Christmas 2019

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Christmas in Revelations

revelation 12:1-6
Revelation 12:1–6 NKJV
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
Matthew 1:18 NKJV
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:19–22 NKJV
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
Matthew 1:19-
Matthew 1:23 NKJV
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:23
mathew 1:18
Dec. 25 marked, in the Julian calendar, the winter solstice
Amazing facts about Christmas the whole world marks time as AD and BC
Preaching the Word: Revelation—The Spirit Speaks to the Churches Revelation 12:1–6: Enmity between the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman

Revelation 12:1–6: Enmity between the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman

John writes in 12:1, 2, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.” The first thing we should note is that this woman is a “sign.” She is a portent of symbolic significance. So the symbol is a pregnant woman about to give birth, and she is “clothed with the sun.”

Imagine a woman wearing the sun as a garment. She has “the moon under her feet,” and she has a crown on her head. The crown is made of twelve stars. These heavenly bodies are reminiscent of Joseph’s second dream in Genesis 37:9, where Joseph says, “Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Joseph’s father Jacob, aka Israel, interprets the dream in 37:10 saying, “Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” So in Joseph’s dream, Jacob/Israel is the sun, Joseph’s mother Rachel is the moon, and Joseph’s eleven brothers are the eleven stars, with Joseph evidently the twelfth.

When God created the heavens and the earth, he made the two great lights on the fourth day—the greater light to rule the day, the lesser light to rule the night with the stars (Genesis 1:16), and they were “for signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14). Portraying the family of Israel as these ruling signs seems to communicate that Israel will rule the world, and the patriarchal luminaries of Israel will bow to Joseph. Revelation 12:1 seems to evoke Genesis 37:9, 10 to portray Jesus as a new and greater Joseph.

As for the woman being pregnant, Micah 4:10 presents the “daughter of Zion” as being “in labor,” and it seems that Israel will remain in exile until the child is born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Micah 5:3, 4 says, “Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who was in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.” Psalm 72:8 and Zechariah 9:10 also speak of the Messiah reigning “to the ends of the earth.” So this woman seems to symbolize the nation of Israel in general and in particular Mary, the maiden of Israel, daughter of Zion, who gave birth to Jesus. The birth of Jesus is interpreted here as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that point to the birth of the child who brings redemption for God’s people and rules over all the nations of the earth. This child is the hope of the world.

There is a second sign in 12:3, 4: “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.” Imagine seeing this huge red dragon, but it isn’t an ordinary dragon with one head—it has seven heads! On those seven heads are ten horns. If the horns are evenly distributed among the heads, three of the heads would have two horns. It seems that in 12:17–13:1 the dragon summons a beast from the sea that also has seven heads and ten horns. We can see from 16:13 that there is a false trinity in Revelation: the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. In chapter 13 we will see the beast that rises from the sea, which seems to correspond to the fourth beast in Daniel 7:7, which I would take to symbolize Rome in both Daniel and Revelation. This dragon in Revelation 12, however, is identified in verse 9 as “Satan,” the ruling principality behind the wicked kings of the earth. In 17:9, 10 the seven heads of the beast from chapter 13 are interpreted as seven mountains (consider the seven hills of Rome) and as seven kings, and in 17:12 the ten horns are ten kings. The dragon exercises his power through the beast. The dragon is Satan. The beast is a symbol of the wicked human rulers of the world; the heads and horns of the beast symbolize the authoritative powers that are under the sway of the devil (cf. 1 John 5:19; Ephesians 6:12).

The portrayal of the dragon’s tail sweeping down a third of the stars of Heaven and casting them to the earth depicts a dragon massive in proportion to have a tail so large. This event seems to portray something that took place before the war in Heaven that will be described in 12:7–12. Revelation 12:4 tells us that Satan swept a third of the stars out of Heaven, and this is very similar to the description of the “little horn” in Daniel 8:10, where he makes war on the host of Heaven, throws the stars to the ground, and tramples them. This seems to match the way the Old Testament describes other kings in satanic terms, such as the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14 and the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28. Perhaps the dragon sweeping these stars out of Heaven and casting them to earth refers to Satan’s convincing one third of the heavenly host to join him in rebellion against God.

The dragon being ready to devour the child about to be born to the woman reminds us that God cursed the serpent in Genesis 3:15, putting enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman and promising that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. These symbols depict the cosmic, epic battle between God and Satan. Satan looks like he has all the advantages—he’s a dragon with seven heads and ten horns against a pregnant woman! Who would you bet on in that conflict?

In 12:5 we see the identity of the child about to be born to the woman: “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” This clear allusion to Psalm 2:7–9 identifies the child as the Lord’s Anointed, his Messiah, Jesus. Out of the mouths of babes God has established strength. Satan goes to war as a dragon, and God overcomes him by a pregnant woman giving birth to a baby boy.

Does it sometimes seem to you that Satan has the upper hand in the struggle of the ages? Does it look like he is the one who knows how to fight to win, and God always seems to pick the losing strategy? Turn the other cheek. Bless those who persecute you. Love your enemies. Preach Christ and him crucified and not with what the world thinks is eloquent wisdom. Choose the weak things of the world. It’s almost as though God shows up on the playground to pick his team, and instead of picking the guys who look like they can play, he picks the obviously inferior team. And how does it always turn out? God triumphs every time.

Do you ever look around your life and feel like God has dealt you a losing hand? If you’re a student of the Bible, when you see what looks like a losing hand, you know that God is about to triumph in a way that will give him all the credit for the victory. Isn’t that the kind of victory you want? So when everything in your life looks unimpressive, sure to lose, insignificant, trust Christ and watch for the glory of God to be demonstrated.

