Last week we talked about how God is going to provide prophetic revelation and guidance during the time of the great tribulation. This week we get into the meat of Revelation’s symbolism and grit.
There is are too many symbols to go through during a podcast, but they are dealt with at length in the book, Revelation: a 10 Week Bible Study. I encourage you to get the book and go through it as you read Revelation.
Instead, here I want to deal with some of the higher level things that are taking place in this passage. We are in another parenthetical section that delves into the conflict between God and Satan that will play out on earth with devastating consequences.
Putting Revelation Into Perspective
Before we begin, we need to understand a little better what this great tribulation period really is, and for that we turn to Matthew.
15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
Matthew 24: 15-22
From Daniel and Revelation, we understand that this time of great tribulation will be 3-1/2 years, beginning precisely at this moment of the “abomination of desolation.” This is an event that will take place within the new temple established in Jerusalem. Many commentators believe the phrase “let him understand” is a reference to Antiochus IV Epiphanes who did just what this passage speaks of in the past as of Jesus’ quote. Jesus was referencing Antiochus’ defiling of the temple as a foreshadow of a yet to come future event. And that brings us to chapter 12.
The Great Conflict
- John sees a sign in heaven—literally an astronomical even that he understands to have meaning.
- The Woman—we can understand that she is Mary, or figuratively, Israel. She would give birth to the Messiah, Jesus.
- The Dragon—This is satan, and here we will see him once and for all cast out of heaven. This did not happen at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross, but likely sometime within the period just before the great tribulation begins. He is on earth before the last 3-1/2 years take place (1,260 days).
- War in heaven—we must understand that angels are not like God. He speaks and people are destroyed. These angels are caught in a very real battle, much like the one we see in Daniel 10:13. Much like this passage in Daniel, the archangel Michael wins the decisive battle and Satan is cast out of heaven once and for all.
- The song—Once and for all, our accuser no longer has a place to stand before God and accuse Him and us, like we see in Job. Forever we are now free of his accusations, but the earth will feel his wrath because of his fury.
- Satan will try to destroy the “woman.” This brings us back to the passage in Matthew 24. All this coincides with the abomination of desolation and Jesus specifically tells the Jews living in Jerusalem to flee as fast as they can.
- God will protect many Jews during this time supernaturally, as we have already seen earlier in Revelation. Now Satan turns his great anger against God’s people, the Christians as we will see in chapter 13.
Chapter 13 is where we see the two beasts, often referred to as the Antichrist and the False Prophet. Together with the dragon (Satan) they make up an unholy trinity with two goals—destroy God’s people and deceive as many as they can to turn away from Him.
This False Prophet will be so good at deceiving the world, Jesus said it like this:
24For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Don’t Take It!
The Mark of the Beast will be set up and the Antichrist will have authority over all the earth and will be given authority to kill Christians. We are told to have patience and endure, even to death, because of what we will inherit.
We finish this parenthetical passage with Jesus arriving on earth with His armies and a very specific 144,000 who He has has preserved during this tribulation time. Jesus, along with His armies and angels will gather together all those on earth who took the Mark of the Beast and literally execute them. This is a difficult passage for many because of all the death at the hand of Jesus Himself, but we get a hint as to the “why” behind all of this in John’s reference to Babylon.
We will soon find out that Babylon is the why. Babylon is the reason God will release on the earth the book of Revelation in the first place, and the reason why the saints on earth will ask for it.