The Battle Begins
Salvation history began with the incarnation of Christ. This is one of the foundation truths of Christianity. For four thousand years the planet languished under the reign of Satan, those who served God lived in hope of the salvation which was to come, but effectively, Satan ruled the planet and all died as sinners, bound under his dominion.
The Old Testament is filled with promises of a deliverer who was to come. This deliverer was represented by symbols, types and shadowy illustrations which were given to the Israelites as a part of their system of worship. In addition there were many direct prophecies, beginning with God’s statement in the Garden of Eden that day when man first sinned:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15)
Here God introduced the major players in the great controversy; the serpent and the Seed of the woman. The conflict also, obviously, involves the seed of the serpent and the woman herself. Of course the serpent represents Satan and the woman’s Seed is Christ, the woman is the church and the seed of the serpent represents those who do the works of Satan. These are the major players in the great conflict which has been, and is taking place on this earth.
The Plan Implemented
In the book of Revelation, God once again focuses on these major participants in the controversy. In chapter 12, He gives us a bird’s eye view of the conflict, beginning with the birth of Jesus Christ. Why does God begin with the birth of Jesus? Why not begin with creation and the start of the conflict on planet earth? He begins with Jesus’ birth because that was the time when the history of salvation really began! Before Christ came to earth, no part of the plan of salvation had yet been implemented. God had given mankind many prophecies, promises, counsel, rules, and had interacted with them through angels and prophets, but for four thousand years, Satan had ruled as the legitimate prince of this world and nothing had been done to put an end to his reign. Humanity were the legitimate property of Satan and all who died, perished as his subjects, doomed to eternal death. God had promised to do something about it, but until the incarnation, nothing had yet been done.
This is why the first coming of Jesus was of such tremendous significance. Christians often downplay this wonderful event and focus almost exclusively on the second coming of Christ, but this is because they do not really understand what Jesus did when He came the first time. The system of the law which God gave to Moses at Mount Sinai, is an illustration of the plan of salvation. Every year the Israelites were to observe and to practice ceremonies over and over which taught them of the events of salvation which were still future. All of these ceremonies and rituals pointed to the work of Jesus IN THE FUTURE, every single one of them. This is clearly demonstrated when we look at the seven feasts of Israel.
The seven feasts were, in order: The Passover, Unleavened bread, Wavesheaf, Pentecost, Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles. We will not examine these feasts in detail now, but it is evident that these feasts represent Christ’s work for the saving of mankind along a timeline. By this I mean that each feast represents something which Christ would do in the work of saving humanity, and these events follow sequentially in the order that they were observed in the law.
So the very first thing which Christ did to save humanity was to die on the cross. This was represented by the Passover. The next thing He did was to put away sin by His death and this was represented by the feast of unleavened bread. The next thing was to rise from the dead as the firstborn from the dead, making it possible for His people to return from the grave. This was represented by the offering of the wavesheaf and of course this was followed fifty days later on the day of Pentecost, by the outpouring of the holy spirit, which is when His life and power were poured out into His people.
Between chapters 4-11 of the book of Revelation, we see an examination of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. We see an investigation of His government and what it has produced. As we have seen, those chapters deal with the history of the Christian Church from the perspective of a judgment which engaged the attention of all the heavenly beings. This judgment demonstrates the fitness of Christ to rule forever and ever, because it proves that Jesus’ method of government does produce the best people who have ever lived on planet earth.
Beginning in Revelation 12 and continuing to chapter 19, the heavenly universe now takes another look at the same period of history which has already been examined, but this time the focus is on Satan’s kingdom and his system of government, therefore, it is the same period of history, covering the period from the first coming of Christ to his second coming, but from a different perspective. Now it is mainly the kingdom of Satan and its fruits which are being examined.
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. (Rev 12:1-5)
The pregnant woman here represents the church of God in the point of transition between the Old and the New Testaments. She is standing on the moon (the old covenant) but clothed with the sun (the new testament). Her foundation is a reflected light but now she is entering into the true light and no more the reflection. The child to whom she (the church) is about to give birth is of course, Christ, the Seed of the woman promised four thousand years before in the Garden of Eden.
Satan attempted to destroy Christ at His birth, all during His life and he eventually killed Him. He imagined that in killing Christ he had gained the victory over Him, but in reality he had only guaranteed the end of his own kingdom. Jesus was resurrected and taken up to heaven as the firstborn of a new race of men who had been saved by His very death and resurrection.