When you feel like a loser, when you feel like a failure, when you feel like you’re incompetent, praise God! You’re exactly the kind of person God uses. God uses people like us to defeat the great dragon.

This is precisely what happens when the child is caught up to God and to his throne in 12:5. In verse 4 the dragon is poised to devour the child. God looks like he has the short end of the stick. Satan is a dragon, and God has left this poor pregnant woman and her newborn baby to face the dragon alone. Suddenly victory is snatched from the dragon’s jaws as the child is caught up to God and his throne.

This being caught up to Heaven seems to collapse the whole life of Jesus, from ministry to cross and resurrection, so that we go straight from the birth to the ascension. When Jesus died on the cross, it looked like Satan had conquered. But God turned certain and total defeat—his own people rejecting and crucifying the Messiah—into the victory that saves the world. When it looked like the last defense against evil had fallen, Christ rose from the dead, decisively breaking the back of evil.

Do you know this victory? Do you believe that God turns loss into gain? Do you believe that God has irrevocably defeated Satan through the death of Jesus on the cross? Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Believe it.

Before we move on to 12:6, let’s summarize what we have seen so far: the woman seems to symbolize the people of God as a whole (cf. Micah 4:10), and 12:5 summarizes the Messiah’s career from birth to ascension. What happens after the ascension? The church begins to spread, beginning from Jerusalem. Revelation 12:6 is a symbolic depiction of God’s protecting the church after the ascension of Jesus. Note the imagery in that verse: “and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.” Look where she goes: to the wilderness. Just as Israel went into the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt, so the people of God go into this symbolic wilderness after the new and greater exodus is accomplished by Christ on the cross. Just as Israel was provided for by God throughout their time in the wilderness, with manna from Heaven and water from the rock, so the church will be nourished for 1,260 days.

Where is your home? Do you think you’re home now? Or do you think of yourself as a pilgrim passing through, sojourning on the way to the land of promise? Have you been redeemed, bought out of slavery and delivered in an exodus greater than that of Israel from Egypt? Do you want to know how to participate in that, how to make that true for you? It’s simple: begin to trust Jesus right now and never stop. You will either trust him, or you will go to war against him with Satan and so face certain defeat. However much it may look like the dragon has all the advantages, he loses every time.

What about this period of time, 1,260 days? I think this is the same 1,260 days during which the two witnesses prophesy as described in 11:3. We read of forty-two months in 11:2, and forty-two months of thirty days each adds up to 1,260 days; so I think this is the same forty-two months in which the nations will trample the court outside the temple in 11:2. Again, my view is that the temple in 11:1 is a symbol of the church. The two witnesses in 11:3 also symbolize the church, focusing on its prophetic witness to the gospel, and now the woman nourished in the wilderness in 12:6 is another symbolic statement that God will protect and provide for his people for the whole of their appointed time. This is a three-and-a-half-year period, described in three different ways: 1,260 days, forty-two months, and “a time, and times, and half a time” (12:14). This three-and-a-half-year period in Revelation is John’s interpretation of the splitting of Daniel’s seventieth week in half, as described in Daniel 9:27. To what does Daniel’s seventieth week refer? Here are the possibilities:

• Dispensationalists take it literally, and they take Daniel’s seventieth week to refer to the final seven years of history: the great tribulation.

• Preterists see this as a literal three-and-a-half-year period between A.D. 66 and A.D. 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed.

• Some amillennialists take the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week literally as the three years of the public ministry of Jesus, and they then see the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week symbolically as the whole period of time between the first and second comings of Jesus.

• There are other variations, such as Roger Beckwith’s proposal that the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week goes up to A.D. 70, and the second half covers the rest of church history.

• As I said in the previous study on chapter 11, my view is that the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week is church history until the time right before the end, and then at the end of history the beast kills the two witnesses and has authority for forty-two months (11:7; 13:5, 7). The beast then engages in a final vicious persecution of the people of God, but Revelation presents his forty-two months as being prophetically foreshortened to “three and a half days” (11:9) and “one hour” (17:12).

Revelation 12:7–12: The Cross Defeats the Accuser

The ramifications of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension in 12:5 are depicted in 12:7–12. I take this section to be a dramatic depiction of all of Satan’s accusations being rejected in the heavenly court—note how in 12:10 he is described as “the accuser” who “accuses.” The reason Satan’s accusations are rejected and his standing in court removed is the blood of Christ (12:11).

Jesus said in John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” He also said in Luke 10:18 that he saw Satan fall from Heaven like lightning, and both statements appear to reflect Jesus’ understanding that his death would remove Satan’s standing in Heaven. Christ accomplished the victory, and apparently God sent Michael to enforce it, as we read in 12:7: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back.” Note that Michael and his angels are presented as joining battle with Satan and the devil’s forces fighting back as though on the defensive. They are unsuccessful, as we see in 12:8: “but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.” Satan’s power is in accusation. By his death and resurrection, Jesus broke that power. Satan is defeated and expelled from Heaven. Jesus defanged him.

