Study 10              That Which Is: A woman in heaven: The Church

       Revelation 12 speaks of a woman who gives birth to a man child, and a dragon that seeks to devour the child. The man child is caught up to God and His throne. When the dragon fails at devouring the child, he pursues the woman. Who is this woman in heaven? Who is the dragon? Who is the man child the woman gives birth to?
        Let’s begin with what we are told. The dragon is stated to be “that old serpent called the Devil”. (12:9) So the dragon is symbolic of Satan. By this it is established that the characters in this account are symbolic. Given that the man child “was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” – a reference to Jesus - forces us to conclude that this man child is Jesus. Satan endeavors to destroy the “man child” brought forth by the woman. According to the gospel writers Satan did indeed try to destroy Jesus at His birth. Who then is the woman?
        Dispensational theology presents the woman as being symbolic of Israel. Jesus was born through the Jewish race, therefore Israel gave birth to Jesus. Sounds plausible! However let’s look at the details again.
        Revelation is a New Testament book, therefore its symbolism must be seen in the light of the New Testament. In the New Testament the woman stands for the Church. Secondly we were introduced to the eternal “I am” in the previous chapter, and the details we have before us are given from God's perspective. Ephesians 1:4,5 speak from God’s perspective concerning the Church. In God’s foreknowledge she was predestinated before the foundation of the world. Paul indicates that God’s acceptance of the Gentiles was predicted by Hosea. (Rom. 9:25,26) It is also Paul’s position that the gospel – the New Covenant in Christ - predates the law by four hundred and thirty years. (Study Gal.3:17 and context) It is also evident that the events of Acts 2 were in God's plan long before it happened. Peter emphatically declares "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." (Acts 2:16) So Pentecost was not the beginning of the Church, Pentecost was the manifestation of that which God planned and predestinated before the foundation of the world. It is because the Church was in God’s plan before the foundation of the world that John sees her as a woman in heaven. However the Church could not become reality on earth without the coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore the Church - symbolized as a woman in heaven - gives birth to Jesus. God had ordained her to be, but she could not come into being without Jesus, therefore she gave birth to Jesus.
       Note it: John sees the Church as a woman in heaven.  Heaven is where the Church came into being, and heaven is her rightful place.(Eph.2:6) She is not a parenthesis in history. She is God’s crown jewel of history. She is a heavenly being, clothed with the Sun, which speaks of Jesus.(Rev.1:16 cp Gal. 3:27)) The moon is under her feet.  As a reflector of light, the moon speaks of Israel and the Old Testament era. She is crowned with twelve stars representing the twelve apostles. From God’s perspective she is presented in Revelation 12 as “that which is”. She is elect, foreordained, and designated to be a joint heir and rule with Jesus Christ on this earth.
       Allow me to make an observation concerning the Church in Revelation. The futuristic view of Revelation says that the book speaks to the time of Jacob's trouble. The rapture takes the Church off the earth – symbolized by John being called to heaven in Revelation 4:1 - and God then deals with Israel.  I see that as putting God's plan, purpose and actions in Jesus Christ in a very bad light. Peter states that Jesus was foreordained, as the Lamb, before the foundation of the world.(1 P 1:19,20) John the Baptist announced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29)  Jesus fulfills all the Old Testament requirements as the Lamb of God. God can not and will not accept any other substitute for an atonement for sin.  Therefore we are forced to conclude that the sacrifices of the Old Testament looked forward to the true: Jesus the Lamb.  To suggest that God will revert back to a former economy to accommodate a certain race casts a questioning shadow over what He has done in Jesus Christ.
        True after chapter 3 the Church does not appear in the text of Revelation. However the Lamb appears repeatedly. Why would Jesus the Revelator repeatedly show John the symbol of redemption – the Lamb - if the results and means of that redemption are no longer in force? Since the act of redemption is given symbolically, would it not follow that the results of that redemption are also given symbolically?  The Lamb as the symbol of redemption presupposes the existence of the Church in Revelation, just as the “woman in heaven” presupposes the Church.  So when we look for the Church in Revelation we must look for her in parabolic terms rather than expecting her to be named.
In Revelation 12 it is the Church that comes into primary focus. She is the crown jewel of God's plans and purposes. For this reason she is also the object of the dragons fury. About her Jesus said: "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matt. 16:18)  In Revelation 12 Jesus gives us the details concerning that conflict.   However in God's plan the Church is! So take courage she will be victorious.  God chose you before the foundation of the world, and He chose you for a purpose. In Jesus Christ you have a high and glorious calling.
