Revelation – the end…or the beginning… Rev 12-13 – Dragon’s Fury
When the time is short what do you tend to do? Probably make the most of whatever time you have. The last thing you want to do when the time is short is to waste it. For example, who’s been to Disneyworld? And if there’s one place where you have to make the most of the time it’s Disneyworld, right? We went as a family a few years ago and we were on a mission, having our Fastpasses booked in advance and all ready. We went from first thing in the morning racing to the 7 Dwarves Mine Train, then going from ride to ride all day until closing time when Jacob and I caught a late Fastpass for Space Mountain. We barely paused to eat. But we made the most of our day at Magic Kingdom. And when we thought we were going this past Spring we were booking our Fastpasses months in advance, planning a great vacation-until of course the pandemic hit and Disneyworld closed. I was never so sad as when I got the email that our reservation for the Star Wars Cantina at Galaxy’s Edge was cancelled! One day I’ll get there! But when you go to Disneyworld and you know it’s 1 day at Magic Kingdom, 1 day at Hollywood Studios, 1 day at Epcot, who plans it all out and makes the most of the time trying to see as much as you can? Who sort of just meanders through the park and says I’ll see what I see? That might be the relaxing way to do it-but when the time is short you’ve got to use it wisely because it’s gone before you know it. And isn’t that the worst feeling when the time is just slipping away? Even on our vacation this summer on Day 1 you feel like you have all sorts of time-the whole week ahead of you for vacation and relaxation-and then before you know it’s the last day of your vacation, you’re heading home the next morning, so you quickly start making the most of the last day and squeezing in everything you still want to do. It might be a long vacation but that last day seems to arrive so quickly and slip away before you know it.
Who thinks high school went by quickly? Or as a student, is it going by quickly? Or who thinks college went by quickly? It’s a funny thing because in the moment school and studies seem to drag on forever, don’t they? When you’re sitting in class or pulling the all-nighter for finals the time can’t go any slower. You feel like you’ll always be a student-and yet somehow it’s gone before you know it! Those 4 years of high school or 4 years of college end up flying by. So let’s take that period of time-4 years-or maybe you were a genius in college and got it done in 3 years-but would you say that’s a long time? Or would you say 3-4 years is a short time? Taking it a step further-what would you try to accomplish in that time period? Would you try to get as much done as possible saying 34 years is short-or would you say that’s plenty of time no need to rush? I want you to think about that this morning because that’s the time frame we’re examining.
Open your Bibles to Rev 12-or we’ll have it up on the screen-Rev 12:12. This is where we left off last week. And when the passage is referring to the time being short-it’s talking about 3 1/2 years. And we can debate whether that is long or short-but from the devil’s perspective it’s short. And we read about that great battle in heaven last week where Michael and his angels defeated the devil which resulted in he and his demons getting kicked out. They got the boot from heaven which was a great thing because it means our accuser is no longer there in God’s presence accusing us day and night. And that’s why this verse has a combination of rejoicing and warning-v. 12. The devil’s response to his time being short is to explode in great fury! He wants to do as much damage as possible in the short time that he has remaining. For you and me it’s hopefully the opposite-that if we have a short window of time we want to do as much good as possible, accomplish as much as possible, go see as much as possible, have as much fun as possible. Not the devil-happiness and fun aren’t on his agenda-instead its death and destruction. He’s like this uncaged, furious dragon ready to attack! So take a look at it-Rev 12:13.
