It is important to understand that this dragon in John’s vision is actually the same devil that falsified the truth to entrap Eve in the garden. Scripture also speaks here in language that indicates that Satan’s evil is an ongoing process, which means that it has not ceased and will continue today and in the future. His expulsion from heaven has put a stop to his allegations against God’s faithful; just as he alleged that Job was no more than a hireling, whose fair-weather friendship with God would wither unless watered by a steady stream of bribes. Satan was proved wrong. Or, as he accused the high priest Joshua, which accusations were apparently justified for in Zechariah’s vision Joshua was defiled, his filthy garments exposing his guilty heart. Yet, the Lord rebukes Satan and commands that Joshua’s stained clothing be replaced by spotless festal robes, for Joshua is a preview of deep the cleansing that is to come when God’s Servant, the Branch, arrives. We read about this in
Zechariah 3:1 – 4, 8, 9 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. 2The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?" 3Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes." Then he said to Joshua, "See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you." 8"'Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. 9See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,' says the LORD Almighty, 'and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day."
The accuser’s banishment from heaven shows that the Branch has now arrived: He is the woman’s son, the Man that came forth from the lineage of Jesse who has the power and dignity to sustain the weight of God’s wrath and live to be the Shepherd of the elect forever. No longer can Satan lodge accusations against those for whom the Lamb his shed his blood and triumphed over all evil.
Now the salvation of the elect has come from our God and the authority of his Christ. All rule and authority of Christ have now been manifested in his church.
I Chronicles 29:11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, 19therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Psalm 2:6, 7 "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill. 7I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father."
Psalm 110:1 The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Daniel 7:14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Matthew 11:27 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Luke 1:32, 33 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.
John 17:1 - 5 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you 2for you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
We see that the concept of all authority being given to Christ is not a New Testament invention, but it has been a crucial part of God’s salvation plan for the elect from the beginning, having the prophets repeatedly prophesy about it.
These words of this passage give the proof that the foregoing is true, “the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” The power of the kingdom of God could not come unless God hurled Satan down. The Son will sit at the right hand of the Father without the presence of the accuser, leaving him to prowl around on earth like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour; like the woman in the desert in John’s vision.
This victory, as a result of the blood of the Lamb, belongs to Christians who fearlessly testify about Jesus Christ, preach and live the gospel, and avoid falling for the temptations of Satan by wearing the breastplate and helmet of Christ.
Isaiah 59:17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
Ephesians 6:14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.
I Thessalonians 5:5 – 11 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Here we are given the instruments by which we can defeat Satan. Revelation 12:11 speaks in the past tense, having already overcame Satan, which is confirmed by the words of I Thessalonians 5:10: “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.” The victory is already Christ’s and we ought to use that victory to protect us from this ‘prowling lion.’ These weapons are foreign to the unbeliever but it is perfectly rational to the Christian. In his epistle to the Thessalonians, the Apostle wrote the following:
I Thessalonians 5:14 – 22 … we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. 16 Be joyful always. 17Pray continually. 18Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire. 20Do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22Avoid every kind of evil.
There are many examples in Scripture of the breastplate and helmet that we should put on to protect us from the devil and his evil temptations, and we should not be swayed to depart from the solid understanding of our hope in Christ. Those who are without hearing and without understanding believe that they are doing God’s will by persecuting us but we must stay steadfast and not shrink from death and go astray.
In this time after Satan’s expulsion from heaven and his resultant prowling on earth in an attempt to devour the church, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as Comforter to comfort us while we complete our mission until the Savior’s Second Coming.
John 15:26, 27; 16:1-11 "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. 16:1 "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. 5Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' 6Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief 7but I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.
9In regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.
10In regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer.
11And in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
So, we received the assurance and the testimony of Scripture that Satan has lost his privileges in heaven and we also received the Comforter who protects us from Satan’s efforts to devour us here on earth.
