Revelation 12:5

Sermon preached on November 17, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

In September the America's Cup was held in the waters of San Francisco Bay. The sailing was incredible. They were racing in giant catamarans. The hulls were 72 feet long and the sails stretched 131 feet into the air. Actually, I'm not sure I should call them sails because the main part, which I first thought was a sail, was actually a wing. They even had hydrofoils under the boat that at times lifted both hulls out of the water. Because of the wing and hydrofoils, the boats could go up to three times faster than the speed of the wind. The boats could even flip over if they weren't sailed correctly. In the finals, the New Zealand boat almost did tip over in one race. They came oh so close.

But in spite of the incredible spectacle of the boats flying just above the water—at first the finals, a best of 17 affair, was a disappointment because the New Zealanders were winning just about all the races. It was too one-sided. The New Zealand team won the majority of the early races my a wide margin and Team Oracle fell behind by a score of 8-1. The first time to 9 would win. The New Zealand team only had to win one more race and it would have the Cup. The American team needed to win 8 straight races to retain the Cup. Oracle was down 8-1 and it seemed impossible that they could win 8 straight. One little mistake out on the water could cost you a race. Not only that, but the New Zealand boat seemed faster in light air and there had to be at least one or two racing days of light air.

After their loss in which Oracle found themselves down 8-1, I continued watching the post race interviews and saw the interview with Oracle Skipper James Spithill. I was shocked by what he said. He was still confident and talking of victory. He wasn't defeatist at all. I thought he was delusional. Even though I was rooting for Oracle—I thought there was no way they were going to retain the Cup.

But I was wrong. Against all odds, they came back and won 8 straight races. Not only that, but amid that streak of 8 straight races, there was a day of really light air. In that race, Team New Zealand was way ahead. I think they were over a half mile ahead of Oracle and the finish line was in sight. But the races had a 40 minute time limit and that limit came and the race was called off. What a heart breaker for New Zealand. They almost had it. But that race didn't count and Oracle went on to win every remaining race. I still can't believe it happened. I thought that Team Oracle were goners. Their victory was unbelievable.

We have something like that in our text—only more incredible. Verse 4 presents a scene that is absolutely terrifying for the people of God. It presents the scene of a pregnant woman crying out in pain because she is about to give birth. This woman represents the faithful people of God in the Old Testament and through them God was bringing the Redeemer into the world. He's the only hope for mankind. In verse 4 we read,

"The dragon stood in front of the woman
who was about to give birth,
so that he might devour her child
the moment it was born."

Can a pregnant woman who is undergoing birth pains protect herself and her child that is about to be born? No. She's helpless. Her child is helpless. They both need help. But instead of help being around them—there's this bloodthirsty dragon in front of the woman, ready to destroy her child. But then something incredible happens. It says, (verse 5)

"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."

The dragon was ready to devour the baby the moment it was born—but He failed. The child survives. He will rule the nations. The woman's child was snatched up to God and His throne.

This passage has many lessons for us that show that we Christians should have confidence about our eventual victory.

The first has to do with Satan. Our text shows us that

the dragon, the devil, is completely thwarted in his desires, his plans.

He is a loser. His plans are frustrated.

He was unable to kill the child.

I said last week that this is the first detailed picture of the devil that we have in Revelation. One of the points that the Holy Spirit makes clear here is that the dragon does not accomplish his purposes. They are thwarted. He is defeated. He is a usurper who ultimately fails in what he is trying to do.

It has to be that way. God said it would be so. Note that the woman gives birth to a 'male child'. Literally, our text says that she gives birth to 'a son, a male child'. It not only states it but it emphasizes it.

One of the things we see from the Old Testament is that the Redeemer of mankind would be male. We see this in the earliest promise. In Genesis 3:15 God said to Satan,

"And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."

The One that will crush Satan's heel is a 'He'. Satan would strike 'his' heel. Our text is about the boy that promise spoke of. The seed of the woman would defeat the devil. Satan has been defeated.

This is one of the main themes of chapter 12. We see it throughout this chapter. The devil makes war in heaven—but Michael and his angels fight against him and his angels and the dragon is cast out of heaven. The devil is not strong enough to prevail. He is cast out. He is cast down to the earth. The earth is in trouble because of him, but at the same time, in verse 10 we read,

"I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
'Now have come the salvation and
the power and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers,
who accuses them before our God
day and night, has been hurled down.'"