Table 22.1: Differences in Detail between Revelation 12:7–12 and 20:1–3


12:9, cast to earth

20:2, 3, seized, bound, thrown into a pit

Place of Confinement

12:9, earth

20:1–3, bottomless pit


12:9, his angels with him

20:1–3, Satan alone; cf. 19:20, beast and false prophet in lake of fire, where Satan joins them in 20:10


12:12–13:18, Satan makes war on the saints (12:13–17) and deceives the nations (13:3–8, 14), over whom he has authority (13:2) for 42 months (13:5)

20:1–3, no war on the saints; no deception of the nations; no authority for Satan and his beast


12:12, Satan has a little time to make war and deceive

20:3, Satan cannot deceive the nations for a thousand years; after that he will be released for a short period

So what happens to him? We see in 20:1–3 that Satan is bound and thrown into the abyss, and the abyss is shut and sealed over him so that he cannot deceive the nations for a thousand years. Compare that with what happens here in 12:9: “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” Amillennialists think that the binding of Satan in 20:1–3 is the same event being described here in 12:7–9, but let’s observe the differences between the two passages.

From these differences, I think it is clear that John does not mean for us to view the thousand-year period described in 20:1–10 as the same period of time as the forty-two months that follow Satan’s being cast out of Heaven as a result of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension.

Satan is called by four names in 12:9, and then his activity is described. He is (1) “the great dragon,” which identifies him as the dragon trying to devour the male child in 12:1–6, (2) “that ancient serpent,” which identifies him as the snake of Genesis 3, (3) the one who is called “the devil,” which identifies him with the antagonist described in the Gospels, and (4) “Satan,” marking him as a figure known from the Old Testament (cf. 1 Chronicles 21:1). If there was any uncertainty about whether the serpent and the devil and Satan and the dragon are the same character, John removes it in 12:9. John also tells us what Satan does in 12:9—he is “the deceiver of the whole world.” Satan does not have legitimate claims, and he does not offer real paths to happiness. He deceives.

Christ defeated Satan on the cross (12:5). On the basis of that victory, Michael and his angels defeated Satan in pitched battle and drove him from the heavenly field (12:7–9). The announcement of victory comes in 12:10: “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.’ ” If we read this statement in isolation, if we pull it out of its context in this chapter and out of the context of the whole of Revelation, we might conclude that everything is consummated because of the way the first half of verse 10 states that “salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come.” But after this announcement is made in verse 10, we see at the end of verse 12 that the devil has come down to the earth “in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short.” This means that the first half of 12:10 does not mean that the end of all things has come. In fact, I think the sense in which “the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come” in 12:10a is explained in the rest of verse 10: “for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Salvation has come in the sense that all grounds of satanic accusation have been removed by Christ’s death on the cross, demonstrating God’s power, the righteousness of his kingdom, and the authority of Christ.

Revelation 12:11 tells us that salvation comes to those who believe it is better to trust in Jesus than to go on living: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Who are “they” at the beginning of 12:11? Those whom Satan was accusing in 12:10. Note the connection between the blood of Jesus and the triumph over satanic accusation in 12:10, 11.

When you feel guilty, how do you respond to that guilt? Let me urge you to respond to that guilt by trusting in Christ’s death on the cross to pay for it, to remove any power Satan has to accuse you because of it, and to secure your justification before God. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), and none of the charges that Satan brings against them will stand up in court. This message of Christ crucified to pay for sin, raised to secure justification, nullifying all of Satan’s allegations against those who trust in Jesus is what verse 11 means when it refers to “the word of their testimony.” That’s the testimony of believers. If that’s not your testimony, I call on you to trust Jesus right now and experience reconciliation with God and freedom from all of Satan’s accusations.

If that’s already your testimony, wrap your arms and heart around the final phrase of 12:11, “for they loved not their lives even unto death.” If you know that God is holy and will keep his word to punish sin, you know that it is better to die trusting Christ and clinging to the gospel than to go on living by denying that gospel. Better to die with the gospel than to live without it, because if you live without the gospel, you still face the alarming prospect of standing before God. Without the gospel, when you stand before God, all Satan’s accusations will ring true, and you will be damned with Satan, your master who will turn on you, accuse you, then take his pleasure in your pain. But you can be delivered from Satan. You need only turn from your sin and trust in Christ.

Consider 12:12: “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” Those in the heavens rejoice because the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus have secured Michael’s ability to go on the offensive against Satan and drive him out of Heaven. Those on the earth have the woe pronounced over them because when Satan was driven out of Heaven because of the cross, he was cast down to the earth. He has a little time in which to pursue his malice on earth.

When you think of the world, do you think of it in these terms? You should. When we open our eyes, we should remind ourselves that there is an unseen dragon who—look at that phrase in 12:12—“has come down to you in great wrath.” He is massive. He is deceptive. He is frightening. And he’s mad. He knows his time is short. He knows his cause is lost. So he comes against you with the desperation and recklessness of one who has no hope of redemption, no reason to show mercy, and no desire to make terms. Imagine the ferocity of one who knows that death and damnation are certain. He hates God, he hates goodness, and he hates us. Our only hope is to heed the words of this book and trust in Christ to deliver us.

Revelation (King James Version) A. The Central Characters in the Great Tribulation, 12:1–5

Introduction: this is one of the most revealing and fascinating chapters in all the Bible. It rolls back the curtain between earth and heaven and shows what lies behind all the sin and evil and all the conflict and struggle of this world. It reveals a great spiritual struggle occurring behind the scenes of this world. And in the last days that spiritual struggle will be more intense than ever. The conflict will be so intense that the struggle waged upon earth is called by our Lord the great tribulation. By great He meant the most intense and terrible tribulation the world has ever seen. But why does the world suffer tribulation? Why does there have to be tribulation upon earth? And why will there be such intense and terrible tribulation in the end time? This passage tells us: it shows us the great spiritual warfare that is waged behind the scenes of this world, the great spiritual warfare that is being fought for the souls of men. There are three principle characters who have been involved in the spiritual warfare. These characters are the subject of this first passage.

