By Luke Johnson | November 29, 2015
Remember your church
Read your church’s letter together to remember what Jesus said to your church.
- Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7)
- Smyrna (Rev 2:8-11)
- Pergamum (Rev 2:12-17)
- Thyatira (Rev 2:18-29)
- Philadelphia (Rev 3:7-13)
- Sardis (Rev 2:1-6)
- Laodicea (Rev 3:14-21)
What is something you’ve had to work hard to achieve?
Have you ever had to work hard to stop something from happening?
READ Revelation 12
What popped out at you in this chapter? (Anything weird/cool/surprising/new?)
Does anything remind you of other stuff we’ve read in Revelation so far?
Does anything remind you of what Jesus said in his letter to our Revelation church?
Do you notice any similarities between Revelation 12 and the Christmas story in the gospels? (This is Revelation’s version!)
The Woman (12:1-2, 5)
What’s the woman’s role in this vision? Can you summarize her part of the story?
Who do you think the woman is supposed to be? Does she remind you of any women from the Bible?
Think about the following ‘women’ from the Bible. How are they similar to the woman in Revelation 12?
- Mary, mother of Jesus
- Literally gave birth to Jesus.
- God tells the serpent in Gen 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
- The Rev 12 woman is clothed in the sun and stands on the moon with stars around her head. This might be a way of saying, “She represents all of creation.” Since Eve was the first woman, she might be a symbol of “All Creation”.
- Israel (the people)
- Israel ‘gave birth’ to Jesus in a way -- Jesus entered the world through the Israelite people.
- The 12 stars around the woman’s head might indicate that she represents the 12 tribes of Israel (or maybe the “true” Israel -- the people within the Israelites who remain faithful to God).
- She is wearing “a crown of 12 stars” -- in Revelation, Jesus gives crowns to people because they remained faithful. This “crown” might tell us that the woman represents people who have remained faithful to God. (We ‘bring Jesus into the world’, too, by sharing our faith.)
The Dragon (12:3-4, 7-9)
Who is the dragon supposed to be? What does John call him? (Look at verse 9)
Dragon’s Defeat (12:10-12)
How many times does the dragon get defeated in Rev 12?
What’s the secret ingredient that causes the dragon’s defeat? (Look at verse 11 in particular.)
It’s Jesus’ death on the cross! God’s angels battle with the dragon, and the battle doesn’t end until Jesus dies on the cross. It’s “the blood of the Lamb” and Christians’ testimony about him that pushes the dragon out of heaven.
When the dragon loses the battle in heaven, who does he attack next? (Look at verse 13 -- the woman)
When the woman is whisked away to safety, how does the dragon try to kill her? (verse 15)
Does this remind you of any stories in the Old Testament? John is doing something interesting here.
Compare this story with Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt:
- Israel is escaping the Egyptians through the Red Sea, but the Egyptians come after them.
The woman escapes to the wilderness, but the dragon sends a flood to killer her.
- When the Egyptians follow the Israelites through the Red Sea, the sea swallows them.
When the dragon spews the river at the woman, the earth swallows the water to save her.
Why do you think John would connect the story of the woman and the dragon with Israel’s Exodus?
Why is the Exodus story so important for Israel? (It’s the first and biggest time that God acted to save Israel.)
John connects these stories to hint at ‘the moral of the story’ for us: Just like God came through back at the Exodus, we can trust him to put down the big ugly dragon. God will crush him. (Just like in the “Romans 16:19” song!)
[Leader Note: John is also playing off of familiar cultural stories that his audience would know. If your group is interested in this, check out Craig Keener’s summary of these stories on the “Appendix” page.]
The Woman’s Flight to the Wilderness (12:6, 13-16)
Why do you think the woman flees to the wilderness? The Greeks and Egyptians have stories similar to this one, and in their stories, the woman flees to an island. What is special about the wilderness in the Bible?
The wilderness is where God acts!
- God makes Israel into his people in the wilderness. He saves them from slavery there.
- God meets Elijah in the wilderness, and prepares him to finish his work as his prophet.
- Jesus is sent into the wilderness where he is tested by Satan, and then starts his ministry.
- Apostle Paul spends time in the desert, where God prepares him for a life of preaching and suffering.
As a group, try to summarize the message of Revelation 12. What do you think John wants us to understand?
Stand up! Overcome! The dragon is fierce, but he’s done for. God has ousted him, utterly defeated him. He’s doomed and he knows it. God truly is king, and there’s not a thing the devil can do about it. The death the dragon wants for you is undone by the life Jesus offers you.
“In Egyptian mythology, Isis (Hathor), portrayed with the sun on her head, birthed Horus, and the red dragon Typhon sought to slay her, but she escaped to an island and her son Horus overthrew the dragon. In the Greek version of the story, the great dragon Python, warned that he would be killed by Leto’s son, pursued the pregnant Leto, who was hidden by Poseidon on an island, which he then temporarily submerged. After Python had left, Leto birthed the god Apollo, who in four days was strong enough to slay the dragon.” (Keener, Revelation, NIV Application, 316)
Notice the similarities between the Rev 12 woman and Isis/Leto?
John is weaving together Old Testament pictures and familiar cultural stories to help paint a picture for us -- but he’s not just retelling one of these stories; he’s using all of them to open our imaginations to the Big Story going on in the universe -- God himself who saves his people through his Messiah and who puts down the Evil Dragon once and for all.
1,260 days = time, times and half a time
In Rev 12:6 John says the woman was taken care of for “1,260 days”. In verse 14, she’s taken care of for “a time, times and half a time.” We’ve seen this timestamp already in Rev 11, where the Two Witnesses pester the world for the same amount of time -- 3.5 years, roughly the same amount of time Elijah kept the rain from falling in 1 Kings.)
3 ½ years / 1,260 days / “time, times and half a time” -- John is using this number to talk about God’s judgment of evil.