My question to you is: How do you explain Revelation, 12: 6. Will there be Christians saved, that is to say, protected, in the end by God, closer to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ??
UK Apologetics Reply:
Okay. The Book of Revelation is in seven parallel sections, each section pretty much covers the period from the first to the second comings of Christ, although the final section glimpses beyond that, into eternity. Why these seven sections? Because each section looks at this period from different perspectives, or views, so one might be clear. Don't forget this book is called a 'revelation,' not a hiding, or a concealing, despite what so many think. The purpose of the book is outlined by John here:
1. The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2. who testifies to everything he saw - that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Revelation 1:1-3).
Now this should be clear enough, it is to show the servants of God - back in the first century AD - what "must soon take place." So the purpose was to show certain things to God's people, yet to mask them to the persecuting authorities, hence the overall apocalyptic style of writing. But for God's people this was to be a revelation, not a concealing.
The Late 19th Century; Deceiving Teachers Jump In...
The evidence is that the early church mostly accepted this book as John intended it, although there were always questions.
But one Francisco Ribera (1537-1591) a Jesuit doctor of theology, born in Spain, wrote a lengthy commentary on the book of Revelation in 1585, and he seems to have been the originator of what I call 'adventuristic futurism' as applied to Revelation. Apparently Ribera proposed that the first few chapters of Revelation should be applied to ancient pagan Rome, and the rest (most of the book) he limited to a yet future period of 3 1/2 literal years, immediately prior to the second coming. However, his ideas never really took off among his fellow Catholics and it was others who would much later take up his overall approach, mainly from the late 19th century onwards; this is when adventists and other religious extremists got hold of this book and started to interpret it in an entirely futuristic manner, the book was suddenly seen to be all about the 'time of the end,' the time when Jesus would return to earth, what one might term the full parousia (even though in Scripture 'the time of the end' always refers to the period we now live in, that, is between the first and second comings of our Lord). When John wrote, "...because the time is near," he meant exactly that , he was plainly not referring to this 'full parousia' (or, Second Coming in glory) because he stated that the time was 'near,' in short, he was stating that the time period covered by the book was just about to commence, I mean back in John's day. Obvious really yet widely mis-read, especially by a myriad of false cults and sects and deceiving, manipulative and self-promoting latter-day "apostles" and teachers.
The time period of Revelation, then, that is, the occurrences which the book refers to, are in the period between the two comings of our Lord, culminating in the Second Coming itself. This is why Jesus appears to return seven times in this book (something I had always wondered about), Our Lord appears to return seven times in the pages of Revelation simply because the book has seven parallel sections! I am not going to cover those parallel sections right here because I have done it elsewhere.
The Fourth Parallel Section: The Persecuting Dragon; The Church Must Expect Persecution.
This is the section which my questioner refers to, this section commences in Revelation 12:1 and continues on to Revelation 14:20. The theme here is best summarized as 'The Persecuting Dragon; The Church Must Expect Persecution,' since it covers the whole period of the Church - not just the period just prior to the Second Coming - it naturally commences in Heaven in the days when the dragon (Satan) still had certain access and could take accusations against God's people before God, but that period finished at the cross of Calvary.
But now we need to take these verses (up to the verse which I am asked about, that is verse 6), one step at a time:
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.
This refers to the Church of God, always a woman in the New Testament. She is described as 'pregnant.' The crown of twelve stars had been originally typified by the 12 tribes but now by the 12 Apostles. She is clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet since she has now dethroned the prince of darkness and serves the Light of the World, our Lord. See Ephesians 6:12 and John 8:12. She is, of course, pregnant with the Christ.
Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.
This refers to Satan, to the days in which he had a right to present his case, and his accusations before God, so he is (initially) in heaven.
The dragon has "...seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads." The reference to 'heads' here is to earthly temporal power through various persecuting governments down through the Christian era. The crowns do not depict victory but abrogated authority, the ten horns depict destructive power, the power to attack, kill and destroy.
The dragon's arrogance and vanity apparently spread to the third part of angels who, in following him, became demons. See Job 3:7, 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6. This led to them eventually being thrown down to earth.
The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth in order to immediately destroy the Christ. This was, of course, partly fulfilled in Herod's design to kill all the newborn babies in the land of Judea. Consult Matthew 2:13-18. In William Hendriksen's More Than Conquerors, the writer shows - point by point - how this was just one of many attempts to destroy the family line of Christ ('More Than Conquerors,' chapter 11).
She gave birth to a son, a male child, who "will rule all the nations with an iron scepter." And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
This is an obvious reference to Jesus Christ. He was indeed 'snatched away' to God at His resurrection. Okay, now we come to the verse I am specifically asked about:
The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
The period is, of course, almost certainly symbolic, a long period of time in a place of protection. This is simply saying that the Church is protected during the period of time in which it must fulfil its mission upon earth. Two later verses in this chapter also refer to this period of protection:
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 serpent’s reach. (Verses 13-14).
This is a reference to a long period of time, where the Church - as a functioning body - is protected, but it is symbolic, not necessarily referring to any specific location. It is a spiritual wilderness, not a physical one. This is the entire period of the Church upon earth - not just a special period, just prior to the Second Coming. The Church is currently protected, though Satan and his demons roam the earth they cannot prevent people from becoming Christians; the Church continues to operate and function with God's authority. Meanwhile it is the 'stragglers in the pack' who are most at risk (1 Peter 5:8).
On an individual basis while many Christians have been protected and may well continue to be so, this is not necessarily a promise of divine protection for individual Christians but an assurance that the Church as a body will be protected and preserved, continuing to function until Christ decides that its mission upon earth is concluded. Elsewhere Jesus said that the gates of hades will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18) - this is the same point, the church will not die out, nor can it be destroyed until its mission upon earth is complete.
When one correctly understands the Book of Revelation one may come to see that Revelation 12 is an overview of the age of the Church, not necessarily referring to any specific part of that age.
We must remember that Jesus said this:
4. "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:4-5).
Robin A. Brace. March 4th-11th, 2017.