1. The first character: a woman with child—Israel (vv.1–2).

2. The second character: a great red dragon—Satan (vv.3–4).

3. The main character: a man child—Jesus Christ (v.5).

1 (12:1–2) Israel: there is the first character in the great tribulation—a woman with child. Note how the woman bursts upon the scene. She is said to be a great “wonder” (semeion) or a great sign in heaven. Note also that she is in heaven. This means that she is the heavenly representative of some earthly people. Who is the woman on earth, what people does she represent?

1. This woman is not identified, but it is clear who she is.

a. She is clothed with the sun, and the moon is under her feet, and she has upon her head a crown of stars. This refers back to the Old Testament to a dream that Joseph had:

“And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying” (Ge. 37:9–11).

Note that Jacob understood exactly what Joseph meant: the sun represented the father Jacob, the moon the mother, and the twelve stars the brothers. The dream was a picture of Israel; Joseph was dreaming that Israel would be saved from destruction through him.

b. She is pregnant and the child is pictured as being born (vv.2, 5). Note what is said about the child.

“And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and the child was caught up unto God, and to his throne” (Re. 12:5).

This clearly refers to Jesus Christ. He and He alone was born to rule all nations (see Ps. 2:9), and He alone was exalted to the throne of God. As stated, this is a clear reference to Jesus Christ.

2. Now who is this woman? There are three main positions about who she is.

a. Some say she is Mary, the mother of Jesus. But there are just too many supernatural things said about this woman for her to be an earthly or human being.

b. Some say she is the church. But this is difficult to see, for the church did not give birth to Christ. On the contrary, Christ gave birth to the church.

c. Some say she is the ideal Zion, the ideal Jerusalem, the ideal Israel, the chosen people, the community of God from which Christ came. These say the mother represents all the true people of God, those before Jesus came and those after He came. Paul actually speaks of the Jerusalem which is above, who is the mother of the people of God on earth (Ga. 4:26). This position is a possible identification of the woman. But again, this position does not fill all the things said about the woman, not as well as Israel itself does.

d. Some say that the woman represents Israel, the very people who gave birth to Jesus Christ. This seems to be the clearest identification of the woman. As we progress through the passage, we will see that everything said about this woman fits Israel just like a glove.

⇒ Paul himself said that Jesus Christ came out of Israel (Ro. 9:5).

⇒ Isaiah prophesied that Israel would travail in pain and bring forth a man-child (Is. 66:7–8).

2 (12:3–4) Satan—Dragon: there is the second character in the great tribulation—the great red dragon, that is, the devil. Note that the dragon is also said to be a wonder or a sign in heaven. Three significant things need to be discussed about this sign.

1. There is the description and authority of the dragon or devil. The description is entirely different from what most people think. When people think of the devil, they picture a fiery red serpent-like creature with two horns and a long pointed tail who holds a pitchfork in his hand. But this is a total misconception, a far cry from the truth. When Scripture speaks of Satan as a dragon, it is referring to the evil work he does, not to his looks or appearance. Scripture says that Satan is the highest and most glorious being ever created by God, that his being is so magnificent that he shines like the sun and actually possesses glory just like God. Note what this verse says about his description, and remember: this is not picturing what he looks like. It is describing his authority and power.

⇒ Satan has seven heads: seven is the number of completeness and fullness. Satan is complete in intelligence; he has full knowledge. He is not omniscient, of course, but his knowledge is complete and full.

⇒ Satan has seven crowns: this symbolizes authority, rule, and dominion—a crowned ruler who has a kingdom that he rules over. Scripture clearly says that Satan is a crowned ruler and that his authority is well beyond anything that man ever thinks.

⇒ Satan has ten horns: this symbolizes great power, but power that pierces, rips, and tears—all in the most ferocious and vicious way. It symbolizes that he uses his head and authority in an evil way.

⇒ Satan is the god of this world who blinds men’s minds.

“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Co. 4:4).

⇒ Satan is the prince of this world.

“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out: (Jn. 12:31).

“Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (Jn. 14:30).

“Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (Jn. 16:11).

⇒ Satan is the prince of the power of the air.

“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ep. 2:2).

⇒ Satan is the king of a kingdom.

“And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” (Mt. 12:26).

“Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Mt. 4:8–9).

⇒ Satan has his grip upon the whole world.

“And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 Jn. 5:19).

2. There is the origin of the dragon or devil. This statement is telling where Satan came from. This is clearly seen in the Greek tenses of the statement. Note the two statements in the Greek:

⇒ His tail “draws” (surei, present tense) a third part of heaven. That is, Satan pulls and drags a third of the stars (angels) of heaven.

⇒ He “did cast” (ebalen) them down or threw them down. This is past tense; that is, it tells us what Satan did long ago.

The point is this: today, in the present moment, Satan has authority over one third of the stars or angels of heaven. How? Because in the past he cast them down with himself. Now note two points.

a. Where were Satan and the angels cast down from? Heaven. They were the stars of heaven, but they were cast down from heaven. Eons ago, sometime before man ever began, God created an angel, the highest and most glorious being ever created.

⇒ His name is Lucifer which means star of the morning.

⇒ He was the anointed cherub who covered the very throne of God itself. He was the angel put in charge of the glory of God’s very own throne.

b. But something happened: he did what so many people do. He began to look at himself, and he began to want to live like he wanted instead of like God wanted. He wanted to do his own thing instead of doing like God said. Therefore, he rebelled against God, and in his rebellion he led one third of the angelic beings with him. Consequently, God had no choice but to cast him down from his exalted position in heaven. From what we can glean from Scripture this is what happened to Lucifer, how he became the devil, the arch-enemy of God (see DEEPER STUDY # 1—Rev. 12:9; DEEPER STUDY # 1—2 Co. 4:4; note—1 Pe. 5:8 for more discussion).