And this is where we realize that it isn’t just referring to Mary who gave birth to Jesus-but is a broader reference to the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. And of course Israel has been the source of much hatred and persecution throughout world history. Enslaved by Pharaoh in Egypt, attacked and taken into exile by Assyria and Babylon, attempted to be wiped out and exterminated in Esther’s day, and we all know the horrors they’ve faced in modern times-particularly the concentration camps in WWII. But God has continually protected His people and always spared a remnant. And it’s no different here. If you remember a few weeks ago we talked about the nation of Israel turning back to the Lord in repentance and faith, the 144,000-Rev 7:3-4. This is during the 1st half of Tribulation-and it reminds us that God hasn’t given up on His people. They will serve as His witnesses during the end times. But that group become the devil’s focus, the prey he’s feverishly hunting down-as he always has. But look at what happens this time-Rev 12:14. And that refers to the second 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation. During the first half they were the Lord’s witnesses across the earth but during this second half they’re now safely protected by God in a place of provision where the devil can’t reach them. They’re whisked away on eagle’s wings-and of course I can’t help but picturing LOTR where the eagles come at the end to carry Sam and Frodo safely away after the ring’s ben destroyed in the fire and the mountain is collapsing around them. It begs the question why didn’t the eagles just carry the ring and drop it into the fire themselves saving Sam and Frodo from the long, dangerous journey. But then it wouldn’t have been much of a book! But those giant eagles fly them away to safety in the house of the elves. Here God’s people are flown to safety in the wilderness. And I doubt they’re actually sitting on the backs of giant eagles and literally flying away-but that’s the metaphor. Look at how God did this for His people in Ex 19:4. Now the Israelites marched out of Egypt, they didn’t go airborne on the eagle express-but that’s the metaphor of how God saved the Israelites-on the great wings of His protection. And that’s what’s happening at the other end of history for Israel. They’re flown to safety-making the devil even more mad-Rev 12:15-16. And this could be a literal flood that happens on the earth, or this could be the flood of invasion from an army where all the troops are swallowed up by a big earthquake. Either way, the Israelites are protected. No matter how great the dragon’s fury, no matter how insistent and angry Satan is, they aren’t harmed. He can’t devour them. But remember the opening statement-Woe to you, O earth, for the devil has come in great wrath. Here it is-Rev 12:17a. He goes off to destroy the rest of God’s people-which in this case would largely be those who’ve come to faith through the witness of the 144,000 Israelites. They’ve become the devil’s target and object of his fury.
So Pt1:Dragon’s Fury: intensely fierce, don’t underestimate it. That’s what we don’t want to miss when studying the book of Revelation. It’s not just to think-wow, those will be some tough times then, people will have it rough, sure hope I’m not around. It certainly will be tough times, the most difficult and destructive times our planet has ever seen-and we pray that God will remove believers and keep us from it. But don’t think the dragon’s fury isn’t raging right now. It totally is! Just as he’ll make war on believers then, so that battle is happening today. And I don’t know about you-but it’s awfully easy to downplay and underestimate the devil’s fury in our lives. Just about the time I think I’m doing good spiritually, or that some sin won’t get the best of me, or that I’m beyond a certain temptation or bad attitude, that’s when I fall. When I put my spiritual life on cruise control and think I’ll be okay, that’s when I’m ripe for disaster and the devil knows it. Look at-1 Pet 5:8-9. The devil is alive and well. And he’s looking for someone. Did you catch that-he’s seeking someone-and what kind of person is he seeking? Someone who isn’t sober-minded and watchful. The NIV says self-controlled and alert. When you’re not looking, when you let your guard down, when you’re not in control and letting the world control you and guide your thinking, when you’re not seeing temptation for what it is or assume it won’t affect you, that’s when you’re ripe for the devil to find you-and do what? Take a little taste, a little nibble and then leave you alone? Or to have you stumble once but otherwise let you carry on? No-he wants to devour you! For you to fall flat on your face! He wants you to suffer and struggle. He wants you in misery and pain. His goal is not to have you enjoy sin. Think about it-he’s not leaving you in that place of sin’s pleasure. Of course there’s always a moment when sin brings happiness-if it didn’t we wouldn’t do it. But the happiness is a small byproduct for the devil-because ultimately he loves it when you’re feeling ashamed and embarrassed afterwards. He loves it when you’re wallowing in ruin and regret, where you’ve destroyed your career or your ministry or your marriage because of your actions and everybody knows it when and your dishonesty or immorality has been exposed. He loves it when you’re in that place-that’s his goal to get you there-to that place of heartache and sorrow. That’s when he’s smiling and feeling satisfied-when you’re wounded and defeated, a shell of who you were, a lifeless carcass-1 Pet 5:8-9. Are you doing that? Are you standing firm, being watchful and alert? If you’re not looking out for him then you’re exactly who he is looking for! Don’t forget that!
