I was recently reminded of my initial love for Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Granted, it quickly soured on me, but initially, I thought it was fantastic.
Here’s why: As a kid, I wrote fan-fiction where my brother and I and sometimes some of my friends would travel to “a galaxy far, far, away” and partake in adventures. And, as fate would have it, we’d arrive immediately knee-deep in a problem, and in the process of solving that problem, find ourselves immersed in a new problem.
The plot of The Last Jedi is similar. In fact, a lot of the time life seems similar. John tells a similar tale in Revelation 12:13-17,
When the dragon saw that he had been thrown to earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent’s presence to her place in the wilderness, where she was fed for a time, times, and half a time. From his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river flowing after the woman, to sweep her away in a torrent. But the earth helped the woman. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river that the dragon had spewed from his mouth. So the dragon was furious with the woman and left to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and have the testimony about Jesus.
We’ve been in Revelation 12 for a while now. And there is a reason for this. In a sense, Revelation 12 is one of the primary keys to the whole book. When we understand Revelation 12 in light of Revelation 1 and Revelation 11, it makes the whole book so much clearer.
The secret of the seven stars you saw in My right hand and of the seven gold lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.Revelation 1:20
There is more in Revelation 1 that contributes to understanding the whole book (like the whole chapter), but this verse is a huge interpretive key. This is especially seen when we look at Revelation 11.
“. . . they will trample the holy city for 42 months. I will empower my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.Revelation 11:2b-4.
If we notice, 42 months is 3.5 years, and 1,260 days is exactly 3.5 years if a year is calculated as twelve months of thirty days each (it comes out to 3.45 calendar years). In our text today, it says that the woman is protected for “a time, times, and half a time,” which is the same as saying, “a year, two years, and a half a year,” or 3.5 years. (I would posit that the vagueness of “time, times, and half a time” should show us that this isn’t meant to be understood as a literal 3.5 years. How many times is it really? No one knows!
But even beyond the time comparisons, we see that the two witnesses are to prophesy for this amount of time and the woman is to be protected for this amount of time, but it’s even more than that. The “seven lampstands are the seven churches” and “[the two witnesses] are the two lampstands.” The church is ministering, preaching, and witnessing for 3.5 years. This is a metaphorical amount of time that represents the time between Christ’s ascension and Christ’s return. (If you’re wondering about the discrepancy between the number of lampstands in Revelation 1:20 and Revelation 11:4, check out the discussion in my post on Revelation 11:1-14.)
But there you have it, Revelation 12 is a necessary interpretive key for the entirety of the book, but especially for Revelation 12-20. The dragon that shows up here will show up again in Revelation 20. So let’s look at Revelation 12:13-17 in a bit more depth.
This passage expands upon Revelation 12:6.
The woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, to be fed there for 1,260 days.
To keep it brief, God protects His people. God protects His people throughout the entirety of their existence. The thought that God has lost control of history in the last 100 years should never enter our minds. We do not have it worse than previous generations. In fact, as far as most of the world is concerned, Americans are still some of the luckiest people on earth. We must count our blessings and stop complaining that things are so bad.
But as for the specifics of this passage, there are three things worth noting: where God protects His people, how God protects His people, and why we need protection.
Where God protects His people
God protects His people in the wilderness.
There is a reason for this. And ultimately this is one of the most unfortunate things about living in a first-world country like America. When you are wandering in the wilderness (think the Israelites in Numbers or David in 1 Samuel), you don’t know where your daily provisions will come from. Because of this, you are forced to rely on God. God puts His people in the wilderness so that our faith will grow, so that we will cling to Him, so that we will not be allured by the world and all it offers (cf. Revelation 9:20-21).
Jesus went through the wilderness (cf. Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11), and as His people–who are not greater than our Master (cf. John 15:20)–we will also be tested, tried, and purified through the wilderness experience.
How firm is your faith, as you walk through the wilderness?
How God protects His people
God protects His people both naturally and supernaturally.
God’s supernatural protection is seen clearly by giving the woman wings like an eagle. This has clear allusions to Isaiah 40:31.
Those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not faint.
However, notice that God renews the strength of His peoples by dropping them in the wilderness where they will be forced to lean more heavily on Him by faith. He doesn’t give them wings like an eagle and solve all their problems. Rather, He gives them wings like an eagle and says, “Keep trusting Me! Trust Me more than you ever have before!” This is how our God works! In fact, as the third point below–and even the next two whole entries in this series–will show, God gives His people wings only to prepare them for a much more difficult problem.
God’s natural protection is seen in His supernatural control of nature. This harks back to the Exodus narrative. Satan tries to drown God’s people in a flood, but God opens the earth and swallows the water.
Praise God for His protection. And let it lead you to trust Him more!
Why we need protection
We need protection because Satan is prowling around (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). He is not bound. He is not defeated–yet. He is prowling around, looking for someone to devour. We must stay united with our brothers and sisters in the Lord so we don’t become an easy snack.
The fact of the matter is that Satan isn’t out to destroy non-believers. He already has them. They are no threat to him. The threat is believers who are out testifying for Jesus, preaching the Gospel, rescuing sinners from Satan’s clutches. Satan hates losing souls, so he will do all in his power to get them back. This is why the text ends with the ominous, “So the dragon was furious with the woman and left to wage war against the rest of her offspring.” He’s not waging war against those who don’t believe. He’s waging war against God’s people–the offspring of the woman.
And I know what you’re thinking. Why would I want to embark on a more difficult life by becoming a Christian?
It’s a valid question. But the fact of the matter is that this short life might be harder, but the eternal life to follow will be beyond blessed if you trust in Christ.
Take 70 years of ease (provided you live in a first-world context ) and millions upon millions of years of pain and suffering
Take 70 years of trials and millions upon millions of years of unending joy and happiness.
The choice seems obvious to me.
Christ died on the cross and rose again so that all who have placed their faith in Him need not fear death. If you refuse to place your faith in Him, you cannot not fear death.
Trust Christ today. Choose discomfort now for eternal joy later. And besides, the joy of Christ can fill your heart even now–even in the worst possible situation.
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.
The next entry can be found here.