Christ’s Kingdom Established
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 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. (Rev 12:7-12)
After Jesus was resurrected and returned to heaven, the first thing that happened was that Satan was immediately cast out of heaven. By His death and resurrection Jesus had accomplished salvation for the human race. Satan was no longer to be the legitimate ruler of this planet, the representative of earth in the councils of heaven. Jesus, the second Adam, had taken back the dominion which Satan had wrested from the first Adam. But this was not all; When Satan killed Jesus, his motives were fully revealed to the watching universe. Now, not only God, but all the inhabitants of heaven knew fully well what was the nature of the kingdom which he had promoted and heaven was unanimous in the decision to expel him. He was permanently cast out of heaven, never again to have the opportunity of casting his evil doubts, insinuations and accusations in the way of other heavenly beings.
This was the event which Jesus had anticipated when, just before His crucifixion, He had stated:
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (John 12:31-32)
So there was the crucifixion of Jesus, then His resurrection, then the inauguration of Jesus as the legitimate ruler of planet earth and the subsequent casting out of Satan. This series of events marked the greatest moment in the history of the world. A loud voice in heaven declared that at that moment four tremendous things had happened. According to the voice, at that moment (now) the following things had come,
3. The kingdom of God
4. The power of Christ.
This clearly reveals the fact that before that time salvation had not yet come to humanity and the kingdom of God had not yet been established. John the Baptist, Jesus, and all His disciples had preached that the kingdom was “at hand,” now at the glorification of Jesus this prophecy became a reality. Christ poured out His spirit upon His people, they were filled with the resurrected life and power of Christ, the King came to live in His people and thus, the kingdom of God came “with power.” Since the days of the apostolic church Christians have little understood the full significance of what happened at Pentecost, but here, in this passage God makes it very clear to us.
When the holy spirit came at Pentecost, was it simply the power of God coming upon people as it had done in Old Testament times in the experience of prophets and holy men? No, this was something completely different. When Jesus spoke of this spirit, He referred to it as “another Comforter,” something which had never before come to the human race. This spirit which came upon humanity at Pentecost was the life of the resurrected Son of man. It was the life of the second Adam, a human life victorious over sin, united with the power of God and exalted to the pinnacle of power and authority in the universe. This is what was given to humanity at Pentecost! It was in this gift of life that mankind received, “salvation, and strength, the kingdom of God and the power of His Christ.”
This is the great central reality of the Christian faith. Christ in us, the life, power, authority, the kingdom of God dwelling in us. Satan has achieved his greatest victory in obscuring this truth and deceiving Christians into thinking that nothing special happened with the coming of Jesus. Many believe that the people of God who lived in Old Testament times had the same privileges as those who live on this side of Pentecost, so effectively, the coming of Jesus made no real difference to the experience of God’s people at all. This is Satan’s greatest deception. Christians live in apathy, impotence, struggling with sin and failure just as if Christ had never come, because they have no true understanding of what God did for us in Christ.
However, the establishing of this kingdom did not mean that Satan’s persecution would cease. Although, Jesus cast out Satan whenever He met a demon possessed person, Satan used evil men to persecute Jesus and eventually accomplished His death. There is no promise that it will be any different for the children of the kingdom. Now the devil has “great wrath,” and goes out to persecute and destroy God’s people. They overcome him, but there is a price to pay, they love not their lives unto the death and many of them do pay with their lives. They conquer Satan in the spiritual realm, but physically, he uses the humans under his control to persecute and kill the people of God.
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. (Rev 12:14,15)
The persecution of the Christian church began during the time of the apostles and has continued ever since. However, God here highlights a period referred to as “a time, and times, and half a time.” In Revelation 12:6 the same time period is referred to as “a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” This refers to the time of the “dark ages,” which stretched from about 538 AD to about 1798. During this time multiple millions of Christians were killed in the most brutal ways for the simple crime of being true to their consciences in the way that they served God. Most of this persecution took place in that part of the world known as the Old World, which included the middle east, North Africa, and particularly Europe. Christians were able to survive at that time by finding refuge in solitary places, by living in little isolated groups away from the cities and beaten paths.
When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He declared,
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. (Exod 19:4)
He uses the same language here in speaking of how He protected the Christian Church during that time of persecution. He says He gave the woman two wings of a great eagle and brought her into the wilderness where she was protected from 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. (Rev 12:15-16)
In the prophecy of Revelation, water is used as a symbol to represent multitudes of people (see Rev. 17:15). The flood of water from the serpent’s mouth represents the multitudes of people whom Satan used in his efforts to destroy the Christian Church. But the “earth” swallowed up the flood of waters from the mouth of the dragon. Notice that we have two symbols which are opposite in meaning. There is “water” and there is “earth.” In this case, they are working contrary to each other, the water seeks to destroy God’s people, the earth works to save them.
During the 16th century, at a time when the Roman Catholic Church was having people tortured and burned alive for their loyalty to the Bible, God opened up the way for His people to escape this persecution. At this time the new world was being opened up and many who were persecuted in Europe were able to find refuge in the Americas. The United States in particular received hundreds of thousands of immigrants who fled from persecution in Europe, looking for a place where they could worship in freedom. This part of the world, sparsely populated was represented by “the earth,” which opened her mouth to help the woman, or the church.
