Tag Archives: Rev 12

Interpreting Biblical Apocalyptic (27): The Broad Sweep of Christian History

Rev 12:12 makes the transition between the experience of Jesus, in his various symbolic representations, and the vision’s renewed focus on the woman back on earth. Her exile into the desert was introduced in 12:6 and now becomes the focus of the devil/dragon, who was angered by his casting out and by the knowledge that “his time is short.” In apocalyptic language this verse tells us that after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the church took the brunt of Satan’s wrath on earth (Rev 12:13-16). Having been cast out of heaven, the dragon pursues the woman into the desert (12:13). The language of 12:13-16 is reminiscent of several accounts in the Old Testament, the vision of Daniel 7, the Exodus from Egypt, and the temptation and fall in the Garden of Eden.

The language of “a time, times and half a time” recalls Dan 7:25, as do the seven heads and the ten horns of the dragon who pursues the woman. In Daniel 7 the breakup of Rome into ten parts was followed by a little horn power, which was to persecute and “oppress God’s saints for a time, times and half a time.” (Dan 7:25) The only time in history that comes even close to matching this description is the Middle Ages, when the Roman Papacy dominated the Western world and drove competing views of Christianity into obscurity.

“The mouth of the serpent” (Rev 12:15) reminds the reader of the deceptive words of the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3). The flooding waters that attack the woman in the desert (the faithful church), therefore, imply deceptive and persuasive words as much as persecuting force. In the Middle Ages, unbiblical teachings were fed to the people in the name of Christ.

The woman fleeing into the desert on the two wings of a great eagle (Rev 12:14) reminds the reader of the Exodus experience, where God carried the tribes of Israel “on eagle’s wings” out of Egypt (Exod 19:4). So the experience of the woman, who represents the people of God, is built on the language of Old Testament Israel, both before and after the time of Christ. The experiences of Old Testament Israel and those of the Church are closely entwined in the book of Revelation.

In Rev 12:16 the “earth” helped the woman. This is a further allusion to the Exodus and Israel’s experience in the desert. The desert protected Israel from the “flooding waters” of both the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. If “sea” also represents the settled populations of the earth (as Rev 17:15 may suggest), “earth” here may represent more desolate places where the true people of God obtained refuge from deceptive and persecuting opponents; the Alps in Europe during the Middle Ages, and places like North America, South Africa, and Australia afterward. Toward the end of the 1260 years (the 16th through the 18th centuries) many forces came together to elevate the Bible and to end the persecution of God’s people; the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, and the beginnings of the great missionary expansion of the 19th century. During that period of calm, the dragon prepares for his final attack (Rev 12:17).

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 8, February 16-23 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition

Basic theme: Revelation 12

The changes to the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) for January to March 2019 were more significant than in the previous week. I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive.

In the Introduction to the Overview section a small change seems fairly substantive. In the middle of the paragraph I wrote about a “fresh picture” of the war in heaven in Rev 12:7-10. This was changed to “flashback to” the war in heaven. Is Rev 12:7-10 inserted into the narrative of chapter 12 as a flashback to something else or is it part of the context of chapter 12, referring primarily to events in the context of Jesus’ cross and ascension (Rev 12:5, 11)? Angel Rodriguez took the latter position in a quarterly series around the year 2002. The first position is traditional with Uriah Smith and others. I prefer the contextual approach since there is no indicator in the text itself of a flashback. In that case, the original war in heaven with its physical expulsion from heaven would be alluded to in Rev 12:4 and 13:8 (long before the birth of Christ in 12:5) and Rev 12:7-9 would primarily refer to Satan’s fall from influence in heaven (compare Job 1 and 2), although allusion to the original war may also be present.
I am very glad that Main Themes I and IV of the Commentary section survived intact. I think these exegetical observations are very helpful in supporting the Adventist understanding of Revelation in general and chapter 12 in particular.

In Main Themes V the following sentence was added, “Seventh-day Adventists see this gift fulfilled in the ministry of Ellen G. White.” I don’t at all disagree with that statement, but again for non-SDA readers that is a big leap. But if the editors are aware that the lessons are primarily used by SDA believers, then this addition is reassuring for them and appropriate.

In Life Application 2 editorial changes altered the words but not the meaning. Editors removed my comment that the casting out of Satan in Rev 12:9-10 “is more intellectual than physical” and added at the end of the sentence “he is not wanted (in heaven) there anymore.” Different words, same idea. Probably made my original better.

With the exception of the “flashback” language above, I feel the changes in this chapter left things the same or improved on them.

Again, for those who don’t have access to the standard printed edition of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide or the Teacher’s Edition for this quarter, you can access them online week by week at https://www.absg.adventist.org/. My original pre-edited Teacher’s Edition manuscript for this week is provided in the previous blog. You can also download audio of me teaching the lesson ahead of time each week at http://pineknoll.org/sabbath-school-lessons.