The Great Escape (Revelation 12:13-17)

 

Do you want to know how to guarantee a wasted life?  

Make it your life’s ambition to eradicate the Jewish people.  You will be fighting against God.  He’s guaranteed they’re not going anywhere.

 

Of course if you did make this your one aspiration you would have lots of company.  From their ancient origins nation after nation has sought to eradicate Israel from the memory of time.  Whether Egypt’s Pharaoh (Exodus), Haman (Esther 3:5-6), the Crusaders, Russian pogroms or the Nazi-driven Holocaust no one has been able to exterminate the Jews. Psalm 83:3-5 shows us the nations surrounding ancient Israel had the same ambition as the nations surrounding modern Israel: “With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. ‘Come’ they say, ‘let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.’ With one mind they plot together, they form an alliance against you”    

 

Today Israel is surrounded by enemies with the same ancient ambitions.  Over and over Iranian leaders have repeatedly stated the state’s goal to eradicate the Jewish people from existence by “wiping them off the map” and “driving them into the sea”.   Similarly, HAMAS, an Islamic terrorist organization, makes its purposes clear with regards to Israel in its charter. The preamble states, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it…”  The phrase “Liberation of Palestine” frequently appears and means to destroy all Jews.  Article 13 says, “Palestine is an Islamic land… Since this is the case, the Liberation of Palestine is an individual duty for every Moslem wherever he may be.” And Article 15 reads as follows: “The day the enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In the face of the Jews’ usurpation, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.”  

 

So, surrounded by genocidal Iranian regimes, an antisemitic United Nations, the PLO, HAMAS, the entire Arab world, and even mainline Christian denominations waging BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), why is it that every attempt to destroy the Jews continues to be foiled?  The answer:  God.  We are told in Jeremiah 31:35-37: “This is what the LORD says, ‘He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the LORD Almighty is His name: Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the LORD, ‘will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.’ This is what the LORD says: ‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done.’ Declares the LORD” No matter how many nations promise to destroy Israel, God has promised they will always exist.  

 

J.B. Philips, after a giving a chronology of Jewish persecution makes a fascinating point from Israel’s beginnings:  [page 156]

 

All of this prepares us for our text today describing the worst Satanically powered persecution unleashed on the Jews of all time.  Jeremiah 30:7 calls it “the time of Jacob’s distress”.  In Matthew 24:21 Jesus said about this time:  “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now.”  

 

The Persecution of Israel (v13).  

Our first point is the Persecution of Israel.  Read verse 13 and 15.  The language of the passage shows clearly the dragon is determined to destroy her:  “He pursued her” (v13), “the dragon spewed water out of his mouth to overtake her and sweep her away…” (v15)  Satan is out to finish off the Jews.  Now we can fill this out a little bit here.

First the persecution of Israel is driven by the fury of Satan.  Verse 12 said, “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”  Then in verse 17 it says, “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman…”  The reality of his doom is setting in.  He has just suffered a huge loss against the archangel Michael.  He is confined to the earth and unable to access heaven anymore.  His end is in sight and he knows it.  Since he can’t battle God, or God’s angels, he turns all his rage on a group he has hated for most of human history:  Israel.  God’s chosen people.  He hates them ferociously because they are His special nation out of all nations.

 

Second, as we’ve covered in the last few sermons, the woman here symbolically refers to Israel.  This is antisemitism gone nuclear.  Satan wants to destroy the woman from whom the male-child (Jesus) came.  He knows He is coming back for the woman.  Turn to Romans 11:25-27.  The Tribulation is going to end with the nation of Israel turning to faith in Jesus and accepting Him as their Messiah.  Zechariah 12:10 and 13:1 say this…  Satan’s last ditch effort is to try to finish what was started by Pharaoh, by Haman, by Hitler, by Hamas:  exterminate the Jews.  

 

Third, Satan’s persecution of Israel will be like “a river” spewing from his mouth.  Notice verses 15-16, “…”  Now, this might be understood in two ways.  The first is a literal flooding of water.  Satan does have power over the earth’s weather (he killed Job’s children by sending a strong wind).  Perhaps while Jews are fleeing Jerusalem to get out of the Antichrist’s reach Satan will unleash a flood of sorts to wipe them out.  God didn’t let the Red Sea touch His people when they were fleeing Pharoah and He won’t let any flooding waters from Satan touch them either!  