God's kingdom has been established. Salvation and the authority of Christ has come.

In verse 12 we are told that the devil is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short. Verse 13 tells us that he pursued the woman who had given birth to the child but that she was given wings of a great eagle to take her to a place prepared for her where she would be taken care of for awhile. After that the serpent spewed water like a river from his mouth to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river.

At every turn Satan is thwarted. He is still powerful. He does great damage—but his plans are frustrated. He is a defeated enemy. Instead of being killed the child in snatched up to God and His throne. He is the One that rules.

So what we see in our text is not only is the church poised for a great comeback—but that her victory is assured. When Oracle as making that great comeback, when they were down, 8-2, 8-3, 8-4, 8-5—it was a great comeback but I still though it man all going to be for naught—because New Zealand only had to win one more race.

With the church it's not like that. There is no chance that their enemy is going to win. Jesus, His being snatched up to God and His throne shows that the dragon has been defeated. His plans came to naught. It cannot be otherwise. The child rules.

The second thing that should give Christians confidence is the fact that

God does the seemingly impossible and pulls victory out of seemingly sure defeat.

Verse 5 says that the child was 'snatched up' to God and His throne. This is a very strong word that means, to, (BAGD)

"take suddenly and vehemently."

The idea here is of grabbing or seizing suddenly.

Sometimes when little children are visiting at our house I like to play a trick on them. Marg will often give them a piece of candy and the sometimes when they first get the candy they spend a moment admiring the candy while it sits in front of them. It's then that I'll swoop in and snatch their candy from them really quick. It's a shock to them. It happened so fast—they thought they had a piece of candy but then it was gone. They can't believe it. It's a sudden reversal of fortunes.

That's the idea here. Satan was going to kill the child, but the child was snatched up to God and His throne. God's salvation came suddenly and decisively. Victory was snatched out of the jaws of defeat.

This means that no matter how bad things look for Christians, we should know that we will never lose. Stephen was stoned and he died—but he saw heaven opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. For him to die was for him to gain heaven. It was victory.

But there's something else interesting about our text.

Notice that it omits all details of Christ's life, ministry, and death.

They're not there at all. It moves directly from his birth to his ascension. It says that the woman's 'child' was snatched up to God and His throne. This literary technique is called telescoping and it's sometimes used in the New Testament.

Jesus' death is omitted. This is significant. We know that Satan wasn't able to kill Jesus the moment He was born. Jesus didn't die from germs in the stable. Wicked King Herod wasn't able to take his life when he killed all the male children 2 years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

But, even though Jesus' death is not mentioned in our text—we understand that Jesus did die. He was crucified and buried. This is acknowledged in verse 11 which mentions the 'blood of the Lamb'.

But why isn't Jesus' death on the cross mentioned in our text? It was central to our salvation. It was one of the most crucial events in history.

I think the reason our text is telescoped like this is because what is in view in the immediate context is the dragon. He has plans for the child—to kill it.
The point that is emphasized is that the devil failed in his plans. The child was snatched up to heaven. Our text shows us that when we think of the work of Jesus we must think of it in a certain way—in terms of victory.

must not think that the devil succeeded in killing Jesus—as if he won the victory there. No. We must not think that it was just that the devil failed to kill Jesus when He was a baby—but he killed him later. No. Jesus' death on the cross was not a victory for Satan. It was his defeat.

There is no doubt that Satan had a lot to do with Jesus' death. Just before Judas met with the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard to discuss how he was going to betray Jesus— we read that Satan entered him. (Luke 22:3)

As I said, verse 11 acknowledges Jesus death. But verse 11 it mentions the blood of the Lamb in terms of victory over Satan. It says,

"They overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb and
by the word of their testimony;"

Jesus' death on the cross was much different than if He had been killed by Herod's soldiers when He was a baby.

Jesus' work on the cross was His victory.

Jesus' death, when it occurred, was according to God's plan. In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter said about Jesus, (Acts 2:23)

"This man was handed over to you
by God's set purpose and foreknowledge;
and you, with the help
of wicked men, put him
to death by nailing him to the cross."

