Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 21 2013 - Revelation 12:1-18 – The fury of the dragon

At Christmas time we remember that when Jesus came into the world, there were those who were intent on his destruction. Herod slaughtered all the baby boys in Bethlehem in the hope of destroying the Christ child. Later, the mighty Roman Empire was to nail him on a cross to die.

In his vision, John is taken behind the scenes. It is not simply that human powers have set themselves up to oppose the kingdom of God, Satanic powers are at work. But God also is at work to protect his people and to frustrate the plans of those who would destroy them. Ironically, Satan, the great opponent and accuser of God's people, has been unthroned precisely through the death and resurrection of Christ. This does not mean that God's people will escape trial and persecution. On the contrary, they will suffer Satan's fury, for he knows that his days are numbered (Revelation 12:12). Nevertheless, these persecuted people have "triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (12:11): they have triumphed and they will triumph.

As I write, I am conscious that there are parts of the world where Christians are suffering real persecution. Christians in Pakistan have been falsely accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Christians in parts of India have seen their homes burnt and church buildings destroyed. Christians in many countries of the Middle East such as Iraq and Syria have been killed and many have been forced to flee. Christian bookshops in Egypt have been set on fire. Christians in many parts of China still face persecution and hardship. Christians in North Korea are put to death for their faith. The dragon is waging war against "those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus" (12:17). John was all too familiar with this warfare; this book was written precisely for those who were becoming its casualties. But it is written to encourage them; "the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah" (12:10) will have the last word.

Those of us who live in the West can all too easily forget that we live in a war zone. Spiritual forces are at war to determine who will possess planet earth. This is a real war with real casualties. The question for us is whether we will choose to be engaged in this war or simply watch from the side lines. We need to pray for God's persecuted people. Pray that they will know the presence and power and encouragement of the Saviour who has broken the dragon's power. And we need to wake up to the ways the dragon has anaesthetised us to the insidious and tyrannous influences of his kingdom of envy, hatred, greed, lust and abusive misuse of power. We need to push back the boundaries of his illegitimate domain both within our own lives and in the world around us and to reclaim the creation and human society in the name of its rightful Lord.

And we need to continue to cry out to God, “How long?” – to plead with him for a world that has suffered the rage of the dragon for too long.

Living God, have mercy upon your suffering world. Lord Jesus, as you have conquered the evil one through your death and resurrection, help us by your Spirit to fight against the destructive work of the evil one and to establish your reign in the world. Help us to fight against him not with the evil weapons of this world but with the powerful weapons of Word and Spirit – with our testimony and with conquering love. Comfort and strengthen your suffering people this day and help us to know that you have conquered the powers of darkness and evil’s days are numbered.

Peter Misselbrook