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Is. 14:12–15).

“Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus [type of Satan], and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was pre-pared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou was perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more” (Eze. 28:11–19).

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth” (Re. 12:3–4).

3. There is the aim of the dragon or devil. Satan’s aim is to devour the woman, to destroy Israel. This has always been Satan’s aim. Why? Because he is out to get back at God for judging him. He is out to hurt God, to cut the heart of God. And the best way he can do this is to turn the hearts of people away from God and lead them to sin and to follow the way of evil.

Now, go way back in history again, to the time when God promised to send the Savior to the world. When God first promised to send Christ to save the world, Satan knew it. He was listening. He was the serpent who had tempted Adam and Eve and led them to sin and hurt God. But God loved Adam and Eve and wanted to save them from sin and death; therefore, God promised to send the seed, the Savior of the world, who would crush the head and power of Satan.

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; and it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Ge. 3:15).

As stated, Satan heard the promise. Consequently, he was bound to do all he could to delay the coming of the Seed, the Savior. He, of course, knew what we know: no person can stop God’s plan and will. But Satan wanted to get as many people as he could to sin and to turn away from God so that God’s heart would be cut and hurt. He wanted to delay his own defeat and the crushing of his head as long as he could. This is what is meant by this verse:

“The dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born” (v.4).

Satan has tried from the very beginning to destroy the seed of the woman. He has been waging war against the Seed of God, the Savior of the world, ever since God promised to save the world. The great Baptist preacher W.A. Criswell points this out by tracing some of the attempts of the devil throughout the Bible (Expository Sermon On Revelation, Vol.4. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1969, pp.86–87). For clarity, the attempts are put in chart form.

The Seed or Line Through Whom the Promised Seed Was to Come

The Strategies of Satan to Destroy the Seed or Devour the Child and God’s Great Deliverance

⇒ There was the line of Abel, Adam’s Son.

⇒ Satan led Cain to kill Abel, but God gave Adam another son, Seth (Ge. 4:1f).

⇒ There was the early line of the godly seed.

⇒ Satan led the godly line to mix with the ungodly and led them into such vile wickedness that God had to destroy the earth. But God raised up Noah (Ge. 6:5f).

⇒ There was the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

⇒ Satan led Esau to threaten to kill his brother, Jacob. But God protected Jacob (Ge. 27:41f).

⇒ There was the line of the children of Israel.

⇒ Satan led Pharaoh to attempt to kill all the male babies of Israel. But God saved Moses (Ex. 1:8f).

⇒ There was the line of David.

⇒ Satan led son after son of David into sin and to murder and disqualify themselves. But God always kept at least one son of David alive (2 S. 13f).

⇒ There was the line of the sons of David.

⇒ Satan led Jehoram, one of Jehoshaphat’s sons, to kill all his brothers. But God caused sons to be born to Jehoram to carry on the line (2 Chr. 21:1f).

⇒ There was the line of Jehoshaphat’s sons.

⇒ Satan led an enemy to come in and kill all the sons but one—Ahaziah (2 K. 8:25f).

⇒ There was the line of Ahaziah.

⇒ Satan led Jehu to kill Ahaziah, and the queen’s mother, Athaliah, took over the throne and killed all the sons. But God led the wife of the high priest to save one small baby, Joash. At this point the line of the promised seed rested in the saving of this little baby’s life (2 K. 9:11f).

⇒ There was the line of the chosen people.

⇒ Satan led King Ahasuerus to exterminate all of God’s people. But God gave him a most restless and frightening night of sleep. The king, therefore, spared the chosen line (Esther).

⇒ There was the line of the Promised Seed, Jesus Himself, at His birth.

⇒ Satan led King Herod to slay all the babies in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the promised child. But God warned Joseph and told Joseph to flee with the child (Mt. 2:1f).

⇒ There was the line of the Promised Seed, Jesus Himself, at his temptation.

⇒ Satan tempted Jesus to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, to secure the loyalty and worship of the people by the spectacular instead of the cross. But Jesus chose God’s way, the way of the cross, instead of Satan’s way (Mt. 4:1f).

⇒ There was the line of the Promised Seed, Jesus Himself, at his hometown, Nazareth.

⇒ Satan led the citizens of Nazareth to try to cast Jesus off the cliff of a hill, but Jesus escaped (Lu. 4:29).

⇒ There was the line of the Promised Seed, Jesus Himself, in facing the religionists.

⇒ Satan led the religionists to hate Jesus and to plot is death time and again (Jn. 7:1f). But Jesus escaped time and again.

⇒ There was the line of the Promised Seed, Jesus Himself, on the cross.

⇒ Satan led the world to put Jesus on the cross and to kill Him. But God raised Jesus from the dead (Jn. 19:1f).

This is how Satan has attempted to hurt God, by doing all he could to devour the woman, the line of Israel. He did all he could to keep the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, from being born. Now that Christ has come, Satan does all he can to turn people away from judgment to come. Even when people do repent and turn to follow Christ, Satan does all he can to turn the followers of the Lord away from Him.

This is the battle, the combat, the struggle that is going on behind the scenes in the spiritual world. And the war will wage on and on until the world ends. The point of the present passage in Revelation is to show how the struggle will intensify in the great tribulation. During the great tribulation Satan will use all the resources that he has to destroy the “seed of the woman,” the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will do all he can to cut and hurt the heart of God. God is not willing that a single soul perish; therefore, when Satan is successful in turning and destroying one person, the heart of God is cut and hurt as deeply as a cut can pierce.

