• The Explore the Bible lesson for August 23 focuses on Revelation 12:1-17.
Revelation 12 marks the beginning of a new block of material from John. It begins with a tremendous story that contains incredible imagery revolving around a woman and a dragon. It is impossible to cover each scholarly interpretation of this story, and readers are encouraged to consult a variety of resources for further study. Despite the varied interpretations, one idea remains perfectly clear: Satan is defeated! That is, Jesus’ death and resurrection gives hope to all who trust in him. Trust always leads to transformation.
In this lesson, we will explore some of the main ideas and concerns of the woman and the dragon story. We will pay particular attention to key images that communicate foundational-yet-always-encouraging words regarding the lordship of Jesus and the ultimate defeat of evil. Readers can gain wonderful insight through this story regarding the reasons we can continue to trust Jesus through the ups and downs of daily living in these rapidly changing times. In fact, we can make note here of three main ideas: Satan is defeated, the Lamb is praised and a defeated Satan regroups to attack the church.
Satan defeated (12:1-9)
Most Protestant scholarship agrees the woman in the story symbolizes the faithful community of believers, or the people of God. Some refer particularly to Isaiah 54 as an Old Testament background text to Revelation 12, noting the woman symbolizes the true Israel, or the Bride of God. Obviously, the dragon is the counterpoint to the woman, and we can be confident to interpret this character as the devil, or Satan. The dragon has seven heads, ten horns and seven crowns—indicating ultimate and pervasive evil. That the dragon swept a third of the stars out of the sky indicates he is intent upon attacking the Light of the World, or Christ himself.
John indicated the dragon desired to devour the woman’s child. However, God not only saved the child, but also saved the woman from direct attack and ultimately death. One of the most logical interpretations of this event suggests Satan has done his best to snatch the Messiah and the salvation he brings away from the people of God. Yet Jesus’ death and resurrection insured the devil’s final and ultimate defeat. Satan lost the war. In the ultimate battle between good and evil, Satan was even hurled down to the earth, meaning he has lost all power and dignity. Consequently, even though we may remain in the “wilderness” for a certain amount of time, God’s people can rest assured they are protected, and God has made provision for us.
The Lamb praised (12:10-12)
These verses make up a poetic unit of praise concerning the defeat of Satan, who is referred to as the “accuser” in the passage. Jesus is praised as the One who provides redemption through his death. The faithful overcome the accuser “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” John used the Greek word for “martyr” in describing the testimony or witness of the faithful ones. Believers gain great victories over Satan by bearing witness to salvation to grace through faith in Christ. These believers will go even to the great lengths of giving up their lives in obedience to Jesus. John pointed out these overcoming believers do not love their lives over and above their responsibility to follow Jesus, no matter the cost.
The Dragon regroups (12:13-17)
Even though Satan has been defeated, he now pursues the church, or the “woman.” Yet, John said the woman had been given the wings of an eagle. In other words, God provides a way of escaping the traps of the accuser in daily living. Satan cannot defeat Jesus Christ, so now he wants to steal, kill and destroy the lives of believers in every generation—the continued offspring of the church. But the Bible promises divine protection. We can take heart when we are under fire from Satan.