        The dragon fails in his endeavors to devour the son brought forth by the woman. This child is set apart and designated “a man child”, with a purpose.  He is to "shepherd the nations". (literal rendering) But the record shows that this child is caught up to God and His throne. It appears as if He doesn’t fulfill His purpose. Then the dragon is said to pursue the woman. But the woman flees into the wilderness, where she is sustained for 1260 days.
        Not only does it appear as if the child doesn’t fulfill his mandate, but the woman who gave birth to him comes under attack from the dragon.  We know from the gospel record that Jesus was not caught up to God and His throne as a child. Jesus ascended to God after having completed the work he came to do. So obviously Jesus as the revelator shares theological truth and insight that was not given to us in the gospels. In Revelation 12 Jesus presents Himself as having been caught up to God's throne prematurely. As a result the woman’s future is in jeopardy.
        Obviously what we are told in Revelation 12:1-6 is not the whole story. Beginning with verse 7 we are given more details in the sequence of that story. When the child is caught up to heaven, John witnesses action that takes place in heaven. We are told about a battle between Michael and the dragon accompanied by their respective angels. Since Michael is named we know that this is Michael the archangel, and he is in battle with Satan. Michael is victorious and Satan is cast out of heaven.
        The sequence of the story is intentional and deliberate. Jesus is showing John – and the Church - that Satan was defeated and cast out of heaven when He ascended to heaven. MARK IT! Jesus Christ’s work of grace defeated Satan. Allow me to exhort you on this matter: Even if you don't agree with my understanding of Revelation, I trust you will make this passage of Revelation a priority for study.  A theology that teaches Satan is still accusing us, and that God allows him to do so, casts a very dark shadow over Jesus Christ’s work of grace. It makes Christ’s work of grace appear as being inadequate for our redemption.
        Notice the text: Revelation 12:9 tells us that Satan and his angels were cast out. Verse 10 then informs us that with that casting out comes "salvation, strength, the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ."   Thus the casting out of Satan and the coming of salvation, as well as the other benefits named here, happen at the same time. So if the casting out of Satan is future, then the benefits listed here must also be future. However the clear teaching of scripture is that Jesus Christ brought us salvation, as well as the kingdom. In fact a quick study of scripture indicates that all four benefits mentioned in Revelation 12:9 are ours and have been ours for the past two thousand years.
         Romans 1:16 tells us that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Hebrews 5:9 tells us Jesus became the author of eternal salvation. And there are many other scriptures that would indicate that salvation has been our benefit since Jesus died on the cross.
         Scripture also indicates that Jesus who brought us salvation also brought us power or strength. Romans 5:6 states “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” On the basis of that verse, logic would suggest that since Christ died we now have strength. John 1:12 informs us that “As many as receive Him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God.”  In Phillipians 4:13: Paul states: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." So obviously in Jesus Christ we have salvation and the power of God.
         The third benefit mentioned is the coming of the kingdom.  Jesus preached "the gospel of the kingdom of God," and that’s a quote from Mark 1:14.  Then in verse 15 Mark quotes what Jesus said: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."  In Matthew 12:28 Jesus makes this observation: “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.”  Thus the gospel, deliverance and the kingdom go hand in hand. So every deliverance and healing that happens today testifies that the kingdom is here.
          The final benefit mentioned is the power of his Christ.  Since Christ means anointed, Revelation is here referring to the power of that anointing. Has it come. Jesus promised that: “you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you. (Acts 1:8) Has the Church had the power to be a witness over the last two thousand years? Of course! So the power of His anointing has come. Let me give you two verses to support this: Mark 16:20 tells us that "they went forth, and preaching every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following."  Acts 28:31 indicates that Paul preached the kingdom of God with confidence, no man forbidding him." So the early Church demonstrated the power of Christ's anointing, and the coming of the kingdom.
          Therefore the benefits that Revelation declares to come with the casting down of Satan is clearly taught to have come at Jesus Christ's first coming.  Since these things have come we should conclude that Satan has been cast out of heaven. But lets look at more proof!  Jesus sent out seventy  who reported upon their return that even the devils were subject to them. (Luke 10:17)  To this Jesus replies: "I beheld Satan as lighting fall from heaven", and then He commissions them with power over serpents, scorpions, and all the power of the enemy. (Luke 10:18,19)  Now if Satan was not cast out of heaven as Jesus stated, then what is meant by these words of Jesus?  To say that Satan still has the right to accuse us before the Father makes the commission given by Jesus a sham.  If God Himself still listens to Satan’s accusations, then where does that leave us?