Thought 1. Note: although the present passage is dealing primarily with the great tribulation, the same spiritual struggle is waged in every generation of history. Satan is out to turn every person he can away from God. He wants people to follow him instead of God. He wants the obedience of people instead of people giving their obedience and loyalty to God.

3 (12:5) Jesus Christ: there is the third character in the great tribulation, Jesus Christ Himself. Note two points.

1. Jesus Christ was born or sent into the world to rule the world. He was sent by God to bring godliness and righteousness to earth, to use a rod of iron or of judgment in order to get rid of sin and ungodliness in the world.

a. This He did, of course, by the cross. Upon the cross Jesus Christ made it possible for men to be forgiven their sins and to stand before God, to stand before God free of sin. He did this by bearing the sins of men upon Himself when He died on the cross. He took the sins and the punishment of sins upon Himself. Therefore, man can now be free of sin and acceptable to God. Jesus Christ judged sin, condemned it upon the cross. Therefore, we can say that the rod of iron was used first of all upon Satan when Jesus Christ died upon the cross. Jesus Christ judged and destroyed the power of Satan.

“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (Jn. 12:31).

“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (He. 2:14).

“And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it [the cross]” (Col. 2:15).

“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8).

b. Jesus Christ will also use the rod of iron against the nations of the world—against all the ungodly and evil of the world—in the end time. Jesus Christ shall rule all nations and bring righteousness and godliness to this earth by exerting all the authority and discipline of God needed. He shall bring the kingdom of God to earth.

“Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps. 2:9).

“And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Re. 2:27).

“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Re. 19:15).

2. Jesus Christ ascended and was exalted to the throne of God. This is proof that He shall rule and reign and bring righteousness to the earth.

“Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God” (Lu. 22:69).

“And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Ro. 1:4).

“Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places” (Ep. 1:20).

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Ph. 2:9–11).

“Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1 Pe. 3:22).

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Is. 9:6–7).

B. The Mighty Spiritual Struggle Behind the Great Tribulation, 12:6–17

1. The woman flees for her life

a. To a place prepared by God

b. For three & one half years

6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

2. The great war is fought over Israel & God’s people

a. The forces

1) Michael & his angels

2) Satan & his angels

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

b. The outcome

1) Satan will be defeated

8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

2) Satan will be barred from heaven in the last days

3) Satan & his angels will be cast down to earth with fierce hostility in the last days

9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

3. The glorious victory & salvation are won

a. The victory: Salvation

b. The result: Satan will no longer accuse believers before God

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

c. The weapons used to overcome Satan

1) The Lamb’s blood

2) The believers’ testimony

3) The believers’ loyalty

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

4. The warning to earth is given

a. Because the devil is angered over his defeat

b. Because the devil has not yet been permanently destroyed: He has a little time left

12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

5. The dragon launches an attack upon the woman

a. The severe persecution

13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

b. The startling deliverance by the wings of a powerful eagle

1) To her place of safety

2) To be kept for three & one half years

14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

c. The serpent’s attempt to drown the woman: Uses every means to destroy God’s people

15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

d. The enormous help earth’s

16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

e. The open attack upon the remaining seed of believers

17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

B. The Mighty Spiritual Struggle Behind the Great Tribulation, 12:6–17

(12:6–17) Introduction: the curtain has been rolled back between earth and heaven, and we have seen a mighty spiritual conflict going on behind all the ungodliness and evil of this world. We have seen that the dragon, the devil, is out to hurt and cut the heart of God. He does this by turning people away from Christ and leading them to destroy their lives by following evil. The Revelation has shown us this: the rampage of the devil against God will intensify in the end time, especially during the great tribulation. This is the weighty discussion of this passage: the spiritual struggle behind the great tribulation—the dragon’s (Satan’s) attacks against the woman (Israel).

1. The woman flees for her life (v.6).

2. The great war is fought over Israel and God’s people (vv.7–9).

3. The glorious victory and salvation are won (vv.10–11).

4. The warning to earth is given (v.12).

5. The dragon launches an attack upon the woman (vv.13–17).

1 (12:6) Israel—Tribulation, Great: the woman flees for her life. This is the picture of the terrible holocaust of the end time. We know this because of the thousand two hundred and sixty days (three and one half years) mentioned. This is the period always referred to as the great tribulation (see note, pt.2–4—Re. 11:2 for more discussion). The woman, Israel, is going to be severely persecuted by the antichrist in the end time. The Jews are going to have to flee for their lives, flee to the wilderness of the mountains, hills, and forests—to every hiding place they can find. However we must always keep in mind that the holocaust is going to be launched against the Gentile believers of the end time as well. There will literally be millions—a numberless number—of Gentile believers slaughtered right along with the Jews (see Re. 7:9). All believers and Israel, the Old Testament people of God, will be fleeing to every corner of wilderness in the world, seeking any place they can to hide.

Note the wonderful promise: God has a place for His people to hide. God is going to save a remnant of believers. He is going to use this persecution to turn even more Jews to His Son, who is the true Messiah, even the Lord Jesus Christ.

Preaching the Word: Isaiah—God Saves Sinners Chapter 9: The Triumph of Grace Over Our Failure: Judah I

God called Isaiah into the ministry “in the year that King Uzziah died” (6:1)—around 740 B.C. By the time we come to chapter 7, it’s around 735 B.C. And the crisis of Isaiah’s generation is exploding on the scene. After the death of Solomon, the ten Israelite tribal groups in the northern part of the country seceded and formed their own state. The Bible calls the breakaway kingdom Israel. Their capital city was Samaria. Only two tribes in the south remained loyal to the dynasty of David in Jerusalem, as five-sixths of the nation split off to go their own way.

