"She Has A Place" (Revelation 12:1-6)
Revelation: The Time is Near
Almost 500 days ago, Russian soldiers invaded the sovereign nation of Ukraine. Real battles with real bloodshed happened in real places like Kharkiv, Mariupol, and Bakmut. Ukrainians know that behind the attackers, tanks, and drones stands a dictator named Vladamir Putin and a long history of conflict. Without understanding Putin and history, one cannot understand or respond to this aggression.
Another war rages today that has raged for much longer than 500 days or even 500 years. This war is almost as old as time. It continues everywhere on earth, even in this room right now. Behind this conflict stands a dictator who long ago declared war on the Eternal God and the goodness of His creation.
Revelation 12-14 recounts the true history of this war up to the present. And because we have God’s Word, these chapters lay out a thoroughly accurate account of the future of this war and how it will end. Revelation 12:1-6 provides a simple summary of the history of this war. Then, beginning at 12:7, we see a replay of that history with greater detail. Today we look at this six-verse summary.
Turn in a Bible to Revelation 12. Verses 1-6 of that chapter appear on p. 1034 of the Bibles available in the chair racks. As I read these words, identify the main combatants in this war. Locate the movement of the war from heaven to earth. And track the history of this war up to today.
Rev. 12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:1–6)
My purpose for this message is that all who listen would care about and care for the church. I want you to consider what God would have you do to care about and care for the church. And I want you to act, to care about and care for the church.
And you respond, “How on earth are you going to get from this strange account of an attack on a mother and her male child by a hideous monster to a message about the church?” I have my work cut out for me.
Let’s start by admitting that this drama is highly symbolic. Verses 1 and 3 mention signs. Signs stand for something. Signs point to greater realities. Signs highlight specific details to get our attention.
In v. 1, the woman is a sign. She appears in heavenly splendor (v. 1). But her past (v. 2) was not so bright. She endured a difficult pregnancy. As she came to deliver (end, v. 4), instead of a caring midwife, a hideous monster appears to receive her son. God rescues and exalts this child (v. 5), while the woman flees to safety (v. 6).
This woman is a symbol of God’s faithful people throughout history before and after the first coming of Christ. Before Jesus Christ was born into the world, God’s old covenant people anticipated His coming like a woman in labor. At His birth, God’s faithful people welcomed the Messiah. And now God’s new covenant church remains in the wilderness of this world awaiting her Messiah’s return.
Note that this male child is not called a sign. He is, literally, Jesus Christ – a true human male who was born, triumphed over Satan, and was coronated by God as the Ruler of all.
Verse 6 affirms that, in this current wilderness, God’s people have a place that He has prepared where he nourishes his people for 1260 days or 3 ½ years. We’ve said that 3 ½ is the number of incompleteness, the temporary number, the number in between the beginning and the completion of God’s kingdom on earth. It is the time between Christ’s first and second coming. It is the time to endure before the time to be exalted.
Where is the place in the wilderness that God has prepared for His people to nourish her between the first and second comings of King Jesus? It is the church. The church is an oasis in the wilderness. That’s why I purpose in this message to persuade you to care about and care for the church.
If you are a Christian you are part of Christ’s church. You should care about and care for the church. If you are not a Christian, you will wander in the wilderness unless you come home to Christ and enter into His church. The text points to five reasons why you and I should care about and care for the church.
1. Her destiny is glorious (v. 1)
First, care about and care for the church because her destiny is glorious (v. 1). As Jesus shows John the vision of the woman in v. 1, he reveals her in heaven, as she will be when her wilderness days are done, when the conflict with the dragon is over. She appears in her final glory. This is her destiny. In the wilderness, she looks like Cinderella the maid. But she is, in reality, a beautiful princess and bride to the King.
She is clothed with the sun because she shares the glory of her king. She has the moon under her feet and stars on her crown because she shares authority with her King.