 

However, another way this might be interpreted is the flooding symbolizes an army.  In Jeremiah 46:8….Isaiah 59:19….Psalm 124:1-6….   If the flood Satan spews means an army then it means that he will motivate the Antichrist to mobilize one to go after the Jews.  If so, this is reminiscent of the Israelites fleeing Pharoah and heading into the desert.  Pharoah mobilized his army and headed after the Jews to kill them.  But, just as God swallowed them up in the Red Sea, our passage in Revelation 12 says that Antichrist’s army will be swallowed up by the earth.  There was a time in Israel’s history where God actually did swallow up a group of evil people by opening the earth!  (Numbers 16:32-33).

 

Satan will energize his man on earth to betray the pact he has with the Jews and begin persecuting them.  

 

The Protection of Israel (14-16)

Next we move from the persecution of the Jews to the Protection of the Jews.  Verses 14-16.  

 

The Jews will flee for their lives as a result of the Antichrist’s persecution.  But God will bring them out of Satan’s reach.  Now we can see 3 points related to this protection.

 

First is that the protection is divinely provided.  “She was given…” and “the earth opened up and swallowed the river…”  Clearly this is God’s intervention.  Israel is not alone in this world.  Yes they are set aside but they are not cast away.  As a nation they will suffer but they will be saved.  At this crisis moment halfway through the Tribulation God Himself will provide safety for those Jews fleeing the Antichrist’s persecution.  This metaphor of an eagle’s wings reminds us of another time when divine protection and passage were given to Israel.  After God had led them out of Egypt He reminded them in Exodus 19:4, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”  The Red Sea incident was memorialized in Moses’ song in Exodus 15:12, “You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.”  The words of Psalm 27:1 come to mind, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

 

Second her protection will be a safe location to hide in.  We don’t know where this place is exactly, but, we know it’s away from Jerusalem!  God brought Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness where they were safe with Him and had every need met.  The prophet Elijah was sent out to safety in the wilderness and God sent ravens to bring him bread every day (1 Kings 17:1-6).

 

Third she will hide there for 3 ½ years.  “A time, times, and half a time”.  This phrase is a way of expressing 3 ½ years with words rather than numbers.  It is equivalent to the “1260 days” (v6), the “42 months” (11:2) we’ve seen so far.  These are all the same length of time and they all express the exact amount of time left in the Tribulation from Antichrist’s betrayal until Jesus returns:  3 ½ years.  During that time the Jews will scatter one last time.  But at the end of that time they will be brought back to their land forever and never be scattered off it again.

 

Satan Persists in Persecuting (v17)

Lastly, we see Satan Persists in His Persecution of God’s People.  Notice verse 17 with me.  

 

After Satan realizes the Jews are out of his reach he will turn to those Gentiles who believe in Jesus.  These people are not Jews, because Jews are fleeing for their lives out of reach of Satan.  They are Gentiles who will “obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus”.  They have heard the word of God and received it.  They are those Gentiles who refuse to take the mark of the beast and not worship him.  They worship Jesus.  They are those who do not love their lives so much as to shrink back from the death they will face.  They are those whose souls will gather with all the other martyrs under the altar up in heaven.  They are those who will die for their faith but be raised to life by Jesus to reign over the earth with Him for 1,000 years.  They are those whom Jesus is not ashamed to call His own, and He will not be ashamed to own them before His Father in heaven.

 


Take-Aways:

  1. We must be committed to the Jews.  God is committed to them.  He blesses anyone who blesses them.  Genesis 12:3 says “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.”  History has demonstrated God’s faithfulness to this promise.

 

  1. Understand that Christians will be taken away before all of this happens.  You may be tempted to be frightened by all this and think how will you make it through.  But, our understanding of Scripture is that Jesus will rapture us away before this Tribulation.  By “us”, I mean each person who has received Him as Savior.  Have you done that today?  If you haven’t then you must do it.  If your soul is of any worth to you you will do it.  

 

  1. We must always remember that the outcome is already decided.  Christians, never lose heart at what you see and hear and read about the world.  God has the end all worked out and it is all working towards His ends.  

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