Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 1:1-21; Revelation 12:1-17; Psalm 140:1-13; Proverbs 30:17
Today we begin to read the penultimate book of the Old Testament, Zechariah. Zechariah was a prophet who was a contemporary of Haggai. Both these prophets preached after the Jews began to migrate back to Israel after being held captive in Babylon for 70 years.
We know that Zechariah was martyred from Jesus’ comments in the New Testament (Matthew 23:25). In many parts of the world people are still liable to be killed if they profess faith in Jesus Christ. Even in the United States it is becoming more and more likely that people who believe what God says will lose their jobs (i.e. recent events surrounding Duck Dynasty) or be taken to court.
If we ever feel distant from God we can be 100% sure that it is not because He has moved away from us. It is always because we have moved away from Him. If we move closer to God, He will move closer to us (Zechariah 1:3). The ball is always in our court. God doesn’t force us into a relationship with Him. He allows us to choose between Him and the world.
Our passage in Revelation today is “a sign of great significance” (Revelation 12:1). Signs are not actual events. While much of Revelation can be taken literally, what we read here is symbolic of real events, some of which have happened and some which have yet to happen. Like much of prophecy the events we read here are not presented in a continuous sequence.
In order to understand what is happening, we need to identify the cast of characters:
- Woman: Israel
- Dragon: Satan
- Woman’s Baby: Jesus
- Michael: a real angel who goes by this name
- Woman’s Other Children: People who become followers of Jesus Christ during the Tribulation
The general story goes like this: Israel “gave birth” to Jesus (Revelation 12:2, 5) who is protected from Satan who knew beforehand of God’s plan to bring salvation to the world through His Son (Revelation 12:4). Notice that Satan is wearing a crown that is reminds us of the revived Roman Empire we read about a few days ago (Revelation 12:3). In the future the world will essentially be run by Satan (the antichrist will be empowered by Satan).
Its important to note that Satan is not God’s counterpart. Satan was created by God. But like man, angels were given a choice to follow God or not (we read this earlier this year as well). Satan chose not to and apparently convinced 1/3 of the other angels to do likewise (Revelation 12:4).
During the second half of the 7-year Tribulation (3.5 years or 1,260 days) Israel will be persecuted by Satan and will flee into the wilderness (Revelation 12:6, 14). This persecution will come at the hands of the antichrist who will break his 7-year peace treaty with Israel half-way through (after 3.5 years). Many people believe this verse will be fulfilled when a large group of Jews escapes Israel and hides out in Petra, Jordan which has natural, geologic defenses.
Meanwhile, a war breaks out in heaven between Satan and his followers and Michael (who is actually Satan’s counterpart – both are angels created by God) and his followers. Satan loses and is forced out of heaven (Revelation 12:8).
From this point forward, Satan can no longer accuse people before God (Satan’s name comes from the word for “accuser”). His accusations were defeated by the blood of Jesus (Revelation 12:10-11). It is Jesus’ death – and only Jesus’ death – that erases our sins. When Satan accuses a non-believer he is speaking the truth. But when he accuses a believer, he is speaking nonsense to God because a believer is no longer guilty according to God’s law.
But heaven’s gain is earth’s loss as Satan is cast down here (Revelation 12:9, 12). Satan has little time left (“Before what?” you may ask. Stay tuned) so like a trapped animal he will go on a rampage against Israel and all those who believe in Jesus (Revelation 12:17).
Since Satan is a spirit he will have to employ humans to do his dirty work. This implies that during this time period non-believers will turn drastically against believers (and you thought they were against us now). The hate that people have for Jesus will be manifested in the way they harm and kill their fellow human beings who are believers. The world will be out of control at this point.
Keep in mind we still have 7 judgements of God left to go. They will resume in Revelation 15. In the meantime, the next two chapters continue the story of the antichrist’s tenure on earth. Pretty exciting stuff, isn’t it? Yea, to read about. But I wouldn’t want to live through it.
We’ve been reading about massive evil that will take over people’s hearts during the Tribulation. But there is evil on this planet right now and it continues to grow. The only defense against it is for God to protect us (Psalm 140:1-13). We are not in a battle against flesh-and-blood. Other people are not our enemies. They are our brothers and sisters in our war against Satan and his demonic soldiers. The only thing that can overcome this spiritual warfare is the Spirit of God giving us protection and victory.
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