Revelation 12:13-17: Pursued and protected.

“13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the snake’s reach. 15 Then from his mouth the snake spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring – those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” NIV

Jesus said: ‘’If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…They will treat you this way because of my name’’ (John 15:18, 20,21). It is important to remember that any persecution the church suffers comes because of the great cosmic battle between Christ and Satan.

As we have seen in recent days, we face an enigma here: the church is both pursued and protected. It’s a paradoxical situation in which we find both a protected and a persecuted church. The protection is real, but believers are here prepared to die for their faith, and, indeed, some of them do so (11b). There is something of a parallel with the Exodus story, in which the people of Israel were pursued and protected. God cared for them, and provided for them in ‘’the desert’’. But that wilderness was a difficult and dangerous place.

The main point to note is the spiritual protection of believers in the face of all that Satan throws at them.

A summarising comment by Tom Hale, regarding chapter 12, is helpful, I think:

‘…the events described can refer both to events which have already taken place and also to events that will take place at the end of the world. First, the vision can be interpreted as a commentary on the past: Christ has already been born, and has defeated Satan on the cross; and Satan, ever since, has been persecuting Christ’s church. Second, the vision can be interpreted as a commentary on the future: at the end of the world, the final struggle between Satan and God will take place, and at that time Satan will again be hurled out of heaven to earth, where he will fiercely persecute Christ’s church for the short time remaining to him before he is finally destroyed forever.’ ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.981.

Satan is a mortally wounded beast. His time is short (12), and he knows it. But a mortally wounded animal can be dangerous. Never forget, though, that the overcoming and casting-out of the devil is a major theme of this Book.