Isaiah 7 locates us about 200 years into this massive dysfunction. By now the Assyrian empire at the eastern end of the Fertile Crescent is rising, growing, flexing its muscles, reaching, grabbing, dominating—“skilled and constant in systematic cruelty.” The little kingdoms of Palestine are no match for the new bully in town. So Israel joins forces with Syria, a northerly neighbor, in a pact of mutual defense against Assyria. They want the collaboration of Judah as well, for further reinforcement. In fact, they demand it. But King Ahaz is resisting this pressure. So the northern alliance is threatening to attack Judah, get rid of Ahaz, put their own puppet on the throne, and absorb Judah into their coalition. But from the start, the prophetic eye can see that their plan is doomed. God’s covenant with the throne of David still stands, despite his people’s failures. That’s why Isaiah 7:1 states that the enemy could not mount an attack against Jerusalem. The prophet wants us to know from the start that the threat will vanish. There is no need to panic. God is with his people.

Ahaz doesn’t believe that. He doesn’t want to believe it. He prefers dismay and hand-wringing. He feels more normal frantically devising his own salvation and lusting for the success of his own plans, rather than delighting in the victory of God. His heart is hard.

That’s the setting—the defining crisis of Isaiah’s generation, inflated in its emotional impact because their hearts are not filled with a sense of the glory of God.

Inevitably God brings us into crisis. Sooner or later this question presses itself upon us: If I put my trust in God, will he save me? Will he be true to his promises in the gospel when it really counts for me? Our answer to that question will either be an agonized struggle back and forth, as we are unable to make up our minds, or our answer will be a clear yes. And the larger point Isaiah is making is that God’s people don’t trust him as they should, and they pay a price for it. But his grace will have the last word on their behalf—the triumph of his grace over their failure.

The entire passage is lengthy enough (7:1–9:7) to require two studies here. The message of this first segment is that God is our true ally, he invites us to trust him, and not trusting him is a destructive choice.

1. Decision: Will we trust God or ourselves? (7:1–17)

A1 The people of God intimidated by attack (7:1, 2)

B1 A symbolic son and the attackers’ plan (7:3–6)

C1 The Lord’s overruling word of promise (7:7–9)

D The response of distrust (7:10–12)

C2 The Lord’s overruling sign of salvation (7:13–15)

B2 A symbolic son and the attackers’ defeat (7:16)

A2 The people of God destined for attack (7:17)

2. Judgment: A rejected God rules over those who distrust him (7:18–8:8)

A The thoroughness of God’s judgment (7:18–25)

1. “In that day”—divine sovereignty effortless (7:18, 19)

2. “In that day”—the humiliation complete (7:20)

3. “In that day”—the people reduced to hardship (7:21, 22)

4. “In that day”—their accomplishments undone (7:23–25)

B The course of God’s judgment (8:1–8)

1. Decreed: Judah’s two enemies will soon be defeated (8:1–4)

2. Decreed: Judah herself will be nearly overwhelmed (8:5–8)

God is present in our crises. If we will trust him, he will save us. If we refuse him, he will discipline us. But he would rather save us.


In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind. (Isaiah 7:1, 2)

The intimidating Syro-Ephraimite alliance, as historians call it, had its withering effect on Judah, who had already suffered from separate assaults by Syria and Ephraim (2 Chronicles 28:5–8). Now these two nations come together with renewed hostility toward little Judah. But God uses this crisis to call Ahaz to himself. He sends Isaiah with an appeal:

And the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field.” (Isaiah 7:3)

The king is out inspecting the city’s water supply, preparing for the invasion. Ahaz is not thinking in terms of God; he’s thinking in terms of stockpiling. But God wants to save him. So he tells Isaiah to go meet Ahaz, with his son Shear-jashub. The margin in your English Bible may tell you that name means “A remnant shall return.” This is God’s way of assuring Ahaz that even if the worst should happen, a remnant will return in victory.

God calls Ahaz to confidence: “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands …” (v. 4). We might put it this way: “Stay calm before these two burned-out cigarette butts!” They are spent forces. God is saying, “These two nations coming at you are headed by mere men. I will not allow them to succeed. I’ve even set a drop-dead date for Israel” (7:7–9). And in fact God kept his word. Within three years Syria was crushed, and Israel fell ten years after that. By around 670 B.C., as the prophet had said, Israel’s population was effaced from history. God is offering Ahaz the opportunity of a lifetime to experience what it means to be saved by God. But that means Ahaz must treat God as God.

That matters. It matters to God. It matters to Ahaz, more than he realizes. So God explains to him what’s at stake.

If you are not firm in faith,

you will not be firm at all. (v. 9b)

The commentators try to capture the wordplay in English: “Hold God in doubt, and you’ll not hold out.” Or, “Unsure? Insecure!” God literally says, “If you do not firm up, you will not be confirmed.”6 In other words, “You’ll live by faith, or you won’t live at all. But if you do want my support, all you have to do is lean on me.” God is attracted to weakness and need and honesty. He is repelled by our self-assured pride.

