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The Dragon and the Sea (Week 3)

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Week 3
Revelation 12:12–13:10 KJV 1900
Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
Topic: Persecution, Spiritual Warfare, God’s Sovereignty
Big Idea of the Message: The devil rages against God’s people, but God is still sovereign.
Application Point: In difficulty or persecution, we need to remember that Satan is our true enemy.
Sermon Ideas and Talking Points:
1. This passage describes Satan’s defeat by God and the devil’s vengeful response (12:12–17). The devil’s anger is mentioned specifically (“fury” in v. 12, and “enraged” in v. 17), and his hostility against God is aimed at “those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus” (v. 17).
2. Again, the sea and water are mentioned as symbols of chaos and trouble, consistent with both John’s previous usage and other ancient Jewish literature’s usage of the sea. The devil is both cast down to the sea in his defeat (12:12) and he attempts to harm the woman (Israel) by hurling “spewed water” at her (v. 15), only to have the earth intervene in protecting her (v. 16). The dragon Satan also is seen standing on the shore of the sea from which the Beast comes in order “to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them” (13:7).
3. When we are suffering at the hands of other people, we need to remember that Satan is our real enemy, not those who are persecuting us. It is with this perspective that our prayers and our energy will be focused appropriately, as those of Jesus were in and as those of Stephen were (the first Christian martyr) in .
Luke 23:34 KJV 1900
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Acts 7:60 KJV 1900
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Knowing that his time is limited, Satan will intensify his efforts against God and mankind, and specifically target Israel.
4. John quotes the prophet Jeremiah in . Although they may not seem very encouraging or comforting initially, these statements point to God’s sovereignty even in the midst of suffering and persecution, assuring the faithful “that their captivity and martyrdom are in God’s will” (Alan F. Johnson, Revelation, Expositor’s Bible Commentary 12, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010], 529).
Wings of a great eagle. Not actual birds’ wings, but a graphic depiction of God’s providential protection of Israel (cf. ). Wings often speak of protection
Deuteronomy 32:9–12 KJV 1900
For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, And in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, he instructed him, He kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, Fluttereth over her young, Spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, Beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, And there was no strange god with him.
Psalm 91:4 KJV 1900
He shall cover thee with his feathers, And under his wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
; ). Eagles—probably vulture-like griffins—were the largest birds known in Palestine. a time and times and half a time. Three and one-half years; the second half of the Tribulation (cf. v. 6; 11:2, 3; 13:5).
A great army will come against Israel like a flood
Jeremiah 46:8 KJV 1900
Egypt riseth up like a flood, And his waters are moved like the rivers; And he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof.
only to be swallowed up, perhaps in conjunction with one of the numerous earthquakes that occur during that period
), only to be swallowed up, perhaps in conjunction with one of the numerous earthquakes that occur during that period
Satan will turn his frustrated rage against every follower of the Lamb he can find—Jew or Gentile.
13:1 Then I stood. Most manuscripts read “he stood,” referring again to the dragon, or Satan (cf. 12:9, 17). He takes a position in the midst of the nations of his world, represented by the sand of the sea. a beast. Lit. “a monster” (cf. 11:7), which describes a vicious, killing animal. In this context, the term represents both a person (Antichrist) and his system (the world). The final satanic world empire will be inseparable from the demon-possessed man who leads it. For a discussion of Antichrist, see notes on . He is also described in , ; ; ; . rising up out of the sea. The sea represents the abyss or pit, the haunt of demons (cf. 11:7; 17:8; 20:1; ). The picture is of Satan summoning a powerful demon from the abyss, who then activates and controls the beast (Antichrist) and his empire. seven heads and ten horns. This description is like that of Satan in 12:3. The heads may represent successive world empires—Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the final kingdom of Antichrist (see notes on 17:9, 10). The final one is made up of all the kingdoms represented by the horns (see notes for 17:12). Ten is a number that symbolizes the totality of human military and political power assisting the beast (Antichrist) as he controls the world. Horns always represent power, as in the animal kingdom—both offensive power (attack) and defensive power (protection). Daniel shows that the human Antichrist will rise up from these 10 kings (). John picks up the numerical imagery of , , which refers to the 10 toes on the statue’s clay and iron feet. The apostle sees the beast as the final world government—the anti-Christ, anti-God coalition—headed by a revived Roman Empire, having the strengths of various world powers, yet mixed with weakness and ultimately crushed (cf. ; , , ; see note on 12:3). The crowns show the regal dominion of this confederate kingdom. blasphemous name. Throughout history, every time a monarch has identified himself as a god, he has blasphemed the true God. Each ruler who contributes to the beast’s final coalition has an identity, wears a crown, exerts dominion and power, and therefore blasphemes God.
