December 23, 2018
Pastor John Hering
12 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. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 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. 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. 6 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.
If I say “Manger Scene” you immediately get a picture in your head of what that might look like. Artists of done a marvelous job of portraying the glory of the moment by surrounding the baby in the manger with glowing light, flowing robes, calm shepherds and sparkling wise men. But, in reality the place was rather ugly, the manger unsanitary, and the bloody birth of a child in straw risky. But, do you realize that what we see in the Nativity scene is actually much worse? The Word of God before us pictures what we might easy refer to as a nightmare! It shows a pregnant woman crying out as she is about to give birth and a baby-eating monster standing in front of the woman waiting for dinner to be served! So, before we hear the precious Christmas account from our narrators and children, dare we spend a moment watching in horror at the occasion of Christ’s birth? Yes! It is precisely because of this dragon monster that Christ’s birth is so needed. This scene helps us grasp our Savior who brings us Gifts—Today his gift of Love! This dream of Revelation gives us a vivid picture of
A Wondrous Sign that Shows Wondrous Love!
Many of you are familiar with impressionistic painting. The artist doesn’t just paint something the way it actually looks, but he uses colors and texture to try and impress upon the viewer the emotion he felt when he looked at whatever it was he was painting. So, this picture in Revelation is apocalyptic literature—not trying to show how things actually are, but using vivid images to symbolically convey the emotional reality behind the actual event. Let me show you.
“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. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.”
At first you might think this woman is Mary. But, students of the Bible recognize the symbolism that describes her. Her 12 stars. That’s 3 = Trinity, number of God, multiplied by 4 = four corners of the earth, number for man. She is all over the world being clothed in the sun, and uses the moon as her footstool. These hints reveal that this woman is the Holy Christian Church—all believers during a history of persecution while waiting for the promised child.
“3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads.”
In other places of Revelation we learn that this dragon is Satan. The 7 crowns = because he wants to take God’s place (3 + 4). 10 horns represent the powers in the earth, most easily shown by pagan rulers. We get the point—Satan wants to rule over us in God’s place.
“4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.”
Again we know that Satan is called a
“star that fell from heaven”
and the 1/3 of the stars that fell with him are fallen angels. Not exactly 1/3 of the angels, not a majority of them, but no small number either. We get the meaning—Satan and his evil demons.
“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.”
Satan knew that the child born would bring the crushing of his head. He wanted to strike as soon as possible. What comes to mind is King Herod wanting to destroy all the baby boys in Bethlehem—a tool Satan was using to try and destroy the Christ-child. Such a demonic event has Satan’s fingerprints all over it.
“5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”
Psalm 2 might come to mind here is speaking of the Messiah, “You will break the nations with a rod of iron!” The Dragon might like to usurp authority over God’s creation, but God will not have it. All remains, now and forever, under the reign of Christ.
“And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.”
In John’s vision the child is born and immediately taken up to this throne in heaven. Yes, the work of Jesus was accomplished and Satan can no longer harm him. So, the dragon turns his attention to the woman—that is the Church.
“ 6 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.”
1,260 days? If you do the math this number relates to months and years already mentioned in Revelation. 7 is the number of God’s interaction with mankind until fulfillment—revealed to be the time of the New Testament. During this time believers are not home yet, but wandering in the wilderness of this life, eagerly awaiting the day they will be taken to heaven. There is a great promise here: “she might be taken care of” as the Lord God provides all we need for body and soul, including keeping us safe from the great dragon.
So, how does all of this bring us to Jesus Bringing us Gifts: His Gift of Love? Think about it. If you had a child in danger, you would do all you could to prevent your child from running into danger. However, God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son to face the horror of the cross and the punishment of hell. Why? So that he might adopt us as his children!
Many think the “so” of this famous passage means “he loved us so much” but the word in Greek really means “in this way” This famous verse tells us HOW God showed his love for us. How do you see how much God loves you? By your health, your bank account, by the absence of worldly problems? NO! God showed you his love by giving his one and only Son to face Satan and hell, yes to die for you! If that doesn’t take your breath away!
Yes, it was a dirty manger, a smelly barn with animals—that wouldn’t likely eat the baby. But, what God shows us in Revelation 12—THAT is what makes the phrase “he gave his one and only son” so amazing! Jesus came to be our sacrifice for sins and share his joy, peace, hope and love with us.
So, today, as you hear the Christmas gospel, listen with ears of amazement that God should take on human flesh to defeat Satan, pay the penalty of all your sins, and take all believers to live with him forever in heaven. That is Jesus Amazing gift to you. His amazing gift of Love! Amen!