So in this chapter, God briefly describes the enmity of Satan against Christ and the Church, and takes us quickly through a history of the assaults of Satan over the past two thousand years. This brings us to the final moments of time and to the final work of Satan against God’s people.
(Rev 12:17) 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.
Let us note few important things about this verse:
In this final conflict, the dragon makes war against the woman’s Seed, not the woman. There are several important points to notice here with regards to this group of people.
1. They are referred to as the remnant of the woman’s seed.
2. A remnant is the last remaining portion of something.
3. This remnant keep God’s commandments.
4. This remnant have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Remnant of The Seed
This phrase, “the remnant,” has generated a lot of speculation and misconceptions. Some have interpreted the phrase to mean, “remnant Church,” but this is something read into the passage, it does not mention “church.” Notice that the remnant are said to be the remnant of “the woman’s Seed.” They are not the remnant of the woman, but they are specifically identified with the Seed of the woman and in this chapter, there is no mistaking the Seed of the woman, the woman has had only ONE child and that Child is Christ. Right through the chapter, the Church of God has been identified as a woman, but now, at the very end of time, the symbol changes. It is no longer the woman who is identified with God’s people, it is no longer the woman who is the subject of Satan’s enmity, now there is something called, “the remnant of her Seed,” and this is what Satan hates and attacks.
Who are these people and why are they identified in this way? These people are the last remaining group of Christians who are faithful to Christ at the end of time. In an age when there is wholesale apostasy in the “Christian Church,” when the institutionalized churches have married themselves to the political systems of the world and are best described as “Babylon,” a group of Christians arise on the earth who reflect the image of Jesus in the midst of the prevailing apostasy. These people are filled with the life and the power of Christ and this is why they are labeled as “the remnant of the Seed.” In other words they are the last remaining portion of Jesus Christ on the earth. A part of Jesus still remains on earth and that part is this group of Christians, the true body of Christ.
Keep God’s Commandments
These people “keep the commandments of God.” Again, we should not misapply this and think it is referring to groups or institutions which hold to the belief that the ten commandments are still binding. What people profess is not the same as what people are and do. The Jews were the greatest professing-commandment-keepers in the world at the time when they were killing the Son of God and the same thing is happening with other groups today. Let us not be deceived by labels. What this verse is focusing on is the character of this remnant, they are people who are outstanding by their lifestyles which clearly demonstrate that they are people who are totally submissive to God. They keep His commandments, all His commandments, not just simply the ten statements written in the law. In other words, this is not pointing to the beliefs of an organized Church as some of us have been led to believe, it is pointing to the holy and pure lifestyle of committed individuals.
The Testimony of Jesus
This remnant also have the “testimony of Jesus Christ.” The Seventh-day Adventist denomination teaches that this phrase refers to the writings of Ellen G. White. In Revelation 19:10, we read an account where John fell down to worship the angel who was revealing these prophecies to him:
And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev 19:10)
Here we are told what “the testimony of Jesus Christ,” is; it is “the spirit of prophecy.” The Seventh day Adventist Church claims that Ellen White’s ministry is the fulfillment of this prophecy. Because Ellen White was a prophet and she is identified with the SDA Church, the claim is made that this fulfills the prophecy. The SDA Church has the “spirit of prophecy,” since it has the writings of Ellen White. In other words, anyone who has the books of Ellen White on his bookshelf or on his computer as the case may be, possesses “the spirit of prophecy.” Sadly, this is another misinterpretation of the prophecy.
Let us look at another verse in Revelation which clarifies what it means to have the spirit of prophecy:
And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. (Rev 22:8-9)
Once again John is overwhelmed by what he is seeing and he falls at the feet of the angel to worship him. The angel corrects him again and repeats what he said before, but this time, he rephrases it. Look at the two statements below:
1. I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus.
2. I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets.
Both statements are almost identical, but the last part is different. When we compare them we see clearly that those who have the testimony of Jesus, are those who are prophets. This is not referring to a denomination which has the writings of a certain person, not at all. It is referring to people who all possess the gift of prophecy. The spirit of God is in them and is producing the gifts of the spirit, but the gift in particular which is manifested is the gift of prophecy
Therefore, Revelation 12:17 says that this remnant have “the testimony of Jesus Christ,” which Revelation 19:10 explains is “the spirit of prophecy,” and Revelation 22:8,9 explains that to have the spirit of prophecy means that one is a prophet. They are prophets. This is the final fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel chapter 2:28 where God promised,
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (Joel 2:28)
These are the people of God at the end and it is these people who arouse the wrath of Satan and against whom he goes to make war in the final moments of time.
(Source: David Clayton from Restoration Ministry)