We can look at any church, including this one, and see her faults and failures. We can focus on problems and conflicts that are real and cannot be ignored. But we will lose motivation to address these issues if we lose sight of the church’s destiny. Paul through the Holy Spirit reminds us that:
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25–27)
This book of Revelation ends with a Great Marriage. Christ is the Husband and his people His Bride.
Then came one of the seven angels … and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he … showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:9–11)
When we remember the church’s glorious destiny we will speak well of the church to outsiders. We will not cover up or excuse her faults, but we will seek to protect and promote her reputation and her members’ reputations. We will think the best of her and give her the benefit of the doubt. For every criticism, we will offer ten encouragements. We will fight for her, not against her.
We honor the church’s destiny by treating her with respect, being careful to attend when not hindered beyond our control, being on time and attentive during her services, participating eagerly and earnestly, and helping others do the same. We will sacrifice to meet her needs. We will not use the church as the step-sisters used Cinderella but will seek to serve the church as the princess that she is.
What would it mean for you to demonstrate greater honor to the church, to this church? Care about and care for the church because her destiny is glorious.
2. Her History is Courageous
However, a woman often does not feel like a beautiful princess when in labor. She may not look the part at the time. But that is no excuse for failing to care for her. Care about and care for the church also because her history is courageous.
This vision pictures God’s faithful people anticipating the Messiah as a woman carrying and then delivering a baby. The word picture captures perfectly the history of God’s old covenant people tracing back to the garden of Eden. After the first human beings, Adam & Eve rebelled against God’s rule under the Serpent’s influence (Genesis 3), God judged all involved in the sin, including the Serpent.
The Lord God said to the serpent, … “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14–15)
God’s promise of salvation involves a male child suffering to defeat Satan, reversing the rebellion. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people wait courageously for this promised deliverer. Consult Micah for an example. In Chapter 4, the prophet seems to sneer at God’s people going into exile.
Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished, that pain seized you like a woman in labor? Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies. (Micah 4:9-10)
And how will God accomplish this rescue? Just a few verses later at the opening of Chapter 5, the prophet employs the same word picture again:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. (Micah 5:2–3)
Every December we celebrate Advent, the season of anticipation. One reason is to remember the courageous faith of those who waited for centuries for God to keep His promise. You should care about this history because, if you belong to Christ, this is your history.
There is one people of God throughout history, united in Jesus Christ. The faithful before Christ looked forward. The faithful after Christ look back. One group anticipates. The other celebrates. Both belong to the same people.
U.S. citizens should know their nation’s history. All the more, we in the church should know our history. We have more in common with a faithful ancient Israelite whose hope is in God’s Messiah than we do with a fellow American whose hope is in a political party.
One reason I have a children’s sermon is that I want the children who attend this church to get a history that they will not get in school. I want them to see that all of these events and artifacts point to the central hero of history, Jesus Christ.
One way to care for the church would be to volunteer to take a turn every few weeks to teach our children. We need qualified, screened, and caring teachers for classes before church and during the sermon. Ladies, the current study on Wednesday nights is in Hebrews 11, a chapter that celebrates the faith of old covenant saints who courageously waited on God to bring salvation. I encourage you to attend.
We should care about and care for the church because her history is courageous. Not that the people achieved their salvation through their courage. No, they courageously hoped in God to do for them what they could not do for themselves. All attempts at self-salvation failed. Isaiah writes:
Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O Lord; we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth …. (Isaiah 26:17–18)
Those who try to gain salvation through self-effort fail. Only those who trust fully in the work of Jesus Christ find salvation. If you cannot consciously say that you have repented from sin and rested in Jesus, then you are destined to wander in the wilderness forever. Come and find eternal life in Him.
3. Her Enemy is Ferocious
We should care about and care for the church because her destiny is glorious and her history is courageous. But we should also care because her enemy is ferocious.
The other sign in this passage is the dragon in v. 3. This monster has horns and crowns. Horns symbolize power. Crowns symbolize authority. V. 9 offers more information about his identity.
