“But why must we suffer? Why must we go through persecution? Why wouldn’t God just take us out from it all?”
If you’ve been reading through Revelation with me, especially if you believe we will be raptured before all the trouble with antichrist begins, you may be wondering why I hold so fast to this idea.
To be honest, I wish very much that God would just pluck us out. But I just don’t see it from anything I see in Revelation, and particularly in this passage.
Here we get a bird’s eye view of all that’s been happening since the time Mary was pregnant with Jesus. John tells us of a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. And she was in labor, on the verge of giving birth.
Although I just mentioned Mary and it would seem that this is talking about her, it probably isn’t. When you see the symbolism of the sun, the moon, and the 12 stars, the very first thing that should come to mind is Joseph’s dream, which showed Joseph’s father Jacob (or Israel, as God renamed him), mother, and 11 brothers all bowing down to him. (Genesis 37:9-10)
So this pregnant woman seems to symbolize the nation of Israel. For it was Israel that gave birth to Jesus, the Messiah, the King.
But Satan, symbolized by the dragon (9), tried to destroy Jesus while he was on earth. We see this in Herod’s murder of all the babies (Matthew 2:16-18), and in Christ’s crucifixion. But of course, after Christ’s crucifixion, Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven.
John then sees a flashback in which he sees a war in heaven in which Satan is cast out along with his angels. And when he was thrust down to earth, he chased after the woman Israel to destroy her.
I’m not sure, but I tend to think this was particularly seen in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. In this attack, Satan was trying to destroy Israel. But not all Jews were destroyed. The Christians, in particular, took Jesus’ warning to heart (Matthew 24:15-21), and fled Jerusalem before it was destroyed.
With Satan unable to destroy Israel completely, he then set his eyes on destroying her other “children.” Not the Jews by blood, but “those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (17)
That is, the church. For we are the true children of Israel now, all we Jews and non-Jews who have put our faith in Jesus. (Galatians 3:29)
Why is he so full of wrath against us? Why is he so persistent in trying to destroy us?
John tells us,
He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. (12b)
And so John tells us that while those in heaven rejoice over his being cast out of there,
Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! (12a)
What do we get from all this? First, we are facing a beaten foe. He has already lost. And he knows it. His time is short, and he will be judged.
But second, until that time comes, he will take out his wrath against us. And as we have seen and will see in Revelation, that means some of us will be “conquered”, that is killed by him.
Yet the ultimate victory is ours. He may kill our bodies, but he can’t take our souls. When Satan was cast out of heaven, a loud voice cried out,
Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. (10)
In other words, because of Jesus’ death on the cross, Satan has lost all right to accuse us. When he tries, God overrules all of Satan’s objections against us.
More, John tells us that though Satan may overcome the saints for a time, ultimately,
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (11)
So though Satan may attack us, though he may kill us, in the end, we win. Why?
Because Jesus won the victory for us on the cross. And by our lives and death, we testify to the change that God has brought in our hearts, proving that all of Satan’s accusations no longer have any basis.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them. (12a)
We already have won.