Those who inhabit the heavens rejoice that this troublemaker has been removed from their presence and that he can no longer bring unjust accusations and allegations against God’s people. The inhabitants of the earth now suffer his presence. Deceit is his weapon and falsified versions of the truth is his poison and he will not spare anyone, especially now that he realizes that he has been thrown out of heaven.
This passage says, “to the earth and the sea” but it means the inhabitants of the earth wherever they may find themselves, on land or at sea. There is no place to hide from him. There is only the breastplate and helmet of Christ with which we can overcome him.
That he is filled with fury is true because he has lost the most important opportunity to overcome Christ and his redemptive work: at the birth of the woman’s child. Now that he as been thrown from heaven his only hope is to derail the church, to cause the falling away of the elect. Even if he could snatch only one of them out of God’s hand it would be his victory. But, we know that God is a trustworthy God and He will not let that happen, which is a great comfort to us.
John 10:28, 29 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.
It is good news for us that we know that Satan’s time on earth is short. He will not be able to prowl around like a roaring lion for long before he is thrown into the pool of fire with his cohorts following him.
As we have mentioned before, the best chance for Satan to have thwarted God’s plan for the elect, and the destruction of evil, was if he could get to the male Child after his birth, but predictably, he failed. What remains for him now is to pursue the church, which is portrayed in John’s vision of the woman.
It appears as if there is little chance that the woman would be able to withstand or flee from such a vicious beast, but Jesus sent the Comforter, the Protector of the church because He promised that He would be with us always, to the very end of the age. (Matt 29:20.) Even though his ascension appears as if He has left us behind on earth, his promise to be with us always is fulfilled in his Divinity, in his Holy Spirit.
We previously mentioned the breastplate and helmet of Christ that protect us from Satan and the entire gospel is inferred in that image. Here, however, Scripture speaks about two wings that carry her to the place that was prepared for her in the desert. There is no clear indication as to what these two wings mean but perhaps the strongest evidence is that they are faith and prayer, based on the following passages:
Matthew 17:20 He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Mark 9:23 "'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Hebrews 3:19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
Ephesians 6:11 – 16 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes 12for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
John 14:13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
James 5:13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
Daniel 2:18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
Mark 9:28, 29 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" 29 He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer."
Ephesians 6:17 – 20 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God 18and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Even if we rest by these passages as the meaning of the images of the wings, then we would not in the least injure the notion that the entire testimony of the gospel is our breastplate and helmet against the onslaught of Satan.
The image of the “two wings of a great eagle” portrays her escape in the same imagery that God used to recount the exodus:
Exodus 19:4 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself.'
The woman, the church, is winged away from the place of danger and taken to a place that has been prepared for her. It is not just a place; Christ prepared for his church this place in this world, protected from the prowling lion. But she must keep herself pure and avoid all kinds of experiments (flirting) with the world, then she would be out of the serpent’s reach. When we study chapter 20 of the book of Revelation, we will deal with Satan’s 1,000 years of binding and it might allude to this period where the church is out of the serpent’s reach and his destructive work is accomplished by his many henchmen and our old natures.
Christ takes care of her as Israel and Elijah were cared for by God’s special care and provision.
Exodus 16:8 Moses also said, "You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him."
I Kings 19:7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you."
The reference to the time, times and half a time, which we have dealt with earlier, indicates that these things happen in this period of history in which we live now.
Because the serpent cannot reach the woman in the place God prepared for her and where she is out of the serpent’s reach, he spewed forth water like a river hoping to sweep her away. This river symbolizes a flood of evil that he spews forth at the church in the hope that these torrents would sweep the church away from the pure preaching, teaching, and living of God’s word. We are able to see some so-called Christian movements, falsely calling themselves churches, caught up in the rhetoric of secular practices, hardly recognizable as anything Christian.