13:2 leopard. A metaphor for ancient Greece, alluding to the Greeks’ swiftness and agility as their military moved forward in conquest, particularly under Alexander the Great (cf. ). The leopard and subsequent animal symbols were all native wildlife in Palestine, familiar to John’s readers. bear. A metaphor for the ancient Medo-Persian Empire, depicting that kingdom’s ferocious strength, combined with its great stability (cf. ). lion. A metaphor for the ancient Babylonian Empire, referring to the Babylonians’ fierce, all-consuming power as they extended their domain (cf. ). The dragon gave him his power. See notes on v. 1; 12:9.
13:3 his deadly wound was healed. This statement could refer to one of the kingdoms that was destroyed and revived (i.e., the Roman Empire). But more likely it refers to a fake death and resurrection enacted by the Antichrist, as part of his lying deception. Cf. vv. 12, 14; 17:8, 11; . world marveled.People in the world will be astounded and fascinated when Antichrist appears to rise from the dead. His charisma, brilliance, and attractive but deluding powers will cause the world to follow him unquestioningly (v. 14; ).
13:5 was given. The sovereign God will establish the limits within which Antichrist will be allowed to speak and operate. God will allow him to utter his blasphemies, to bring the rage of Satan to its culmination on earth for 3½ years (v. 5; 11:2, 3; 12:6, 13, 14). forty-two months. The final 3½ years—1,260 days—of the “time of Jacob’s trouble” () and Daniel’s 70th week (), known as the Great Tribulation (see notes on 11:2; 12:6; cf. ). This last half is launched by the abomination of desolations (see note on ).
13:6 His name. This identifies God and summarizes all His attributes (cf. , ). His tabernacle. This is symbolic of heaven (cf. , ). those who dwell in heaven. The angels and glorified saints who are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night.
13:7 make war with the saints. The Antichrist will be allowed to massacre those who are God’s children (cf. 6:9–11; 11:7; 12:17; 17:6; ; ; ; ; ; ). See note on 17:6.
13:8 Book of Life. See note on 3:5. Lamb slain. The Lord Jesus who died to purchase the salvation of those whom God had chosen was fulfilling an eternal plan. from the foundation of the world. According to God’s eternal, electing purpose before creation, the death of Christ seals the redemption of the elect forever (cf. ; , ). Antichrist can never take away the salvation of the elect. The eternal registry of the elect will never be altered, nor will the saved in the Antichrist’s day worship him.
13:10 A call for believers to accept persecution from Antichrist with perseverance and endurance. God has chosen some believers to be imprisoned and executed which they must not resist, but accept with patience such suffering as God ordains for them (cf. ).
4. John quotes the prophet Jeremiah in . Although they may not seem very encouraging or comforting initially, these statements point to God’s sovereignty even in the midst of suffering and persecution, assuring the faithful “that their captivity and martyrdom are in God’s will” (Alan F. Johnson, Revelation, Expositor’s Bible Commentary 12, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010], 529).
5. This section ends with John’s admonition: believers need to be faithful and ready to patiently endure (v. 10). Persecution and suffering for Christ is not a maybe; it’s a guarantee. Depending on our current location and cultural climate, persecution may vary in extremity or expression, but believers are promised that trouble will come if we follow Jesus faithfully (see ).
6. The organization Voice of the Martyrs informs the public about persecuted Christians around the world. One Eritrean woman named Twen was arrested for being a Christian in 2004 at the age of 23. She’s been imprisoned in the worst conditions imaginable, including a shipping container and a government prison so harsh and unsanitary that the nation finally shut it down. Most of the prisoners in her current prison are believers, and Twen is considered to be a key leader in the prison, caring for and shepherding the other believers there. Although Twen has been given several opportunities to escape, she remains at the prison in order to continue caring for and helping the Body of Christ kept there. (“Twen,” Prisoner Alert, Voice of the Martyrs, accessed December 23, 2017, In the middle of her suffering, she is able to grasp the sovereign purposes of God and has given her life away to fulfill God’s work. Like Twen, we must keep our focus on God’s kingdom and his purposes in order to endure patiently and remain faithful in times of trouble.
7. Although a shift away from cultural Christianity may seem like bad news, many people see it as a good thing. The church usually becomes stronger when there is persecution because pretenders no longer benefit from “faking it,” and the remaining believers may become more devout. “We do see that many nominal Christians [in America] are ending their identification with Christianity. Nominalism is dying. I say, ‘Good riddance.’ I’m ready for the gospel to mean the gospel, and for Christians to be known as Christians. People need to see that ‘Christian’ isn’t just a check-box on a questionnaire, but it’s a life changed by the gospel. I think we should seize this opportunity. … We live in a mission field with an unengaged mission force” (Ed Setzer, “Nominal Nation—The Shift Away from Self-Identified Christianity,” The Exchange [blog], Christianity Today, February 8, 2016,
The devil rages against God’s people, but God is still sovereign.
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