It was according to God's preordained purpose that Jesus suffered on the cross. In John 10:17–18 Jesus said,

"The reason my Father loves me
is that I lay down my life—
only to take it up again.
No one takes it from me,
but I lay it down of my own accord.
I have authority to lay it down
and authority to take it up again.
This command I received from my Father."

Jesus told us plainly that no one could take His life from Him. The only way He could die was through an act of His will, willingly giving up His life. That's what He did on the cross. Luke 23:46 records the end of His sufferings. It says,

"Jesus called out with a loud voice,
'Father, into your hands
I commit my spirit.'
When he had said this,
he breathed his last."

When Jesus breathed His last, it was by an act of His will. He was voluntarily laying down His life. It was the final act in His suffering—His victory over Satan. G. K. Beale says of the verb 'snatched up', (Revelation: NIGTC, p. 639)

"which is often used of taking something away forcefully. The idea may be that the devil momentarily devoured the Christ-child by putting him to death, only to have victory taken away at the resurrection…"

Robert H. Mounce writes, (Revelation, NICNT; p. 234)

"The significant point is that the evil designs of Satan were foiled by the successful completion of Christ's messianic ministry, which culminated in his ascension and exaltation (cf. Phil 2:5–11). The child is snatched up to God and his throne."

There is a great lesson here for you Christians.

You need to trust God that the seeming defeats that you endure when you are faithful are really victories.

Jesus has won the victory. Jesus' death seemed to be a great defeat. It seemed that Satan had won. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were downcast. They said that they had hoped that Jesus was the One who would redeem Israel. But with His death their hopes were dashed. How foolish they were. That day, the day of the empty tomb—was one of the greatest days in the history of redemption.

I was watching a TV nature show not long ago and part of it was about a really poisonous frog. They showed just how poisonous it was. It showed a snake devouring the frog. The snake swallowed him whole and then you could see the lump in the snake where the frog was taken into the snakes digestive system. But then the video skipped ahead and showed that the snake was dead. Then surprisingly, the frog hopped out of the snake's mouth. It was incredible. I thought that the frog was a goner when he went into the snake. I thought that both of them were goners—that the snake and the frog were doomed. But the frog won.

We who are Christians need to remember that. The seeming defeats of God's faithful people are really victories. That is the reality.

I've used this illustration before, but because it is so powerful and illustrates this teaching perfectly—I'm going to tell it again. John Brown was a Scottish Covenanter. He was put to death for his faith in Jesus. This happened outside his farmhouse in front of his wife, Isobel and their children. Brown was arrested and was going to be shot, but the soldiers gave him a few moments to prepare himself for death. John Brown prayed and took leave of his wife. The soldiers,

"touched no doubt by so affecting a scene, showed signs of nervousness and seemed unwilling to murder their prisoner. But Claverhouse, whether because he feared that his troopers might bungle the execution, or in the interests of military discipline, drew his pistol and himself shot Brown through the head."'What do you think of your husband now?' he brutally inquired of Isobel as she knelt over the dead body.'I aye thocht muckle o' him, sir,' she replied. 'But never sae muckle as I do this day.'

Isobel knew that her husband's death was a victory. She knew he was in glory. She knew that he had honored his Lord. She was so proud of him.

That's the kind of faith you are to have. Satan has lost. Yes, he can still do a lot of damage. Yes, he still persecutes us—but no matter what he does, his designs against us, to crush us, to take us from Christ—they will fail. The church will grow and endure. As Jesus said in Matthew 16:18,

"I will build my church,
and the gates of Hades
will not overcome it."

Christians, be confident. Be faithful. Faithfulness to Christ is victory. As Jesus said in Matthew 10:39,

"whoever loses his life for my sake
will find it."

For those of you who are not Christians, there is a lesson for you as well

For awhile, things seemed to be going the devil's way. He had rebelled against God, and for awhile, from one perspective, it seemed that he was winning. But he's lost. He cannot win. It's only a matter of time—his time is short.

What about you? You're not a Christian and things are going well for you. Know that it's only temporary. It will soon end. You need to turn from your sins to Jesus. There's only one way to life—and that's though Jesus. Go to Him today.