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:9)
Satan, with great power and authority, begins his war against God in heaven. He takes a third of the angels (stars) with him in his rebellion. These are the demons who carry out his attacks. They shift the battle from heaven to earth by the end of v. 4. They concentrate hostility against the woman. That hostility did not end at the birth of her child. In the wilderness, the church is surrounded by Satan’s forces and under constant attack.
We care about and care for the church when we pray for each other to resist Satan’s assaults. Ephesians 6 teaches that we “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” when we “keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
We care about and for the church when we combat sin in our personal life and lovingly confront our brothers and sisters about sin. When a fellow believer approaches us for a difficult conversation, it’s so easy to get defensive, to think that he or she is attacking. In reality, Satan is attacking. Our brother or sister is helping to resist him. The doctor wielding a scalpel is not an enemy. What she is removing is the enemy.
4. Her Mission is Gracious
Such difficult ministry points to a fourth reason why we should care about and for the church. Her mission is gracious.
Verse 6 simply says that, in the wilderness, in the place prepared by God, his people are to be nourished. The church is a place where people find nourishment in a barren land. The church is where God feeds his people on heavenly manna. He gives us His Word.
The church is the place where Christ communes with his people. It is where people gather to sing the songs of Zion. It is where they gain strength to move forward as the camp inches toward the Promised Land. And the Lord uses means to accomplish his purposes. Church members graciously nourish each other.
For the church to fulfill her mission, she needs strong leaders. That’s why we support Agros and its network of churches and leaders in our area. The church needs servants who care for administrative details so that her shepherds can focus on the ministry of the Word of God and prayer. She needs members who teach and admonish one another. She supports missions and evangelism so that the church expands into the wilderness as more and more come to Christ.
I ask you to consider: How has God prepared you to make this church a more refreshing oasis in the wilderness of this world? Timothy Dwight gave us words to express our care for the church:
I love thy kingdom, Lord, the house of thine abode, the church our blest Redeemer saved with his own precious blood.
For her my tears shall fall, for her my prayers ascend; to her my cares and toils be giv'n, 'til toils and cares shall end.
Her King is Victorious
Finally, at least in this text, care about the church and for the church because her King is Victorious. This is the most significant reason.
Satan, with his crowns and horns, mimics Christ but can never replace Him. Jesus Christ is the male child “who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (v. 5a). He humbled himself to be born of a woman yet is exalted to share God’s throne (v. 5b). He is Victorious.
The vision depicts Jesus’s victory over Satan in less than a sentence. The details between his birth and coronation have been described elsewhere in Revelation and will be again later. Here the emphasis is on how simply he dispenses with the imposter who thinks that he will be the god of this world forever.
The church is the one place in this vast wilderness across the generations that honors Jesus Christ as the Rightful King. John declares in 1 John 5:19 that the rest of the world remains in the power of the evil one. A church is an embassy of the coming kingdom in a foreign land. Every human being is either devoted to Jesus Christ and identifies with his kingdom or else is bound to Satan and identifies with his counterfeit kingdom.
Present circumstances may paint Jesus as helpless and irrelevant. His church often looks weak and defeated. But Her King will not allow her to fail. Her destiny is secure in Him. He will supply the courage she needs. She will accomplish her mission. He reigns at God’s right hand to intercede for her.
Those who love Jesus and live loyal to Him as King will care about and care for his church. We sang the essence of this message earlier.
Who is this, so weak and helpless, child of lowly Hebrew maid, rudely in a stable sheltered, coldly in a manger laid?
Who is this, a Man of Sorrows, walking sadly life's hard way, homeless, weary, sighing, weeping over sin and Satan's sway?
Who is this? Behold him shedding drops of blood upon the ground! Who is this, despised, rejected, mocked, insulted, beaten, bound? 'Tis our God, who gifts and graces on his church is pouring down; who shall smite in holy vengeance all his foes beneath his throne.
Who is this that hangs there dying while the rude world scoffs and scorns, numbered with the malefactors, torn with nails, and crowned with thorns? 'Tis our God, who lives forever 'mid the shining ones on high, in the glorious golden city, reigning everlastingly.
To You, Lord Jesus, we pledge our loyal obedience.