And here’s what’s interesting-it finally dawned on me this week. The devil likes to be an animal! Here he is as a prowling lion ready to chew us up. But in his original state, as created by God before he fell from heaven, he was called Day Star, son of the Dawn. And we said last week, that sounds like a good title, a rather lofty position! But as he’s fallen to earth he’s taken the form of a serpent, a lion, a dragon, and what’s next? A beast! Look at how this continues-Rev 12:17b-13:1. Very similar description to Satan as the 7-headed dragon with 10 horns-obviously John is wanting us to make that connection. But then he wants us to make another connection as we see how strange and mangled this beast is-Rev 13:2. So I doubt that any of us have seen some sort of leopard bear with lion teeth! When Dorothy said lions and tigers and bears, oh my-this is it wrapped up into one animal. Here’s the Tapestry of the Apocalypse from the 14th century that hung in Angers Cathedral, France for over 300 years until the French Revolution when it was taken down to be used as a floor mat-but it makes the beast look rather tame with a weird giraffe neck! I’m not an artist so this would be hard to draw-but the connection is Daniel’s vision from the OT of the beasts representing the empires of the ancient world. The leopard is the swiftness of the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great, the bear’s feet are the strength of the Medo-Persian Empire, and the lion is the power of Babylon. So this hybrid beast now in Revelation is the sum total of all world empires that have opposed God’s people throughout history, all the aggression and wickedness and idolatry of those empires rolled into one, new world empire in the end times-a lot of scholars refer to it as a revived Roman Empire that’s led by the Beast. And this tapestry-although hardly doing justice to how fierce the Beast is-does show Satan handing over his scepter-his power and authority-to the Beast. In essence, this is Satan possessing the Beast, controlling him like a puppet. Look back at the text-Rev 13:2b-3. This is where Satan’s power becomes important. Somehow this beast is wounded-and it’s serious-a mortal wound. The Beast is about to die, to collapse and be gone-until he’s healed by Satan in what is a counterfeit death and resurrection. Most scholars see this as a ruler or leader of a country who’s miraculously healed-returning back to life and full strength from how he used to be sick and suffer-or it could refer to the nation he leads that was once wounded and struggling is now miraculously restored and doing great-it’s resurrected to its former glory. So what’s the response to the Beast-whether his healing or his nation’s healing? Not balloons and get well soon cards-but the whole earth marveled-they were amazed, speechless, impressed-so much so they did what? They followed the beast.
Now as we just saw on the tapestry, this beast looks weird and is hard to imagine as some animal mashup. But when he’s presented to the world he’s not some big, mean, snarling, hairy, bear-footed, lion-toothed, leopard-spotted creature ready to eat you for lunch. Here’s Disney’s live-action Beast. We’d all go running from that! Just as the devil doesn’t look like a roaring lion or a 7-headed dragon, but masquerades as an angel of light, so this Beast will masquerade as someone we’ll love as he wins the hearts of the world. So he’s more like the animated Beast! He is lovable-but instead of the prince being cursed to look like the Beast which is the plot of this fairy tale, the Beast in Revelation looks like the beautiful prince but underneath is a snarling, devouring creature who wants to curse God and destroy His people! Look at how this is described-Rev 13:4. The world is enamored with the Beast! They love him, worship him, praise him and sing his accolades! Who is like the beast? We haven’t had anybody, in all the world, like this guy! He’s wonderful! There’s no one who can fight him! My Beast can beat up your beast! The world is filled with wonder-Who is like the beast?-meaning no one. And if that phrase sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Who masquerades as an angel of light, turning and twisting God’s Word? The devil who’s possessed the Beast-and he’s gotten the world now to utter the words that are only meant for God. Look at this-Ps 89:9; Micah 7:18; Rom 8:31 NIV. But the world is saying-No, no, there is no one who can fight agains the Beast! He’s our hero! But Satan got the villain to look like the hero! And that’s what he’s best at.