          1 John 3:8 declares "For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil."  Obviously Jesus was manifested, so it must follow that He destroyed the works of the Devil.  As I see it, the first and foremost of the Devils work that Jesus destroyed was Satan's right to accuse us before God. Revelation speaks of Satan as "the accuser of our brethren". The point is he accused “our brethren”, i.e. the Old Testament saints. But Jesus Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension put an end to that.  The work of Jesus gave Michael the right, power, and authority to cast Satan out of Heaven. If the blood of the Lamb did nothing about Satan's access to God, then what hope do you or I have?
          For Christian theology to suggest that Satan is still accusing us before God is to blaspheme the work of Jesus Christ. You can reject my view of Revelation, but I hope and pray that you as a member of the Church will change your theology in regard to Satan's position, privileges, and authority. Mark it, circle it, outline it in red in your Bible, Satan was cast out of heaven 2000 years ago; he was stripped of his position, privileges and authority. Jesus is the only one in heaven who speaks to God about us, and He intercedes for us.
          Revelation 12:11 states: "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony."  As long as my testimony is that Jesus blood did not defeat Satan  - that he is still accusing me before the Father - I have no hope of overcoming him.  If Jesus Christ's blood was not sufficient for what God required to cleanse heaven, than how can it be sufficient for my cleansing? Revelation 12:11 confirms that Satan was cast out of heaven at the time that Jesus died.  For it is through that shed blood that we overcome. If Satan hasn't been cast to the earth, then why tell us how to overcome him. If Satan is still accusing us before God, then its God that needs to overcome him,  not us.  But since he has been cast down to the earth we need a means to overcome Satan, and that means is the shed blood of Jesus, and our testimony of that fact. Sure there are many Christians who believe that Satan hasn't been cast out of heaven, so is it any wonder why we are so weak and powerless. Such a theology clearly shows that we don't believe there is much power in the blood of Jesus.
         If Satan hasn't been cast out of heaven what do we do with Revelation 12:12?   It states: "therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them."  It is because Satan is cast out of heaven, that the heavens and those who dwell there might rejoice.  So if Satan hasn't been cast out of heaven, then we are forced to conclude that God is not able to rejoice. And if Satan hasn't been cast down to this earth, how come we are having so much Satanic activity on this earth, and in society. (Remember the term sea stands for society.)
          Revelation 12:12 declares Satan’s time to be short. Since those words were penned by John about 2000 years ago,  I'd say  his time is even shorter today. Now even though Satan has great wrath, Jesus has given us the power and authority over him.  Remember you overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony.  He has been defeated, he has been cast out of heaven. Jesus stripped him of all authority and power.  Church; it is time that we believed, proclaimed, and testified to that fact.  Sure we all have struggles, but it is at those times that we need to know Satan has been defeated.  For a preacher to tell me that Satan is accusing me before God, when I'm already having a rough time doesn't encourage or strengthen me. And we call that the Gospel: i.e. good news? (If that is the good news, don’t tell me the bad news!) So let me hear it! Satan is defeated! He was defeated and cast out of heaven 2000 years ago. He has no authority, privileges, or rights in your life because you have been bought with a price. God chose you, and God has a glorious purpose for you.
          Revelation 12:13 informs us that after the dragon is cast to the earth, he persecutes the woman.  How does the woman come to be on earth, when in verse
one she is stated as being in heaven?  Was she cast out with the dragon?   To answer those questions we need to ask another: Is heaven only a place or does it also speak of a position?  Only if we see heaven as a position can we make sense out of the text.
          Notice of the dragon it is explicitly stated that he is cast out of heaven - he losses his position. This is not said of the woman. The woman stands for the Church, and the Church by virtue of her position in Christ is both in heaven and on earth. She is a representative of Christ on this earth and for this reason the dragon persecutes her.
          The woman is given the wings of an eagle to fly into the wilderness, a prepared place where she is nourished. Again the dragon is stifled in his attempt to get the upper hand.  Although the Church is in hiding, and will be for 42 months - 1260 years - according to the text she is nourished during this time. The word nourished speaks of pampering, bringing up, or rearing. Thus the implication is that God has this all planned knowing what Satan will endeavor to do.
          Since his attempts fail, the serpent tries to stop the woman with a flood of water. He fails again, in that the earth helps the woman, by opening its mouth and swallowing up the flood. Satan intended to destroy the Church with   a flood, but the earth - humanities structures i.e. the four major disciplines as recorded in Revelation 6 - absorbed that flood.
          The dragon’s anger against the woman is then vented on the woman’s seed. A reference to the Church of the post apostolic era. Although Satan is allowed to attack the woman’s seed, he is not allowed to overcome. A clear indication from Revelation that Satan is not and will never be the victor. However there is a segment of society that the dragon does gain control over. That control is felt by both society and the Church.  It has been referenced in the breaking of the seals, and we are given further details of that battle in Revelation 13.

 
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