Isaiah 7:9b makes faith in God the central, unavoidable question of our lives. What is faith? It has three components: knowledge of God, persuading us to agree with God, motivating us to embrace God. John Murray, the Scottish theologian, defines faith as “a whole-souled movement of intelligent, consenting and confiding self-commitment.… Intellect, feeling and will converge upon Christ.… There is a consensus of all the functions of man’s heart and mind.” In other words, faith is the God-awakened capacity to respond fully to Christ. And if that is faith, then unfaith is the fragmentation and breakdown of our inner beings—intellect, feeling, and will. We know that God is more real than the earthly things immediately before us. We know he is more desirable than worldly attractions. We know he is faithful. We know we should live not out of what is but out of what is promised. We know our hearts must be grounded in finality if we hope to go the distance. And to refuse what we ourselves know to be true tears us apart inside. When we deny the truth we believe and refuse the consent we desire and withhold the trust we were created to enjoy, how can anything go right? The human being unravels. If we are not firm in faith, we are not firm at all. Everything in life, not just religion, flows out of our whole-souled movement toward Christ.

Something inside us—the Bible calls it sin—is spring-loaded to see God as a Hallmark-card sentimental glow for the warm moments of life. But God offers himself to us as our greatest ally at all times. With him, we can face anything. He is appealing to us here, “Lean on me, and you will stand. But treat me as irrelevant, and you will become irrelevant.”

We need to think this through again and again, because living by faith in God rather than by faith in ourselves takes time to catch on to, and we lose focus quickly. Conversion to Christ is only the beginning. And how do we learn but in our crises? Thatwhen God takes the training wheels off our bikes and teaches us to ride like the big kids. God is saying, “In your crisis, when it counts for you, trust me. I will keep my every promise. But if you treat me as unreal, you will not connect with reality at all.”

The structure of the text focuses on verses 10–12, where Ahaz decides to go his own way and seals the fate of his generation. But look how fair God is. He doesn’t just give Ahaz an ultimatum and that’s that. He doesn’t demand of Ahaz a nonrational “leap of faith.” He invites Ahaz to ask for a sign, any sign he can think of, as evidence that God is serious about being his ally.

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be as deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” (vv. 10–12)

God hands him a blank check, but Ahaz refuses to cash it. Why? He doesn’t want to trust God. Sure, he puts it in pious language (Deuteronomy 6:16). But it’s all quick-thinking, diplomatic hypocrisy. He knows there are strings attached. If he lets God in, God will take control. And for Ahaz, that would mean using God’s strategies to get through the crisis and giving God the glory for the outcome. Ahaz proves here that faith can be refused by the will, no matter how strong the evidences. If we don’t want God, we can find a way to make our unbelief sound plausible, even pious.

But God can see when he’s being rejected. In verse 11 Isaiah refers to God as “your God.” “This is your God, Ahaz. He wants to save you. Will you let him?” But Ahaz declines. So in verse 13 Isaiah refers to God as “my God.” “My God isn’t on your side anymore, Ahaz. Your opportunity has passed.”

God decides to send a sign of his own choosing. Not bolts of lightning falling from Heaven on the enemy armies. That would have come in handy! But God’s token of his saving presence is improbable: “Behold, the young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (7:14).

This is one of the outstanding verses of the Bible. But it isn’t easy to understand. The problem is this. The New Testament says that this promise was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus centuries later (Matthew 1:18–25), but the context in Isaiah links it to Isaiah’s own day (7:15, 16). When was God’s promise fulfilled?

There is more to Isaiah 7:14 than at first meets the eye. The prophecy came true not in one but in two ways. First, it predicted the birth of Maher-shalal-hashbaz, Isaiah’s own son. We read in Isaiah 8:1–4 that this boy’s birth was tied to the fall of the Syro-Ephraimite alliance. The parallel of Isaiah 8:4 with 7:16 is unmistakable. The child’s strange name means something like “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens,” as the margin of your Bible may inform you. That message was as ominous as it sounds. Was God present with his people in their emergency? Yes, to fast-forward the undoing of the Syro-Ephraimite alliance. The message of Maher-shalal-hashbaz’s young life was Immanuel, “God with us.” The enemy forces are doomed because God is with his people.

But secondly, Isaiah 7:14 prefigured the birth of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Matthew read the Old Testament with an eye to how all its heroes, institutions, and events foreshadowed the coming Messiah. He saw in Isaiah’s prophecy of the Immanuel sign-child a picture of our ultimate salvation. We face a coalition of hostile powers far worse than Syria and Ephraim of old. We face the alliance of sin and death, they never go away, and we are no match for them. But at this ultimate level the baby Jesus fulfills the truest meaning of Immanuel, “God with us.”

Political crises come and go, but God goes with us into battle against the enemies that can oppress us forever. This alliance of evil forces conquers all of us, destroying us utterly, for our sin is “the basic (if not always the immediate) cause of all other calamities.” It is the crisis of human existence. But here, most of all, God comes to us with a salvation that really counts: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

God stood by his promise to Ahaz that the two nations menacing him would fall. But Ahaz’s unbelief was costly. His crisis was resolved by a more terrible enemy, the king of Assyria himself (7:15–17). Someone has said that this whole episode was like a mouse attacked by two rats, squeaking for the cat to come save him. The cat did (2 Kings 16:5–9). But the mouse ended up as dessert.

Trusting God to save us when we are assaulted by evil has no downside. He meets the weakness and foolishness of faith with his power and wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18–25). Therefore, the question we should be asking each day is more profound than, Have I said a prayer? That’s a good thing to do. But we should be asking ourselves, Am I trusting God right now, where it counts for me? If we welcome God as our ally and yield to his way, his timing, his control, his glory, he will fight for us. And we will have no regrets. He never lets faith go unmet. But if we set our own terms, we will fight alone. Jesus said, “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29, KJV). Moment by moment, that is the key to life.

Huggins, R. V. (2000). Christmas. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (p. 240). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
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