So Pt2:The Beast’s Facade: deceptively subtle, don’t be lured in. That’s what’s happened to the world. They’re lured in by the beast and his supposed ability to be healed and come back to life. No doubt that’s powerful stuff-many of us would probably be tempted to fall for it or give our allegiance. But that’s why it requires total reliance on the Holy Spirit-both then and now. Even if the Beast isn’t here yet-the philosophies and values of the world sound so good, they often make so much sense-but fly directly in the face of God and what He’s said. Just think of the phrase-You only live once. True statement-obviously-but what goes with it? The thinking that you have to do all you can now, get it all here, make the most of every moment, live every experience to the full-none of that necessarily bad-but it can subtly and easily lead us to make this world our treasure, instead of setting our eyes on God and what He has in store for us for us. Or we’re often lured in by the thinking that just a little bit won’t harm us, why not give it a try. What’s a little bit of sin going to do? And before we know it we’re lured in-and as we saw earlier-devoured by the devil. Or what about our mouths and gossip. That’s such a subtle place where we’re lured in. How many times have you heard the phrase-I shouldn’t be telling you this but… Or I don’t mean to speak bad about them but… And off we go down the gossip road. Have you said things like that? It’s that subtle but dangerous way we’re lured in to tearing someone down which the devil loves for us to do. But here’s where it all funnels-1 John 4:1-3. John is saying the antichrist, meaning the Beast is on his way-but his thinking and philosophies are already here. And if that thinking, that idea or “truth” that you’re tempted to believe doesn’t put Jesus at the center, if it doesn’t say that He’s our Savior having come into this world to take on human flesh in order to give up His life for us-than it’s not from God, it’s not the Truth. And the Holy Spirit is there to help and guide us and steer us in this-to say-this sounds good, it makes sense, I see the point-but something’s off, this teaching, that person and what they’re telling me isn’t centered on Christ. And if that’s the case-leave it, don’t be lured in. Because look at the endgame, look at where the Beast will take people once he’s lured them in-it’s just like John was saying-Rev 13:5-6.
At the end of the day, all things that aren’t true ultimately fly in the face of God and who He is. That’s where the lies of the devil are going to lead you. This is when he’s got a big smile on his face, this is when he’s pleased with the Beast he’s possessed-well done my shaggy Beast-as its blaspheming and cursing God. When you begin to follow the ideas and philosophies of the world that aren’t from God, it’s the same road that you’re on. There is only 2 options-what is true that points us to Jesus, and what is false that points us to the world. Partial truths and half-truths just don’t exist-and so both then and now we’re called to take our stand, to draw our line in the sand and declare our allegiance. Is it to God and truth of His Word-or is it to the world and the subtle but deadly lies they’re chasing after? And notice how Satan so easily gets the world to worship the villain who looks like the hero-Rev 13:7-8. The earth has collectively come together to worship the Beast-did you notice that-people from every tribe, language and nation have been fooled into making the Beast, the antichrist, the object of their heart’s affection. He’s the hero we’ve been waiting for all this time-the one who’s going to come and unite the world and save us-that’s our Beast. Who is like him? That’s the world’s worship-this false savior, this antichrist who’s come to deceive and destroy, not save and restore. And yet those whose names have been written in the book of life, meaning those who are saved, still cling to Christ. And who is He-the Lamb who was slain. Don’t miss that contrast. The Beast was wounded and then healed by Satan. The Lamb was slain, He was crucified, put to death and then resurrected by God. Who is our real hero? Not the one who received all that power from Satan for a short time, but the one who resisted it! And that’s Jesus! Pt3:The Savior’s Love: overflowing with grace, don’t miss it.
You see Satan, knowing his time is short, came and offered his power, throne and authority to the Beast who immediately took it. And for 3 1/2 years, 42 months, he reigned on the earth, he made war on God’s people, and he was worshipped by the world-what a run-42 months! What did Jesus do when He was offered the same things from Satan? Luke 4:5. Remember that the Beast’s kingdom was the all the world empires-Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome all rolled into one-this is what Jesus is seeing-Luke 4:6-7. Exact same offer, exact same decision as the Beast. But what does Jesus do? Luke 4:8. And when Jesus turns down all the kingdoms of the world and all that authority, He knows what that means. His kingdom doesn’t come through seizing all that power in an instant from the devil, it comes through doing exactly what He quoted in Deut-…and Him only shall you serve. And Jesus served God, He secured the kingdom, and saved our souls-not by seizing power but sacrificing His life. Jesus is our real hero! He makes the decision that none of us could have made-to turn down all the kingdoms of the world-and knowing the alternative was the cost of His life! But Jesus does that-because of His love for God the Father, and His love for you and me. Back to Pt3. Don’t chase after the fleeting lies and deceit of the world. Don’t worship the things of the world. This passage in Revelation shows us the futility-that even if you could gain the whole world and have everything handed to you like the Beast did-what does it give you 3 1/2 years, 42 months? It doesn’t last. In this world the time is short-don’t forget that truth. Because what does last, not the Beast’s kingdom-but Jesus’ kingdom-Dan 7:14. Do you belong to that kingdom, the kingdom of the Son? Has your heart surrendered to Jesus?