn’t matter! Being a good person doesn’t matter! As we read in 1 John 1:7 it is only “the blood of Jesus Christ” that can “cleanses us from all sin.” According to Colossians 1:14 we only “have redemption” and “the forgiveness of sins through His blood.”
Secondly, when you realize what you’ve done, are doing, or will do matters not in the grand context of what Jesus has done, is doing, and will accomplish in your life “the word of your testimony” can finally echo what Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
In the end, it is only a testimony that hails the work of Jesus that enables a person to have such a perspective that life and death are placed into their proper context! As Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
You see, like Paul, you are only able to overcome and live victoriously when you understand centering your life around Jesus transitions death from being a moment of loss to the moment you receive more of what you were living for in the first place. Interestingly, this is what Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:54, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
No Additional Links.