In Psalm 18, we read about David’s song of praise to God for delivering him from his enemies and the hand of Saul. First David recounts his bitter anguish describing in verse four his suffering as torrents:
Psalm 18:4 The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
Our trials and tribulations would sometimes appear as torrents of affliction, which alludes to this image of John. This river of water that Satan spews out to overtake the church is a threat to our individual spiritual safety also. After all, the church is nothing more than the ekklesia, the congregation of Christ and if Satan attempts to drown the church, he is attempting to drown each one of us. Passages that depict this personal struggle are:
Psalm 32:5 – 8 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"--and you forgave the guilt of my sin. 6Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. 7You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. 8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.
We may see the church’s struggle synonymously with our individual struggles because if only one of the elect were lost Satan would be victorious.
Psalm 124:1 - 5 If the LORD had not been on our side--let Israel say-2if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us, 3when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive. 4The flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, 5the raging waters would have swept us away.
Isaiah 43:1, 2 But now, this is what the LORD says--he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
It is interesting to note that we are not guaranteed to survive these torrents of water without getting wet. We still need the breastplate and helmet of Christ to protect us. As God promised through the prophet Isaiah, “I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you…”
It is evident from the foregoing that the torrents of water flowing from the serpent’s mouth are his deceptive teachings, which is exactly what he did to Eve. In the book of Revelation, what proceeds from the mouth symbolizes words and their power. Thus John sees a sharp sword proceeding from the mouth of the Son of Man in Chapter 1:16, whose sovereign pronouncement of judgment on false teachers brings destruction to the unrepentant. The Son of Man, armed with the same sword proceeding from his mouth, gives his witnesses the power to minister and spread the gospel. Their prophetic witnessing is so strong that “if any one wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies.” John sees emerging from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, deceiving demonic spirits in the form of frogs, sent out to gather the world’s kings to wage war against God as we will study in chapter 16.
The saints should use every opportunity to weed out falsehoods, foreign practices and ceremonies that could give Satan’s deception a foothold because if his teachings were believed it would drown the church’s faith, destroying it. This, too, is not a New Testament invention; it has been Satan’s mission from the beginning. We read in the gospel of John how Jesus typified the Pharisees, knowing their hearts…
John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
In his first epistle, John admonishes the church to discern the spirits whether they are false. False spirits (teachings) are controlled by the spirit of the antichrist denying the incarnation.
I John 4:1 - 6 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. 3But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
Isaiah rebuked Israel for thinking that they could find their own place of refuge to keep them safe when the floodwaters of disaster burst from the gates of the grave.
Isaiah 28:14, 15 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers who rule this people in Jerusalem. 15You boast, "We have entered into a covenant with death, with the grave we have made an agreement. When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us, for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place."
Such self-reliant hope was futile and God will not stand for it.
Isaiah 28:16 - 19 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. 17I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place. 18Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand. When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it. 19As often as it comes it will carry you away; morning after morning, by day and by night, it will sweep through." The understanding of this message will bring sheer terror.
Because the woman finds her refuge in God remaining in the place prepared for her not venturing out into the world following the serpent’s deceit and temptations, He fulfills his promise to her:
Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
The church is in the world but not of the world. If she remains true to Christ and the gospel, wearing his breastplate and helmet, the world is a safe place of refuge for her.
In the time of Moses there were people who pretended to be priests of God. They tried to mislead Israel with their deceit and falsehoods. God instructed Moses to move Israel away from these men.
Numbers 16:28 - 33 Then Moses said, "This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea. 29If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt."
31As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions. 33They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.
John’s vision of the earth coming to the assistance of the woman by swallowing up the river of evil is grounded in Old Testament history. Places under the earth are usually referred to as places of evil or death and it is, therefore, not unusual for John’s vision to depict the evil spewed forth by Satan to be swallowed up by the earth, just as the earth swallowed up the evil men in Moses’ time.
Another connection between the desert as a place of refuge and the image of the river is that water quickly disappears in desert sand illustrating that the world is not a place of evil alone but evil is also swallowed up in it, providing a peaceful climate for the church. Think about godless men in positions of power who oftentimes make just laws that benefit the church. It is God who influences kings and princes to act according to his plan.